5 Tricks to Help you 
Compare Photos for an
Oral Exam

Can you orally compare photos quickly and easily in front of an English instructor?

If you find yourself feeling insecure and nervous before taking an oral exam, like the Cambridge certificates, I'd like to share 5 tricks to help you perform better.

1) Practice Everyday

The most important thing is to start practicing and describe photos EVERY DAY from now until the exam. Do this for a minimum of 15 minutes. 30 minutes is best.

If you get your mind use to doing the activity you will find that during the exam you will not struggle to find ideas. Your ideas will come to your mind quickly and with little effort. 

2) Focus


Focus on the main part of the picture at the beginning. Let's do an example together.

Look at the two pictures below. What are they pictures of? 

I would say that the first one is a picture of a little girl listening to music with headphones and the second one is a Chinese doll that looks like it is wearing headphones.

Then you want to describe as much as you can. This is where you have to use your imagination to make assumptions. For example:

I think...and Maybe... are great ways to start talking and to compare photos. 


The girl could be listening to classical music to improve her mind. Maybe her mother makes her listen to music...or maybe she just listens for fun. Maybe she is listening to music on a train to pass the time. Maybe it isn't even music at all. Maybe she is learning a language....a CD course perhaps.

See what I mean? Get creative. Imagine something crazy and work it into the picture.  

For example the Chinese doll could be a new toy that someone received on their birthday. It might run on batteries and it might play music.On the other hand maybe it is just a play figure that kids can play with. Maybe the headphones are removable and can be used as speakers. 

Get creative.  It is best to think about the WHO WHAT WHERE WHEN WHY HOW of each picture.

Think about the subject, environment, time of day, weather, location, culture...this will give you ideas to keep you taking.

3) Compare ideas

In terms of getting your sentences longer, try to tie your ideas together(connect your ideas). Say one thing and then contrast it with another. 


The girl is listening to fun music...or maybe I am wrong maybe she is learning a language.

4) Do Three things

1) Introduce what the picture is in one sentence
2) Introduce the other picture in one sentence
3) Compare and contrast them. 

Say one thing about the first and then compare it to the second.

In the first picture there is a little girl wearing headphones. The other picture is a picture of a toy, maybe one designed in China or Japan, that looks like it is wearing headphones. The pictures are similar because they both involve headphones but they are also very different. The first one is of a living person whereas the other is of a plastic toy. The second picture also contains another toy that is closer to the camera where as the first picture only has one subject, the little girl.

5) Use personal stories

Use your stories and examples from your life to speak more. People are much more comfortable talking about their experiences, so talk about yourself. For example when describing the girl listening to headphones you could say:

The little girl is wearing headphones, like the ones my dad had when I was about 6 years old. I remember he used to use them to play the electric key board without bothering my mom. When I wore those headphones some of the black plastic would come off and get stuck on my ears and face. They were huge headphones...not like the ones you can buy today...

See what I mean? Talking about examples about your life while still describing the pictures...of a girl with headphones but you are more relaxed and comfortable.

So there you have it! 5 tips that I think should help you compare photos in your oral exam.

One more thing...I think the most important thing is to practice the activity EVERYDAY. Just get a photo album and compare photos...or go into Google and look up images. Just describe and connect personal stories to each picture.

Practice makes perfect!

Diana Tower
Happy learning and good luck on your exam!

After you compare photos, click here to explore the grammar section.

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