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How To Give Yourself Feedback On The Speaking Tasks of the CELPIP Exam: You CAN prep on your own!
Episode 6311th June 2024 • The Speak English Fearlessly Podcast • Aaron Nelson
00:00:00 00:28:01

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In this episode of the Speak English Fearlessly podcast, you will learn a practical process for self-study that will transform the way you prep for the CELPIP!

Key strategies include:

  • Using a voice recorder to review and critique performance,
  • Understanding the timing for brainstorming and recording responses, and creating outlines for answers.

I'll also talk about the importance of using varied vocabulary, adding emotions, and ensuring responses are interesting and on-topic.

A free checklist is available right here.

What I talk about:

00:00 Introduction and Listener's Question

00:53 Host Introduction and Podcast Overview

01:35 Challenges of Practicing Speaking Alone

02:29 Skiing Story: Overcoming Fear and Learning

08:02 Practical Tips for Self-Feedback

16:22 Detailed Feedback Checklist

25:48 Conclusion and Resources

Links mentioned:

Grab your free checklist right here.

The "Um" and "Uh" episode.


This week I got a question from a listener that I think is a common struggle that many people face as they prepare for the CELPIP. If I'm working on my own to prepare for the exam, how can I get feedback when I'm practicing my speaking skills? I don't have anyone to practice with. This can feel like a tough challenge to overcome.

But my promise to you today is this, by the end of this episode, you'll have a simple to follow process that you can use to help you practice and get feedback to help you grow and develop your speaking skills completely on your own. Are you ready? Then let's get started.


Well, hello there and welcome to the Speak English Fearlessly podcast. This is the podcast for motivated English learners who want to speak English fearlessly and learn practical tips and strategies to conquer the CELPIP exam. I also love the feature encouraging interviews with regular people, people just like you.

Who are working towards becoming fluent in English so we can learn from their experiences together. Who am I? My name is Aaron Nelson and I've been an English teacher for over 16 years, and I now help students prepare for the CELPIP exam through online classes.

Maybe it's that you can't afford CELPIP training programs, so you're forced to do it alone. Or maybe you simply don't have access to classes and nobody around to practice with. How do you practice effectively on your own for important skills that frequently need another person present in order to help you spot mistakes and improve?

Not knowing if you're doing the right thing or saying the right things as you are practicing can lead to you feeling stuck. Because of not being sure you're moving in the right direction to begin with. It can also lead you to feeling self doubt. Am I really doing this right? Am I really meeting the requirements that the CELPIP will be grading me on?

What if there's something I'm missing? I'm never going to make it. I might as well give up.

I remember the first time I went downhill skiing. I was in elementary school. Our class went on an all day field trip to a popular ski mountain a few hours away from our school.

Many of the kids in my class had gone downhill skiing before, but not me. For me, the only skiing that I had done up until that point had been cross country skiing, and much of it done on our family farm. So I had some experience of what being on skis was like. I had some experience of going up and down little hills like the hills that you can find on a farm.

Nothing really exciting. Going downhill skiing is a completely different experience and one that I was excited to experience, but also at the same time, I was quite scared because, well, It was downhill. Thankfully, I wasn't the only one in my class who had never gone downhill skiing before. There was a couple of us who had not.

And I was really thankful to find out when we arrived that there was a special class for beginners who had never gone downhill skiing before. There was an instructor who would take us through the important things that we would have to know how to do in order to make it down the hill safely. and successfully.

So I immediately joined that class. Our first lesson, once we got to the top of the hill, was something called the snow plow. In order to do the snow plow, you have to position your skis so that they form a V, in front of you, with the fronts of your skis touching in the front and the back ends of your skis pushing outwards to form the legs of the V.

In order to turn, the instructor told us, you have to simply put more weight on the side that you wanted to turn towards, and you needed to lean a little bit in that direction. Our objective, instead of going straight down the hill, we needed to learn how to zigzag from one side of the hill to the other, all the time, keeping our skis in that snow plow configuration.

I remember the instructor had us each go down the beginner hill in this way several times. He watched us carefully and continually gave us pointers on how we were doing. Hey, make sure that you push the back of your skis out wider. Keep the tips of your skis together in front. This will help you to slow down.

Remember, lean in the direction that you need to go. This will help you to turn. Lean harder. Lean harder. You're not turning correctly. And don't bend forward too much. I remember him telling me that. Don't bend forward too much. This will make you go faster. After a few times going down the beginner hill, he announced that we had each passed the first part of his training program.

