How to Smash Part Two of The IELTS Speaking Test

Introduction

For most English students who take the IELTS test, Part Two of the speaking test presents something of a hurdle.

Many students dread this part of the entire IELTS test. This is the part where they really have to show off their English skills and be able to talk for two minutes.

Part One, by comparison, is relatively easy, as all you have to do is talk about your own life. It is like chatting with someone you met on a train and telling them about your hometown, family, friends and hobbies.

Then the examiner looks down, picks up one of the dreaded topic cards and asks you to talk about it.

This part fills IELTS students with fear.

I want to go through this entire part of the IELTS test and explain exactly what happens and what you need to do.

I will tell you how to practice and prepare yourself for part two of the speaking test in IELTS and shine.

Let’s get started…

how to smash part two of the ielts speaking test (1)

What is Part Two of the IELTS Speaking Test?

Essentially, this is the part where you have to do The Long Turn. It is called the long turn because it is your turn to talk for a long time.

Not that long — only two minutes. But long enough!

The examiner gives you a topic card and you have one minute to prepare things to talk about, then the examiner says it’s time to begin and you have to talk for two minutes.

After you finish talking, the examiner asks you two or three questions about the topic in a kind of discussion.

This part of the test takes about 3 to 4 minutes.

In Parts Two and Three of the speaking test, you can really show off your English skills. If you have studied well and prepared efficiently for the test, you should breeze through this part.

Some Quick Insights of Part Two of the IELTS Speaking Test

Timing

 

This part of the test takes between 3 to 4 minutes.

The examiner gives you a topic card and says:

I want you to prepare a talk on this topic. I would like you to talk for two minutes. You have one minute to prepare. Begin now.

 

The Topic Card

 

Every topic card looks the same and has the same format.

The title of the topic is written on the top of the card.

Then there are three prompts or suggestions of things you should talk about in your presentation.

Then a final prompt.

It is advisable to talk about all the prompts you see on the card — not just the main topic title.

 

Taking Notes

 

You are allowed to take notes using a pencil and paper which the examiner provides for you. Do not take any pens or pencils into the test room.

 

How Long To Talk For?

 

In the test, you should talk for between one and two minutes. Ideally, you should talk for two minutes. The longer you talk in the second part, the higher your score is likely to be, so try to speak for the full two minutes.

What is the Test Criteria for Part Two of the IELTS Speaking Test?

As with all the other parts of the IELTS speaking test, Part Two of the test has the same criteria.

You will be tested on the following aspects of your English speaking.

Fluency and Coherence

You should be able to speak with a good level of general fluency and coherence. You must speak clearly and coherently. This means speaking at a reasonable speed and not repeating yourself or having any overlong pauses when speaking.

Your sentences should be well-constructed and of a complex structure.

For Part Two, your talk should all make sense and be clear in your intent and meaning.

Vocabulary

Of course, you need to show that you have a wide range of vocabulary. You should have the ability to paraphrase where necessary and to show a detailed use of the right words and phrases for the topic at hand.

You should not make too many errors.

And it would be to your advantage to use idiomatic English and collocations.

Don’t just throw words or phrases into your long talk. You need to understand every word that comes out of your mouth!

Grammar

You should use all the right tenses — and show this to the examiner. Again, an emphasis on sentence structure and ensuring that all words are in the correct order.

Generally, your grammar needs to be up to speed and at a good level.

Aim for a low number of errors.

Pronunciation

You may have an accent — and that is fine. But you need to show the examiner that you can pronounce all the words you use perfectly.

You need to be able to use intonation and stress in all the right parts and syllables.

You can find all the clear details of the IELTS speaking test criteria by taking a look at the British Council website.

Please check the British Council links below:

How IELTS is assessed

Understanding and explaining IELTS scores

What Is The Examiner Looking For?

First of all, understand one thing. The examiner is hoping that you will do well in the test.

They are not looking for ways to find fault in your speaking. They want to see you do well when you do the speaking test.

But the examiner has to obey and follow the IELTS test criteria. So they are looking for you to speak clearly and use good sentence structure, vocabulary and grammar.

In Part Two, the examiner wants you to present a coherent and logical talk on the topic on the card. You must use relevant vocabulary and phrases.

No long pauses halfway through because you have run out of things to say!

Speak with confidence and purpose.

What Kind Of Topics Are There?

