Back to: 20 hour IELTS course
Welcome to part 2 speaking lesson. This lesson, although different from part 1 in the structure, can incorporate skills learnt in speaking part 1.
Remember, all skills are accumulated, and should not be thought of as separate skills. The only difference here is the requirement for you to do all of the talking. Think of this section as a ’mini presentation’
“Oh no.., I have to talk for up to 2 minutes!!!!! What do I do?”
(How can I speak for that long without getting a headache!!!).
Answer is – you practice how to do it.
Most people are not natural presenters, speakers, commentators, etc…, It is a fact that many who do are able to do it, began in the same position you are in now. Nervous, afraid, worried about embarrassment, failure, and all that goes with it.
Doing something for the 1st time is always nerve-racking. Even professional sportsmen, musicians, and others who perform for the public, get nervous before they perform, and they spend years practicing their skills. This puts it into perspective. Expect to be nervous. It would not be normal not to be nervous.
Now that you are no longer nervous (joke!!) let’s begin.
Going back to my earlier comment about a ‘mini presentation’, we are going to approach part 2 with this in mind.
Presenters always have a structure which they follow. How many presentations have you been to and seen the presenter or presenters following a pattern?
All the time, is the answer. They prepare, plan, and practice, and they speak for much longer than the 2 minutes you are going to speak for.
This is critical for success. Even though you only have 1 minute to prepare your points, the most important thing to do is to practice how to prepare. Follow a pattern, so on the day of the test you don’t become flustered.
Lets look at the task in details.
- Describe a…………. – this will be someone/something you either; know about/have experienced/has affected you/you would like to do or experience.
- Look at the keyword(s). ‘a person’ ‘a book’ ‘a time’ ‘a place’ ‘a desire’ ‘an occasion’ The thing which is the focus of the task.
- The task words. ‘who’ ‘what’ ‘where’ ‘when’ ‘why’ ‘how’ are the most common words used.
- Focus of notes. Who = people, what = topic, where = place, when = time, why = reason, how = method/emotions.
When looking at the task, break it down into sections by 1 keyword, 2 question words.
Describe a time when you were busy.
You should say:
What the situation was.
Why you needed to use your imagination
What the difficulties were
and explain how you felt about it.
1st we have the keywords in the question. Here we have ‘a time’ and ‘busy’
Question words – What – refers to the time and why you were busy. Why refers to the need to use your imagination. What refers to the difficulties. How you felt refers to your emotions.
The very 1st thing you MUST do is to decide what you are going to talk about. This is one of the trickiest things to do.
You have ‘1 minute’ to prepare. My suggestion is; do not take more than 10 seconds to decide. You will still have 50 seconds to prepare, but if you take too long to decide, you will be using up this valuable preparation time.
You are being asked to recall things in your life which may have happened a long time ago, or you may have forgotten about.
Either way, this is part of the task and you have to do it, so I would suggest that as part of your practice, keep a list of things which you remember and write them down as you practice.
Describe an event……. Think about events in your country, and write them down. ” We have a city carnival and talent show every August” Keep the list with you whenever you practice. Eventually you will have list of different topics which you can use in the test. Do not wait until the test to think of these things. It might be too late by then.
There are many topics out there so keep to a broad range. I suggest practicing the topics below, and then we will look at ways to adapt them.
Practice describing a person – a teacher, a famous person, friend, a family member, a talented person you know, a person who has influenced you.
Practice describing an activity – sports, leisure, hobby.
Practice describing a place – a city, a quiet place, a place you visit, a place you would like to visit.
Describe a festival – a local or national festival. (This is where most students do badly. ‘festival’ does not describe anything. I hear this answer a lot. Do research into the festival. The name, the reason, the history, what happens, how long it lasts. Only a full answer will get you a good score, so do the research if you don’t know. Ensure that you have this prepared).
Describing an event – family occasion, school occasion, community occasion, a sports event, a social event.
Describe an object – a gift you were given or gave, something you use, something you would like to have.
Describe your favourite – book, film, sport, place, time of the day, colour, food……
To prepare for this, write down vocabulary you already know about the topic, and also write down some sentences. The sentences do not have to be joined together, this is for information gathering only.
Because speaking part 2 is so broad, you have to be prepared to practice base topics and be able to ‘adapt’ to the information you are given in the test.
As an example, I am going to show you how to introduce your description. Always remember that this is a short story, so treat it as such.
Most speakers introduce their topics with a broad statement, or question about the topic they are going to cover. You can do the same: TOPICS
Sport – food – hometown – books – events – object – activity. (some examples).
To cover all of these topics with some slight variations we can say this:
“We all have a favourite……………” (book, sport, game, food, activity, hobby….)
“We all like……………………” (food, sport, books, cellphones, TV…..)
“All towns and cities have a………….”( traffic problem(s), festivals, events, buildings……)
“There are many………. (sports/types of music/food/ etc..)to choose from/all around us/today……..”
By ‘introducing’ the topic in a broad way, the listener knows what is going to follow.
the 2nd part of your introduction focuses on the specific as opposed to the general.
“I am going to talk to you today about…….” “I would like to tell you about….” today, I am going to recall…….”
There are several ways to begin the specific part of you description.
