The University of Michigan Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE


Preparing Students for the New ECPE Speaking Test

Aims of the Presentation
Brief overview of the test format Evaluation criteria Focus of Seminar: Helping students meet Level C descriptor criteria of discourse and interaction
Skills candidates need at each stage Suggestions on the development of skills needed at each stage


2 candidates participate in decision-making task Each candidate is given descriptions of 2 different options During 5 stages, candidates collaborate to decide on, present and defend a single option Entire test lasts approx. 25-35 minutes (paired format), approx. 35-45 minutes (3-way format) Two examiners:
Examiner 1 conducts stages 1-4, participates in stage 1 and gives instructions and monitors stages 2-4 Examiner 2 participates in stages 4 and 5

Evaluation Candidates are evaluated on the following salient features: Discourse and interaction (development and functional range) Linguistic resources (range and accuracy): Vocabulary & Grammar Delivery and Intelligibility 4 .

but are usually repaired 5 . defending a position). Spontaneous Speech Adequately summarizes information. Extended. often without prompting Presents decisions clearly and often appropriately Engagement in and Contribution to Extended Interaction Contributes.g. to the development of interaction Usually provides recommendations and/or opinions clearly Justifies and defends a position adequately Communication breakdowns may occur during challenging speech events (e. often appropriately. may rely on written material periodically Elaborates.Level C Descriptors Discourse and Interaction: Production of Independent.

g. hometown.” (ECPE Speaking Test brochure) 6 .Stage 1: Introductions and Small Talk 2-3 minutes Examiner 1 begins with introductions Initiates conversation on general topics (e. etc.) and topic related questions Candidates expected “to actively participate in the conversation by providing expanded responses and also by asking each other and Examiner 1 questions. leisure activities.

people listen to each other and respond.Stage 1: How to Help Students Develop Conversational Skills Encourage Ss to personalize the language they are learning Use language structures and vocabulary to talk about their own lives and opinions Encourage Ss to ask questions In everyday conversation. often with a question Questions reflect genuine interest and help keep a conversation going 7 .

trying to get to know some of the guests Each S could be assigned a role or create one for themselves Ss move about the room. find out about someone’s profession. pastimes.Stage 1: Activity 1-Mingling at a Party Ss pretend they’re mingling at a party. family. etc.. and ask relevant questions 8 .

and Fridays.Stage 1: Activity 2 .Practice Providing Expanded Responses Elaborate on a statement by giving at least one reason: A: What do you do in your free time? B: I don’t have much free time… …because I have private French lessons Mondays. Wednesdays. 9 . And on Tuesdays and Thursdays I work in a café after school.

Stage 2: Summarizing and Recommending Summarizing Each candidate is given sheet with descriptions of 2 options (in note form) Candidates are given 2-3 minutes to read their sheet Candidates CANNOT look at partner’s sheet Candidates have to: Summarize to each other descriptions of their options. not just read list of features under their options Listen carefully to each other as they may need to ask for clarification Recommend one of the two options of the other candidate 10 .

connecting them and elaborating on each Seek clarification Recommending an option 11 .Stage 2: Skills Needed for This Stage Summarizing: Determine which bullet point (s) is/are clearly negative Transfer telegraphic language to communicative spoken form Organize bullet points.

Stage 2: Skills needed for Summarizing In the 2-3 minutes the candidates have to read bullet points. they must: make mental note of which points are positive and which are negative transfer the language in note form to the communicative spoken form of language 12 .

Determining Which Bullet Point is Negative Applicant for a High School Science Teacher Position Mary Thompson 15 years of experience as a science teacher Good reputation with students and teachers Creative lesson plans Does lots of experiments Organizes many field trips Has lost students’ tests several times (From ELI-UM Brochure) 13 .Stage 2: Summarizing .

Stage 2: Summarizing . She sometimes can’t find her Ss’ tests. She creates interesting lesson plans. Ss and teachers like her. She asks Ss to do many experiments.Transferring from Note Form to Communicative Spoken Form Note form: 15 years of experience as a science teacher Good reputation with students and teachers Creative lesson plans Does lots of experiments Organizes many field trips Has lost tests several times Communicative spoken form: Mary has taught science for 15 years. She plans field trips for her students. 14 .

because she sometimes can’t find her students’ tests.Organizing Bullet Points. not spoken form. Connecting them and Elaborating Candidate needs to connect bullet points and to develop and expand on each one: This teacher has taught for 15 years. She isn’t always organized. though. How do you think the spoken form will be different? 15 . In her lessons she asks the students to do many experiments.Stage 2: Summarizing . which means she has a lot of experience. Students like her because her lesson plans are interesting. She also plans field trips for her students. Note that this text is in written.

