Written Nov. 5, 2008

How To Speak in Part 2 (Page 10)

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Do I Have to Tell the Truth?

No, you don't have to tell the truth in your Part 2 answer! 

(In fact, you don't have to tell the truth in the whole Speaking test, except for the first 4, introductory questions.) Examiners know that there are times when candidates cannot think of a real story from their lives that fits a Part 2 topic. It is much better to make up a story that is not true than to sit there silently because you can't think of an example for the Part 2 question from your own life.

There are some advantages and disadvantages to making up a story that is completely untrue. For example, for a true story, you don't have to think too much about details; you only need to think about expressing them in English. But for a fictional story, you have to both think of ideas and how to express these ideas in English. Doing two things instead of one might slow you down. As well as that, people who are poor actors or people who are not used to 'telling lies' sometimes can't hide the fact that the story is not true and, sitting there grinning because what you say is untrue can damage the effectiveness of your story.

I suggest you think about this issue of how truthful your story should be and test yourself to see how well you really can speak, and how comfortable you feel when you tell a completely fictional story but pretending it is true.

An example of a topic where I think most people would need to tell a fictional story is the Part 2 example from the IELTS Handbook. This topic is, "Describe a teacher who has greatly influenced you in your education." Personally, I cannot think of any real teachers who greatly influenced me in my education; I can think of two or three who influenced me a little bit but that is not the same as 'greatly' and I think I am probably typical. (Great influence means there was great change; small influence results in small change and no influence means no change. The IELTS test loves the twin, related topics of 'influence' and 'change'.)

Therefore, if I were an IELTS candidate and if I got that topic, I would have to make up a fictional teacher, probably partly based on some of the best teachers I had and partly based on teachers from films, TV shows or just my imagination. It is significant that the IELTS people chose that particular example for the IELTS Handbook. I think they are trying to show us that Part 2 answers don't have to be 100% true.  


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