Here is my essential guide to Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test. In this guide you can find out everything you need to know.
IELTS Speaking Part 2: what is it?
- In IELTS Speaking Part 2, you give a talk.
- You should be prepared to speak for 2 minutes (the examiner will ask you to speak for 1 to 2 minutes: ignore this! Aim to speak for 2 minutes.)
- It’s your chance to show the examiner how well you can talk for an extended period.
- Many people call it “The Long Turn” because it is your turn to speak for a long time.
- 2 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, but if you’ve never done it before, it can seem like forever! Even for native speakers. So practise speaking for 2 minutes!
So get prepared! Keep reading…
IELTS Speaking Part 2: what happens?
In IELTS Speaking Part 2, the examiner will ask you to speak for between one and two minutes on a topic.
- The IELTS examiner will give you a topic card. On the card, there will be a short description of a topic, with some ideas for what to include. The topic will be related to personal experience, for example a person you know or an event you participated in.
- The examiner will give you exactly one minute to prepare your talk. The examiner will give give you a piece of paper and a pencil to write down some ideas. You could make a list of ideas and keywords, or draw a mind map.
- After one minute, the examiner will ask you to you to start your talk.
- You give your talk. You are expected to speak, without interruption from the examiner, for up to two minutes. The examiner will listen and say nothing, but she/he might nod and gesture in order to encourage you to continue talking.
- After 2 minutes the examiner will interrupt you. They will probably ask you one extra question about the topic (sometimes they will ask 2, and sometimes 0ne question). You only need to give a short answer to this question.
- Then, you go straight into IELTS Speaking Part 3
NOTE: during the IELTS Speaking Test, the examiner will write some numbers down on a piece of paper. These are the times that different parts of the test started. For example, one time they write down is the start of your 1 minute preparation. Don’t worry about these numbers! They have nothing to do with your band scores!
What is the IELTS examiner looking for?
In IELTS Speaking Part 2, the IELTS examiner will assess your speaking task against the IELTS assessment criteria. There are 4 areas: fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation.
To get a band score of 8.0, this is what you must achieve in these 4 areas:
- Fluency and Coherence: you should speak fluently. Occasional hesitation for language or ideas is acceptable. Your talk should be coherent and well-structured. Your talk should also be relevant to the topic given.
- Lexical Resource: you should use a wide range of language appropriately with some idiomatic language (some mistakes are accepted). Your vocabulary needs to show that you can talk about a variety of different topics. This is what is meant by flexible use of language.
- Grammar: you should be using a wide range of grammatical structures with only very rare errors.
- Pronunciation: your pronunciation should be easy to understand throughout, and you should use a variety of pronunciation features, such as intonation, connected speech, word and sentence stress and a steady pace of speech (not too slow and not too fast). Speaking too fast will hold your band score down.
For more details, read my article on IELTS speaking band scores and how to get an 8.0.
Typical IELTS Speaking Part 2 Topics
IELTS Speaking task 2 topics are related to personal experiences and life events. Typical topics include:
- school, study and work
- important events or changes in your life
- places you’ve been to or want to visit in the future
- hobbies and free time activities
- goals and ambitions
Here are 5 typical IELTS speaking part 2 topics here. Think about how you might talk about these things.
A Beautiful Place
Describe a beautiful place to visit in your country.
You should say:
- where it is
- how to get there
- what there is to do when you are there
and explain why you recommend this place.
An Artist or Entertainer
Describe an artist or entertainer you admire.
You should say:
- Who they are and what they do
- How they became successful
- How you found out about them
And explain why you admire them.
Describe a subject you enjoyed studying at school.
You should say:
- When and where you started studying it
- What lessons were like
- What made the subject different from other subjects
And explain why you enjoyed the subject.
An Important Choice
Describe an important choice you had to make in your life.
You should say:
- When you had this choice
- What you had to choose between
- Whether you made a good choice
And explain how you felt when you were making this choice.
Describe a job you have done.
You should say:
- How you got the job
- What the job involved
- How long the job lasted
Describe how well you did the job.
