VSTEP speaking part 1 and useful tips

                                                 VSTEP SPEAKING PART 1 AND USEFUL TIPS

VSTEP (Vietnamese Standardized Test of English Proficiency) is a six-level English proficiency test according to the Foreign Language Competency Framework. It has been widely used by a large number of institutions and universities in Vietnam because it can measure English proficiency in terms of all four skills: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking.  Recently, at Greenwich Vietnam, before entering their majors, students have to hold one of the four certificates: IELTS, TOEFL, APTIS or VSTEP; among which, VSTEP has been chosen by a majority of students.

Among 4 skills of VSTEP, Speaking is the skill that most students at Greenwich feel confident about. In speaking test, candidates’ answers are marked based on four criteria: Grammar, Vocabulary, Pronunciation, Fluency and Organization. The whole speaking test is in 12 minutes, including 3 parts:

Part 1: Social Interaction: Test takers answer 3 to 6 questions on 2 topics

Part 2: Solution Discussion: Test takers are provided a situation with three suggested solutions. Test takers need to give their own opinions of the best solutions among three options

Part 3: Topic Development: Test takers give a talk about a topic with suggested ideas or their own ideas. There are some follow-up questions when they finish their talk.

Among 3 parts, Part 1 seems to be a bit simpler because it relates to social interaction with familiar daily topics. In order to do Part 1 with flying colors, test takers are advised to follow the following useful tips.

Tip 1: Try to use compound and complex sentences

In VSTEP speaking in general as well as speaking Part 1, so as to reach the high scores in grammar criterion, it is advisable for test takers to diversify sentence types: using simple, compound and complex sentences instead of merely using simple ones to show your language flexibility and make your speaking more interesting.

For example:

Question: Do you think we should shop online?

Answer option 1: Yes, I do. Shopping online is good. It helps us save money and time.

Answer option 2: I completely agree with the idea that people should shop online because it is so beneficial to shoppers. It can not only help save our time but also lots of money.

Clearly, option 2 is a better answer when a complex sentence is used.

Tip 2: Maintain cohesion in your answer

To ensure the logic of the speech and meet the criterion for content organization in the Speaking VSTEP Part 1 test, candidates need to use connecting words between sentences so that ideas are linked together, thereby improving the performance of the speech.

For example:

Question: Do you like living in big cities?

Answer: By and large, big cities are great to me because they have many things to offer. However, sometimes the traffic is so bad, which drives me crazy. Therefore, I think the suburbs are a better choice if we are tired of traffic jams.

Tip 3: Avoid using repeated words

One of the evaluation criteria in Part 1 of the VSTEP Speaking test is the vocabulary that candidates show in their answers. Therefore, to achieve a high band score, candidates need to know how to paraphrase and avoid repeating structures and vocabulary in the examiner’s questions.

For example:

Question: What is your hobby?

Answer: Actually there are tons of things I like doing in my free time. I love shopping a lot and frequently do it when I get my salary. On the weekend, I am into hanging out with friends and keeping up with the news. But my biggest passion is reading which enables me to keep learning new things.

Tip 4: Try to expand your answers with explanations and examples

As a general rule, if you only give a single sentence with a single clause like ‘I like eating at home.’ then your answer is too short. Below are a few ways that you can easily extend your answers from a short sentence to a more comprehensive answer that will sound better and hopefully get you a higher score.

One of the most common way is to answer Wh – questions (What, When, Where, Why, Who) and How question about the issues mentioned to make it more coherent and more complex presentation.

For example:

Question: Do you like eating at home?

  • What: traditional Vietnamese dishes
  • When: free time
  • Who: for my family
  • Where: in the kitchen
  • Why: feel happy and relaxed
  • How: boost family bonds


Yes, I love cooking at home a lot, especially cooking Vietnamese traditional dishes. I spend most of my free time cooking for my family as it’s one way I show my love for them. To me, there’s nothing like trying the new recipes and being creative in the kitchen like an artist. I feel really happy each time I cook because it’s a carefree activity. You know, apart from that, cooking at home really boosts our family bonds when we have more things to share when cooking and eating together.

Another way to expand your answer in Part 1 is to explain (answering the questions with Why/ How) and to give an example for illustration.

For example:

Question: Do you prefer to travel alone or on a tour?

Answer: To tell the truth, traveling on a tour may help sort out all potential problems, but I prefer doing everything by myself. Thus, going somewhere alone is a better option by which I am free to go and stop at will or choose my own plan. Last year, I took a road trip to the countryside of Hanoi on my own, I could decide everything I wanted and it was a perfect choice.

Below is a sample answer for Part 1, topic 1.

Let’s talk about free time activities.

  • What do you often do in your free time?
  • Do you watch TV? If no, why not? If yes, which TV channel do you like the best? Why?
  • Do you read books? If no, why not? If yes, what kinds of books do you like best? Why?

Sample answer:

I am now talking about my free time activities.

For question 1, I do a number of things in my free time. Every day, I spend about 30 minutes surfing the Internet to update with the news and keep in touch with my friends. Sometimes, I curl up with a good book and entertain myself with a comedy. On the weekend, I often go to the movie or hang out with a group of close friends. It’s really relaxing.

Moving to question 2, about watching TV, actually I am not too crazy about it but on Sundays, I often see some programs on VTV3 – my favorite channel, which provides viewers a number of entertainment programs.

About question 3, I love reading books so much, especially non-fiction books. I am really into self-help books as they are written by experienced and successful people. They give me lots of knowledge that helps me develop myself. Books are my good friends.

In conclusion, in order to do Part 1 well, candidates should keep in mind the marking criteria mentioned in this writing; and then use the right strategies to achieve the desired score.

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