Speaking Skills Analysis


This web page covers the tips for attempting the HKDSE English Language Paper 4 (Speaking).  Read this web page thoroughly to prepare yourself for the Speaking Exam. Click the buttons on the menu to start!

Tips for Group Discussion

1. Time management

1. Reading (Instructions + Passage)
2-3 minutes
2. Identify relevant points and develop own ideas and elaborate it with examples / personal experience
4 minutes
3. Rehearse what you are going to say
e.g. points
3 minutes

2. Note-taking skills

When you're making notes on your note card, it is very important to organise your points well and write down details (e.g. reasons, examples, personal experience) which will help you develop your points.

Below is a sample of how a candidate uses one side of his note card to make notes.
Benefits (+)
Concerns (-)
  1. Topic sentence
    + reason
    + example
    + personal experience
    Concluding sentence
  2. ......
  3. Original (personal) idea
  1. ......
  2. ......
  3. ......

3. Responding to others

1. Response (Active Listening)
Apart from V-ing as you've just mentioned...
2. Own opinion
It can also + VO
3. Examples / Personal experience
This reminds me of my personal experience ...
4. Specific questions
Do you have any idea on X?
Do you think it is feasible to V?

4. Passing the turn to others

Don’t just ask general questions like
  • How about you?
  • What do you think?
  • Any ideas?
  • Do you agree?
Ask specific and relevant questions like
  • Do you have any idea on XXX ?
  • Apart from XXX , what else can you suggest to organize the programme?
  • Do you think this is a + strong / convincing / valid + argument / point?
  • Do you think we should mention / put forward + this argument + in the debate / on stage?
  • Should we put this point in our script / debate / speech?
  • Considering XXX, do you think A is a good activity / choice?
  • Based on XXX, don’t you think it’s a good / better / sensible choice to choose A?

5. Seizing the chance to interrupt

  1. Keep looking at him / her
  2. Give him / her nods of agreement / understanding
  3. Interrupt when there is a pause
    e.g. I see your point. The scheme is a good way to widen their horizons. Apart from that, I think it also ……
  • You should at least speak 3 times in the discussion (45 seconds each)
  • Your personal contribution to the group should be more than 2 minutes totally (2-3 minutes)

Tips for Invididual Response

1. Think about the main points you are going to give

Due to the time limit, it is best to have two to four main points in your speech, depending on the length of your points.

In discussing the advantages of your school, you may want to talk about different aspects like:
  • people (e.g. teachers, students and janitors);
  • places (e.g. the canteen, the playground, and your classroom);
  • activities (e.g. lessons, extra-curricular activities, and sports);
  • general information (e.g. location, reputation, and history), etc.

If you need to fill up the one minute, you may also talk about what advantages your school has which other schools don't have, or talk about whether you would recommend your school to primary six students studying in your district.

2. Give your main points and elaborate by giving examples

To enrich your speech, you can also raise specific examples like a teacher who has taught you something special or a particular event which is unforgettable.

If you are very organized, it is suggested that you deliver your points by using signpost words. That makes your speech more well-structured.
  • There are a few things I like about my school.
  • First, the teachers are……
  • Besides teachers, my fellow students also......
  • Also, I enjoy the extra-curricular activities because......
  • Moreover, there are plenty of facilities in my school like......

3. Ways of thinking

Hard tactics
Soft tactics
Short-term measures
Long-term measures
Education / promotion
  • increase penalties
  • raise taxes
  • exercise tough control on ...
  • talks
  • promotional trailers
  • education reforms

political / economic / social (reasons / effects)
mental / physical (health)
Hard tactics / Soft tactics
Soft-term measures / Long-term measures
Legislation / Education / Promotion
Country Society Community Organization School Parents Individuals

4. Framework for Individual Response

Sample question: "Is interest the most important element in choosing your electives?"
There are many elements students will consider when …….
For example, interest, ability, parents’ opinion and so on.
But I think interest is the …… (reason + personal experience)
1-2 reasons

Of course, I understand some people may think career path is more important than interest. But just imagine……

