This website is, as you have guessed, aimed at people taking the Cambridge English: Advanced exam. But I have a lot of students who do BEC (Business English Certificate) so I thought I'd put a couple of my ideas for that exam here, since I won't be doing a whole site dedicated to that exam.

BEC Higher Speaking Part 1

This is very similar to CAE Speaking Part 1 and all the general tips from there apply here too. The difference is that after a couple of standard personal questions you move onto general business topics.

Personal Qs

Can you tell me a little bit about you?
What does you job involve?
What about your job do you enjoy?
How do you see your career developing in the next few years?

Business Qs

How do you think business has changed in your country in the last few years?
What do you think will be good careers to choose in the future?
Do you think there are more or fewer opportunities in business nowadays?
What are the qualities of a good businessman?

BEC Higher Speaking Part 2

This is called the mini-presentation. You have one minute to prepare a talk about a topic, and the talk is also one minute. It's important that you have a structure to your talk so I always make my students print and use this guide:

BEC H Mini Presentation 2016

Click that link - it should open a PDF. Yes, it's free. You're welcome.

As it says, you should quickly choose which of the three topics you're going to talk about. That should take no more than 10 seconds. That leaves 50 seconds to think of three things to say about that topic.

Example - the topic you choose is 'Recruitment - the importance of diversity'.

I want to come up with three keywords. How about...

  • understanding customers

  • solving problems

  • making work fun

Now you can follow the structure outlined in the PDF. All you have to do is start with the least important point and give reasons or opinions for everything you say.

Like this:

I'm going to talk about the importance of diversity. I have three points - understanding customers, solving problems, and making work fun.

First, having diverse teams can make work more fun. By fun I mean satisfying and rewarding. When there are people of all types from all sorts of backgrounds and nationalities, we can get in touch with various cultures and every day there will be opportunities to learn something interesting about the world.

More important than that is my second point, solving problems. It's well-known that diverse teams are better at solving problems. The science is very clear on that. Companies that only hire tall white men from Harvard might think they are recruiting well, but they are wrong.

But the most important thing is that diverse companies can understand any kind of customer. Whether your first phone call of the day is from a farmer or a pharmacist, someone in your balanced team will be able to understand that customer and you'll have greater sales as a result.

So in conclusion there are 3 things to consider.

There are many advantages to this structure. For instance, if you run out of time, it will be very clear that you had 3 points and that your talk was organised.

My 'pro tip' on the PDF relates to using your fingers to show which point you are talking about. When you say 'first' hold up one finger. When you say 'but more important than that' hold up two fingers. It's like a Powerpoint presentation right there on your hand!

BEC Higher Speaking Part 3

This one is very similar to Part 3 of the CAE Speaking Test, so the tips on that page apply here too. The main thing is to collaborate, which means asking things like 'what do YOU think about it?' Treat it like a business meeting. You are part of a team.

The task tells you to 'discuss and decide'. Spend 1 minute to 90 seconds discussing the first point then come to a decision about it. Say 'shall we move to the second point?'

For the second bullet point you certainly need to discuss the topic, but you don't need to actually make a decision. You need to be in the process of making a decision.

To explain that a bit further - if you are in the middle of deciding and the time runs out - that's great. If you make a final decision about the topic but you still have time left on the clock - that's bad. Use all your time.

Part 4

There isn't officially a part 4, but in reality there is (it's just included in part 3). It's just like in the CAE exam - after you discuss a topic with your partner (part 3), the examiner will ask you some follow-up questions (part 4). You can follow the CAE Part 4 Tips for this part.

This is the book I use in my classes. Note that it doesn't come with the class CD - that costs extra. Maybe your friendly local teacher can lend you the CDs?

It's good preparation for the exam - it's really good about the business vocabulary you need to learn. It also introduces you to the things you have to do in the exam.

It's a bit boring sometimes so I wouldn't recommend this to people who aren't planning to take BEC Higher.