The topics are all designed so that any person can talk freely about them.

One of the most common complaints from IELTS students is that they have nothing to say about some of the topics in Part Two of the speaking test.

I don’t know what to talk about! I have nothing to say about this topic!

You must understand that the topics are not going to be designed specifically for you and your interests.

It would be great if the examiner passed you the topic card and on the top, it said:

Top Ten Korean Boy Bands That I Like

Unfortunately, it is not like that.

However, the topics are generally easy to talk about.

Below is a list of the kind of topics you might see in the speaking test.

  • Describe a memorable holiday or vacation you have had.
  • Talk about a book/movie/TV show that you enjoyed and explain why.
  • Describe a person who has had a significant influence on your life.
  • Discuss a challenging situation you faced and how you overcame it.
  • Describe a hobby or leisure activity you enjoy and why.
  • Talk about a historical place or landmark that you have visited.
  • Discuss a recent event or news story that caught your attention.
  • Describe a memorable meal or a traditional dish from your country.
  • Talk about a famous person (living or historical) from your country.
  • Discuss the importance of environmental conservation and steps that can be taken.
  • Describe a favourite sport or physical activity and why you enjoy it.
  • Discuss the impact of technology on everyday life.
  • Describe a cultural festival or celebration in your country.
  • Talk about your favourite form of transportation and why.
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in a big city.

The second example is a topic about books, movies or tv shows.

Now some students I have met never read books. They just have no interest. But they still might have to talk about a book they have read.

This is where you really have to think creatively. So if you never read books, what can you do? You could talk about a movie you saw and describe it as if it were a book.

Just say to the examiner: I read this great book about a girl who had to escape a terrible life by playing this kind of game where people hunted each other and it was all shown on live TV.

I’m actually talking about The Hunger Games, which was a movie made from a book. Even if you never read books, you still have to say something.

With the topic of party, if you have never been to a party in your life, then describe a party you saw in a movie or on TV. The point is, no matter what the topic is, you must talk about it.

The topics are not that difficult. As long as you read the news occasionally and try to explore new things around you, then there should be no problem.

If you spend every day only scrolling through social media feeds, then you might have some issues.

But you don’t do that — do you?

Check out my article below:

Three Part Two Topics for Family

How To Do The Long Turn?

The basic process is very simple.

The examiner hands you a topic card.

You read every single sentence/prompt on it.

You make sure you understand what you need to say.

You take notes.

Make sure they are all in order.

You talk for two minutes.

You answer the examiner’s questions.

 

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re screaming back at me:

It’s not that simple! It’s really hard! There is much more to it than that!

 

No. It is that simple.

 

Let’s go through it all.

Read The Topic Card

This is the first thing you must do.

And when I say read the topic card, I mean READ EVERY SINGLE WORD ON THE CARD.

Many students just read the first sentence. Then they go into a panic and try to think of anything — ANYTHING — to tell the examiner.

Usually what comes out of their mouths is a pile of disjointed drivel that makes no sense and the sentences have no relation to each other.

Let’s take a look at an example topic.

 

Describe a famous river in your country.

  • Which river is it?
  • Where is it located?
  • Why is it famous?

How does it impact the surrounding areas?

 

So most candidates look at the first line: Describe a famous river in your country.

Then they just babble about that.

There is a river in my hometown. The river is very long, there is lots of water in the river, because rivers have water, and fish swim in the river, I like the river, my friend doesn’t like the river…

 

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

 

The student loses valuable points here.

One because he is not being coherent. There is no structure to the talk at all. Just a bunch of half-related sentences that are loosely based on the topic of rivers.

Read all the instructions on the topic card.

It can help you outline your talk and this makes it much easier for you.

 

Try Yourself Right Now

 

Look at the topic card on rivers above.

Try to talk about this — just for one minute.

But look at every single prompt and make sure you answer each one.

Make Sure You Understand All The Instructions On The Card

Well, you either do or you don’t.

You can’t ask the examiner for a dictionary.

In order to understand everything on the topic card, your General English must be of a high standard. That way, you can ensure a higher band in the IELTS test.

Make sure you read the topic card sentences twice through. So that you are absolutely clear about what you have to talk about

Take Notes

Now you need to get some notes down.

You might be confident about what to talk about. If so, you don’t need to take notes. If your dream topic card magically appears, then you have nothing to worry about.