Common Speaking Mistakes

1. Common pronunciation problems

Lexical items
In addition (‘addiction’), lose (‘loss’), robot (‘Robert/rabbit’), climb (‘crime’), snack (‘snake’), healthy (‘heavy’), tours (‘towers’), raising (‘rising’), soup (‘soap’), choose (‘choice’), lack (‘lick’), diabetes (‘dibetis’), habits (‘hobbits’), failure (‘failer’), courteous (‘curtes’), traditional (‘charditional’), feeling (‘filling’), beneficial (‘benefical’), email (‘emeel’), youth (‘yorkf’), tertiary (‘tortury/territory’), definition (‘defination’), screenwriter (‘screamwriter’), raft (‘redft’), daughter (‘doctor’), effort (‘edfot’), gadget (‘getget’), game (‘gam’), career (‘korea’), penguin (‘pengen’), youth (‘young’), job (‘jog’), horizon (‘horisong’), tyres (‘ties’)
Consonant clusters and digraphs (especially /pr/, /pl/, /bl/, /br/, /cl/, sh/)
Confusing ‘pressure’ with ‘pleasure’, blog (‘bog/board’), branch (‘bunch’), shark (‘sark’), brand (‘band/ban’), clutter (‘cutter/cute-ter’), proposal (‘poposal’), published (‘pubished’), friends (‘fans’), classroom (‘cassroom’), waterfront (‘waterfont’), qualities (‘kalities’), complain (‘compain’), programme (‘pogram/pogam’) cloned (‘coned’), debts (pronounced with /b/), think (‘fing’), place (‘pace’), drama (‘jaama’), shower (‘sour’), crime (‘kime’), children (‘childen’), try (‘chai’)
Word-stress in multi-syllabic words
luxurious, calculator, heritage, collaboration, photography, persuade, exhibition, apprenticeship, internship, tradition, brochure, character, ambassadors, economic, couponing, tourists, encounter, skateboarding, tourism, youngsters, celebrities, motivation, nowadays, subscribe, advertisement, fascinating, graffiti, infrastructure, necessity, technological, Switzerland, specific, advertising, intelligence, economy, resources, extraordinary, dinosaur, Antarctica, loyalty, astronomy, military, censorship, simulation, authority, photography, ugliness, celebrities, enthusiastic, veterinarian, compulsory, elegance, astronaut, persuade, women, packets, mature, athletes, privacy, inequality
Dropping of final consonants
because, experience, service, besides, super-sized, clothes, nowadays, think
'ed' endings
celebrated, marketed, published, adopted

2. Common problems in language patterns

Commonly misunderstood word(s)/phrase(s)
countryside, HK’s heartbeat, longevity, heritage, apprenticeship, street culture, scold, urban dictionary, e-textbooks, ban, waterfront, appeal to, compulsory, advertisement, discipline, coupons, rude, upcycling, measures (n.), endless city, compulsory military service
Chinese English
They are difficult/easy to…, Have someone said that …, As what you say …, widen their eye, different country people, use my eyes to see, foreign country people, There have many people, Some people are difficult to, I very enjoy it
more better, more healthier, more easy, more cheaper, more harder, more easier
can playing, may getting, can making, they may be can do
she don't
Verb 'be'
I am agree with you, They are lack of
Transitive verb
discuss about
To-infinitive / bare infinitive
go to shopping, Let us to do, want to doing, make them to do
so/so that, Although...but...
Singular / plural nouns
People is, many money, childrens, a children, many information, many experience
Transitive verb
discuss about
Parts of speech
I feel boring
Formal structures
On the other hand, Nonetheless

Turn-taking Expressions

Initiating a discussion

Greeting others and starting the discussion
  • Hello / Good morning / Good afternoon, everyone.
  • Let’s begin our discussion, shall we?
  • Okay, let’s begin.
Defining the task
  • We’re here today to talk about...
  • We need to decide / find out...
  • Let’s discuss what to include in...
Stating your first point
  • Let’s begin with / by discussing ...
  • The first thing we have to talk about is ...
  • First of all / To begin,...
Asking for opinions
  • What’s your opinion?
  • What do you think of this?
  • Does anyone have any ideas / suggestions?

