Updated: Feb 23
This article will give an overview of Speaking Part 2 and some useful tips to help you get the score you deserve!
In this class we are going to do 4 things:
🔎 Give an overview of the Speaking Part 2 Format
📑 Look at some common categories of Speaking Part 2 Topics
☕ Compare Speaking Part 2 to a 'Real Life' activity.
🤔 Analyse how to understand the Speaking Part 2 Prompts
✨ Discuss solutions to common problems students have in Speaking Part 2
⭐ Outline some more Speaking Part 2 Pro-Tips
In a future post, we will look at specific question types and how to answer them.
1. 🔎 Speaking Part 2 Format
Speaking Part 2 lasts 3 - 4 minutes.
You have to plan and give a short monologue based on a certain topic.
The examiner gives you a card with written instructions like the example below, and a pencil and paper.
The examiner then says:
“You will have to talk about the topic for one to two minutes. You have one minute to think about what you are going to say. You can make some notes to help you if you wish. Do you understand?”
You then have one minute to plan, and you should aim to speak for two minutes.
Once the time is over, the examiner will ask you a follow-up question such as:
“Which tourist destinations are most popular in your country?”
2. 📑 Common Categories of Speaking Part 2 Topics
Most IELTS Speaking Part 2 topics fall under the following 6 categories. To prepare for the exam, you should practise giving 2-minute talks about topics like these.
📚 🎬 Favourites 🌐 🎵
You should be able to describe your favourite things.
Prepare to talk about your favourite book, film, music, and website.
👨🎤 👵 People 🧔 🧕
You should be able to describe people.
Prepare to talk about the personality, actions and habits of a famous person or a member of your family, as well as your relationship to them and your opinion of them.
👩🍳 🧘♀️ Activities 🏇 🏋️♀️
You should be able to describe everyday activities that you do, or did in the past.
Have you prepared some ideas about a hobby? Can you describe a typical day in your life? Can you talk about aspects of your work / studies?
🎄 💍 Events 🎓 🍾
You should be able to describe some special moments in your life, such as birthdays, festivals and weddings.
Are you able to fluently tell a story about a special event and describe how you felt?
🏝️ 🗿 Places 🗽 🎢
You should be able to describe places in detail.
Prepare to talk about where you live and interesting places in the area. Also, think about the places you have visited, what you did there, and why you liked or didn't like them.
🕹️ 🖼️ Things 🔨 ⚽
You should be able to decsribe the objects.
Can you talk about the things you use every day, something you would like to buy, or a present that you received?
In part 2 you are always asked to "describe". Make sure you prepare some good adjectives for each topic, make sure you can talk about your opinions and feelings, and think about some examples or stories to make your descriptions more interesting.
This section has been adapted with permission from IELTS Simon's excellent blog.
3. ☕ What 'Real Life' activity is this like?
Speaking part 2 is a bit like telling an anecdote or giving a presentation. You have to be descriptive and you should present your ideas in a way that is easy for the examiner to follow.
4. 🤔 How to Understand the Speaking Part 2 Prompts
The Speaking Part 2 prompt has an instruction at the top which tells you to 'describe' something, and below it are 4 bulletpoints and a final bit which says '... and explain ...'
It is very important that you talk about the subject you have to 'describe'. It is written in the imperative, and it is a direct instruction. If you talk about something else, you will lose a lot of marks for being incoherent.
The part with the bulletpoints is a bit more flexible - you 'should' talk about these topics, meaning that it's a good idea, but you don't have to. If you don't know what to say about one bulletpoint, you can skip it, or if you want to add an extra point which is not there, that's Ok too.
5. ✨ Common Problems and Solutions for Speaking Part 2
Problems IELTS candidates have in Speaking Part 2 and some solutions to these problems:
❌😶 Students 'dry up' mid-talk. They start well, but run out of things to say after about a minute.
❌🤯 Students give talks which are disorganised, chaotic, and hard to follow.
✅🎯 Before the exam, find a way of structuring your Part 2 talks. Following the bullet points is probably the easiest way to do this.
❌🗒️ Students don't make the most of the 1-minute planning time.
✅✍️ Again, this becomes easier with practice. Use this time to think of your main ideas, the order you want to say them, and a few good descriptive details to show off your vocabulary.
❌⬜ Students aren't descriptive enough, so miss great opportunities to show off their language skills.
They'll say: "Last year I went to a hotel near a beach. Every day we swam in the sea and ate in a restaurant on the same street"
✅🏖️ Many students miss great opportunities to show off their vocabulary.
They could say "Last year, just after I finished my finals, I needed a holiday so I went to a luxury 5-star hotel next to the beach. The beach was stunning and there was barely anyone there, so we had the place to ourselves. Also, the water was so clear and blue and you could see lots of coral and fish. Every evening we had really delicious food in this surprisingly inexpensive restaurant just down the road"
❌🤔 Students try too hard to describe reality and tell the exact truth. This often leads to problems when students don't know or can't remember precise vocabulary. This can lead to a breakdown in fluency or mistakes with vocabulary.
✅🤥 If you can’t think of exact words to describe reality, you can lie, embellish, and make things up. This way, you can continue speaking fluently and actually show off even more impressive vocabulary.
❌😪 Students feel like they did badly on Speaking Part 2 so lose confidence for Speaking Part 3.
✅😎 Ideally you'll do well on all 3 parts of the exam, and it's true that doing well on Part 2 will boost your confidence for Part 3, but if Part 2 doesn't go as well as you'd like, take a deep breath, smile, and pick yourself up again for Part 3. If Part 2 goes badly, a good Part 3 will help to recover your score.
6. 💡 Pro-Tips
⭐ The main instruction on the card is ‘describe’ so you need to be descriptive.
⭐ Use your one minute planning well. Decide what you want to talk about very quickly, and only write down key words - not whole sentences.
⭐ Write down some precise adjectives to show what you think/feel about the topic.
⭐ Have a good solid first sentence prepared before you start.
⭐ Don’t speak too fast.
⭐ Remember to breathe! Pause briefly between ideas to catch your breath, and control your breathing.
⭐ Try not to make too many audible pauses (err, umm, uhh). Doing this occasionally is fine, and it's a natural part of speech, but if you do it constantly, it'll make your fluency score go down.
⭐ Speak until the examiner tells you to stop at 2 minutes. If you speak very well for 90+ seconds, you've probably done a good job, but you should aim for 2 minutes.
⭐ Don’t just give a pre-prepared memorised talk - be flexible and talk about the specific topic in front of you.
⭐ If you can’t think of ideas relating to the topic, you can be honest and adapt what you want to say, or you can lie, embellish, and make things up; however, always keep your talk relevant to the topic.
⭐ Practice this part a lot to get used to the timings (1 minute preparation, 2 minutes speaking)