Cómo hablar bien en inglés

Speaking well in English

Self correction

Speaking English as a second language is never easy as it involves many skills.

Typically, when you begin learning it’s difficult to remember everything , the vocabulary, the grammar, the pronunciation. Usually new students also translate what they want to say from Spanish into English and then back into Spanish to see if it was correct. This means that students speak too slowly – but with practice and time, as students’ confidence improves, they translate less and less.

One thing you should always do is listen to yourself, to what you say and any mistakes you make. If you do this you can then self-correct any errors. This is very important when you do the speaking in the exam as when you self-correct a mistake that mistake is erased and doesn’t affect your grade.

So, try not to translate but do listen to yourself.

One of the easiest ways to sound more fluent when speaking is to use phrasal verbs and expressions (hot topic, come across, for example). This comes with practise.

The collaborative task is a conversation, you need to speak, listen and respond. You also need to try to be yourself and not sound like a robot. Having a genuine conversion in English with some mistakes is much better than a perfect but robotic and unnatural conversation.

The topic under discussion is usually a hypothetical situation, for example the affects of different technology on our lives. It requires good vocabulary, particularly abstract nouns – for example, teaching, education, learning.

You also need to use non specific vocabulary, for example linkers… However, despite, although, nevertheless etc.

Expressing your opinion in English

Here’s some specific ways of expressing your opinion in the collaborative speaking…. Particularly when it’s a current hot topic such as global warming/the environment, but also education etc.

“the topic….”
…. concerns/worries me a lot
…. concerns/worries me greatly
…. strikes me as the most important issue of our time

I’ve struggled with this issue
I’ve thought about this often
I’ve thought about this a lot
I’ve often considered this
It’s a complex issue
There are many opinions on this
I find it difficult to express my opinion on this
What worries/concerns me is..

Disagreeing in English

I couldn’t disagree more
I can’t agree with/accept that

I don’t quite see your point
That’s not how I see it
That hasn’t been my experience

I think you’re mistaken

Agreeing in English

You’re absolutely right
I couldn’t agree more
That’s how I see it

Asking for clarification in English

I’m sorry I didn’t quite understand that
I’m not sure I understand you correctly

So what you’re saying is….
Are you saying that….
Could you explain that….
In what way is….

Watch out!

Spanish speakers often use the verb to be with agree, example I’m agree. This is absolutely not correct in English. I agree is the correct way of expressing yourself.

Cambridge PET 2020 nuevo formato

What is the new PET exam Format?

The Cambridge PET will be different from January 2020 and both students and teachers need to be aware of the changes.

So, what is different about the new style Cambridge PET exam?
The first question a student asks is whether the exam more or less difficult than before. Here’s my opinion.

Main Changes

Reading and Writing are now separate Parts. Students have 45 minutes to complete each part.

Writing is the same as the old style exam.

Reading now has 6 parts with a new Part where students need to put missing sentences into a piece of text. This is similar to the B2 exam and is quite challenging for students. We will look at the strategy for this part, in detail, in another post.

In my opinion, 45 minutes to complete the Reading with its 6 parts is going to be very difficult for some students. Keyword recognition will be critical if the Reading is to be done within the time.

Listening stays the same but is much shorter in duration, 30 minutes compared to 40 minutes. This has probably been achieved by cutting down on instructions, preparation time for each part, and perhaps the speed of the speakers in the listening. The fact that it is ten minutes shorter suggests that it will be more difficult than before when it was 40 minutes.

Speaking time has also been reduced to 12 mins as opposed to the 15 minutes previously. Personally this is irrelevant as I have yet to know of a single speaking exam that conformed to the quoted time. The length of the speaking depends on the examination centre, how many candidates and examiners they have and how well organised they are. Do not believe you will get the stated time in the speaking – it never happens and may be much shorter or a little longer than the 12 minutes.

We will be looking at the new exam format in-depth shortly.

Download a PDF of what’s new

Here is the official PDF from Cambridge of the new exam format. You may download and print it.

