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IELTS Speaking: The most important 60 seconds in IELTS

In Part 2 of the Speaking test, you are given a card with a topic, and 60 seconds to prepare. You then have to speak on the topic for one to two minutes. This one minute of preparation time is absolutely critical, and can make all the difference in achieving the band score you need — or failing to reach it. In this post we will look at how you should use that crucial 60 seconds.

What kind of speaking topic can I expect?

The IELTS Speaking Part 2 question on the task card will be something that anyone can talk about. It will not require any specialist knowledge. You may be asked to talk about a friend, a possession, a place, an advertisement or an invention. Here is an example:

Describe something you own which is very important to you.

You should say:

  • where you got it from

  • how long you have had it

  • what you use it for; and

  • explain why it is important to you.

You will have to talk about the topic for 1 to 2 minutes.

You have one minute to think about what you’re going to say.

You can make some notes to help you if you wish.

How can I be ready in 60 seconds?

First, focus on the topic and underline it. In this case, you would underline ‘something you own’. All of your talk must be about this item; you will get no marks for talking about something else. Now you must decide exactly which item you will talk about. An obvious example in this case is your mobile phone.

The task card helps you to prepare to talk about your phone by providing a structure. The card above has four bullet points. Ideally, you will allocate three ideas to each point, and this will give you plenty to talk about for two minutes. As you think of these points, remember that you do not have to tell the truth.

So, for bullet point 1 on the task card you might make the following notes:

  • present from parents

  • bought in US

  • big surprise

This gives you three things to talk about:

Firstly I’m going to tell you about where I got my phone. It was a present from my parents for my eighteenth birthday. My mother had been on a business trip to the US, and she bought it there. It was a fantastic surprise to me because I’d never had such an expensive present before.

Now let’s move on to bullet point 2 (how long you have had it):

  • 8 mths / since bday

  • last phone 5 years

  • 5 years is max

Again, you have three points to make:

As I mentioned before, I was given the phone for my birthday which was eight months ago, back in September. It was just in time because my last phone was five years old, and had almost stopped working. I think five years is the maximum for a phone. That means that this one should be good for about another four years, which is great.

Preparing language for IELTS Speaking Part 2

Did you notice that there are useful phrases (‘structural language’) that you can prepare in advance, and that can be used for any topic. Here are three examples:

  • Firstly, I’m going to tell you about…

  • As I mentioned before…

  • As a result…

Having this language at your fingertips gives you two advantages. Firstly, it sounds impressive to the examiner. Secondly, pre-prepared language gives you that little bit of extra time to focus on the topic.

Now you try

  1. Take out your phone and open the timer. Set it for one minute. Then choose an item to talk about and make notes. Think of three points for each of the bullet points. Then record yourself talking for two minutes.

  2. Listen to your talk, and note down what you said. How well did you structure your ideas? Did you use ‘structural language’? If not, think about how you could have done the task better. Note down some ‘structural language’ that you could use.

  3. Then, try again.

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