The CELPIP test, short for the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program test, is an English language proficiency test which is an important requirement for immigration to Canada. Some student sees this test as an alternative to the equally-accepted and recognized IELTS examination. Like the IELTS, the CELPIP test measures the English proficiency of test-takers across four language skills. These skills are listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
Unlike the General CELPIP test which assesses all four skills, the CELPIP LS exam only tests listening and speaking. For this article, the speaking test will be the main focus, as well as tips to help you do well in this part of the test.
Introduction to CELPIP Speaking
Whether you choose to take the CELPIP General or the LS versions of the test, the speaking test will appear. This part of the test accounts for as much as a tenth of the total time it takes to finish the CELPIP test. The score ranges from 1 to 12, with 12 being the maximum score an examinee could attain.
Regardless, try to aim for the maximum score. Even though you may only be required a certain score, the chances of successfully immigrating increase with the score you get on the test.
More on what to expect in the next section.
The CELPIP Speaking Format
You cannot do well on the test without knowing the format. If you are wondering how this part of the test will be on exam day, it is computer-delivered like all the other parts of the test. For this part of the test, you need to provide responses to a voice prompt. You could imagine this as “speaking to a computer”.
This part of the test takes about 15 to 20 minutes, and consists of 8 tasks (9, if you count the practice task in the first part of the CELPIP speaking test).
All parts of the speaking test give test-takers 30 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to deliver or speak. The only parts which require candidates to record 90-second responses are the first and seventh tasks.
Excluding the practice task, the 8 tasks are as follows:
Task 1: Giving advice
As the name suggests, you have to give a suggestion or recommendation. On the screen, a situation, as well as an imaginary interlocutor (i.e. the person you should give advice to), is usually presented.
For instance, a prompt on the computer screen MAY look like this:
“You have a friend who is unsure about whether or not to pursue a language course. He is failing his Spanish class.
Give this friend advice.”
As you could see, the first part is the situation. And, the second line gives you a clue about who you need to give advice to. As mentioned earlier, you will have 30 seconds to prepare, and 9 seconds to record your answer.
Task 2: Personal experience narration
In this part of the test, you need to talk about something which you have experienced. This may range from an activity that you have done to an event that you witnessed or became a part of. To illustrate, there may be an instruction on the screen of the computer which asks you to talk about something you did last weekend. To this, you need to record a response. And, this response should contain what activity you took part in last weekend.
An important consideration to bear in mind- this ought to have happened in the past. So, you may want to go with the past tense form of verbs for this.
Task 3: Scene or picture description
Here, the task is simple (hopefully, this is the case for you)- you have to talk about what you can see in a picture that is presented on the computer screen. So, there may be an image of a living room presented on the screen, and it will be your job to describe the picture in as much detail as possible.
Details may include the location of certain pieces of furniture and whether there are people or no people in the living room. You may also provide the time of day (if shown on a clock) and whether there is anything on the wall. You may want to review your prepositions and adjectives for this part of the test.
Task 4: Prediction(s)
Like task 3, you will be shown a picture. This picture may or may not be the same picture in the previous task. But, instead of simply describing the photo, you need to predict what might happen based on what you could see.
There is a difference between description and prediction. It is important for you to understand this as you move on to this part of the test and as you prepare for both.
For instance, you may see a picture of two penguins on ice. Instead of talking about “two penguins standing on ice”, you are expected to talk about what might happen to the penguins, or what they might do.
Another example is when you are shown a picture of speeding car. You are not supposed to talk simply about the car. You need to predict what could happen if the car continues at its current speed.
Task 5: Making comparisons and persuading
During this part of the test, you need to compare things or people. Often, two things are to be compared. You need to choose one option. Then, you could persuade by presenting similarities and differences. With this, you will have to say which one is better. This is the part of the test where you “argue” for your choice.
You could expect to compare certain things. If you are asked to compare 2 restaurants, for example, you may want to say how they are different and similar. After that, you need to say which one is better and why you think so.
This is the part of the test where the usage of words like comparative adjectives (adjective + “-er”) and conjunctions like “while” and “whereas” might come in handy for you. So, learning them would help you greatly with this part of the test.
Task 6: Dealing with a difficult situation
In a way, the test shows this part of the speaking exam in a similar way to the first part of the test (Giving advice). But, what you need to do is different. There will be two choices of actions after the situation. From there, you must choose one option and discuss why it is a better action than the other.
For example, this task might appear like this during the actual test:
“You have a friend who urgently needs to borrow your car. However, you also
know that your friend is not a very good driver.
Refuse to lend it to him, but offer to drive him/her instead
Lend it to him, but be in the car with him/her as they drive”
You need to pick one option and explain why it is the choice you made. You could think of this as kind of a mix between task 1 and task 5.
Task 7: Expressing an Opinion
This test measures two things. First, it tests your ability to clearly state your opinion to a certain issue or question. Also, it is intended to evaluate if you are able to justify your opinion. As mentioned earlier, this along with task 1 is the other part of the test where you need to speak for 90 seconds.
This part of the test is usually in question form. It could look something like the example below:
“Do you think only rich people should pay taxes?
Give reasons for your answer.”
You might be thinking that you need to have a lot of ideas on social issues, politics, and other “academic” topics.
The truth is this. The CELPIP speaking test is an English proficiency test. So, what is important is not the content of what you say. Rather, how you express yourself in English is far more significant.
Again, you are taking an English speaking test. Not participating in a political debate.