Discurso colaborativo – Cambridge B2 FCE First

Cambridge English First (B2) Collaborative speaking. Topic –the environment
Keywords climate change, fossil fuels, consumption, reduction, global warming, car sharing schemes, deforestation, ozone layer, contamination, recycling, aviation.

Useful linkers – in spite of, despite, however, although, nevertheless, also, but

Useful phrases – I totally agree, I couldn’t agree more, you’re right, I completely disagree, you’re crazy

Lucia and Maria practising the collaborative part of the Cambridge FCE B2 exam – volume is low.


Maria – white T-Shirt
Grammatical structures
Generally excellent with only 1 or 2 minor mistakes that do not impede understanding
A little limited, could have included higher level nouns plus linkers and connectors. 1 or 2 small mistakes with word form.
Very good with clear pronunciation and a natural rhythm. Very conversational, as it should be, and with only slight nervousness.
Global achievement of task
As Maria is taking her exam in December 2019 there is plenty of time to fine-tune her speaking performance.

Lucia – black T-Shirt
Grammatical structures
Generally very good with some minor mistakes that do not impede understanding
Again a little limited, could have included higher level nouns plus linkers and connectors. 1 or 2 small mistakes with word form, for example consume (v) should be consumption (noun).
Generally good with clear pronunciation and a good rhythm. Very conversational, as it should be, nut with quite a lot of nervousness.
She looked at the examiner when her attention should have been on Maria.
Global achievement of task
As Lucia is taking her exam in December 2019 there is plenty of time to fine-tune her speaking performance

¿Cuál es la diferencia entre los niveles de inglés?

​I’m often asked what the difference is between the different levels in English, for example B1 & B2. So here’s my opinion.


A2 is very, very basic.  You are expected to be able to understand very simple instructions and information when reading or listening. 

Writing is also easy with a limited expectation of vocabulary and the most basic of grammar, for example present and past simple, continuous, and future simple. 

Speaking is judged on your ability to answer questions from an information sheet, have the most basic of interaction, as well as being able to pronounce the alphabet. 

Students who take B1 and are given A2 really must have performed badly in the exam to score so very low.


In my opinion B1 is quite a low level and adds maybe 30% to what you learn in A2.

Unlike A2 in B1 you are expected to be able to understand basic spoken and written information and also context. This means a larger vocabulary and better skills with listening and reading. Vocabulary is mainly basic word forms, a handful of phrasal verbs and mainly Celtic based words, for example put, take, give etc. These are extremely important for the 5 parts of Reading (synonyms, modals etc.) and the 3 parts of writing, particularly the sentence transformations in part 1.  

The grammar is also a little more complex with reported speech, zero, first and second conditionals, passives, comparatives etc, and again these are mainly tested in the 3 parts of writing.  

Writing is still quite simple with informal emails and short stories, but speaking is very different. You need to be able to describe, exchange opinions, hypothesise and interact conversationally. We have an in-depth post about the speaking part. 


Upper intermediate 
Overall B2 is not very different to B1 but the level of required understanding is much higher. It adds about 25% more to what you learn in B1. 

Grammar is very similar but you are expected to know the subtle differences in meaning between verb forms, verb and noun patterns, dependent prepositions, collocations etc. You need greater vocabulary and knowledge of phrasal verbs, set expressions, idioms etc. In B2 you have more abstract word forms and particularly Latin based words (though these are the same in Spanish, in 90% of cases). 

Listening is quite different, questions are more subtle and people speak much quicker and with different accents. Again, we have a post dedicated to Listening (B1, B2, C1).

The biggest difference is writing – you are expected to be able to write informally, semi formally and formally for letters, articles, reviews, reports etc. This requires extensive use of complex grammatical structures, for example perfect tenses, participle clauses etc.

Use of English is a separate unit in the exam and is very difficult as it requires a good knowledge of word forms, dependent prepositions, collocations, etc.