I was thrilled, and so were my friends. But then he said something that terrified me instantly.

He announced that we'd be going down the mountain's black diamond hill, which was the steepest, most difficult hill they had. Like I said, I was terrified instantly, but before I knew it, before I could think through it, he had us all in proper V formation and following him towards that hill. And down we went.

Zigzagging our way down. It was quite a bit faster than the beginner hill, let me tell you, but the trainer was excellent. I remember him keeping up next to us the entire way, talking us through what we needed to do. Keep the skis in that V formation. Lean into the direction that you need to go. Don't bend forward too much because you're going to pick up speed.

He was there with us the entire stressful way down the hill and never left our side. And before I knew it, we arrived safely at the bottom. It was thrilling to realize that we had gone down the most difficult hill on our first time skiing. He had taught us the valuable things that we needed to know in order to make it down safely.

And so that was a big win for me on that day. I felt such a sense of accomplishment and I had such a great time skiing the rest of the day because I had gone down the most difficult hill. I could go down the other hills as well. It was a wonderful experience. Okay, now, I know what you're thinking. That's a great story, Aaron, but I'm on my own with my practice, remember?

I don't have someone to coach me along like you did on your skiing trip. Hey, don't worry my friend, I didn't forget about you. The truth is, we always need some way of getting feedback in order to develop our skills. And you can still get feedback. There's vital feedback, even if you're on your own. Here's how.

Number one, you're going to need to use your cell phone's voice recorder. As you are practicing, make sure you record yourself so you can replay what you've said. If you're not recording yourself, there's no way for you to notice what you're doing well and what you need to improve on.

So grab your phone and get your voice memo app ready. Number two, notice the vitals. Decide what speaking task you're going to practice and notice this vital information. How much time do you have to brainstorm or to prep, and how much time do you have to record your answer? . . Some of the questions will give you 30 seconds to prepare.

Other questions will give you a minute. You need to know how much time you have to think about and plan out and organize what you're going to say before you say it. This is an important part of your prep. Then you also need to be aware of how much time you're actually going to be allowed to speak during the recording section of the exam.

Good. Some of the questions will give you just 60 seconds to record your answer, while other ones might give you more, like, say, 90 seconds. It's important, like I said before, it's important for you to know how much time your specific question that you're practicing is allotting to those two different categories, because you're going to need to stick to those times as you're practicing.

And by the way, I'm going to have a free cheat sheet for you that will list out all the prep and recording times for each speaking task that you're going to face on the exam. I'm going to have that ready for you and waiting for you to download, and you'll be able to check that out in today's show notes.

And I'm also going to talk about that free cheat sheet again later on in this episode, so keep that in mind. It'll be a really helpful tool as you are preparing on your own for the speaking task of the CELPIP exam. Okay, so point number three. Have notepaper and a pen ready. to use. You're going to need this.

This is an important tool. You're going to have it available on the exam itself. They will give you paper and a pencil or paper and a pen. So you, as you're practicing, need to have paper and a pen to work with. That's what you're going to do your prep On. As you are thinking about what you're going to say, use your notepaper and your pen to create a quick outline of what you're going to talk about.

Practice doing this. On the exam, you're going to have time to do it. And the exam is giving you this time, you should use it for this. Preparing yourself for what you're going to say. So those are the first three things. I'm going to say that again just to make sure that you're tracking along. Number one, you're going to use your cell phone's voice recorder.

Number two, pay attention to how much prep time you have for your question that you're practicing. And also, pay attention to how much time you will have to actually record your answer. And number three, make sure that you have notepaper and a pen or a pencil available. for you to begin preparing your answer before you speak.

Okay, let's go on to number four. You're going to need a timer. Your cell phone probably has a timer app. inside of it. Dig it out and get it set up. Your first timer is going to be for 30 seconds. Let's imagine that you're going to be using speaking task two for your practice today. And speaking task two is all about describing a past experience, something that you did in the past.

On this speaking task, you will only have 30 seconds to prepare your answer. So that will be If you are practicing for this question, give yourself that 30 seconds on your timer. So set up your timer for 30 seconds. When you're ready, when you have your pen and your paper ready to go, hit start on that 30 seconds and begin writing a quick Outline for what you're going to say.

