Speculate to accumulate

“Speculate to accumulate” – just another English saying that you’re not quite sure about? or a great piece of advice that will help you in your exams?

The second option, definitely the second option! To ‘speculate to accumulate’ generally means that you have to take a chance and invest in something to get a lot back. Whilst this is obviously true with language learning, we have adapted this phrase for your speaking exams… use speculative language in order to gain yourself more points!

What is speculative language?

You may be familiar with some little words called verbs of possibility: can, could, may, might, must, has to be, etc. Well, this is what we are talking about. You speculate, predict and guess, what is going on in the picture or situation.

Two questions students always ask us when preparing for exams are, “How can I fill in all of that time? I only need a few seconds,” and, “How can I make my answer longer?”

Our answers always have two parts.

a. Don’t play it too safe in the exam. If you only use simple language, the examiner cannot possibly award you the full range of points because you haven’t given a wide enough variety of language to judge.

b. Give an opinion, predict and speculate on what is happening – and justify it. Take the very common stereotype of a man leaving a petrol station with a bunch of flowers. You can talk about the colours of the flowers for a whole minute, or you can speculate. Why do you think he was buying flowers? Why did he have to stop at the petrol station? Think about it for a moment or two, how long would your answer be now?

How can I speculate ?

Let’s look at structure first…

The beauty of speculation is that you can mix things up a bit, show the examiners that you really know how to do it. The two main ways you can do this are:

  1. Gather evidence then draw your own conclusion. e.g. There is a group of people talking to each other, there are some adults, elderly people, and children. They have a lot of luggage with them and because it looks like they are at the train station, they must be going on holiday.
  2. Give your opinion then justify it. e.g. I think that this is a family going on holiday because there are some children with what looks to be their parents, grandparents, and a lot of luggage. The big clock leads me to believe they are in a train station. They must be excited.

You may notice that we haven’t included an image here. We want to highlight that your listener should be able to ‘see‘ your image just from listening to your description. Without speculating and justifying, this image is just people at a train station with luggage. Are they going on holiday? How do you know? Or are they coming home? How do you know? Is somebody leaving home or coming back? Who knows?

Now let’s look at language…

If you are preparing for a B1 level exam such as the PET Cambridge exam, you’re probably familiar with verbs and adverbs of possibility. If so, try and use what you know to speculate about the photo below.

Speculate about this image
Speculate about this image of people waiting at a tram stop

Did you use any of the following ?

  • Look like + sentence : It looks like Lisbon because there is a tram.
  • Seem + to infinitive: He seems to be tired/ laughing
  • Look/ Seem + adjective: The street looks very busy
  • Must :  (When you are quite sure) It must be summer because they are wearing short sleeves.
  • Can’t : He can’t be going to school because he is not carrying books.
  • May/ Might/Could : (For possibility). Some of the people might be tourists. They could be waiting for the tram as they are standing at the stop.

If not, have a go at including some of the above structures. Repetition is very important and if you would like to practise with other photos, please look at our Activities Page and try speculating with different photos. You don’t need to use all of the verb and adverb of possiiblity combinations you know but at least two or three will spice up your speaking!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *