In the B2 First speaking exam, the examiner will ask you a variety of different questions in each part. It’s important to listen to the examiner’s questions carefully because if you don’t, you run the risk of not answering the question being asked. If you don’t understand the question or want to clarify a specific part of the question you can ask the examiner to repeat it.
Do I lose marks for asking the examiner to repeat the question?
Examiners are used to being asked to repeat or clarify questions. Although you shouldn’t ask the examiner to repeat every question, you will not lose any marks for asking them to repeat one or two questions that you don’t fully understand. In fact, the ability to know how to elicit information is actually an impressive skill, especially if you can do it in an impressive manner.
How to ask the examiner to repeat a question
At a B2 level, you don’t need to use any complicated phrases or expressions to ask the examiner to repeat the question, but you could certainly add a bit more variety to the standard “Can you repeat the question?”
If you want the examiner to repeat the entire question you could try asking using some of the examples from the list below:
- Sorry, could you repeat the question please?
- I’m not really sure I understood, could you please repeat it?
- I didn’t quite get that, can you repeat it please?
- I didn’t quite understand, could you say that again please?
- I’m not sure I fully understood the question, can you repeat it?
- Would you mind repeating the question?
- Could you just repeat that for me please?
Remember, English speakers are generally very polite with their use of language, especially in formal situations, so don’t be afraid to add please to the end of your questions.
How to clarify a question with the examiner
Asking the examiner to repeat the question is a relatively simple thing to do. You can practice different variations using some more advanced vocabulary or grammar. As long as you practice this before the exam, you shouldn’t have any problems asking for questions to be repeated. However, there may be situations where you think you have understood the question, but you want to simply clarify the question with the examiner.
Clarifying the question is slightly more difficult than asking the examiner to repeat it. Doing this will not only demonstrate a very impressive skill to your examiner, but it will also demonstrate your natural ability to elicit specific information.
Clarifying the entire question
Generally, you will either want to clarify the whole question or a specific part of a question. If you want to clarify the whole question then all you need to do is repeat it back to the examiner, but you must remember two important things:
Change the pronouns
So if the examiner asks “do you…?” then when you clarify the question you need to say “Do I…?”.
Change your intonation
It is important that the examiner knows that you are asking for clarification that you understood the question correctly. In order to do this, you need to use an inquisitive tone where the pitch of your voice goes up at the end of the question. You can also use an inquisitive facial expression as well.
Let’s take a look at a few examples below:
Examiner: “What do you like to do in your free time?”
Candidate: “What do I like to do in my free time?”
Examiner: “How important is getting regular exercise?”
Candidate: “How important is getting regular exercise?”
Examiner: “Do you prefer spending time with your friends or your family?”
Candidate: “Do I prefer spending time with my friends or my family?”
Clarifying a specific part of the question
If you understand the overall question, but there was a specific word that you want to clarify there are a few different ways you can do this.
Repeat the question emphasizing the word you want to clarify
This is done in exactly the same way if you wanted the examiner to clarify the whole question, except that you place strong stress or emphasis on a specific word. For example, if the examiner asks how important is it to learn about history and you wanted to clarify that you understood the word “learn” correctly then you would place extra emphasis on “learn” when repeating the question.
Examiner: “How important is it to learn about history?
Candidate: “How important is it to learn about history?
Repeat a specific part of the question you want to clarify
You can also just take the specific part of the question that you want to clarify and repeat it with one or two extra words for context. The intonation and facial expression here are very important. You must make sure the tone of your voice rises at the end so the examiner clearly understands you are asking for clarification. Also, by making an inquisitive facial expression it will be clear to the examiner that you are asking for clarification.
Examiner: “How important is it to learn about history?
Candidate: “to learn about history?”
Give two options of the word you want to clarify
Maybe you are asked a question where you are not sure if the examiner said one word or another. Usually, this is when a word sounds similar to a different word that would also fit into the question. If this happens then you can ask the examiner to confirm which word they said.
Examiner: “Do you like watching sports?”
Candidate: “Do I like watching sports or water sports?” or just “watching sports or water sports?”
Don’t be afraid to ask the examiner to repeat or clarify a question! (just don’t do it too often).
You can practice for these situations in an exam with a teacher or language partner. Get them to ask you questions and you can practice asking them to repeat the question or clarify a specific word. Or try listening to some of the sample speaking exam questions we have and practice how to ask for clarification on different words in the question. Once you are comfortable doing this then it will be much easier for you on the exam day.