Cambridge Proficiency Part 3 Speaking

The CPE Part 3 is probably the most demanding section of the Proficiency speaking exam for many candidates. Here we’ll examine it in detail and offer some tips on how to perform well. 

Part 3 Speaking Summary

Part three is where candidates present an extended talk on a predetermined theme. This comes via a card, which lists a question and some suggested options to comment on.  As you can see from the instructions they are just options although it probably makes sense to use them to shape your presentation.

Instructions & Sample Card

Now in this part of the test you are each going to talk on your own for about two minutes. You need to listen while your partner is speaking as you will be expected to comment afterwards. I’m going to give you a card with a question on it and I’d like you to tell us what you think.  There are also some ideas on the card for you to use if you like. Please let B see the card. Remember you have about two minutes before we join in.

Sample Part 3 Card

What makes people work more effectively?

  • rules
  • rewards
  • other people

When the two minutes is up there is a separate question for the second candidate and the first candidate responds.

Sample Instructions

Candidate 2, what other initiatives in the workplace can encourage greater effectiveness?
Candidate 1, do you agree?

Then the task is repeated with the second candidate on a different theme, along with a separate question and response.

Extended Discussion

The last segment of Part 3 is based around one of the themes which have just been discussed.

Sample Instructions

Now to finish the test we’re going to talk about “efficiency” in general.

These remaining four minutes or so then involve candidates responding both to questions and to what their partner has said.

Sample Question

In what ways do you believe technology helps our world to function efficiently?

Do you agree?

Once the 16 minutes have elapsed the test comes to an end with the usual

“Thank you. That’s the end of the test!”


Doing Part 3 speaking better!

While tasks in speaking exams can sometimes feel artificial and staged, the extended talk in CPE part 3 is actually quite similar to how you would give a presentation in real life. It typically uses the same general concept of structure.

  • Overview/Introduction to topic
  • Expand and develop details of each point
  • Summary of topic

Like a presentation it requires good organisation of ideas. In this case that means delivering a clearly logical structure with appropriate language and linking devices. This applies equally to both parts of Part 3, notwithstanding the much more interactive nature of the final section of the exam.

Some ideas to consider

  • Write down an answer to a Proficiency Part 3 question
    • Start with 10 words, then 20 words, then 30. Go to 50 words if you choose. The rationale here is that it will make you more aware of how you are organising a text. The longer versions should have a wider range of language, both in vocabulary and in linking structures.
  • One Minute Topics
    This is a common classroom technique where people are given an unseen topic to talk about, for 60 seconds. Practising using a wide range of topics is far more beneficial as is an audience, to address the performance anxiety pressures of a speaking examination. Topics can be single words, which can be very challenging or an answer to a random question. It certainly is an activity that is worth repeating very regularly in the run-up to the exam. If you are stuck for ideas there are many sites online with topics/question lists. Here is just one example to take a look at : Advanced Conversation Topics.

  • Create a presentation
    Choose something you are very familiar with, e.g. work aspect, famous/historical person, a place.

    • Create a presentation of no more than 5 slides for this topic. As above, an audience is a much better option as you can get feedback on your performance. You could of course record yourself doing the presentation instead.
  • Be critical of the language you use
    As the Proficiency exam requires a very wide range of language, focus on what you say and write. Evaluate how you might say or write some of it better?

    • Actively seek out better or nicer ways to say things and learn them. The only caveat here is to take care with idiomatic expressions, particularly the more colourful ones. Stick to what you can say naturally. Examiners can identify where expressions seem to have been learnt specifically for an exam.
  • Listening rather than speaking
    This is the concept of what is known as active listening. While its purpose is more about interactions and paying attention to the speaker you can also use this type of technique for practice. With a partner or friend choose a Proficiency Part 3 Speaking question. One person answers the question, the second person just listens until they have finished. They can make notes if they wish. The second person then uses one or more of the points from the first speaker to give their own opinion. The idea is to practise responding to ideas and building on the topic, a key measurement in the speaking exam.

  • Ted Talks!
    Where else can you see people in action, delivering some extremely good presentations? The vast selection of topics and videos on Ted Talks caters for all tastes, with transcripts readily accessible. From the perspective of the Proficiency Part 3 Speaking watch how they organise and deliver their talks. Some are masters of the art!

CPE Speaking Part 1

Questions in this part are very general.

CPE Speaking Part 2

In this part discuss a series of pictures around a theme

Proficiency Speaking

Take a look at our Proficiency speaking exam summary