Continuing a discussion

Agreeing with a group member
When you mildly agree
  • You could say that.
  • In a way, you’re right.
  • I suppose so / you’re right.
  • That’s a fair point (to make).
  • To a certain extent, I agree with you.
When you agree
  • Indeed.
  • That's right.
  • I'm with you.
  • Your thoughts have crossed my mind.
  • I think so too.
  • Yes, you’re right.
  • I agree (with you).
  • I’d go along with that.
  • I support your view.
  • I feel the same.
  • That’s a good suggestion.
When you strongly agree
  • Exactly. / Absolutely.
  • I agree with you completely.
  • I couldn’t agree with you more.
Disagreeing with a group member
Showing uncertainty and doubt
  • I’m not so sure about that.
  • You may be right, but I think that...
  • I have doubts about that.
Disagreeing with a reason
  • I'm sorry but I don’t agree / think so. I think ...
  • I’m afraid that idea is not correct / suitable / relevant.
Disagreeing with specific opposition
  • I appreciate your idea, but it won’t work unless...
  • That argument doesn’t apply / stand / hold true in this case.
Starting off a response
  • I think ...
  • I would...
  • I believe...
  • I’d choose...
  • In my opinion,...
  • I’d prefer...to...
  • Personally speaking,...
  • If I were (someone) / in that situation, I’d...
  • In my experience,...
Organizing your response
Indicating sequence / order
  • To begin with,...
  • Firstly,...
  • Secondly,...
  • Then,...
  • Lastly,...
  • Finally,...
Adding information
  • Also,...
  • Besides,...
  • As well as ...
  • In a similar way,...
  • On top of that,...
  • Likewise,...
  • Moreover,...
  • In addition,...
  • What’s more,...
  • Not only... but also...
Showing cause and effect
  • As ...
  • Since ...
  • ... because...
  • As a result,...
  • Therefore,...
  • Consequently,...
Showing comparison or contrast
  • Despite this ...
  • However, / But...
  • On the contrary,...
  • On the other hand,...
  • Although / Even though / Though...
Filler expressions
  • Well, ...
  • I mean,...
  • You see,...
  • Actually,...
  • Let me see / think.
  • How should I put it?
Maintaining your point
Persuading others to accept your suggestions
  • But I really do believe that...
  • Wouldn’t it be better if...?
  • I think you could say that, but don’t you think ...?
  • I see what you’re saying, but what if ...?
  • I think you may have a point there, but have you thought about / considered ...?

Responding to interruptions

  • I’m sorry. Before you continue, I’d just like to say...
  • Excuse me. Could I just finish my point first?
  • Going back to what I was saying...
  • I’m sorry. May I finish what I was saying?

Defending your ideas politely

  • I stand by my opinion that...because...
  • I still hold the opinion that...because...
  • I have no objection to your ideas, but...
  • What you said may be valid, but to me ...
  • Despite your concerns, I still believe that...because...
Inviting suggestions
  • What do you think?
  • What else should we do?
  • Do you have any suggestions?
  • Do you think that’s a good idea?
  • What would you suggest / recommend?
  • Are there any (other) suggestions?
Putting forward suggestions
  • Let’s see if we can...
  • Why don’t we ...?
  • If I were you, I would...
  • Perhaps we could / should / ought to ...
  • How / What about ...?
  • I have a suggestion. Shall / Can we...?
  • I suggest / recommend / think (that)...
Elaborating on suggestions

Giving reason

  • This would...
  • My reason(s) is / are .
  • It’s not only because it’s..., but it’s also because...
  • I say this / that because(of) / due to / owing to...

Giving details and examples

  • On top of that,...
  • Here’s an example.
  • In addition to that,...
  • An example (of what I’ve said) is...
  • For example / instance,...
  • ... such as / like / including...
  • Let me explain / elaborate / clarify my point / what I’ve said.
Offering an alternative
  • Shouldn’t we consider ... instead?
  • I think (quite) the opposite.
  • Instead of..., why don’t we ...?
  • Have you also considered ...?
  • Another approach to that is ...
  • On the other hand / On the contrary, I believe that...
  • Won’t / Wouldn’t it be better to ...?
Discussing pros and cons
  • Let’s consider the pros and cons of...
  • What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of ...?
  • I think we need to weigh up the advantages and the disadvantages of ...
  • In spite of / Despite...,there are some benefits / drawbacks to ...
  • Let’s explore the other side of the issue.
  • Let’s not forget the disadvantages / advantages.
Stating preferences
  • I like this idea better than the other one.
  • If I had to choose, I would...
  • After weighing up the pros and cons, I think ...
  • ... would be a better choice than... because...
  • I’m in favour of / I’d prefer / I’d rather / I’d choose ...
  • It’s not an easy choice, but I’d prefer ...
  • Although ... has its advantages, it doesn’t meet our requirements / criteria.
  • Considering all the advantages / points / factors / suggestions,I support / believe ...
  • One of the advantages / benefits / disadvantages / drawbacks / weaknesses of ... is that ...
Interrupting politely
  • Excuse me, may I interrupt?
  • Excuse me, may I jump in here?
  • Would you mind if I made a quick suggestion at this point?
  • I’m sorry to interrupt, but...
  • Excuse me, but I wonder what other group members think about this.
  • If I could make a suggestion / ask a quick question...
Requesting clarification
Asking for repetition
  • I’m not sure what you mean. Can / Could you say that again, please?
  • I’m afraid I didn’t catch that. Can / Could you say it again, please?
  • Sorry, I didn’t quite get what you said. Can / Could you repeat that, please?
  • I don’t quite understand. Could you repeat what you’ve just said, please?

