1.You Don’t Have to Talk About Every Bullet Point
- In the Official Marking Criteria for the Speaking Test there is nothing that states that you have to talk about every bullet point. Lots of IELTS examiners know this, but they don’t tell students because they don’t want to give them an unfair advantage.
- You will always be given a general topic at the start of the test and then You should say: followed by 3-4 bullet points. The rule is that you must talk about the general topic at the top of the card, but you don’t have to talk about all of the bullet points. Note that it says You should say not You must say.
- The bullet points are there to help you, so if you want to talk about them, please do. However, if there are one or two that you don’t like or you don’t feel comfortable talking about, leave them out and talk about something else. Make sure what you talk about is within the general topic and you will be fine.
2.Have a Strategy
IELTS is much easier if you have a strategy for each part of the test. You can use this strategy when you are practicing and then you will be much more confident in the real test.
- Don’t memorise answers. There are too many topics for you to memorise and it is highly unlikely that you will get the same topic in the real test. It is a complete waste of time and leads to some very strange answers. If the examiner spots this, they are allowed to give you a Band 0!
- Focus on fluency and pronunciation. Record yourself and listen to yourself. How could you improve your fluency and pronunciation?
- Learn functional language used to describe common grammar functions, such as talking about the past, present or future, giving your opinion, evaluating someone’s opinion and talking hypothetically.
- Time yourself so you know how much you have to speak in 1-2 minutes.
4.Use 1 Minute Wisely
- You will have one minute to prepare before you start talking. You will not have enough time to write full sentences. You will, however, be able to write keywords. These keywords should guide you through your talk and help if you can’t think of ideas.
- Having a strategy will also help you because you will know exactly what to talk about and you will be able to make a clear plan using short notes and keywords.
- 5.Personal Experiences Are Best (but telling a lie is OK too.)
- The best answers are always about things you have actually experienced in your life. You will be able to describe these things in much more detail and you will also be able to talk more coherently about them. Students tend to be more confident talking about real experiences and this helps them with their fluency and pronunciation.
- However, some of the cue cards will ask you to talk about things you might not have experienced at all in your entire life. It is fine to lie. The examiner will never check your answers or worry about whether they are the truth or not. However, they might ask you some follow-up questions, so be prepared for these.
- In my experience, the best strategy is to use real experiences first and add in some lies to help you answer the question fully. Use your imagination and you will be fine.
6.Expand Your Ideas
- It is much better to fully expand each main idea, than to simply state lots of main ideas and not develop them at all.This will help you give more impressive answers and it is also a better use of your time. It is much easier to think of a few relevant ideas and develop them, than it is to think of lots of different ideas.
- When you are practicing, a good way to expand your main ideas is to use Who, what, why, where, how. This will help you quickly and easily develop your main ideas and you will also get used to the grammar structures needed to do this.
- You can also use your senses to help you use a wide range of vocabulary. Think about how things looked, sounded, smelled and tasted. You obviously won’t be able to talk about all of these things for every topic (you would sound a little strange describing how a book tasted) but you will normally be able to use two or three of them.While practicing you can use a dictionary to help you describe these sensations and expand your vocabulary.
7.Mistakes are OK
- Everyone makes grammar and vocabulary mistakes. Every time I make a new video it takes me longer to edit out the mistakes than it does to record the video. Even students who get a Band 8, or even 9, make small mistakes. This is totally understandable and you should therefore not panic when you make a mistake.
- I have listened to students who were half way through their Part 2 question and then they made a small grammatical error and they completely lost their way and their score went from a very high one to a very average one.
- Being nervous and stressed affects your ideas, pronunciation, fluency and normally leads to further grammar mistakes. When you make a mistake simply forget about it. There is nothing you can do. Don’t panic and continue.
- You will have 1 minute to make notes and then will be asked to speak for between 1-2 minutes.
- Speaking for 2 minutes on an unfamiliar topic scares most IELTS students and that’s why IELTS speaking part 2 is one of the most feared parts of the exam. The problem seems to be running out of things to say or not knowing what to say because you are unfamiliar with the cue card suggestions.
- To overcome this problem, I have developed a strategy to help students and it has proved very successful.
- A common error is thinking you have to talk about exactly what is written on the card. You don’t! Having spoken to several IELTS examiners and students who achieved very high marks in their speaking test, I can assure you that you don’t have to cover everything on the card. The band descriptors also don’t mention anything about answering all the suggested parts of task 2.
- Following the suggested sentences on the card is fine and many candidates do very well following them but others run out of ideas. More importantly, if you have a structure to follow for every question you can practice and prepare more effectively.
- My strategy is to talk about what you feel comfortable talking about. In other words, talk about the things you think will get you the highest marks. If you like the suggestions on the card, then talk about them. But if you don’t, or you want some extra things to talk about, then follow the strategy below.
- When you get the cue card you will be given one minute to write down some ideas. You are going to use this time wisely by using the following structure. On the piece of paper provided write down five headings with a little space between each one.
Start off by saying I’d like to talk about (X). Then say I chose this topic because and you will be able to say why you choose this topic. If you can’t think of a reason just make one up, although it’s always better to talk about real experiences.
Now pause and use a linking word like anyway’ or anyhow to transition into talking about the past. This will allow you to demonstrate that you are confident using a range of past structures. For example- Used to + infinitive to talk about past habits or states that are now finished. Would + infinitive to describe past habits. Past simple to talk about things you did in the past that you no longer do or are no longer true. Past continuous to talk about the background of a story or how you felt at a particular time. Past perfect to say something happened before something else in the past.
Now pause and say So let me tell you about (X) in a little more detail. This is your opportunity to impress the examiner with specific vocabulary. Get to know the common topics and have some specific adjectives ready. If you use an adjective to describe something, make sure you expand on it or explain it with examples. Again, if you can’t think of specific examples, it is fine to make these up. Make sure your examples match the adjective and you will be fine.
Now you can pause and say If you ask me/In my view/I would say + (opinion on topic). This give you a chance to express how you feel about the topic. It could be your personal opinion or it could be a comparative or superlative. Using a wide range of phrases to express your opinion will help you get a higher mark. If you want to give a stronger opinion you could say:
- I strongly believe that
- As far as I’m concerned
- I’m strongly against
- I’m strongly in favour of.
- I’m skeptical of the idea that
- I must admit, I think.
- Finally you can display your ability to use future tenses. Start off by saying With regards to the future. A range of tenses will help you gain extra marks. For example you could use:
- Present continuous to talk about fixed arrangements.
- Be going + to + infinitive to talk about future plans.
- Will or won’t + infinitive is used with predictions based on opinions or experiences. It can also be used to talk about hopes and assumptions.
- The future perfect- will have + past participle- is used to say something will have happened or will have been completed by a certain point in the future.
- That’s it! Five simple headings that will allow you to speak for at least two minutes without any difficultly.
- The most important thing is that you practice using this strategy with many different topics. Get some past IELTS speaking part 2 questions and ask a friend or classmate to give you them at random. You can start off slowly by using this post to help you, but after a lot of practice, this strategy will become natural for you and you will be able to answer any part 2 question with confidence.
- There is no magic formula or trick to getting the IELTS band you want but there are good strategies you can use and, more importantly, strategies you can use to help you practice.
- Here is an IELTS speaking task 2 question. Try using the strategy above with this question and please post your answers in the comments below and I will get back to you.