But most students need to write something.

Look At Each Prompt

Let’s look at our example of a topic:

Describe a famous river in your country.

  • Which river is it?
  • Where is it located?
  • Why is it famous?

How does it impact the surrounding areas?

So you read all the sentences and then you think of things to talk about.

Let me show you what I might write down in notes…

Prompt 1: Describe A Famous River In Your Country.

The first prompt is very simple. It is just asking you to think of the name of a famous river in your country.

So for me, as I am from England, I might think to talk about The River Thames.

I could talk about other rivers in England — the Avon or the Severn — but I don’t know enough about those rivers. I know a little more about the River Thames, so I will talk about that.

I advise you to do the same. Talk about things that you can talk about.

Prompt 2: Which River Is It?

We have already established this. The River Thames.

Prompt 3: Where Is It Located?

My geography on the exact locations of The River Thames is not that good. But I know that it goes through London.

I am pretty certain that it exits in Essex.

And I think the source of the river is in Oxford.

It doesn’t matter if I am right or not. I just need to talk about what I know — and what I think could be true about the River Thames.

Remember: the IELTS test is a test about English, not knowledge.

Prompt 4: Why Is It Famous?

I can talk quite a lot about this.

The River Thames has been featured in many books and novels. I am sure that Charles Dickens mentioned the River Thames in his novels and other British writers have mentioned it too.

I think that Oscar Wilde also mentioned the River Thames in some of his stories.

There are also references to the river in pop songs. Also in very old folk songs. One example is the song London Bridge Is Falling Down. This song mentions the River Thames.

And many British TV shows and movies have featured the river. The River Thames might just appear in a TV show as part of the scene. Or it could be a central part of the story.

I think there are many ghost stories and urban myths about the River Thames too.

But the river is also well-known in history too. As it is the river that runs through London, it has become known because of that.

For example, The Great Fire of London. References were made to the River Thames as the fire could not spread across the water.

Prompt 5: How Does It Impact The Surrounding Areas?

The river provides water for all the city of London. It provides irrigation for the surrounding countryside and the farmers that live there.

When I was a kid, I remember seeing lots of factories by the river. They would be there for the ease of transportation. But they also made the river very dirty.

I can remember there were no fish in the river — and people certainly didn’t swim there because it was too dangerous.

But now the factories have mostly all gone.

The fish have come back, and people can now swim in parts of the river.

So it is good to see it become cleaner and better for the environment.

And so you can see a very simple framework building up.

We now have a simple outline to work on.

how to smash part two of the ielts speaking test (10)

Put All The Notes In A Coherent Order

You might have notes and keywords and maybe your own special codes written all over the paper.

But if you have time, write a number next to each word and phrase as you would like to say them in your long talk. The talk has to have some kind of logical order. You can’t just jump around talking about anything remotely connected to the topic.

Create a kind of map by just adding numbers — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — to each of the notes.

Then when you start talking, you can see which part is to come next.

With all these notes and putting them in order, it is a fantastic idea to practice doing this before the test. Get into the habit of practising taking notes and putting them in order with Part Two topics.

Do this every day before the test and you will find this will pay off on the big day.

What Where Why When How Who

Another easy way to make an outline for the long talk is to answer questions about the topic using all the question words.

 

Let’s look at a new topic:

 

Discuss a movie that had a significant impact on your perspective

You should say:

  • The title and genre of the movie
  • When and where you watched it
  • The main storyline or plot of the movie

And explain:

Why this movie made such a strong impression on you

 

Of course, you should use all the prompts given to you on the topic card.

But you can also use the question technique of What Where Why When How Who to help you speak for a longer time and with great coherency about the topic itself.

So you can go through the topic of your favourite film by just using questions words.

 

What Is The Name Of The Movie?

 

Dr Zhivago.

 

Why Do You Like It?

 

Because it is a beautiful story and the actors are great.

 

Who Is In It?

 

Omar Sharif and Julie Christie.

 

When Do You See It The First Time?

 

When I was very young, I was still at school.

 

Who Did You Watch It With?

 

I watched it with my mum and dad.

 

What Did Your Mum And Dad Think Of It?

 

They both loved it, too.

 

Where Did You See It?

 

In a big cinema in Leicester Square in London.

 

Why Did You Watch This Movie?

