Learn >> BULATS Interview

Looking for help with the BULATS Speaking test? This page will give you an overview of the oral exam. The tips supplied will be of particular interest to those working towards BULATS advanced grades of (74-89) and upper advanced grades (90-100).

BULATS Speaking Test by Peter Travis

Duration: Approximately 12 minutes.
Participants: Candidates interviewed individually. The test is recorded.
Format: The test consists of three parts.

Part 1 (Interview)

Tests ability to: use language for social purposes, e.g. making introductions, answering questions, stating an opinion.

Part 1 of the BULATS Speaking test lasts about 4 minutes. The examiner will ask some 'getting-to-know-you' questions perhaps to find out where you come from, your interests or your travel experiences, and depending upon your status at the time, questions about your job or your studies.

Example Questions

Q: Where are you from?
Q: Have you done much travelling?
Q: Do you do any sports?
Q: Tell me a little about your job/studies?

Tips!

Concentrate on answering the examiner's questions fully to get the interview off to a good start.

- Avoid giving short, uncommunicative replies.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in Rome but I've spent most of my life in Milan. (Don't stop there!) It's a fantastic city ... as I'm sure you know it's famous for fashion houses and it's great for shopping and of course we have some well-known football teams.

- Avoid short, 'yes', 'no' answers to closed questions. (Closed questions begin: 'Have you ...', 'Do you ...', 'Is it ...' etc and can be answered with a 'yes' or 'no' answer).
Q: Have you done much travelling?
A: Yes. (Don't stop there!) I travelled a bit with my parents when I was younger and I've just come back from a working holiday in Germany.
Q: Do you do any sports?
A: No, not really. (Don't stop there!) I used to play football at school but since I left I haven't really done much. I go swimming occasionally but that's about all.

Part 2 (Presentation)

Tests ability to: sustain a long turn, speaking coherently, use language to state an opinion, describe, compare and contrast etc.

Part 2 of the BULATS Speaking test lasts about 4 minutes. The examiner gives you a sheet with 3 topics on work-related subjects. You'll be asked to speak about one of the topics for 1 minute without interruption. You'll have 1 minute to prepare. At the end of your talk the examiner will ask you one or two questions related to the topic.

Example Task

Part 2: Presentation

Topic A: Describe an interview you once attended.
You should say:
when it was
what it was for
how it went

Is there anything you would have said or done differently if you were attending the same interview again?

Topic B: Describe someone you've worked with that has had a big influence on you.
You should say:
what your relationship with this person is/was.
what this person was like.
what it was about them that made such a big influence on you.

Why are people like this so influential in our careers?

Topic C: Describe the most challenging task you've faced in your area of work.
You should say:
what the challenge was
how you dealt with it
the result of your actions

What are the benefits to us of facing great challenges like this?



Tips!

1. Use your 1 minute preparation time fruitfully and make notes of the points you'd like to deal with. Do not attempt to write your speech!

2. The question will help you structure your talk. You can begin by introducing the topic and in the main body of your talk describe the three sub-points. The conclusion can deal with the final statement. Signpost your talk at appropriate times such as at the end with words or expressions like 'So ...', 'As you can see ...', 'To sum up ..'.

3. Get your talk off to a powerful start. Avoid giving a very dry, unimaginative introduction such as 'The interview I'm going to describe took place....'. Start with something on the lines of: 'I'll never forget the time ....', or 'It was three years ago and I'd been offered an interview for ....'

4. Practise making short 1 minute talks on work-related subjects as often as possible to enable you to get a sense of timing.

Part 3: (Information Exchange and Discussion)

Tests ability to: ask for information, initiate discussion, ask for and give opinions, agree and disagree, develop comments made by others and generate new ideas.

Part 3 of the exam, which lasts about 4 minutes, consists of two sections. The examiner will hand you a paper describing the context for a role play and a discussion. The examiner will participate in the role play and you will have to ask him/her questions in order to get the information the role play requires. This will lead on to a discussion between you and the examiner on a work-related topic.

Example Task

Part 3: Information Exchange and Discussion

Health and Wellbeing at Work

You have 1 minute to read through this task.

Information Exchange
Your company has its own gym and fitness suite and you have been asked to write an article for the company newsletter encouraging people to use it. The examiner is the manager of the fitness suite and you are in a meeting with him/her.
Find out this information:
i) What kind of facilities the suite provides.
ii) How your employees would benefit from using the fitness suite.
iii) What employees have to do to join.

What might the best ways be of encouraging people to use the facilities?

Discussion
Now discuss this with the examiner:

Why is it important for a company to encourage a healthy workforce?



You should be prepared to take an active role in the discussion rather than waiting to be prompted by the examiner. Imagine you're in this situation and that you really do need this information for your newsletter.

Tips!

1. If you need time to collect your thoughts use expressions like: 'Now then, let me think.', 'Let see now ...'.

2. Listen carefully to what the examiner says during the role-play. Take the opportunity to acknowledge, respond to and develop points made by the examiner. Reply questions like 'Have you?', 'Can we?', 'Is that so?' is a natural way to do this.

3. During the discussion stage help make your responses interesting by drawing on personal experiences or topical stories to explain a point you want to make.

4. If the examiner says something that you don't understand, use any of the questions below to take control.

- If you didn't hear something that the examiner said, say:
"Excuse me, I didn't quite catch that. Could you say that again?"
"I'm sorry, but would you mind repeating that?"

- If you want to make sure you've understood something the examiner has said you can ask:
"Do you mean ........"
"When you say ........, do you mean/are you asking ........?

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These guides have been published by the Splendid Speaking team to help students and teachers who would like to know more about the BULATS Speaking test. This guide is made available for information only and should not be seen as official advice. Splendid Learning, a division of Flo-Joe, will not be held liable for any consequences arising from the use of this guide. For more information about the BULATS exam please visit the Cambridge ESOL website at www.cambridgeesol.org