Here at EEC, we’re often asked how it’s possible to prepare for parts 2 and 3 of the IELTS speaking section. While part 1 is all about short, familiar topics that are fairly easy to tackle, parts 2 and 3 are slightly less predictable. So, how can you deliver a high quality answer, on the spot, while sounding fluent, natural and coherent? And most importantly, how can you develop your answers to get the band score that you really want?
First, let’s go over what’s expected of you in parts 2 and 3 the speaking test:
In part 2, you’ll be given a task card, which asks you to talk about a particular topic, along with points to include in your answer. You’ll have one minute to prepare some notes. You’ll then have to talk continuously about that topic, following the order of the points given, for 1-2 minutes. Sound scary? Don’t worry; once you know how to prepare for it, it becomes a whole lot easier!
Part 3 tests your ability to discuss and give your opinion on more abstract issues. The subject area will be connected to part 2, so you should already have some ideas and words at the ready.
So, how can we prepare when we don’t know what questions are going to be asked? Is this even possible? Yes!
One of the best ways to get ready for the speaking test is to create what’s called a ‘vision board’. Here’s our step-by-step approach of how to do this:
You’ll need a large, poster-size sheet of paper, some glue, two different coloured pens and a dictionary-thesaurus. Ready?
1. Focus on commonly covered part 2 topics and create a small list on a piece of paper first. For example, a favourite book, film or magazine, a family member you get on well with, a piece of art you like, a holiday you enjoyed, a type of exercise you like doing, a piece of advice you were once given, a gift you received, a hobby you practice, a website you use, a journey you took, a song you remember and so on.
2. Be familiar with the types of points you’ll be asked to cover within the topic. Always use question words here, for example what, who, when, why and how. We’re usually asked what or who the answer is about, when, why or how it happened, and then we almost always need to express our feelings around it. The first part of this answer will have more nouns, whereas the second part of our answer (the majority of it) will use more adverbs and adjectives. Here’s where your dictionary and thesaurus will come in handy!
3. Find a picture of the topic on the Internet, print it off, cut it into a fairly small size and stick it to one corner of your poster. Make sure you’re careful with space and don’t make the picture too large, as you’re going to fill this entire poster with lots of useful information!
4. Now we need to fill the space around the picture with our keywords and phrases. For example, if we have a picture of our favourite book, we might want to write words such as: crime fiction, engrossing, full of suspense, gripping and more. We need to know what the title is, what the story was about, perhaps when we read it or why, and how it made us feel. Don’t be afraid to use common expressions like ‘a must-read’ or ‘nail-biting’. The more natural you sound, the better your answer will be! Use the one-line reviews on the front covers of paperbacks to help you with this kind of vocabulary, and don’t forget to use synonyms from your thesaurus. If we’re talking about a piece of jewelry, you might want to write words describing how it feels, if it’s light or heavy, and the colour and style. Now, we can’t possibly study for every potential topic, so how can we get around this? The key is to use words that can be transferred between different topics. For example, we might describe a holiday as exciting, wonderful and adventurous. These words can also be applied to a book, a movie or a special person in your life. You’re going to have to mix them up a little when the time comes!
5. Following on from the same topic, start thinking about what questions you might be asked in part 3. In this example, the first picture is our favourite book, so the subject is reading and literature. Questions might focus on comparing books to other resources such as the Internet for leisure or learning, or whether you think people read more or less now than they did in the past. Think about your own opinions on this topic and any examples you might use to demonstrate your point. Do any keywords stick out? Add them to your vision board, using a different colour of pen. This will help structure your thoughts between parts 2 and 3.
There, you’re off to a great start! Keep going until your vision board fills up with new pictures, words, phrases and expressions that are going to wow your examiner! Stick it on your bedroom wall and look over it every day until you know it well.
Remember, the words that you learn and use here may come in useful for other sections of the exam so it’s worth putting in the time. And most importantly, it’s a poster of all your favourite things – so have fun doing it!