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Are you working towards an important exam? We're here to help with a series of videos that pick out some top tips for studying and taking exams.

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Exam skills: 4 tips about using context and register

Who, when and where are you talking to someone?

The appropriate choice of language, intonation, gesture and body language is vital in everyday communication. It's important to think about who, when and where you are talking to someone. Watch this video to see our four top tips to help you use context and register when speaking English - then afterwards test your understanding in our quiz.

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Rob
The appropriate choice of language, intonation, gesture and body language is vital in everyday communication. It's important to think about who, when and where you are talking to someone. So that you can make sure the style of how you are speaking – or register – is appropriate. Here are some things for you to consider.

Start by thinking about context – or the situation you're in. Are you at the bank, at work or at home? This will help you decide the appropriate language to use – will it be formal or informal? It's something this student had to think about…

Student

When I first came to England, to practise my English, I would go and work in a builders' cafe. I would invite customers 'please take a seat', that's how I would say it. My co-workers they were locals, and they found it funny because they thought this is too formal, be more direct because our customers, the builders, most of them, they speak more directly. It made me think about the proper way of saying things in different situations

Rob
Next, think about how many people you are talking to. Are you talking to a group or to one person? And when you're speaking to someone, who are they – a friend who you know well, your teacher or your boss, or maybe a stranger? The words you use and how you use them will be different.

Now think about the topic of the conversation. Are you discussing football results, shopping, or something more serious in the news? The way you talk about the discussion will affect this. And consider your register when you react to something being discussed – choose an appropriate style depending on the subject.

Thinking about context and register when you're speaking will help you sound more like a native English speaker and help you in any speaking exam. Good luck!

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Did you like that? Why not try these?

formal_informal exam_skills.jpg english_at_uni.jpg

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Here's a summary of our tips about context and register:

1: What situation are you in – informal/formal?

2: Who are you talking to?

3: What is the topic being discussed?

4: How do you react to a discussion?

To do

So what did you discover? Find out by taking our test…

Context and register – what should you think about?

4 Questions

Answer these 4 questions.

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Next

You can get more tips about context and register in this BBC Learning English series called How to... 

This BBC series called Skillswise might also help you with speaking in different situations.

Have you got any tips about learning strategies and exam preparation that you can share with us? Please email them to us at learningenglish@bbc.co.uk with 'Exam Skills' in the subject line. We will post our favourites here and on our Facebook page. Please note that we can’t reply to individual emails, but we do read all of them

End of Session 1

Join us in Session 2 for News Review, where we'll bring you key words and phrases from the latest stories and show you how to use it in your everyday English.

Session Vocabulary

  • register
    style of speaking or writing

    context
    (here) language used depending on the situation

    appropriate
    suitable or right for a particular situation