ielts-yasi.englishlab.net 

Updated Mar. 8, 2011

 

How to Study for Part 2

 

Read this page before you look at the Part 2 questions !

 

Before you read my suggestions on how to study for Part 2, consider the following points.

Firstly, these candidates find that the 1 minute of thinking time is too short they can't think of enough things to talk about. As a result, they can only talk for a little while before stopping to think of what to say next. This results in a loss of points for fluency.

Secondly, because these candidates have never done a Part 2 under test conditions, they have very little idea of how fast the time is passing. So, when the examiner asks them to stop talking, they think they still have about 1 minute left when, in fact, the full 2 minutes have passed. In other words, many candidates do not manage their time well they speak too slowly and do not have enough time to talk about the last line on the task card that begins with the words, "and explain ....". This line is possibly the most important point on the task card, and this non-completion of the task can also possibly result in a loss of points for the fluency/coherence sub-score (this time, a loss of coherence points because, without answering the last line, your story is incomplete and makes a lot less sense.) 

a) You are given a Part 2 topic that you have never seen before. (See example HERE.)

b) You have only 1 minute to think about the topic before you start speaking.

c) You have to speak continuously for between 1 and 2 minutes.

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Suggested Methods for Preparing for Part 2

The Part 2 questions on this website are, to the best of my knowledge, a collection of all the real questions that are being used in the IELTS Speaking test right now. Probably more than 95% of all the Part 2 questions currently in use are on this website. (Maybe there are a small number of topics that I don't know about). Obviously, you should first prepare for these topics, rather than practicing examples of typical Part 2 questions from various IELTS textbooks. Since there are about 45 different topics, you have enough material on this website to keep you busy for a long time and you probably don't need to look at examples from textbooks.

However, how you use this material will determine how much progress you really make in your study. If you read a Part 2 topic on this website slowly and then spend 20 or 30 minutes thinking about and preparing how to answer the question, you will be wasting the opportunity to use that question as material for practicing answering questions under real test conditions. It will also be a waste of your valuable time if you use questions from IELTS books for this simulated real test practice instead of my copies of the real questions because you only have  limited time to study the 45 or so real questions that are on this website. (Of course, my copies of the real questions are only my best guess at the real wording of the questions. Sometimes I am wrong, but usually only in small ways.)

Therefore, before you slowly read and think about any Part 2 topic on this website that you have never read before, the best study method is to first try to answer the question as if you were really doing the Speaking test. After you have done this, you can then spend more time thinking about and preparing how to answer that topic better.

To repeat: The method I suggest below is best done using the Part 2 topics on this website but, of course, this method could also be used with examples of Part 2 questions from textbooks. The method I suggest below is not really so special it's common sense, really.

The Steps

  1. Put a clock, a stopwatch or some other timing device on your desk. If you can, set it so that it can tell you when 1 minute has passed.
  2. Have a piece of paper and a pencil ready for making notes.
  3. If possible, have a tape recorder ready to record what you say. A recording of your 'little story' will help you analyze how well you spoke and help you to fix some of your weaknesses in speaking. However, if you don't use a tape recorder, don't worry too much because you will still get the practice you need.
  4. Now go to the new Part 2 topic ( = a Part 2 topic that you have not read before) and strictly give yourself only 1 minute to read it and prepare to answer it. Don't give yourself 2 minutes to think about the topic and certainly don't give yourself 5 or 10 minutes to think about the topic. Make notes if you want to. If I have a link to notes for this topic, don't read them now wait until you do your in-depth preparation after this first attempt at answering the question.
  5. After you have thought about the topic for 1 minute, set the timer at 2 minutes, turn on the tape recorder and speak your answer for more than 1 minute but no more than 2 minutes. Close to 2 minutes is much better than just a little more than 1 minute.
  6. After you have spoken your little story, listen to yourself on the tape and think about ways you could have spoken better.