Remember, we've talked about this in previous episodes, but remember when you're, when you're doing your prep work, you're not writing full sentences. You're not writing complete ideas. You are just writing simple one word bullet points to help you remember. What you're going to talk about or to help you plan out what you're going to say about your topic that you're going to speak out.

And because you're talking about a past experience, you could talk about things like maybe your first day in Canada, or it could be maybe what your first day of school was like, or maybe the first day on the job. What was that like? You can pick one of those examples or whatever ones you come up with to talk about as you are practicing.

As long as it's something that happened in the past, something that you experienced in the past, if this is the one that you're working on, speaking task 2, it will be a great thing, a great topic for you to focus on. Okay? So pick your topic, something that in this case, because we're talking about Speaking Task 2, make sure it's an experience that you had in the past.

And that will be what you are using your first 30 seconds to jot down ideas to speak about. I don't know if that made sense, but use those 30 seconds to quickly come up with a map of what you're going to say when The 30 seconds are over and you're talking about an experience that you had in the past as soon as that timer Reaches zero stop writing.

No cheating. Don't give yourself five seconds extra to finish off what you're going to say Immediately stop writing even if you haven't finished building out what you're going to say It doesn't matter you're practicing with the clock When that timer reaches zero Stop writing, and then go on to the next point.

As quickly as you can, grab your phone, turn on the voice, Memo app, and begin speaking. Record your answer as you begin describing that past experience that you created the outline for. And by the way, you should totally be reading off of your notepaper, okay? You don't have to have it memorized. Use the points that you created.

You can read off of it. Use it to help you remember your thoughts as you begin recording. But here's what you need to be watching for. On your phone's voice memo app, very likely it will tell you how long you've been recording for. On mine, it has like this little digital counter that runs along as you speak.

As you are speaking, keep your eye on how long you've been recording for. In this question, You only have 60 seconds to record your answer. So don't allow yourself to go over that time limit, okay?

So that's the thing that you need to be watching for. When that 60 seconds arrives, And when that 60 seconds arrives, make sure that you have finished saying what you're going to say and that you're not getting cut off as you are giving your answer. But we're going to talk about that in a little bit, in a little bit.

You should also make sure that you're not finishing your answer too early. It's okay to finish with like 8 to 10 seconds of time. But, Don't go farther than that. Don't finish, like, with, you know, 40 seconds to spare. You should try your best to speak to the full 60 seconds, or to the full amount of time that each question will give you.

Try to fill it up as much as you can, without going over.

Okay, so once you've recorded your answer, we're ready to begin giving yourself feedback. So here are six things that you can be listening for that will help you to build your speaking skills for the CELPIP exam completely on your own.

And by the way, all of these points that I'm about to mention will be on that cheat sheet I told you before at the beginning. So if you are not able to write these things down, if you're driving, or if you're out for a walk, or if you're doing something else that doesn't have you doing it, The ability to write or to take notes on this, have no fear.

All of these points are going to be freely available in my cheat sheet. And I'm going to tell you about that at the end of this episode. So here are the six things that you should be listening for in order to give yourself feedback on what you've said.

OK, number one, Listen to the recording a couple of times. And as you do, the first thing I want you to be asking yourself is this. Did I fill up my recording time correctly? Remember, you can't go over the recording limit. So if you notice that your answer went longer than that 60 seconds or however long your recording needs to be, if you found that you're going longer, your first feedback for yourself will be, I need to shorten my time.

I need to finish my answer inside the allotted time that I have. I can't go over. So that's the first thing to be checking. The second thing is making sure that you're not finishing too early. Like you should not be finishing with 40 seconds left or with, you know, 15 seconds left. It's okay. Like I said, a few moments ago, it's okay.

If you have like eight seconds left and you're done, that's okay. But try your best to get your answer as close as you possibly can to that one minute mark. Don't go over it. and don't finish too early. So those are the first two things that I want you to check for. Number two, this is all around content. You're going to be listening to your answer through Imagine that you're putting on a set of glasses and as you're looking through your glasses, what you're going to be paying attention to is the content of your answer.

The first thing that I want you to listen for is, did I stay on topic or did I go all over the place in my answer? So that's the first thing to be listening for. Have I stayed on topic the entire time?

As you're looking through your content glasses, listening to your, listening to your recording, paying attention to the things that you are saying, I want you to ask yourself, am I offering more than one idea about my topic? An interesting answer will include more than one idea. Try to offer several, like two or three, as you talk about your topic.

