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Student olympiad speaking general notes

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General notes

The test is taken in pairs. In case of an odd number of contestants, the remaining three students may take the test as a group of three. There will be three examiners: an interlocutor and two assessors. The interlocutor manages the test by asking questions and setting up the tasks, but the assessors do not speak during the first two parts.

There are three parts/phases. Contestants are required to exchange personal and factual information and opinions, express their own attitudes and views, and show their ability to speculate on given subjects.


Throughout the Speaking Test, students are assessed on their individual language skills, and assessment is based on the whole test. There are individual marks for:

  • grammatical resource: range and accuracy of structures (tenses, prepositions, etc.)

  • lexical resource: range and appropriateness of vocabulary used

  • discourse management: relevance and coherence of language used, ability to link ideas together

  • pronunciation: acceptable rhythm, intonation and pronunciation of individual sounds

  • interactive communication: linguistic resources and strategies used in exchange of information and social interaction

The Assessors give each contestant a mark of 0 - 10 for each of the five assessment criteria.

There is also a Global Achievement mark (from 0 to 10) for the candidates’ overall performance in the whole of the Speaking Test, which is given by the Interlocutor. Total (max): 50+50+10=110.


All the students (e.g. 80 students) are divided into 4 groups (e.g. 20 students in each group). Each group is tested separately (in a separate classroom). The time allotted to the contest in each group is up to 2 - 2, 5 hours. Speaking is planned to be conducted with 3 examiners (an Interlocutor and 2 Assessors) and pairs of students to be tested simultaneously. The instructions are given to each of these groups to be ready for the speaking session (i.e. to arrive by the door of their room) at the time fixed in the programme/general schedule. The order of taking the speaking test in each group is determined by lot, i.e. the contestants (in each of the 4 groups) draw lots as to who should go first, second, etc. This is arranged by way of their choosing one of the numbered cards (1, 2, 3, 4…). Those who take cards No 1 and No 2 will be the first pair to take a speaking test, the students with cards No 3 and No 4 – the second pair, etc. After that the assistant working in each of the 4 groups writes down the students’ registration codes (they get them on arriving, on the first day) in the order they are going to enter the room. Thus the students with the cards numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 will have to be ready for the first half-hour of the overall period of the Speaking session, the second subgroup with cards 7 – 12 – for the next half-hour and so on. The usual practice is that if the number of students in a group is uneven, three contestants will be examined together as the last subgroup of the speaking session.

Time and tasks

Speaking is planned to take up to 10 minutes allotted for each pair of contestants. It will be divided into 3 phases (parts):

Phase 1. (up to a minute)

Social interaction between the Interlocutor and the students.

The examiners introduce themselves and ask the students to give their code numbers and their first names, they may also ask more direct questions (e.g. ^ Where do you come from? etc.) to let the contestants get adjusted to the situation and calm down.

Phase 2. (up to 4 - 6 minutes)

The Aim: to elicit a sample of transactional language from each contestant (the so called “longer turn”) with reciprocal info-gap activity or commentary on each other’s presentation.

The tasks: Each student will have one individual topic which is based on a general, “shared” theme. The topics for students may be more or less closely connected with each other.

The procedure:

Each of the students in a pair once again chooses a card with a number from a set in front of them. The theme on the card with a lesser (smaller) number is chosen for discussion, for example: if the students have taken cards with numbers 1 and 8, they are to discuss the theme on Card No 1. Then the examiner places the card with the theme thus chosen (e.g. CARD 1. Actions and Words) on the table in front of the contestants in order to introduce them to the subject of the conversation.

Each theme has 2 subtopics (in the form of questions or statements). So the examiner takes the first subtopic connected with the theme (e.g. Card 1.1), gives it to the first student (the one whose card has happened to be chosen for discussion) and invites him/her to express his/her own views, comment on the statement or answer the question he/she is offered. The first student should speak for about 1,5 - 2 minutes to be politely interrupted by the interlocutor when the time is up. (The student should not worry about looking at the watch). While the first student is speaking, the second student is invited to listen attentively so that he/she might later comment on, add something or just agree/disagree with his/her partner and/or present at least one argument to prove his/her own point of view.

The second student’s commentary should take approximately 30 seconds but not more than 1 minute.

Then the second student is given his/her subtopic (e.g. Card 1.2.) to speak for 1-2 minutes with the first one to provide his/her short comments.

If the last subgroup consists of three students, the order of presentation for the contestants is determined on the same principle: all three of them take cards with numbers – the student whose card has the smallest number is the first to speak, and the one with the largest number is the last to speak (e.g. 16, 9, 22 – the first will be the student with Card 9: the second – with Card 16, and the third to speak will be the student with Card 22). The 1st and 2nd students speak on a shared theme (on two correlated subtopics of Theme 9 in our example). The 3rd student speaks on the theme he/she has chosen (in our example - Card 22, subtopic 22.1). Comments on each others’ presentations may be arranged “in a circle” - the 1st student speaks, the 2nd comments, the 2nd speaks, the third comments, the 3rd speaks, the first student comments.

Phase 3. Conclusion. (app. 2-3 minutes)

At the end of the Speaking session, the contestants (in turns) are invited to generalize a conclusion from the topics discussed, basing themselves on the common/general theme (e.g. Card 1). The interlocutor (and sometimes the assessors) may take part in the discussion (by asking questions) as and when appropriate. This part of the talk can be both an opinion-exchange and/or a summary. The students may agree or disagree with each other – their task is to demonstrate their ability/skills to conduct/engage in a discussion. If the last subgroup consists of 3 students, this part of the test is organized around the last topic chosen (in our example – Card 22, subtopic 22.2)

Finally, the students are thanked for attending the Speaking session.

The next pair is then invited to enter the room.


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