Asking for explanation / further information

  • Could you explain ...?
  • Can / Could you give an example?
  • What do you mean by / What is ...?
  • Why do you think so?
  • Can / Could you elaborate on that?
  • Can / Could you tell us more about ...?
  • That’s interesting. Could you give us more information about ...?
  • Would you mind telling us a little more about that?

Checking whether you have understood

  • Does that mean ...?
  • If I understand correctly,...
  • So, what you mean is ...
Making clarification
Repeating / Rephrasing
  • I was saying...
  • Let me put it another way.
  • What I just said was...
  • Let me repeat that. / Let me say that again.

Correcting yourself

  • I’m sorry. What I meant was ...
  • I’m sorry. Let me correct myself. I mean...
  • I take back what I just said. What I wanted to say is...
  • I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I actually meant...
Suggesting a compromise
Proposing a compromise
  • Let’s come to a compromise.
  • Why don’t we agree to ...
  • Shall we agree on a compromise?
  • Shall we compromise between... and ...?
Offering a partial agreement
  • I think you’ve got a point.
  • Both of you are right.
  • What you said could be true / possible.
  • I suppose you are right.
  • How / What about ...?
  • Perhaps / Maybe we could...
  • Let’s combine both suggestions.
  • I think we could improve this idea by...
Helping others express ideas
Asking for ideas and / or opinions
  • Do you agree?
  • What do you think?
  • How / What about ...?
  • How does that sound (to you)?
  • Can you think of anything else?
  • Are there any other suggestions?
  • Do you have any other ideas / suggestions?
  • Which one do you think is better?

Giving encouragement

  • Good point.
  • I like your idea.
  • That’s a good idea.
  • That’s very true.
  • Brilliant! I hadn’t thought of that.

Encouraging others to speak up

  • Pardon me. I didn’t catch that. Could you speak up, please?
  • Candidate A, do you have anything to add?
  • Sorry, would you mind speaking a little louder, please?
Keeping the discussion on track
  • I’m sorry,
  • Excuse me,
  • I'm sorry to interrupt,
  • That’s a good point / idea,
  • but I think we should be talking about...
  • but let’s not stray too far away from the topic.
  • but I think we’re getting a bit off track. Let’s return to ...
  • but we’re getting a bit side tracked let’s refocus.
Moving on to the next point
  • Well,
  • Okay,
  • Alright,
  • let’s move on to...
  • shall we move on to the next point?
  • I think we’ve covered that point. Let’s move on.
  • I don’t think there’s anything more to say on this point. Why don’t we ...?
  • there’s not much more about this point to cover. Perhaps we could now discuss ...
  • moving on. Let’s talk about...

What to do when at a loss for words

Asking others for help
  • Do you know the word for (explanation / description)?
  • You know (explanation / description)? What is it called in English?
  • I’m not sure how to say this in English. Do you know what the word is?
  • I’ve forgotten how to say this in English. Do you know what the word is?
Rephrasing what you are trying to say
  • (explanation / description). Do you know what I mean?
  • What I mean is (explanation / description).
  • What I’m trying to say is (explanation / description).

Summing up
Seeking agreement
  • Shall I sum up?
  • Let’s conclude our discussion, shall we?
  • If no one has anything else to add, let’s sum up our discussion.
Going directly into the summary
  • In short, ...
  • To sum (everything) up,...
  • To conclude / In conclusion,...
  • we will...
  • we all agreed that...
  • we have decided to ...
  • we have mentioned that...