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The New Michigan ECPE Speaking Test
by Michael Reid
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Stage 3: Consensus Reaching (5-7 minutes)

As indicated, the students begin this stage by saying which of their own options they prefer, and then they must discuss those two preferences at some length in order to come to an agreement about which one they will finally recommend.

There could be an odd consequence of beginning with these preferences instead of just leaving the field wide open at the start. If Nafsica thinks the best option is one of Angelos's but this doesn't coincide with the choice Angelos makes between his two options, then Nafsica will lose the opportunity to argue for the option that she sincerely believes to be the best.

However, in practice, for some students the difficulty here will be finding enough to say to fill the five to seven minutes allocated for this stage. Students will need to practise discussing the two options in sufficient detail, bearing in mind that there is a total of 12 points that they can weigh up before coming to an agreement about the option they are going to support.

Another idea to help students extend their discussion is for them to talk about the situation (the job vacancy, for instance) and identify the criteria that candidates for that job ideally need to satisfy, briefly adding why those criteria are so important. For instance, what sort of person does the school need? What sort of person makes a good science teacher? In clarifying this they will also be clarifying the best justifications for the choice they are about to make.

Ideally, the five, six or seven minutes come to a close just as the two students reach unanimity, about which option is to be chosen from the short-list of two.

Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing (5-7 minutes)

The first response to the name of this stage might be: "Hey, didn't we do presenting and convincing already?" Well, yes, but now we must do it with the examiner. The decision made in stage three now has to be formally presented and justified to one of the examiners who will be playing an appropriate role (e.g. the principal of a school).

Students need to be aware that the examiners will swap roles at this point so that the examiner that was off to one side quietly marking now sits close to the students to play the allotted role in the last two stages.

For the first two to three minutes the students must prepare their formal presentation. This involves identifying and clarifying the four strongest reasons for their chosen option (reasons chosen from those that have already been discussed in some depth). Having clarified these, they must quickly decide how to allocate them so that they will have two reasons each to present. It will also be a good idea for the students to quickly agree on the order in which the points are to be presented.

It is worth noting that it is only in stage four that the two candidates can look at each other's information sheets (although there is probably no need now since they have their notes).

Having completed the planning stage, the students turn to the examiner and use the remaining two to four minutes to present their four arguments as persuasively as possible.

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