This is the part that terrifies IELTS students. Part Two and the Long Talk.
Getting through Part One is essentially just talking about themselves but Part Two…..
They have to talk for TWO WHOLE MINUTES.
And all by themselves.
The examiner is staring at them the whole time.
What to do?
This is where you as the IELTS teacher need to ensure that they learn all the required skills so they can breeze through Part Two of the IELTS speaking test. Or at least have more confidence in their abilities.
In this guide, I highlight what all the issues are and how to combat them.
This can help you steer your students through it all and make sure they are ready for IELTS battle.
Ready? Let’s get into it.
What Happens in Part Two of the IELTS Speaking Test?
The first thing you should do is to make sure the students are aware of the IELTS speaking test format. You can find it here.
Many students enter the test completely clueless about what will happen. Forewarned is forearmed and you could do your very first class on the structure of the IELTS speaking test.
This is what happens in Part Two of the IELTS speaking test
- The examiner will give the student a topic card. All the topic cards look the same and have the same structure. The student cannot choose a card!
- The examiner then says something like this: I would like you to prepare a talk based on this topic. You have one minute to prepare and then I would like you to begin. You can prepare now.
- The examiner will give the student a scrap of paper and a pencil to take notes. The student can write whatever they wish on the paper to help them with their talk. More on this later!
- The student must prepare for one minute then talk for 1 to 2 minutes on the topic.
- When the examiner says begin, the candidate must begin. They cannot say, I am not ready or please wait a moment. The examiner will keep pushing the student to start talking, so they must begin.
- If the student speaks for less than one minute, the examiner will stay silent and through body language give the impression that they want the candidate to continue speaking. No pressure!
- But if they talk about all the points on the card, they should be able to speak for at least one minute. You should tell the students this. This is why there are 4 points on the card!
- If the student speaks for more than 2 minutes, then the examiner will interrupt them, remind your students that if the examiner does this it is something to be happy about. This means the student has done well.
- After the student finishes talking, the examiner then asks maybe 1 or 2 questions on the topic. These are never on the topic card.
That is essentially what takes place in Part Two of the test.
What is on the Topic Card?
All the topic cards have the same format. In that, they all look the same apart from the actual content written on the card itself.
This is what a normal Part Two IELTS speaking test card looks like:
As you can see, there are five parts to the topic card.
It amazes me that so many students bypass all of these things instead of the first opening question or statement.
Many students just read the first line, assume that is all they need to talk about and then make a real mess of their long talk.
The topic card could be about describing a friend and many candidates just start randomly talking about friendship and the value of friends.
Friends are very good they can help us in our life, we need friends if we don’t have friends we feel lonely and if we feel lonely, then we feel sad and if we feel sad maybe we will jump off a bridge and all our family will miss us very much………
So terrible! It just sounds like drivel most of the time…
You need to get the students to look at the card and talk about the things the card asks you to talk about.
It is that simple.
This is where you need to have entire classes looking at topic cards and making sure the students understand every part of the topic.
What should the students do in Part Two of the test?
The first thing the student should do in Part Two when they begin talking is to answer the question directly.
No fluffing around, get straight to the point and answer the opening question/statement.
So if the opening line says:
Describe a book you have read recently
That is what the student needs to talk about.
So they can say something like this:
Last week I finished reading Lord of The Flies.
That is it!
So many students get this wrong and start talking about books generally.
Books are great, books are amazing, I like books, my friend likes books, my teacher likes books, if we read books we are clever, books are interesting…..
The topic card questions and statements are often very personal. They ask questions that are related directly to the candidate so they have to answer in a very direct way.
Drill your students on this so they don’t mess things up on the big day!
After this the candidate has to then do TWO things:
- Say why
- Explain and provide an example, often via a story
The candidate could then go on to say:
I like Lord of The Flies because it is a very different story. It really makes you think about the idea of people being really good or capable of being very evil.
