Speaking tests are never easy; unlike reading and writing tests, you don’t have the luxury of taking your time, double checking, or having a final look at your work before giving it to the examiner.
For many students taking IELTS, the most intimidating part of the speaking test is ‘Part 2’, also known as the monologue.
First, let’s take a quick look at the structure of the IELTS speaking test, which is composed of three parts:
General questions relating to your life and habits. Typical questions include:
Where are you from?
What do you do?
How long have you been studying English?
There will also be questions on a specific theme, such as shopping, hobbies, work, or entertainment:
Have you ever been to a zoo or wildlife park?
When you were a child, did you think a lot about your future?
How do you usually spend your weekends?
In the second part of the speaking test, you will have to speak on your own for one to two minutes, and you will have one minute to prepare. Here is an example of an IELTS Speaking part 2 question:
The third part of the test is similar to the Part 1, in that you have to answer questions directly, but unlike Part 1 these questions are usually not about your own life and habits, and they are usually on a topic related to the Part 2 question.
For example, the Part 3 questions that come after the ‘Describe someone you know who does something well” include:
What skills and abilities do people most want to have today?
Which skills do you think will be important in the future?
Which kind of jobs have the highest salaries in your country?
All three parts of the test are difficult in their own way, but it is Part 2 that is often the most daunting for exam candidates; when you are speaking in front of an examiner, two minutes can feel like a long time!
With the right strategy and preparation, however, it doesn’t have to be so difficult!
The first thing that students should keep in mind is that they are asking you to do two specific things:
DESCRIBE and EXPLAIN - these are the key words! You must do both in order to get the best score possible; many students make the mistake of only describing, and forgetting the second part of the exercise. This often means that they run out of things to say, and stop talking after a minute and a half!
Before you begin speaking, you have one minute to prepare your ideas, and in this time you are allowed to make notes. Don’t try to make full sentences, this will be a waste of time, and reading whole sentences directly from the notes will sound unnatural and may hurt your fluency score.
It is better to use bullet points, single words and perhaps short phrases; the notes should just a chance to get down as many ideas as possible to help you while you are speaking.
Let’s look at an example:
So, we can divide this into two things they are asking me to do: describe my healthy activity and explain why I think it is healthy.
The information required to describe is given to us; I need to say what I do, where I do it, and who I do it with.
Then to explain I can split my answer into two ideas: physical and mental benefits.
Then, all I need to do is write down one or two words under each category, so that while I am speaking under pressure I won’t have to think of new ideas!
Here is what I made:
(my apologies for the bad handwriting; even with a 4-colour pen it’s hard to write enough notes in one minute!)
Here is the answer I came up with from these notes, with the different sections colour-coded so that you can see what I am talking about:
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