Example of Connected. I mean.That’s a long time to teach. Developed Spoken Text “Mary has fifteen years of experience as a science teacher. The bad thing about Mary. though. Losing a couple of tests is serious. to learn about science…. Let’s see. like museums. She does them so that the students can practice what they’re studying. she has taught science for fifteen years…. Students also like the field trips that she organizes. They go to lots of places.. They like to learn that way. what else…it says here that she has a good reputation as a teacher. but. lots of experience. a good reputation..Stage 2: Summarizing . lots of experiments and…uh…field trips…So many good things to recommend Mary. maybe because she does lots of um… experiments in class. So. she’s creative with her lesson plans. You know. creative lesson plans. Students like her…teachers like her. lots of experience. which is boring. Uh…it seems everybody likes her.Places outside of school. too. not the same way of teaching all the time. That’s not such a good thing about her.” 16 . Let’s see what else…Another good thing about Mary. Well then.well… it’s just one thing. is that she has lost students’ tests more than once.

Key Features of Spoken Form Shorter sentences More repetition Simple connectors Fillers The first three features benefit the other candidate.Stage 2: Summarizing . who has to listen and comprehend key information. 17 .

Expanded Spoken Text Ask students to work in pairs Take the bullet points of two options from a practice speaking test and give one to each member Give them time to look at each bullet point and plan what to say Write guiding questions on the board: Can you make a sentence out of it? Can you say what it means in a different way? Can you comment on it? Can you summarize it? 18 .Activity 1-How to Help Students Develop Connected.Stage 2: Summarizing .

Fifteen years is a long time to teach (comments on it ). So. students can practice paraphrasing with an activity like the following: Who does the laundry in your house? I mean… (who washes your clothes?) What do you do on weekends? I mean…(what do you do on Saturdays and Sundays?) 19 .Stage 2: Summarizing .Example Activity to Connect and Develop Spoken Text Each student turns bullet points into sentences • 15 years of experience as a science teacher Mary has 15 years of experience as a science teacher. lots of experience (and summarizes it) Even at the pre-intermediate level. I mean she has taught science for fifteen years (says what it means).

Further Classroom Practice Incorporate activities that prepare Ss for the test and increase speaking opportunities Example: Give Ss topics to speak about for 1 minute. (then later on.Stage 2: Summarizing . for 2-3 minutes) 3 reasons to buy a cell phone 3 activities to do in the summer 3 ways to make your best friend happy 3 things you can do when you’re bored 20 .

Do you mean that…? Is there any reason not to choose this applicant? WHY do students like her? 21 .Stage 2: Summarizing . using phrases like Did you say that…? Sorry. candidates Are not permitted to look at each other’s sheet Can read their own options only To compensate for this lack of visual information Candidates ARE free to ask each other to repeat or clarify information.Seeking Clarification Remember. I didn’t hear what you said.

Exploring the Negative Aspect of a Bullet Point So far. we have seen that Ss need to be able to: Transfer telegraphic language into spoken form Expand on bullet points and connect them in a coherent and cohesive way Seek clarification Ss also need to prepare for and recommend an option.Stage 2: Recommending an Option . They must: Look for a potential negative aspect to bullet points Weigh the positive and negative features of each option the other candidate has presented and recommend one of the two 22 .

“A good reputation with students” …may mean that s/he’s too soft/not strict enough. …but maybe the teacher is set in his/her ways. “Does lots of experiments” …could mean that there’s not enough material for a test. “Organizes many field trips” …may mean students are having fun outdoors instead of learning. coming to class without a plan. “Creative lesson plans” …might mean that the teacher ‘wings it’.Stage 2: Recommending an Option .Exploring Negative Aspect of Bullet Points EXAMPLES: “15 years of experience as a science teacher”. 23 .

the partner recommends one of them. I think.Stage 2: Recommending an Option – Making the Recommendation After a candidate presents his/her two options. I think B would be better since… B makes more sense. Of the two. I would choose B because…. I would choose B because…. I think you should choose B because… In my opinion. using the following functions: Expressing an opinion Comparing and contrasting Giving reasons Justifying LANGUAGE REPRESENTATIVE OF THESE FUNCTIONS: Between A and B. since…. B is the better choice because… 24 .

and why? Ask Ss to work individually to decide on one of the two options and prepare reasons for their choice Ask Ss to work in pairs and present to their partner their final decision and the reasons for it Then each partner makes his/her recommendation teachers flowers music mountains health to love doctors birds art sea wealth to be loved 25 . things we take for granted may no longer be available. which would it be. If you had to choose one of each of the following pairs.Stage 2: Recommending – Activity Give Ss the following situation: In the future.

