In the use of English we need to take into account an incredible number of variables to be able to converse successfully; and these variables are undoubtedly increased when speaking to those whose first language is not English. To be able to understand a language, you must consider culture, personal experience, subject knowledge and even syntax to make sure that your message gets across the way you want it to.

This post is going to take a look at discussions and also provide a great amount of topics for discussion with example questions that will be suitable for upper-intermediate (B2) and advanced (C1/2) learners.



An important skill to work on is your listening, to do so it is essential to speak and to practice listening to questions (without seeing them written down) and respond appropriately. Real life does not have subtitles and you need to get used to understanding without the assistance of seeing everything on paper.

  EXAMPLE QUESTIONS TO PRACTICE: Travel questions: Is travel an important aspect of your life? Is there anyone that you would avoid going away with? Do you regret not having travelled to any particular place when you were younger? What do you generally spend your time doing while you are on holiday? Is there a place that you would refuse to go to? Are you fed up of visiting any particular place? Would you rather go on a package holiday or backpacking?   Free time: Do you wish you could take up any particular hobby, but you can´t find the time? What type of activity can´t you bear participating in? Have you had enough spare time recently to do what you want? Have you got any arrangements to take up a new hobby in the near future? Did you use to have more hobbies when you were younger?   Work: Is there a skills shortage in your country? Do you think it would be interesting to work abroad some day? Is it easy to create a good work-life balance? Some people say that you need to work to be happy, how far do you agree with this statement? How difficult is it for young people trying to find a job in your country? Which do you prefer, manual or theoretical work?   Social issues: How can we solve the evident drug problem in the western world? Which social issues most concern you in your country? Which environmental issues do you think will cause havoc in the future? What is the solution to the political unrest in Catalonia? What could be done to create a better balance and avoid social inequality? Is crime a serious problem in your country? Why? Do you think the government will phase out civil rights in your country? To what extent would you say that politics has become a laughing stock since the election of Donal Trump and Brexit? Should the police crack down on violent crime in your country? Should your country opt out of any specific trade agreements?   Food and drink: Do you have to watch what you eat or do you find it easy to avoid junk food? Many experts agree that having fixed mealtimes is an essential part of being healthy, how far do you agree with this statement? Are you a fan of eating out or would you rather dine at home? Are you concerned about the amount of sugar you consume? Is childhood obesity an issue in your country?   THE ART OF A GOOD CONVERSATION CONSISTS OF ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS AND KNOWING WHAT TO DO WITH THE ANSWER

An important thing to take note of is the use of discussion in Exams, for this reason I have included some information about the way you should discuss in Part 4 of the Cambridge Exam English examinations.

In this part of the exam the students normally interact independently but the examiner can also ask direct questions to candidates to get more direct answers.

The key to doing this part of the exam consists of expressing your opinion about each topic in question. There are many ways of doing so and we have included a simple list for you:

  In my opinion, … In my eyes, … As far as I am concerned, … Speaking personally, … From my point of view, … My view / opinion / belief / impression / conviction is that … I hold the view that … I would say that … It seems to me that … I am of the opinion that … My impression is that … I am under the impression that … It is my impression that … I have the feeling that … My own feeling on the subject is that … I have no doubt that … I am sure / I am certain that … I think / consider / find / feel / believe / suppose / presume / assume/reckon that … I hold the opinion that … I dare say that … I guess that … I bet that …. I gather that … It goes without saying that …  

It is essential in a discussion or conversation to use both speaking and listening skills and for this reason you must ask questions and demonstrate that you can actively listen and use the responses of your conversation partner. Here are some simple points on question formation and also on linking:

  Short questions: What about you? What do you think? What do you reckon? What is your take on this?   Full questions: Do you enjoy swimming in your free time? Are you eager to enhance your speaking skills? How often do you go shopping? Which do you prefer, fish or meat? To what extend do you agree with my opinion on the topic?   Question tags: It is fun, isn´t it? I will go, won´t you? I haven´t got a car, have you? Let´s go out on Friday, shall we?   Negative questions: Wouldn´t it be a better idea to meet at 7.00? Why don´t we speak on the phone later?   Linking (relating one topic to something else): Like you have said… According to you… As you have been saying… Regarding what you have said about… With regards to what you have said… You also need to have a clear idea of how to express agreement and disagreement to show the ability to negotiate an outcome and try to go towards a conclusion:   AGREE I (ADVERB) AGREE WITH WE AGREE ON I SEE YOUR POINT I GET WHAT YOU MEAN I UNDERSTAND YOUR POINT I SEE WHAT YOU ARE SAYING I UNDERSTAND YOUR OPINION WE SEE EYE TO EYE ON… YOU TOOK THE WORDS RIGHT OUT OF MY MOUTH EXACTLY! THAT´S RIGHT! OF COURSE! I COULDN´T AGREE MORE   DISAGREE REALLY? ARE YOU SERIOUS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? IS THIS A JOKE? YOU MUST BE JOKING! ARE YOU PULLING MY LEG? I CAN´T AGREE WITH YOU ON… (VULGAR) ARE YOU TAKING THE PISS? (VULGAR) YOU MUST BE A FOOL! (VULGAR) ARE YOU STUPID?   SETTLE LET´S LEAVE IT WHY DON´T WE GO ON TO SOMETHING ELSE SHALL WE MOVE ON? LET´S CHANGE THE TOPIC LET´S AGREE TO DISAGREE WE CAN´T AGREE SO…  

The final thing we have added with relation to Cambridge exams is the question distribution and the way they can set out the questions. In the Cambridge exams you can be asked paired questions (when they don´t say your name) in which you must answer the questions as a form of discussion together. The other form is when the examiner says the name of the candidate and they must answer individually. To see a diagram of this, DOWNLOAD THIS POST DISCUSSION TOPICS BLOG IN PDF

A great way to learn us with the use of video to form discussion points. We have mentioned this in a previous post (HERE). A great way of getting ideas for speaking is by watching a video and then discussing the content of them. The TEDEd videos are great for this and they are freely available on Youtube.]]>