 

Because it was considered to be a very big movie at the time. Everyone wanted to watch it back then.

 

How Did It Make You Feel?

 

I remember it being a very sad movie and very emotional.

 

You get the idea?

Many writers use this technique to create a scene or part of a story. You can use the same technique for the IELTS speaking test.

Tell A Story

If you can think of a story to tell the examiner about the topic, then do that.

The examiner loves it when a candidate comes out with a story. It also gives you the chance to use past tenses so you might score higher by using the correct grammar.

Stories can be great in the IELTS test.

So if you have one you can remember clearly, then tell it to the examiner.

I have written a guide on how to tell stories. Check it out below.

Using Stories to Describe People & Things in the IELTS Test

Then You Talk

After one minute of taking notes, the examiner will tell you that time is up and you have to start talking.

When he says this, you must begin!

I had a student once who told me he was not ready and needed more time to prepare.

You cannot do this in the speaking test!

When the examiner says it’s time to talk — you talk.

During this time, you can use your notes. Look down at them and look at the next item you need to talk about.

You are likely to feel nervous during this part of the test — that is perfectly natural — so remember to breathe!

Take a big lungful of air into your body between sentences. This will help you feel calm and you will speak a little more slowly.

Do not rush through this part.

And when you are talking, remember to smile.

The examiner is usually a friendly kind of person and they want you to do well in the IELTS test.

So smile all the way through the test. It will make you feel more relaxed and, therefore, more confident.

Oh No I Made A Mistake!

If you make a mistake — don’t worry about it!

This is a huge fear for IELTS candidates. They say something wrong and they think the sky will fall on their head.

You should certainly try to not make any mistakes, but do not let any little mistake trip you up and turn your long talk into a disaster.

What I mean by this is…

Maybe you make a little mistake — you say ‘everyone do’ instead of ‘everyone does’. You need to decide quickly if you can go back and correct that mistake or move on with the rest of your long talk.

If you can correct it, then go back and correct it. The examiner will see that you have done this and will reward you for it.

But if you think you will just get flustered and unable to move on smoothly, just forget about it.

There’s nothing you can do about it, so just move on.

The Examiner Is Looking At Me!

Yes, he is.

He is doing his job, so he has to look at you. He is observing you speaking English.

He will not stare at you because he knows this would make you feel nervous, but throughout The Long Turn, he will observe you as you speak.

Try not to be nervous and remember to breathe.

I’ve Finished Talking!

When you get to the end of your talk, there is no need to announce it to the examiner.

He is very well experienced and he will know when you have finished speaking.

I have met students that announce they have finished. They say things like:

  • Finished
  • Over
  • I have finished

 

There is absolutely no need to do this!

The examiner knows.

Trust me on this.

Just stop talking, smile politely and the examiner will probably say thank you for making your long talk.

Some Questions

After you finish speaking, the examiner will now ask you some questions.

They may be related directly to what you said about the topic or just loosely about the topic itself.

This may be a sudden change as you are now back into question/answer mode. So pay close attention to the first question that the examiner asks you.

He might ask you something where you can use one of your notes again. As long as you can remember what you said, you can repeat this idea as long as you change the words around a little.

Time is running out in this part, though, and the examiner may only have time for about 1 or 2 questions. Then he must move on to Part Three of the speaking test.

how to smash part two of the ielts speaking test (18)

Practice By Recording Yourself

You can go through as many practice tests as you want. I strongly recommend doing this.

Practice, practice, practice.

Do a Google search for: IELTS speaking test part two practice topic cards

Practice making notes and then practice doing The Long Turn. When you do this, record yourself with the app on your smartphone.

Then play it back and listen to yourself talking.

  • How do you sound?
  • Are you speaking clearly?
  • Are you speaking too fast or slow?
  • Did you make any mistakes that you can hear? If so, make a note of them.

Try to get into the habit of doing this every day before the test. This will pay dividends on the big day.

Conclusion

Of course, none of this is of any use unless your General English is up to speed.

You must have a good level in General English before you take the IELTS test or you are just hoping that you pass the test based on luck.

But assuming you have a decent level of English, then you can use some of the points I outlined above to some good use.

I think the key thing to practice is note-taking. Just use Part Two practice tests and practice making notes with those.

If your note-taking is fast enough, then you should be able to breeze through Part Two of the speaking test.

Good luck and let me know your results in the comments below.

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