There are some badly educated English people who would struggle to produce a good example of writing, Use of English or speaking at this level.


Advanced is the hardest level in my opinion. It adds 70% more to what you are taught in all lower levels. You cannot study and pass this level quickly.

Complex grammar and thousands of new words/idioms etc make this level very dense.

Listening is very very difficult with natural speech, very subtle tricks and at fast speeds.

Speaking is similar to B2 but themes are more abstract and you are expected to be able to hypothesise about abstract concepts and themes.. 

Writing and use of English are similar to B2 but at a much higher level. Complex grammatical structures are expected, especially in semi/formal writing such as reports, articles etc. These include inversions, 3rd conditional structures and many fixed phrases and idioms, 

Reading is very difficult with a required level of vocabulary that cannot be compared to other lower levels. Reading can be narrative, academic, scientific, or business orientated.


C2 really only adds a layer of vocabulary onto C1. It is very language heavy with very little grammar because 99% if it is covered in C1. 

It is the icing on the cake for those who have C1 but as a native speaker I personally don’t think it deserves its reputation for fluency – it means you are proficient or very very good in a language but not to the same extent as a born native. Language is not only a collection of structures and words, it is cultural and in the blood. Having said that, C2 remains the ultimate level a student can reach in any language test.

Cómo matricularse para un examen de Cambridge

How to register for a Cambridge English exam.
You can register for a Cambridge exam in two different ways, as a private candidate or as a student of Queens.

A. Registering for your exam with Queens.
This is a two part process and is very easy.
1. First you and your partner (remember, at Queens we present you in pairs so you will do the Speaking part with a classmate*) will receive the the information necessary to make a transfer of the exam fee at a bank, direct to Cambridge.

You must include certain information in the concepto, apellido.initial/queens/exam, for example gomez.n/queens/PETCB.

2. The second part of the process is completed by Queen’s and for this we need specific information about you which you must provide by the last day for matriculation.

Your full name.
Your date of birth.
– A valid email address.
– Your DNI
– Your telephone number

Once both parts have been completed you can relax a little. You will receive an email with confirmation of entry for the exam, and also a second email with the day and time of your exam, approximately 10 days before the scheduled exam. You will also receive an email with the rules and guidelines for the exam.

And that’s it!

B. Registering as a private candidate.
This is a relatively straightforward process which involves registering with the local Examination Centre, yourself. You should pay for the exam at the time of registering and everything is done online. You will receive an email with confirmation of entry for the exam, and also a second email with the day and time of your exam, approximately 10 days before the scheduled exam. You will also receive an email with the rules and guidelines for the exam.

To register as a private candidate click here.

*It is not Cambridge policy to put students who know each other (classmates for example) together in Speaking, but it is at the discretion of the Examination Centre. 99% of our students present for their exam with their chosen partner, but there is always the possibility that it may not happen.

¿Cuál es la diferencia entre los exámenes de Cambridge por ordenador o papel?

Español abajo
I’m often asked what the difference is between the Computer based Cambridge English exam and the exam on Paper. Here’s my thoughts.


Most students have completed exams on paper and feel very comfortable doing it this way. Just as at University your answers must be copied onto a separate answer sheet. You are able to carry out the strategy for each part, underlining keywords, writing synonyms etc.

Fewer exam dates have an impact on the number of students taking the exam which is usually quite high with as many as 100 students sitting the exam. This affects the Listening, with people sneezing, coughing, as well as problems with echoes due to the large room needed for so many candidates. The need to copy your answers onto an answer sheet can also cause problems if you do not pay very close attention to the time – not copying all of them, or completing the wrong sections can result in a failed exam purely for technical reasons rather than level.


There are many more exam dates and so fewer candidates in the exam. The experience itself is usually less intimidating with as few as 6 students sitting the exam. Listening is done with headphones and you are able to control the volume so it is optimum for you.