- Make it personal
- Talk about something you have experience of.
- Talk about something someone else does/is/has, and make it about yourself.
“How do we do these things?” you are asking.
This thing/person/event, will have affected you personally, even if it is not about you, it is still something you can recall because of the effect it had on you.
This is similar to number 1 but the difference is that it has happened to you and you can recall it easily.
Use a friend, relative, colleague, teacher, or anyone else’s experience, if you don’t have your own.
Here is an example of a part to description cue card.
Describe a website you like to visit
You should say:
When you found it
What it is about
How often you visit it
Why you like this website
The keyword is “website” – use this for your general introduction.
Then you have the specific introduction ("Today I would like to talk...")
Make a statements about websites/the internet (as they go hand-in-hand).
(The general introduction is in orange, the specific is in purple, and the body in blue)
“Sometimes, when we browse the internet we have the choice of millions of websites to look at. It can be very difficult finding one which is about a topic we are interested in, and a site which we also like”.
“Today I would like to talk about a website (when found)which I found a few months ago, that I cannot live without now” (approximately 24 seconds)
“The name of the website is ‘Motorcycle News’ or ‘NCM’ as it is often called. (what about )It is a site about motorbikes, which is a passion of mine. It provides all the latest news about, new bikes, new equipment, accessories, and gives price guides on new and second-hand bike sales, as well as what is happening in the world of bike racing. I am a big fan of MotoGP, which is the top class of motor bikes, and it has all the news from the races and pictures to go with each article. It also has regular interviews with many riders.(How often) I read it almost everyday, or whenever I have the time to spare.(why visit) I like the site mainly because it is up-to-date. Many website do not update the information quickly enough and that’s why people stop visiting them. This has happened to me with other websites, but this site is ‘spot on’ for updates. "I will be visiting it for a long time to come”. ( The conclusion is in blue. Approximately 1 minute 44 secs for the complete talk).
This answer is around the 1 minute 45 seconds which is a good time.
Now I am not saying that your answers will be like this, but it is ‘the structure’ which is important. Practice including more information than is requested in the task. This will provide more information and more talking time.
Add more points to the task when preparing. For the above we could add:
- Are there other sites for the same thing?
- Do you have to subscribe/is it free?
- Does it only cover motorbikes?
- Which country is it from?
- How did you find it?
By thinking of additional points to add, you are increasing the amount of information you have with which to speak.
(You may have heard the saying “too much is better than not enough”)
The fact that you now have many more things you can talk about will increase your talking time, even if you are not a confident speaker, or do not know how to ‘stretch facts out’
The ‘ideas bank’ – a method by which you can prepare for part 2 with ‘pre-prepared answers.
Topics such as, Describe a: book, movie, event, place, person( family & non-family), sport, website, city, country, TV show, celebrity, animal, historic place or building, building, song, music, transport, journey, … there are more but look at IELTS material and look at the most common topics. (The list above covers most things)
Things at school, university, or work.
Events, projects, assignments, meetings, interviews, surveys,…
Personal life situations.
A vacation/holiday, event, celebration, graduation, dispute, disagreement, regular family activities/gatherings, ….
Make a list of the things in your life, and prepare the details. If you have read a book you like, re-visit the book. You don’t have to read it again, but be sure to recall; the story, the character, when you read it, why you liked it and more. Prepare this information. Keep it!!!
Do this for as many topics above as you can. write notes, make yourself familiar with the information.
Example – Movie.
Name – Avatar, set on a distant planet in the future. stars Sam Worthington, and Signorney Weaver. He is a soldier who is paralysed, and he is sent to become one of the Avatar tribe who inhabit this planet. He falls in love with one of the Avatar women and then fights to stop the humans destroying the giant tree which is the life force of the planet. In the end Sigorney Weaver’s character dies, but the Avatars defeat the humans.
Why I like it. Great animation, original idea, good action, a love story, good over evil. Shows man’s greed.
(This took me 2-3 minutes to write. Avatar is just film I remember watching. It is not my favourite movie but can be used as an example to prepare. I now have the answer prepared for a question about a movie).
This can now be your answer to the cue card asking about a movie.
To do well in part 2 I advise you to use an idea bank to formulate and prepare your answers. You cannot do this for ‘everything’ but you can cover most of the topics you will be given in the exam.
- Practice making introductions. Use the examples above and practice these only until you feel comfortable introducing a variety of topics.
- Look at the task:
- Think of things to add by using the -wh, -how, keywords. (who, where, when, why, which, whose, what / how – much, many, long, ..)
- Practice this method of adding things by way of questions.
- Do not focus on time in the first instances. Focus on technique and speaking.
- When you are comfortable with the techniques, then start to time yourself and reduce your time to within the limits (2 minutes).
- Tell a story. Have an introduction, a middle and an ending.
- Prepare an ‘idea bank’ for as many topics as you can.
All of these techniques added together will help you to speak for the time allocated, on a range of topics. Also continually increase your vocabulary range.
Watch the band 8 video below to see what the candidate did to achieve a high score.
This is the end of the lesson. Practice as much as you can before moving on, or you can combine the parts together. Whichever way you decide to do it, you should keep repeating until you feel comfortable do the exercises.