There’s a part where Ralph helps kill Simon. But we are led to believe that he is a good person, but he is also capable of doing an evil act. It really made me think about how all people are capable of being evil. That evil is in all of us somehow.
Now at this stage is the candidate talking about the book Lord of The Flies? Or is he getting all philosophical and talking about good and evil in the world?
Of course, he is talking about both but he started by announcing what book he read recently.
That is the way to start Part Two of the test.
You should make sure your students are aware of the system to answer Part Two:
- Answer the first question/statement directly
- Say why
- Give an example usually through a story
Then the student should address all the other parts on the card.
That is what your students should concentrate on when practicing for Part Two.
What you need to focus on as the teacher in the class
You need to focus on getting the students to speak English naturally.
Many students try to prepare for the test by rote-learning as many answers as they can. I can see how this might be possible for Part One of the speaking test, but in Part Two there are so many topics I don’t know how this is possible.
Also, if students speak this way in the test, the examiner is likely to interrupt them and ask them another question. It does not serve the student well to just reel off a recited script answer.
Another problem by doing this is that students grab at any answer they can when doing Part Two. So they get a topic card where the topic is about a teacher who helped you a lot and they might end up talking about teachers in general or something to do with education. Anything, as long as it is connected to the topic question!
So stamp out any rote-learning in your class. It helps no one.
Natural English is the way to go.
There are dozens of resources at your fingertips — the two most readily available being podcasts and articles to read.
Here is a list of podcasts that I have used in IELTS speaking classes:
You should also get the students reading as much as possible. Reading will broaden their vocabulary, plus it will help them think of opinions and how to express their opinions.
Here is a list of useful links for exactly that purpose:
In Part Two of the test, the topics could be about pretty much anything. I think it is a great idea to introduce the students to as many diverse topics and subjects as you possibly can.
You need to get them talking about every subject. So use the above resources — plus any of your own.
Another thing you should focus on is taking notes.
In Part Two the candidate is allowed to take notes so your students need to practice note-taking as much as they can.
Candidates often make the mistake of writing too much in the one minute prep time or writing something unrelated or not useful.
Your students do not need to learn shorthand but getting into the habit of writing in a short form style is useful to them.
I always made sure the students wrote notes for each part of the topic.
Let me show you what I mean:
Then divide the notepaper into five sections, one for each part of the topic. And write some keywords or numbers.
You can practice this easily in class. Just display some topic cards in the class and make the students make notes on each one.
This will be very useful to them when it comes to the real test.
How to Start and End
Another thing you should focus on is how candidates should open their talk — and how they should end it.
Your students could use phrases like this:
I want to talk about…
My talk is about…
I have decided to talk about…
I will talk about…
And when they end they could say:
That is all I have to say about this subject
I think that is all I have to say
The students must avoid paraphrasing the topic question.
So they cannot say:
A teacher who inspired me a lot
When that is the same line on the topic card.
The examiner is unimpressed by this so best avoided.
Tips to Help You Focus On Helpful Points
There are a few things that you can focus on to help your students do well in Part Two of the speaking test.
Namely, these are:
- Useful Language that can help the students in the test
- Practicing their English Skills in these areas:
- Organising their Ideas when doing the long talk
- Answering the Question
- Correcting Mistakes
- Difficult Vocabulary
Let’s look at these in detail
As the teacher, you need to ensure that your students can express themselves well in Part Two.
This is essential when doing any of the following:
- Talking about their experiences
- Explaining their feelings about the topic at hand
- Talking about reasons for things and the consequences of that then follow
- Talking about the past, present and future and making sure they use the correct verb tenses when doing so
These can all be something of a challenge to IELTS students so you may need to cover some ground here.
There are then other language skills they may need to cover any logistical issues they come across when doing their long talk. These can include:
- Continuing to speak while thinking of the next thing to say
- Bringing up things they forgot to mention earlier
- Referring to something they said earlier
- Going off-topic for a short time, then getting back on topic
The students will still need to practice what to say and do in these situations. You can help them as the situation arises in class or go over all of the items in a lesson. But it may be a good idea to cover these language issues.