Tips for IELTS Speaking Part 2
Now you know all the basic information about IELTS Speaking part 2. Now it’s time for some tips.
1. Make notes before you talk
The examiner will give you one minute to prepare your talk. You should write down some notes. Write down a list of words related to what you want to say, or draw a mind map. If you have to think about what to say when you’re talking, you will not be able to think about your language, so you are more likely to make grammatical mistakes. It’s also very common for candidates to panic when they are talking, and forget what to say; if you have notes, you won’t forget what to say if you panic.
MOST candidates don’t do this well. They write just 2 or 3 things on the paper, and they spend most of the preparation time thinking about what to say. The problem with this approach is that as soon as they start speaking, they forget what to say! SO MAKE DETAILED NOTES! Practise making notes as part of your preparation for the speaking test.
2. Memorise a good opener
Starting your talk is difficult, so memorise an opening phrase.
Here are some good examples:
- “I’d like to talk about…”
- “Well, there are many _________ I could talk about, but I suppose the __________ I’ve experienced/had is/was….”
(The second example will help you get a better score than the others because the language is more advanced, but use the first example if the second sentence is too difficult to remember.)
For example, if your topic is “describe your favourite teacher”, you could say:
- “I’d like to talk about my favourite teacher.”
- “Well, there are many good teachers who I could talk about, but I suppose the favourite teacher I’ve had was…”
If your topic is “describe a beautiful place to visit in your country”, you could say
- “I’d like to talk about a beautiful place in my country.”
- “Well, there are many beautiful places which I could talk about, but I suppose the most beautiful place I’ve been to is….”
A good opener will impress the examiner, but the next tip will impress him even more…
3. Paraphrase the topic
When referring to the topic, don’t use the words from the topic card. Instead, use your own words. This is called paraphrasing.
So, if the topic is “describe a beautiful place to visit in your country” don’t say:
“I’m going to describe a beautiful place to visit in China.”
Instead, say, for example:
“I’m going to talk about a stunning destination, which people can travel to in the north-east of China.”
Paraphrasing lets you show the examiner how much vocabulary and grammar you know. In the paraphrase above, I changed “place” to “destination” and changed the adjective “beautiful” to “stunning“. I also used a relative clause “which people can travel to…”. I also added in some extra information: “the north-east of China.” Remember, together, grammar and vocabulary make up 50% of your marks, so it is very important to use a wide range of grammar and vocabulary.
4. Keep talking
Try to keep talking…and talking…and talking. Don’t worry about the time. The examiner will stop you after 2 minutes.
5. Don’t speak too quickly
Try to speak at a steady, natural pace. DO NOT speak too quickly – this will hold down your band score for pronunciation. Also, don’t speak too slowly. This will hold down your band score for Fluency and Coherence.
6. Decide what to talk about quickly (Lie if you need to!)
Sometimes it’s difficult to think of something to talk about. Let’s say you have to talk about your favourite teacher. Remember you have a minute to prepare your talk.
The wrong way: spend your preparation time thinking about who your favourite teacher was.
Was it Mr Smith? Or was it Mrs Jones? What was Mrs Jones like? She was quite interesting, but Mr Smith was quite kind. Oh, but what about Miss Brown, she was quite nice. I’ll talk about her…..
Finally, with only 10 seconds before you must talk, you suddenly remember Mr Black.
Oh, Mr Black. I remember! Yes, he was fantastic! I’ll talk about him!
But now you have to start talking!
The right way: choose a nice teacher you had. Any nice teacher will do. Then write down some words to describe him, and maybe some words to help you describe a story about him that you remember.
Being honest is not one of the assessment criteria. The examiner doesn’t care who your favourite teacher was. The examiner only cares about the language you use in your talk, your pronunciation and your fluency and coherence.
In fact, you could even lie. You could invent an amazing teacher to talk about. However, it is better to think of someone or something from your own experience because it’s usually easier to talk about, but if you can’t think of something to talk about from your own experience, invent it.
The key thing is to decide what to talk about in the first few seconds, then make notes about it.
