Review ~ Speakout Upper Intermediate

An engaging, varied and modern textbook for adults with authentic material from the BBC.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Kate Gamble
Speakout Upper Intermediate

Speakout Upper Intermediate

Speakout (Upper Intermediate), written by Frances Eales and Steve Oakes and published by Pearson, is a general English course covering speaking, listening, reading and writing and featuring authentic material from the BBC.

The book (Students’ Book with Active Book) comes with a CD that includes the e-book of all the materials, including all audio and video content as well as additional material. This was the first time I had seen this format and while I am not yet completely familiar with how everything works, it seems to be excellent and hopefully other books will adopt a similar approach in the future. Having the audio and video included with the student book (rather than just a few as in the Face2Face textbooks) means that students can really make the most of the book outside of lessons as well as during class.

The book is fresh and modern-looking (although this impression may be just due to me overusing my standard books) and crammed with content. The latter may in fact be a slight drawback, as two students commented that the book was cluttered and the pages too full. The material is up-to-date and the DVD units at the end of each chapter include extracts from BBC television programmes, which makes a nice change from some of the poor acting you sometimes get on course book DVDs (although some people may find extracts of The One Show just as annoying, and the extracts will obviously also become dated).

The book is divided into ten units. The way the material is collected into “units” seems a little random at times but the units are also subdivided, making it possible to pick and choose sub-units according to what type of group or student you are teaching. There is a nice mix of activities in the book: conversation-based, grammar, functional language, colloquial language; and the themes are interesting too and seem to suit both male and female students. A quick point on colloquial language – the teacher would need to make it clear which expressions are formal and which are colloquial as this is not always made explicit in the book. Age-wise, the back of the book states that it is suited to adult learners and I would agree with this. I did try to use it with older teenagers as well but they connected less with some of the topics than they do with Face2Face, for example.

When preparing a lesson using this book I would advise slightly more concentrated preparation than usual as in the position I was in of not having the teacher’s book to check with, some of the exercises did involve some checking with colleagues.

To conclude, I would recommend this book for use with adult students, in groups or one-to-one. It can be dipped in and out of according to student/group, the material is engaging, varied and modern, and the book comes with all audio and video content.

Reviewed by Kate Gamble for June 2012


  • Henry Wickham says:

    A terrible textbook. It is peppered with glitches and contradictory grammar content.

  • Claudia K. says:

    I am forced to use these books at one of the colleges I teach and I find them absolutely horrible. Confusing, cluttered layout, like many others have said, grammar explanations WAY too complicated for the level,tons of mistakes in the exercises and many exercises contain tasks that are ambiguous and unclear. For example, in B1 exercises for the Present Simple in one unit are based on Present Simple rules that haven’t been taught yet while being utterly irrelevant to the rule taught in that unit… or, e.g., some of the listening exercises in the pre-intermediate book are SO advanced I doubt most B2 students would get it. I teach 5 different classes with these books and NONE of my students like them. Even when I sub for other teachers and ask their students I get the same response.

    Wish Pearson had updated Total English (just needed to replace some of the dated images) instead of creating this crap (pardon my language but it just is what it is).

  • Noel says:

    As a teacher using this book for the first time, I found it appalling! Too cluttered as others have mentioned, and the grammar explanations are unnecessarily over-complicated.

  • John says:

    Sometimes it’s best to let the instructor create suitable exercises for the ss rather than forcing the class to follow uncomprehensible material.

  • Millicent says:

    I agree with Don John. The book is very cluttered and the print is too small and the explanations for grammar are hard for even a native speaker to understand. Forget what the “experts” say. I’m surveying my students and none of them like the book.

  • Don John says:

    The worst coursebook ever.

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