Practicing Language Skills
Your students will need to practice the following skills:
These skills are essential throughout the entire test so you will have to spend much time practicing these skills in the classroom.
Many IELTS students lack the organisational skills necessary to help them present their long talk in a cohesive and coherent form. You should spend time helping students so they can organise their thoughts and present their topics in an understandable order.
If you do some exercises in taking notes this should help the students to do their long talk in a cohesive order that makes sense.
Also, make sure that your students address all FIVE subjects on the topic card. This should help them talk about the topic with a sense of linear order.
Answering the Question
I strongly advise you to spend much time on this in your class.
Many students doing the IELTS test seem to have very little idea about what the question is and what is expected of them.
It would bode them well if you spent much time going over topic questions and examining what the question is — and what it most definitely is not.
Simply go through as many topic questions as you can to ensure understanding.
Sometimes the candidate will make a mistake in Part Two of the test. They will then have the dilemma of correcting it and doing so successfully — or correcting it and just making a real hash of everything.
Go over this in class and help students in this issue. If they can do it easily, then you should definitely encourage them to do it in the test, if the situation arises. The examiner will be impressed.
But if they fall apart and get flustered, advise them to forget any corrections, take a deep breath and soldier on.
Depending on which country you are teaching in and the level of your students, you will find that certain vocabulary and phrases will present a challenge to the students generally.
I have no idea what these vocabulary issues could be for you but you should isolate them and make a note of them. Then make sure that the students understand these terms or can use other terms to help them in the test.
Activities to Do
Of course, you should have lots of exercises based on the Part Two topics in the test. That is the main bulk of all the exercises you should do.
Do this in pairs as it emulates the test itself and prepares the students for the test itself. I would advise introducing a wide variety of topics to your students as this will stretch their ability to engage with all kinds of topics.
As well as this you can do the following:
Understand the Question!
This drives me crazy… So many students just seem to have no idea what is being asked of them. More commonly, I think they just look for words they vaguely understand and think the topic is loosely about that. For example, they see the word ‘book’ and think that is all they have to talk about.
You can do exercises where you challenge the student to really understand what the topic is about. Go through every single line on the card and make the students provide meanings for it.
This will help them in the test.
Do some exercises on this too.
Go through as many topics as you can and get the students to make notes of everything. Check their notes to see that they are on the right track and have a sense of cohesion.
This will help them greatly in speaking for two minutes and also ensuring that their long talk makes sense.
All FIVE Parts of the Topic Card
There are five topic question/statements on the topic card.
So for example:
It will really be very helpful to the students if you make sure they get into the habit of looking at every subject line on the topic card. This will not only help them to speak for the full two minutes but it will also ensure that their talk is in order and makes sense.
Drill them on this with a wide variety of topics.
What kind of topics are there in Part Two?
Effectively the topics can be about anything and everything.
The IELTS examiners will never give the students a political or religious question or anything that is overly insensitive to ask someone.
The questions and topics are designed so that anyone can talk about it at length.
Sometimes students do research to find out what questions are in fashion this year or this month. They think by doing this that they can game the system. You should strongly advise them against doing this as there are no guarantees this will work.
Instead, just choose some topics and go through them one by one in the class. Put the students in pairs and make them thrash it out.
Do peer group reviews, so the other students are all paying attention to the two students talking at the time. And then you add your comments and advice too.
There is no end of resources for IELTS Part Two topics. Here are some I found:
So that is that.
Essentially, you need to do the following:
- Make sure the students are aware of the IELTS test format
- Make sure they know what happens in Part Two of the IELTS test
- Go through the topic card and what is on it
- Ensure all their English skills are up to speed
- Encourage the students to address all FIVE points on the topic card
- And take notes!
If you cover all of this ground, then the students stand a much better fighting chance of smashing Part Two of the IELTS speaking test.
Good luck and let me know in the comments below!