In the individual long-turn part of IELTS Speaking, you have to talk for one to two minutes on a topic chosen by the examiner. This is the only part of the Speaking module in which a time limit applies, so there’s more pressure to speak quickly and without hesitation. However, it’s also the easiest part to practice, as answers tend to follow a similar pattern regardless of the topic. The useful language below will help you structure a response in Part 2. How you use it depends on the question.
Beginning your response
- I’m going to talk about …
- I’d like to tell you about …
- I’ve decided to speak about …
Indicating a time in the past
- I think it was when I was around (age) years old.
- When I was a (school) student, …
- In my (school) days, …
- If I could choose any (repeat topic), I’d choose …
- Given a choice of any (repeat topic), I’d rather …
- If money were no object, I’d …
Describing a book/film/story
- It’s about a (person) who …
- The story concerns a (person) who …
- The main character is a (role) played by (actor) who …
Omitting some details
- Briefly, …
- I won’t go into detail here but …
- There’s no time to explain fully here but …
In the Speaking module of IELTS, you may be asked a question you don’t understand. In such situations, you CAN ask for help from the examiner. The kind of help you will be given depends on the part of the test:
- In Part 1, the examiner can ONLY repeat the question.
- In Part 2, the examiner can answer your questions during the preparation time.
- In Part 3, the examiner can help you to understand the question.
The following useful language will enable you to get the help you need.
When you don’t hear the question
- I’m sorry, could you repeat that please?
- I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.
- Would you mind saying that again?
When you don’t understand a particular word
- What does ( ) mean?
- Does ( ) mean ( )?
- Sorry, I’m not sure what ( ) means.
When you don’t understand the question
- I’m sorry, what do you mean exactly?
- Could you say that in other words?
- I’m afraid I’m not quite sure what you mean.
Different cultures have different attitudes to silence, but for English speakers the attitude is one of near-zero tolerance. It’s fine to hesitate for a few seconds before speaking or between ideas, but silences of longer than five seconds will go down badly. Happily, there’s a solution to this problem and that’s to learn some filler expressions such as That’s a tough question and Let me see.
2. Memorised answers
The examiner is very likely to notice if you try to recite an answer from memory, and there is a penalty for this. The telltale signs of a memorised answer include speaking in a ‘written’ style of English, unnatural intonation, and the candidate attempting to ‘rephrase’ the question to the one they want to answer. Any questions you try to memorise answers to are very unlikely to be asked, so it is much more effective to practice speaking about a wide range of topics before you take the test.
3. Overuse of transition signals
It’s helpful to use a few signposting words like first, for example or on the other hand. But if you overload your speech with these you could actually damage your score. Sounding natural, not like a signposting robot, should be your goal in IELTS Speaking. There are also many words characteristic of formal writing such as furthermore, moreover and in addition that are hardly ever used in speech and could actually make you sound less natural if you say them.
Today we will look at three example questions from Part 2 of the Speaking module of IELTS. Each question deals with a different timeframe: one past, one regular and one hypothetical future event. Try answering these questions yourself first and then compare the sample answers below with your own. For each question, you have one minute to prepare your answer, and you should then speak for one to two minutes.
Describe a major decision you have taken in your life.
You should say:
- What the decision was
- What other choices were available to you
- Why you made the decision you did
And explain if you think the decision was a good one.
Describe something you do to forget about work or study.
You should say:
- What the activity is
- How often you do it
- How it helps you forget
And say whether you would recommend other people try the same thing.
Describe a language you would like to learn.
You should say:
- What the language is
- Where it is spoken
- Why you are interested in this language
And say if you think you will ever actually have the chance to learn it.
See below for sample answers and analysis