Format of the Speaking Test
Type of Task: Candidates participate in a decision-making task. A candidate works with one other candidate in the paired format or with two other candidates in the three-way format. Each administration of the Speaking Test is organized to have an even number of candidates to ensure the use of the paired format. However, in the event that one candidate of a pair is absent, the three-way format is used. Each candidate is given descriptions of two different options. Candidates collaborate to decide on, to present, and to defend a single option. For example, in the paired format each candidate might be given a description of two people who have applied for a particular job (for a total of four different job applicants). The two candidates decide which person should be offered the job. This sample task is shown on pages 6-8 of this brochure.
Number of Stages: The Speaking Test has five stages; Stage 1 lasts approximately 3-5 minutes and Stages 2 through 5 last approximately 5-7 minutes. The examiner gives candidates instructions of what to do during each stage of the test. The stages of the test are designed so that each candidate is provided ample opportunity to speak individually as well as to engage in discussion with others.
Duration: The entire Speaking Test lasts approximately 25-35 minutes in the paired format and approximately 35-45 minutes in the three-way format.
Number of Examiners: There are two examiners present during the entire test. Examiner 1 conducts Stages 1 through 4. Examiner 2 participates during Stage 4 and Stage 5. Throughout the majority of the test, the participation of the examiners is minimal. During Stage 1 and Stage 5, the examiners will be participants in the speaking activity. However, examiner involvement during Stages 2 through 4 does not extend beyond giving directions and answering questions pertaining to test directions.
The ECPE is a test of advanced English language proficiency, reflecting skills and content typically used in university or professional contexts. The test has been designed to elicit spoken language representative of Level C2 on the Common European Framework of Reference. It is expected that candidates sitting for the ECPE are “proficient users” of the language; that is, candidates should be able to complete a speaking activity without support (help with language) from an examiner. Therefore, throughout the majority of the test, candidates collaborate with each other to complete the speaking activity.
A candidate’s linguistic ability (e.g., grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation) is evaluated independently by two examiners and separately from the other candidate’s ability. The test also assesses a candidate’s ability to participate in extended, coherent discourse with the other candidate. This means that a candidate should not try to dominate during any stage of the test. At the same time, a candidate should not play a passive role. Candidates are expected to contribute equally to the speaking activity. The stages of the Speaking Test are designed so that each candidate is provided ample opportunity to speak individually and to engage in discussions with others. Candidates are evaluated at every stage of the test. The ECPE Speaking Rubric is currently being validated by the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute and their partners world-wide. The scoring rubric is expected to be available by the end of November 2007. The rating scale, a five-band measure, guides raters to attend to a candidate’s performance in the following areas:
Discourse and Interaction (Development and Functional Range)
Linguistic Resources (Range and Accuracy of Vocabulary and Grammar)
Delivery and Intelligibility
- Listening Comprehension
Stage 1: Introductions and Small Talk (3-5 minutes)
Examiner 1 begins with introductions and then initiates a conversation on general topics (e.g., hometown, leisure activities) with candidates. Candidates are expected to actively participate in the conversation by providing expanded responses and also by asking each other and Examiner 1 questions.
The goal of Stage 1 is for Examiner 1 and the candidates to introduce themselves and for candidates to become comfortable interacting with each other.
Stage 2: Summarizing and Recommending (5-7 minutes)
For this stage, each candidate is given an information sheet with descriptions of two options (for a total of four different options in the paired format). Candidates are allowed to keep the information sheet during the test and can take notes on their information sheet if they wish. They do not have to memorize the information. During Stages 2 and 3, candidates are NOT permitted to see their partners’ information sheet. Candidates are given 2-3 minutes to read through the information.
Candidates then take turns summarizing the descriptions of their two options to each other. Candidates should summarize the information and NOT just read the list of features under an option. They must listen carefully to each other during the summarizations because afterwards candidates will make a recommendation to their partner of the best option from the two options presented by their partner. Candidates may take notes while their partner is summarizing.
After candidates have presented an oral summary of their information and received a recommendation from their partner, they silently choose one of their own options and think of reasons why that option is the best. There is not only one correct answer–all of the options are possible. At this point in the paired-format test, four options have been narrowed to two.
The goal of Stage 2 is for candidates to learn what all the options are, to make a recommendation to their partner, and to choose silently one of their own options as the best.
Stage 3: Consensus Reaching (5-7 minutes)
For this stage of the Speaking Test, candidates report to their partner which one of their own two options they think is the best. The candidates then compare and contrast the options they have individually chosen and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Candidates are still not allowed to look at each other’s piece of paper.
The goal of Stage 3 is for the two candidates to come to an agreement on one single option.
Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing (5-7 minutes)
For this stage of the test, candidates formally present the option they have chosen to Examiner 2, who takes on the role of a person of relatively high status (for example, Examiner 2 may be the principal of a school that needs to hire a new teacher). Candidates are given 2-3 minutes to collaborate and plan the short presentation. At this point, they may look at each other’s paper, if they wish. Each candidate presents two different reasons for deciding on a particular option and explains why those reasons are important.
The goal of Stage 4 is for the candidates to present and to convince Examiner 2 that the option they have chosen is the best one.
Stage 5: Justifying and Defending (5-7 minutes)
During this stage, Examiner 2 questions the candidates about the decision they have made and about the reasons for that decision.
The goal of Stage 5 is for each candidate to address Examiner 2′s challenges and to justify and defend the reasons for the decision.