Stage 3: Consensus Reaching Candidates come to agreement on single option by: Telling their partner which of own 2 options is best and giving reasons Discussing advantages and disadvantages of each option Key functions needed to negotiate and come to agreement on just one option: Disagreeing in a polite way Maintaining a viewpoint (when someone disagrees with my opinion) Expanding on ideas suggested by others 26 .

I have to disagree with you on that point. That’s not right.Activity . Stress to Ss that they are not all equally polite Have Ss work alone to reorder them along a continuum from rude to less polite to very polite and try to determine a principle/formula to follow when disagreeing politely in English Then ask them to share their ideas with a partner and decide which is the better formula That can’t be right. but I think… That’s a good/valid point. Sometimes… 27 . but… You may be right.Stage 3: Consensus Reaching . I see what you’re saying.Raising Awareness of How to Be Polite When Disagreeing Give Ss the following expressions for disagreeing with someone. but I also think… I see your point. I’m afraid you’re wrong there. No way! You’re wrong. but don’t you think… But that’s not always the case.

candidates: May look at each other’s sheet Must each prepare to present 2 different reasons why final option selected is the best and explain the importance of these reasons Are given 2-3 minutes to collaborate with each other and decide who will present the final decision and which reasons they will each present Are then introduced to Examiner 2. (Examiner 2 plays role of person of relatively high status) Formally present selected option to Examiner 2 28 .Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing (formal situation) During this stage.

Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing .Skills and Functions Needed Planning a presentation Collaborating (establishing guidelines about how to proceed) Making a formal presentation Expressing opinions Giving reasons Convincing someone that option chosen is indeed the best 29 .

Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing – Planning the Presentation When Ss are planning their presentation they should decide the following: Who is going to present what Who goes first How to make the transition from the first presenter to the second 30 .

but B is… Those are the reasons… So that’s why… A second. We have decided We’ve decided… Our decision is… Due to the fact that… Because we feel that. …which we think is important because… Even though A has better qualifications…. B is… A has more experience…. Therefore. So.. 31 .Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing .. we strongly believe that X is the best option.. Give Ss the following and ask them to decide which are formal and which are informal. or both. They should give reasons.Activity 1-Helping Students Recognize Formal and Informal Language When candidates are making their presentation they have to use more formal language. A is the best one. more important reason for our decision is that… In addition to what A said..

Practice Using More Formal Language Ss work in small groups to select one of four classmates for a Young Leaders Scholarship. Ss choose one member of their group to report their decision and the reasons for it. Groups rank candidates from first choice to last. cheated to get A in history. a bit self-centered. popular with girls. Candidates for the Young Leaders Scholarship: Alexander: has high marks. well-liked. shy and reserved. both parents work. 6 children Evi: learns material easily. from middle class family Maria: has high marks in everything but math. wealthy family 32 . gets nervous during exams and only gets average grades. only child Kostas: has high marks.Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing – Activity 2 .

Stage 5: Justifying and Defending Examiner 2 questions candidates about final decision (option) and reasons for decision Functions needed: Justifying decisions Defending decisions 33 .

34 .g. (if pair chose Mary Thompson): She has 15 years of experience as a science teacher. justifying and defending their decision e. but isn’t it possible she is set in her ways? Candidates take turns in answering Teacher’s questions. Perhaps… But if she were set in her ways.Stage 5: Justifying and Defending – Activity Helping Students Justify and Defend Students work in pairs to practice previous stages of Speaking Test using one topic (e. Hiring a High School Science Teacher) Each pair presents their final decision and reasons to the teacher (Examiner 2) Teacher (Examiner 2) challenges pair’s decision by looking at the negative side of their arguments e. would her lessons be interesting? Would both her students and colleagues like her? I rather doubt that.g.g.

elaborate. reach a consensus. seek clarification. justify and defend decisions Allowing them to assume greater responsibility in the classroom by having them do problem-solving and decisionmaking activities in pairs and small groups. then report the collective decision (and reasons for it) to the class 35 . present. look for counter arguments. paraphrase.Conclusion Teachers can best help students to prepare for the ECPE Speaking Test by: Affording them opportunities to personalize language structures and vocabulary learned in class in conversation with classmates Incorporating into lessons activities that help students summarize. make decisions.