Perhaps the greatest problem is your own ability using the software for the exam as well as typing in English. There are Computer based practice tests online and we also provide computer based tests for you to try. You can also watch a tutorial that helps you understand how to use the software but for some students this makes little difference – it’s hard enough remembering English structures and words without worrying about how to use the computer!

There is also the problem of how to do the strategy for each part. Although the software allows you to do this it isn’t very intuitive and slows you down. I would only recommend the Computer based exam if –

You are very comfortable using a PC
– You don’t rely on doing the strategy for each part
– You have a natural ability with listening as it is impossible to do the strategy for this part.

A good teacher will know your key strengths and weaknesses and will guide you as to which exam to take. They should also allow you to practice both the paper based and computer based exam to be sure there are no problems. At Queens students receive 20 hours of Paper based Exam Practice classes as well as for PC. If you do not receive the same I suggest you look for a better school. 

Practice computer based exams

The following links might help you decide which exam and what type is best for you. These links will redirect you to a different site.

Computer based Practice Test – all levels
Computer Based Tutorial – all levels
B1 Computer based tutorial
B1 Computer based practice test
FCE Computer based tutorial
FCE Computer based practice test

A menudo me preguntan cuál es la diferencia entre el examen Cambridge English basado en computadora y el examen en papel. Aquí están mis pensamientos.

La mayoría de los estudiantes han completado los exámenes en papel y se sienten muy cómodos haciéndolo de esta manera. Al igual que en la Universidad, sus respuestas deben copiarse en una hoja de respuestas separada. Puede llevar a cabo la estrategia para cada parte, subrayando palabras clave, escribiendo sinónimos, etc.

Menos fechas de examen tienen un impacto en el número de estudiantes que toman el examen, que generalmente es bastante alto con hasta 100 estudiantes que se presentan al examen. Esto afecta la audición, con personas estornudando, tosiendo, así como problemas con los ecos debido a la gran sala necesaria para tantos candidatos. La necesidad de copiar sus respuestas en una hoja de respuestas también puede causar problemas si no presta mucha atención al tiempo: no copiar todas ellas o completar las secciones incorrectas puede dar lugar a un examen reprobado simplemente por razones técnicas en lugar de nivel .

Hay muchas más fechas de examen y, por lo tanto, menos candidatos en el examen. La experiencia en sí misma suele ser menos intimidante con tan solo 6 estudiantes en el examen. La escucha se realiza con auriculares y puede controlar el volumen para que sea óptimo para usted.

Quizás el mayor problema es su propia habilidad para usar el software para el examen y escribir en inglés. Hay pruebas de práctica basadas en computadora en línea y también ofrecemos pruebas basadas en computadora para que las pruebe. También puede ver un tutorial que lo ayuda a comprender cómo usar el software, pero para algunos estudiantes esto hace poca diferencia: ¡es bastante difícil recordar las estructuras y palabras en inglés sin preocuparse por cómo usar la computadora!

También está el problema de cómo hacer la estrategia para cada parte. Aunque el software le permite hacer esto, no es muy intuitivo y lo ralentiza. Solo recomendaría el examen por computadora si

-Te sientes muy cómodo usando una PC
– No confías en hacer la estrategia para cada parte
– Tienes una habilidad natural para escuchar, ya que es imposible hacer la estrategia para esta parte.

Recomendación: Un buen maestro conocerá sus fortalezas y debilidades clave y lo guiará en cuanto a qué examen tomar. También deberían permitirle practicar tanto el examen en papel como en computadora para asegurarse de que no haya problemas. En Queens, los estudiantes reciben 20 horas de clases de práctica de examen en papel, así como para PC. Si no recibe lo mismo, le sugiero que busque una mejor escuela.

Practique exámenes basados ​​en computadora Los siguientes enlaces pueden ayudarlo a decidir qué examen y qué tipo es mejor para usted. Estos enlaces lo redirigirán a un sitio diferente.

Computer based Practice Test – all levels
Computer Based Tutorial – all levels
B1 Computer based tutorial
B1 Computer based practice test
FCE Computer based tutorial
FCE Computer based practice test