If you remember when I told you about learning to downhill ski, I didn't just talk about going on a ski trip. I told you about needing beginner classes. I told you about our simple snow plow lesson. And then I told you about how exciting our downhill adventure turned out to be. All on the same topic of my first ski trip.

You need to try to do the same thing. Use more than one idea to talk about your topic. The next thing that you need to be paying attention to is am I including feelings and details that will add interest to my answer? If you think back to the little example story that I gave you about my ski trip, I told you how I felt.

I was excited, I was terrified, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment when I finally made my way down that big, steep hill. Use feelings and emotions to help you convey your story or your idea. Number five, the next thing that you need to be looking for. It's in the topic of vocabulary. That's the next set of glasses that I want you to imagine yourself wearing as you listen to your recording.

You're going to be listening for vocabulary. And here's what I want you to be listening for. Am I using a wide variety of words as I talk? Hmm, am I using a wide variety of words? That means I'm not repeating the same ones over and over again. Be listening for that. We all have words that we like to use. I do.

You do. Make sure that you're not overly relying on those words, that you are using more than that. You are using variety in your speaking. Also do your very best to fully describe and explore your topic. Show the test rater that you can talk about your topic with ease and that you're having fun doing it.

The last point, number six, the last set of glasses that I want you to be giving yourself feedback around is called listenability, listenability!. It's all about how your ideas come across to the rater or to your audience. Here's what you should be listening for.

Making long pauses. Am I making long pauses between my answers or between my words? You shouldn't have great long pauses between your words or between your ideas that should flow along naturally.

Also, you need to be listening for those ums and ahs. We talked about that in last week's episode. I'll have a link to that in my show notes in case you missed it. But if you notice that you're using a lot of um, In between your ideas, that's something that you need to focus on repairing and preventing in your answers.

You should also be listening for emotion. Is your voice conveying emotions just like it would if you're talking with a friend? Your voice should not be a monotone that never goes up or down or expresses any kind of emotion. No, your voice should be expressing things. It should have feeling attached to it.

It should be going up and down. That's called intonation. See if you can hear that happening in your recording. And if not, that means you need to focus on injecting a little bit more feeling and a little bit more up and down as you give your answers. You should also be listening to if your answer sounds natural.

Or am I speaking too quickly because I'm so nervous or, am I going too slowly as I talked about at the very beginning? Make sure that your, your speed and, and tone sounds natural. So those are the six things that you need to be listening for.

I'll just run through them one more time just to make sure that you are following along. Number one, make sure that you're filling up your time correctly. Number two, watch for content. Things like, uh, fully answering the question, making sure that your ideas are all on topic. Number three, also related to content is presenting more than one idea on the topic that you're sharing about.

Number four, also in that content set of glasses, make sure that you're including feelings as you are sharing about your topic. Number five. The vocabulary lens. Make sure that you're using a wide variety of words to fully express your ideas. Remember, the test raters want to hear that you can fully express yourself without relying on a single word or a single set of words.

Use variety as you are speaking, and have fun as you're doing it. And finally, number six, the listenability set of glasses. Make sure that your words are flowing in a natural way, that you're not using too many long pauses between thoughts, that you're not using, um, uh, so much. Yeah. Those are the six things that Six, six things.

I was holding up my hand and just showing five, but those are the six things that you can be listening for in your answers to provide feedback for yourself. Listen carefully to your answers and try to identify where you are following this feedback checklist, and also where you need to improve.

When you notice that there's an area where you need to improve, take careful note of it. What's missing? What you need to do better next time? And then re record yourself with the same question, You giving your, giving the same answer, but trying your best to improve in that area where you noticed you were missing something.

And then go through that feedback list again and see if you were able to improve what you were aiming to improve on. And that, my friend, is how you can give yourself feedback on your own and help yourself develop your speaking skills for the CELPIP exam. And again, you can follow this process as many times as you need to for each of the speaking tasks to help you develop your skills on your own.

Again, I'll have a checklist with all of this information freely available for you. All you need to do to grab it is go to and you'll be able to download your free copy of this checklist from today's episode immediately. You just need to sign up for it and it's there waiting for you.

That's to grab today's free checklist to help you prepare for the speaking task of the CELPIP exam completely on your own. I hope you found today's episode to be helpful. Thank you for listening, and I hope you have a great week, and I'll see you again next Tuesday.

Bye bye.



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