There's a new article on my other website which explains the grammar of when to use the present simple and when to use the present continuous. The article is based on a video by my friend Darren Gibb.

If you aren't totally comfortable with this part of grammar, read that article, or at least watch the video.

Now let’s think about how these grammar rules are relevant to you in your Cambridge B2 First exam.

The Speaking Test

Part 1

Use the same grammar as the question in your answer to the question. For example, questions that start 'how often...' are present simple.

Where do you live?
I live in Mexico City.

How often do you cook at home?
I cook for myself about five times a week.

Do you go on holiday with your family?
Yes, I do. They are very easy going and we have a lot of fun together.

Do you like reading?
Yes, I do. I read all the time.

Part 2

When you talk about what's happening in a photograph you normally use the present continuous. She's dancing. He's laughing. They're watching a movie.

When you talk about what the people do, or who they are, you normally use the present simple. She looks like a dancer. He seems like a funny guy. They like movies.

Remember, don't just describe the photos! You should compare them. Here’s a good mixture of present simple and continuous:

In this photo, everyone seems to be a dancer, whereas in this one they are probably students. This boy is laughing, so the girl is probably telling jokes. However, everyone in this picture is very serious. Probably they are training hard for their next show.

Parts 3/4

These parts of the exam are about expressing your opinions and reaching an agreement with your partner.

Opinions can use the present simple:

  • I think we should send criminals to a remote island and leave them there.

  • It is better to buy from local shops than from Amazon.

Or the continuous:

  • We're using too much electricity these days, so we have to cut down.

  • Supermarkets are getting too powerful. They aren't paying farmers enough. (You could also say 'they don't pay farmers enough'. That would work in this context. They aren't paying farmers enough at the moment. They don't pay farmers enough in general.)


The main thing to remember is that the present simple is used to describe facts or states.

So if you're asked to write an essay about stopping climate change, you might write things like:

  • Climate change is the most serious issue we face as a species.

  • Young people are more motivated to save the planet than older people, so our plans should be aimed at teenagers.

  • We need to take action now.

One great way to use the present continuous in your writing test is to talk about changes that are happening, or new trends.

  • Weather is becoming more extreme and more unpredictable.

  • More and more people are becoming aware that climate change is real.

  • Animals are disappearing from our planet because we are destroying the places where they live, such as the Brazilian rain forest.

Sentence Transformations

Change this sentence:

The unemployment rate is improving.

Use the word BETTER

The unemployment rate _____________________ .

Answer: The unemployment rate is changing for the better.

These all mean the same thing:

  • [Something] is improving.

  • [Something] is changing for the better.

  • [Something] is making an improvement.

  • [Something] is getting better.

  • [Something] is looking up.

Common Mistakes


I do like my job.

A lot of my students say that. What they WANT to say is 'I like my job.'

You can use 'do' in that sentence, but it adds an extra bit of emphasis - it makes the sentence stronger.

Basically, you should only use 'do' when someone says 'you don't'.

You don't like your job.

No, I DO like my job.

You don't eat meat.

I do eat meat, just not every day.


It’s the first time I’m eating fish and chips!

Students think that because they are eating fish and chips NOW, they should use the present continuous.

But when you say 'this is the first time' you make it a present perfect sentence.

So the correct version is, 'It's the first time I've eaten fish and chips'.

Yes, even if you are still eating it!