For example, in this analysis of your recording, if you stopped speaking for an unnaturally long period because you couldn't think of the exact word you wanted to say, use a dictionary to find the correct word. (But be careful about using words that are new to you. Very often when people use new words without thoroughly studying these new words, they use them unsuitably and/or mispronounce them.)

Similarly, if you recognize that you made a grammar mistake or if you had trouble composing a certain sentence, look in some grammar book to see how this sentence should be correctly made.

As well as that, think about ways that you could have spoken more continuously.

Even though you are not an expert, you will be able to recognize weaknesses and mistakes in your spoken story and fix some of these weaknesses and mistakes. Overall, I do believe this review of your recorded story is a valuable way to improve your English but don't spend too much time listening to yourself and trying to improve your performance.

  1. After you have done this "Three Minute Training Exercise", you can then spend as much time as you like thinking about and preparing an improved answer.

I suggest you do not write a 'speech' and then try to memorize this speech, word for word. Why not? Firstly, most examiners, most of the time, know when you are speaking a prepared speech and they don't like it because they think this is not natural communication, which is what your answers are supposed to be. Not only that, a prepared answer shows that you knew what the question was before the test and you are not supposed to know that! If the examiner is quite sure that your answer was a 'prepared speech', he or she can ignore your answer completely! And the examiner might actually reduce your score if he or she is quite sure it was almost all a memorized 'speech'. As well as that, the examiner will be less friendly towards you and will ask you questions in Part 3 that are more difficult than they usually ask, just to teach you a lesson!

Another reason not to write and memorize an answer is that most people's answers will sound like written English, not spoken English.

Besides, with so many different Part 2 topics being possible right now, you do not have time to write and memorize answers for all of them.

Instead, I suggest you prepare a list of key words and key short expressions (and perhaps a few key, short complete sentences) and memorize these.

After a few days, you can test yourself on this same topic again and see if you can remember your key words and expressions. It is best to record yourself again when you test yourself again.

  1. Since you will be spending only about 4 minutes on each topic when you do this "Three Minute Training Exercise", I suggest answering more than 1 topic in one sitting. You could do all the 5 topics that are on each Part 2 page of this website and then listen to all 5 on the tape recorder at one time.
  1. Is it a good idea to study those model Part 2 answers that are found in IELTS Speaking textbooks? Yes, I think reading these model answers is good because you can learn things from these model answers but you should read the answers aloud, not just read them in your head. As well as that, you should not try to memorize long passages of English, word-for-word like a poem because IELTS examiners usually recognize when you are speaking long passages of memorized English. Instead, it is a good idea to memorize, word-for-word, many short pieces of English such as phrases, and short sentences.

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What are the benefits of this study method?

  1. You will strengthen your ability to brainstorm ideas in one minute. The more you do this exercise, the more you will learn, from experience, what ways of thinking helped you best to brainstorm ideas in one minute.
  1. You will learn ways to speak continuously. At first you will feel that you are not improving very much but the more you do this, the more you will remember ideas and methods that you have used before and that helped you speak continuously.
  1. You will be teaching yourself what 2 minutes of continuous speaking feels like it is like 'putting a clock into your brain'. This will enable you to manage your time better and to know when you are coming close to the two-minute time limit in the real test. In fact, after you have done this kind of exercise about ten times, you will probably find that you will be able to very accurately guess how much time you have spent speaking. 
  1. Overall, you will be preparing yourself for the situation of getting a Part 2 question that you have never seen before, i.e., a topic that is possibly not on this website. You should not think that the topics on this website include all the possible topics that you might get because new questions are sometimes suddenly introduced into the test, sometimes at unpredictable times. Certainly, in the months of January, May and September, this website is still gathering information about new Part 2  topics that were introduced in the first test of those months. In other words, you need to train yourself to handle a completely new topic that you have never seen before and not 100% rely on this website to accurately predict every possible Part 2 topic that you might get .
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Continue to the index of Part 2 topics

(Sometimes this link is out of date. This link should take you to the Index of Current Part 2 topics. You can also go to this page from the front page of this website.)