Task 8: Describing an unusual situation
Finally, task 8 requires you to describe something again. But, this time, you must give a description of a strange-looking object. This is shown in a picture. During this part of the test, you need to imagine yourself trying to send a picture of the object by phone.
Sadly, in this situation, the camera is broken, so there is no way to send a photo. Instead, you need to describe with words. This is, in a way, similar to what you have to do in task 3.
For instance, you may be shown a photo of a multi-colored car that has an unusual shape and a lot of wheels. Your job is to give a 60-second description of this object. Your knowledge of different adjectives will definitely be tested here.
CELPIP Speaking Test Tips
Now, you know what the test is going to look like. This next section will cover CELPIP speaking test tips and general strategies that could help you as you prepare and succeed.
Firstly, managing your time is essential. The CELPIP speaking test is a test. And, like any test, there is bound to be a time limit. Each task gives you 30 seconds to “brainstorm”, 60 or 90 seconds to deliver (depending on the task). Indeed, this is not a lot of time, so this is where practice is important. In between tasks, there is a space of about 10 seconds. You could use this time to relax for a few moments before tackling the next task.
This next tip might come as a surprise to you. It is about your accent (if you have one). Many test-takers like yourself seem to wonder if they should try to sound “more native”.
Actually, as long as you could pronounce each word correctly, an accent does little to nothing to negatively affect your score. So, when you practice, focus on just being understandable instead of sounding more “American” or “British”. And, do not speak in monotone either.
Speaking of tone, how do you know if you are using the correct tone for the sentence? Other than using a rising intonation for questions, a good rule of thumb to follow is this- talk during the test as if you are talking to a friend.
Lastly, just focus on what you have mastered instead of on what you have not. As you prepare, you will accustom yourself to certain words and grammar rules. However, there will be numerous words and rules that you may not fully master by the day of the test. Though it is always better to widen your range in these two areas, you will be more understandable and not make too many mistakes.
- Time management is key to your CELPIP Speaking test
- Your accent is fine. Speak with confidence!
- The correct tone and intonation is the difference between to a good speaking score and an excellent one
- Focus on what you have learned and learned well
How to Improve Your CELPIP Speaking
In order to prepare effectively for the CELPIP speaking test, you should acquire some test preparation materials. There are numerous CELPIP preparation materials that you could purchase. You may purchase them online or offline. But if you prefer other ways of studying, there are other helpful ways to maximize your chances of scoring well on the test.
The computer is your friend
If it isn’t already, it should be as you prepare for the test. Again, this is important to remember. All parts of the CELPIP test are computer-delivered. This is also true for the speaking test. There is no paper-based version of the test.
Take a sample CELPIP Speaking test
On the main site of the CELPIP test, you could take a sample test free of charge. This could help you in two ways. First, you get to learn about the speaking test’s computer-delivered format. And secondly, you get a chance to simulate how you would go about the test.
Watch a Youtube video
Many examiners, students, and teachers have posted English test prep content online. The information and input they share could help you identify areas where many students have difficulty. There is also the added bonus of hearing SPOKEN examples of possible responses. Remember the discussion of tone earlier? An example of a video could help you with this. One more benefit of this is that you may learn about possible CELPIP speaking topics.
Even if you are preparing to “speak to a computer”, a person still marks your records responses. You want this human examiner to understand you. The best way to check your clarity of speech is by speaking to a person. He or she may be able to tell you if you are understandable or not.
Work on grammar and vocabulary
The speaking test is still an English test. Thus, learning and mastering new words, and learning sentence structures and verb tenses are all part of preparing. Do include this in your study plan
Practice speaking WITH A TIME LIMIT
Try to practice writing keywords for your responses in 30 seconds or less. Do this with various CELPIP speaking topics. And, work on pacing to deliver 60 and 90-second answers. Pacing is a skill that gets better only with practice.
How to Get a Good Score in the CELPIP Speaking Test
Like any test you may have encountered, to get the highest possible score is the goal here. That is what you have prepared for. Here are things you could do on the test to increase your chances:
Adjust the equipment to your preference
This is a very obvious step. But, think about it. If the screen is too close or too far from you, how could read the instructions? If the microphone on the provided headset is too far from your lips, do you expect to be audible?
Speak as naturally as you can
Do not speak too fast or too slowly. This could have an effect on your clarity and tone, and could affect your score negatively. If you get nervous, pause and breathe, and continue.
Do not worry about your accent. As mentioned, examiners do not really mind as long as the sentence is clear.
Focus on what you have mastered
This can be done in two parts of the speaking test. When you read an unfamiliar word in the instruction, read the familiar words. Often, you could get the meaning from here. And when you speak, use sentence structures and words that you know well.
This brings us to the next tip.
Try not to be a “SESQUIPADALIAN”
A sesquipadalian is a person who uses big words and technical jargon. This person is kind of like a walking textbook. Do not be this person. Instead of using long unfamiliar words, you could just try using synonyms. Or, you could try repeating a word, but in its other form. This will make you sound natural to the examiner.
Understand what is required
There are 8 tasks. And, each of them are different. If you need to describe, do not predict. Likewise, do not describe if you need to give advice.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of the CELPIP speaking test and what to expect. The tips and strategies above could help you in getting your desired score. Speaking is a skill, and skills improve with practice.
There is a saying.
“Practice not until you get something right. But, practice until you can never get it wrong.”
Good luck on your CELPIP speaking test!