January 24

How to Compare and Contrast in C1 Speaking

How to compare and contrast in C1 Speaking? Let’s find out!



Hello, this is Kristian from Cambridge Advanced Speaking, how are you doing? It’s a pleasure to share another lesson with you.

If you didn’t know, I run the website Get Ready For Success, where you can find the audio files, videoclips and lesson notes for all the podcast episodes.

I create and share these learning materials, because I want to help you speak better English and get a high mark in your C1 Speaking Exam.

Today I want to start with a comment from one of my listeners, Erika from Hungary. She writes the following:

Your podcasts are a tremendous help in preparation for my upcoming exam, Kristian. Please go on producing similarly useful content. I also have a request if I may: what about an episode including some handy phrases and expressions of contrasting and comparing (like 2 pics during the speaking part of an exam)? Thanks for considering it and for everything you are doing here.

Well, what can I say? Thanks a lot, Erika, for your lovely comment! And yes, an episode about how to compare and contrast is a tremendous idea, so that’s what you get right here, right now.

We’re going to look at 4 things:

  1. How to compare
  2. How to contrast
  3. Idiomatic expressions
  4. Connectors to compare and contrast

Are you up for it? Let’s get started!


In this lesson, I will give you the language you need to compare and contrast things, people, places, activities and general ideas in Cambridge C1 speaking.

Comparing and contrasting

What do we mean by comparing and contrasting?

Collins Dictionary says the following:

When you compare things, you consider them and discover the differences or similarities between them.
If you contrast one thing with another, you point out or consider the differences between those things.

With that out of the way, let’s look at some examples.

The simplest way to describe similarities is as follows:

A is similar to B
A is similar to B because…
A is similar to B in that…
A is similar to B since…
A is similar to B for the reason that…

Let’s have a look at some examples with help from an exam template:

In part 2 of the exam, I’m going to give each of you three pictures. I’d like you to talk about two of them on your own for about a minute, and also to answer a question briefly about your partner’s picture.

Candidate A, it’s your turn first. Here are your pictures. They show people doing things together. I’d like you to compare two of the pictures and say why the people might be doing these things together, and how the people might be feeling.

If you want to point out similarities, you can say:

Picture A is similar to picture B because they both show people working together on a project.

If you want to use something else than because, you can use in that:

Picture A is similar to picture B in that they both show people working together on a project.

Now, I’m a big fan of using adverbs to make your language clearer and more colourful. Both in the exam and in your daily life you can show the level of similarity and make your answers richer by using adverbs, such as:

  • really
  • pretty
  • rather
  • quite

For example:

Picture A is pretty similar to picture B in that they both show people working together.

You can also use the following expressions:

Picture A and B are pretty much alike. Both show people working together on a project.
Picture A and B have a lot in common. Both show people working together on a project.
Picture A and B are fundamentally similar. Both show people working together on a project.

Part 3 question

Okay, now let’s look at a part 3 exam question to find out how to talk about similarities:

Here are some jobs which some people would like to have and a question for you to discuss. First you have some time to look at the task. (15 seconds)
Now, talk to each other about how challenging it might be to become successful in these different jobs: film actor // business executive // politician // professional athlete // novelist (two minutes)

Here, we could show likeness with the following structure:

A is as _______ as B

For example:

Becoming a successful politician is (almost/nearly) as hard as becoming a successful novelist.


How to contrast

This part of the exam, just like part 2, is also a good opportunity to show how you might contrast in the exam.
To show contrast, you could say that:

A is different from B
A is different from B because
A is different from B in that it

For example:

Becoming a successful politician is different from becoming a successful novelist in that you have to do a lot of public speaking.
Becoming a successful athlete is different from becoming a business executive because you have to do a lot more physical activity.

Remember, we can also express the size of the difference with adverbs and collocations, such as:

It is is totally different
I think it’s strikingly different
It’s distinctly different
It’s entirely different
These is a clear distinction between
They differ widely

If the difference is slight, you might say:

It’s slightly different
It’s rather different
There is a subtle distinction


Idiomatic Expressions for Contrasting

Okay, let’s move onto the next part.
Here are some idiomatic expressions we can use to express contrasts, especially big differences:

They are world’s apart

Madrid and Rotterdam are world’s apart. Madrid is a much bigger city.

They are poles apart / polar opposites

Juan and Gabriela are poles apart / polar opposites, I mean they really have almost nothing in common.

A is a far cry from B

The concert is a far cry from what I imagined. I thought it would be entertaining, but it’s actually like watching paint dry (=boring).

A is far/way ____ than B

London is far bigger than Amsterdam.
Madrid is way hotter than Saint Petersburg.

A world of difference

There is a world of difference between the service in the two shops.


Connectors to Compare and Contrast Ideas

Okay, in the final part of this episode we’re going to look at some connectors you can use to compare and contrast ideas, as well as things. I will use a couple of part 1 questions to show you some examples:

1. Do you like using the internet to keep in touch with people?


Yes, I love Telegram, similarly, I am big fan of Whatsapp too.
Yes, I ‘m a big fan of FaceTime, likewise, I’m really into Zoom as well.

2. Do you think you have enough free time during the week?

Conversely/On the other hand

I am really busy during the week, but on the weekend, conversely, I have lots of free time.

Notice in speaking, the word order is a little different from writing:
__ noun 1, noun 2 + adverb, ____

I’m really busy on Mondays and Tuesdays, Fridays, on the other hand, are much easier.
I’m busy this week, next week, conversely, I have much less work to do.

One final note regarding the difference between on the other hand and on the contrary:

On the other hand means ‘that is true and this is also true if we look at it from a different viewpoint’, e.g. Life in the country is nice and quiet. On the other hand, you have to go a long way to get to the shops.

On the contrary is a rather formal expression which means ‘that is not true; the opposite is true’, e.g. A: You must be pleased with your exam results. B: On the contrary, I thought they would be much better.

Closing Notes

That’s it.

Lot’s of interesting and lovely ways to compare and contrast places, things, people, activities and ideas.

I hope you enjoyed this episode! If you did, please share it with someone who could benefit from it.

If you would like to suggest topics for future episodes, just like Erika, leave me a comment on my blog or on YouTube.

If you have any questions about this lesson, or any feedback, then do get in touch with me. You can email me at: kristian@getreadyforsuccess.com – I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, go and check out my website, Get Ready For Success. If you’re preparing for Cambridge C1, it’s a great place, full of interesting stuff.

All right, that’s all from me. Take care of yourself, and each other.

Speak soon, my friends.

About the Author

As a Dutch proficient speaker of English, Kristian not only holds a grade A Cambridge C2 certificate but is also CELTA qualified. His five years of experience as a teacher and ESL exam coach, specialising in Cambridge English C1, C2, and IELTS, has equipped him with a unique blend of skills to guide and support your English learning journey.

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