7. Ask for clarification
If you don’t understand a word on the topic card or your task, you can ask the examiner to explain. But, don’t just say “I don’t understand.” Instead, use some more advanced phrases.
For example, you could say:
- “By…., do you mean…..?”
- “If I understand correctly, it means that….”
- “So, in other words, I should….”
- “So, is it ok if I talk about…?”
If you ask for clarification using good language, you will really impress your examiner!
IMPORTANT: ask for clarification quickly. Ask BEFORE the examiner writes down the time for the start of the 1 minute preparation. Otherwise the clarification will be included in the 1 minute preparation time.
How to prepare for the speaking test
1. Get a preparation buddy (or a tutor)
It’s a good idea to find a preparation buddy to practise speaking with. Better still, find an IELTS tutor – a good tutor will show you how to do speaking task 2 in the best way, and will give you tips on how to improve. Then, with your preparation buddy, choose a topic from the slideshow above. Give your talk, then ask your buddy to ask you one or two questions on the same topic.Simply2. No buddies? Then just talk to yourself…or your cat
You can practise alone too. Simply choose a topic and talk to yourself in the mirror. Or give your talk to your pet. When you’re walking outside, or cleaning your house, choose a topic that you’ve practised before, and talk about it for 1-2 minutes. Any practice is better than nothing.
2. Record yourself on your phone or computer
Another good way to prepare is to record yourself giving your talk on your phone, either audio or video. Then listen to it afterwards. Then think about how you could improve.
3. Practise making notes
You should make notes for your talk in task 2 in the test, so you should also practise this before the test. Look at the topics in the slideshow above and practise making notes for each topic. At first, don’t time yourself, just practise making notes. Later, you can time yourself: give yourself two minutes, and then later practise making notes within one minute.
4. Watch some high level speaking tests
The British Council and IDP have created some videos of candidates taking the IELTS Speaking Test. Watch these and listen carefully to the answers given by high level candidates. In particular, listen to candidates just above the level you are currently at, or at the level you are aiming for. So if you are aiming for a Band 7 in Speaking, don’t listen to a Band 9 candidate; listen to a band 7 or Band 8 candidate.
Here is an example of a very high level candidate.
IELTS Speaking Part 2 vs CAE Speaking Part 2
Some of you may be familiar with another Cambridge exam, C1 Advanced or CAE. The CAE also has a speaking test and Part 2 of the CAE is also called the long turn. So what are the main differences between IELTS and the Advanced? I asked an expert in the Cambridge Advanced exam, Cambridge Rory to describe the CAE Speaking Part 2 Long Turn, and the tips he gives his students. This is what he told me:
In the Cambridge Advanced Long Turn:
- You are given 3 pictures with 2 questions above them.
- You need to talk for 1 minute about 2 of the pictures, preferably without stopping.
Rory’s CAE Speaking Part 2 Tips
- Do not describe what you see in the pictures.
- Compare and contrast the pictures while answering the 2 questions at the same time.
- Talk about the similarities and differences between the pictures.
- Mention one point about one picture, then use a linking word to compare the same point for the other picture.
- Think of some topics beforehand which could apply to many different situations. This will help you if you freeze and can’t think of anything to say in the exam. Some topics I suggest are: solo or group activities, indoor or outdoor events and money.
- Find out and try to remember how the examiners mark your speaking tasks.
- Practice Practice Practice. Practise with a friend. Practise recording yourself. Practise shouting your answers from the rooftop of the highest building where you live 😉
The main differences between the IELTS Long Turn and the CAE Long Turn are:
- You are given pictures as prompts in the CAE. In the IELTS you are given a topic card (text only)
- In the CAE you need to talk about the similarities and differences between the pictures.
The Cambridge Advanced is aimed to test English language learners at a C1 level on the CEFR. This is equivalent to IELTS Band 7 to Band 8, so although the Long Turn has some differences, the language required is no easier than the IELTS Speaking Test.
Have you got any more tips and advice? Do you have any questions about IELTS Speaking Part 2? If you’ve done the IELTS test before, tell us about your experience. Write in the comments section below!