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Written Nov. 5, 2008

How To Speak in Part 2 (Page 4)

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Understanding the Instructions on the Card  

Summary: a) Make sure your answer includes any key adjective or adverb that is in the first line. b) The words, "You should say" really mean, "You should include these points but also include other suitable points".

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It's very important for you to understand what the instructions on the task card really mean and how to follow these instructions.

  1. The first line, "Describe ...." tells you the topic of your little story. For example, "Describe some useful advice you received." Think of the word "describe" as meaning, "talk about". 

As well as that, it is important to talk about the words that follow, "Describe", not talk about something else. In other words, stay on the topic. For example, if the topic is, "Describe a teacher who greatly influenced you in your education" then to mainly talk about how old Mr. Wang, your maths teacher in junior high school, was such a 'nice man' is not really describing the influence he had on you. Of course, it is natural to include the information that Mr. Wang was a nice man but you should not change the topic of your story to mainly describing Mr. Wang's personality if what you say is not related to the influence he had on you. 

  1. Usually the task card includes a key adjective (or adverb) in the first line, following the word, "Describe". For example, "Describe some useful advice you have received" or, "Describe an interesting animal that you have seen". These adjectives mean 'useful to you' or 'interesting to you'. Right from the beginning of your story, you should make sure that what you talk about fits that adjective. If you describe some advice that you didn't follow (because you thought it was not very useful) or if you mainly describe an animal as 'cute' rather than interesting, then the coherence of your story will be damaged.

Usually, the last line of the task card, beginning with the words 'and explain', asks you to give details on how or why this adjective applied to you. But you don't have to wait until the end of your story to give these details it is much better to start giving these details at the beginning of your story and to continue giving these details throughout the story. This key adjective + noun (e.g., 'useful advice' or 'interesting animal') should be the theme or the central idea of your whole story.

  1. The words, "You should say" really mean, "You should include". In other words, you should include those three points that follow the words, "You should say" but you should also include other points. If you only talk about those three points, you will find it much more difficult to continue talking for the required 1 to 2 minutes.

As well as that, when you talk about those three points, you should not just give the most basic, minimal answer to each of the three points. Instead, you should also give (lots of) extra details when you answer those three points. If you only give the most basic information about those three points and give no extra detail, you will find it difficult to keep talking for the required 1 to 2 minutes. To recap: In order to help you speak continuously for 1 to 2 minutes, a) speak about more than just the three points on the card and, b) whenever you speak about any point, add details.

Many people (including some examiners!) think that "You should say" means, "You must say", but this is a mistake. In fact, these words are just a (strong) suggestion or a recommendation. However, I think it is best to assume that the words do really mean, "must say" because if you don't address those three points, you will probably not give a very complete coverage of the task specified in the first line on the task card, following the word, "Describe".

It is not necessary to talk about the three points in the same order as they are written. Just blend those points into you story in a natural way so that a listener would not feel that you were simply answering points on a task card, without much continuation or connection between the things you say.

  1. The words following, "and explain" are very important. If you don't adequately address this point on the task card, your coherence will be damaged. That is, if you don't talk about this last point, your little story will not "make sense" (没有道理) because your story will not adequately cover what the topic says. For example, the 'advice' topic asks you to describe not just some advice you received but some useful advice you received and the last line of the task says, "and explain how this advice was useful". 

You should understand that this adjective, "useful" (or "important" or whatever adjective is used), means "useful to you" (or "important to you") you should speak personally here. What is useful, important or interesting to you might not seem so useful, important or interesting to someone else but that is not important; just explain how it was useful, important or interesting to you.

Basically, "explain" means "communicate to the listener (the examiner) how or why you felt it was useful" (or whatever adjective is used).

  1. When you talk about the three points and the last (the fourth) point, you should try to just blend these points into your story in a natural way don't make your answer sound like you are addressing points on a task card, one by one. If you suddenly jump to a new piece of information four times in order to answer the 4 points on the card, it will make your story less easy to follow. Instead, use discourse markers to introduce these points and to link them to what you have already said. This is the main thing that examiners are looking for when assessing your coherence. Definitely do not read out the words of the task card in order to introduce the three points on the card!  

The end result should be that someone listening to a recording of your Part 2 answer should not be able to detect that you are answering 4 main points from a task card but should, instead, feel that you are just telling a short story in a conversational setting that included those 4 points (as well as other information).

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