Category Archives: IELTS Speaking (lessons)

6 tips for making notes in Part 2 speaking


6 tips for making notes in Part 2 speaking

Here’s an example of a topic card used in Part Two of the IELTS speaking test:

Describe your favourite leisure activity. You should say:

  • what it is
  • how often you do it
  • when you first started doing it.

You should also say why it is important to you.

Using the preparation time

When the examiner hands you the topic card, you will also be given a piece of paper and a pen or pencil to make some notes before you begin talking. You have one minute to prepare what you are going to say. There are a number of common errors that candidates make in this preparation time, as shown below.


Common error #1 – telling the examiner you are ready to begin

The examiner will tell you when your 1 minute preparation time is up – you should NEVER tell the examiner you are ready before that time. You are wasting valuable time that you could use thinking of relevant points or vocabulary, and most people that start early do not finish the full two minutes of speaking.

Common error #2 – writing sentences

The one minute preparation time should be used to get ideas and make notes, not write complete sentences. With only 60 seconds to prepare, you do not have time to write complete sentences.

Common error #3 – making no notes

Some candidates spend the whole 60 seconds simply reading the topic card and thinking about what they are going to say, not making any notes at all. The problem here is that as soon as you begin to start talking or if you become a little nervous, the good ideas that you had seem to disappear, leaving you with no backup.

Common error #4 – not pacing the notes

As you can see from the topic card above, there are four sections – three bullet points and one final sentence. You are required to speak for two minutes, so divide that by the number of ‘sections’ on the topic card and you have 30 seconds per part. When making notes, try to add something for each of the 4 parts and do not move on to the next part until you think you have spoken for 30 seconds or you truly have nothing left to say.


Common error #5 – reading from your notes

Don’t be be tempted to ‘read’ your answer directly from the note paper, and this will have an impact on your pronunciation (most people read differently to how they naturally speak). Keep your head up, looking at the examiner for the majority of the time, and only glance down to scan your notes.

Common error #6 – not being flexible with your notes

Do not worry if you decide to change a little of what you have planned. It is much better to keep the conversation natural than stick rigidly to something that you are not so comfortable with. In addition, remember that the IELTS test is a communication test – it is not a memory test. If there is a fact you cannot remember, then tell the interviewer. You can show your English ability just as well by explaining that you do not know something. For example: ‘I’m not really sure when I began doing this, but I’m sure I was very young’ is just as good an answer as giving a date.

Practice your note taking skills

Now practice making notes on the topic cards below.

Describe a friend who is very important to you.


You should say:

  • who they are
  • how you met
  • what they are like

You should also say why they are important to you.


Describe a hotel you have stayed in.

You should say:

  • where it is
  • what facilities there are
  • when you stayed there

and say whether you would recommend it to a friend

Giving longer answers in IELTS speaking

Giving longer answers in IELTS speaking

Giving longer answers in IELTS speakingThis post focuses on a formula you can use to help you keep speaking fluently during the IELTS speaking test, especially in Part 2 (the topic card), and follows on from this post about longer answers in the speaking test.

Consider the following question. How could you expand your answer?

Do you think traditions are important?

Now read the candidate’s response below, and answer the questions that follow.

Yes, I do because they give us a sense of connection with the past. This is important because it can bring people together and remind us of the history we share. However, I believe traditions should also be flexible. They should reflect not only the past but also the present. Only by doing this can any tradition continue to have relevance today.

  1. Why does the speaker think traditions are important?
  2. Why is it important to have this connection?
  3. What qualification does the speaker make?
  4. Why is this qualification important?

Read the next section for the answers.

The answers for the four questions above give examples of the formula you can use to expand your topic.

FORMULA + Why + So + But + Then

In the exercise above, this is:

Why? connection with the past
So? brings people together
But? should be flexible
Then? continue to be relevant

Looking at this formula in more detail, you can break your answer down into these sections:

Why? Why do you feel that way about the question? Why is this your opinion?

So? This can also be thought of as So what? Maybe the opinion presented in the first step (why?) is true, but what impact does it have? What’s the positive result of your opinion that makes you believe it?

But? Are there any parts of your opinion that could be considered wrong by other people, or anything that needs to be taken into account?

Then? If the point you raised in the previous section happened, what would be the effect?

Now let’s apply the formula to another question

Example 1:

Do you think smoking should be banned?

Yes I do (WHY? why do you think that?) because of the significant health risks cigarettes present (SO? so what if they have health risks?) This can have an effect on not only the smoker, but also those people in the nearby area who then suffer from passive smoking, as well as on tax payers in general when smokers require additional medical treatment. (BUT? is there anything that needs to be considered from another point of view?) Of course there is the issue of having the freedom to act how you wish, and banning cigarettes could create an illegal trade (THEN? What would happen if the ‘but’ section occurred?) This could then potentially lead to rising crime and more pressure on the police.

Example 2:

Because we are now in a digital age, do you think we should therefore stop following traditional customs?

It can be argued that traditional customs can co-exist alongside more modern culture (WHY? why do you think that?) Both traditional and modern cultures are important as a reflection of history and society (SO? so what if they are important?) We should find ways that the two forms can support each other. (BUT? is there anything that needs to be considered from another point of view?) There are times when modern and traditional cultures are in conflict. (THEN? What would happen if there was conflict?) Digital culture must be considered paramount as traditional culture should not be a handicap to development.

Talking about your hometown in IELTS speaking

Talking about your hometown in IELTS speaking

Once of the more common questions in Part One of the IELTS test is to talk about your hometown. A common student error is to give short answers which do not show the examiner your real abilities, especially with regards fluency.

Talking about your hometown in IELTS speakingHere are three examples of points you could make about your hometown. All of the places below are describing areas in New Zealand!

Talking about your hometown #1

I’m from Henderson, a suburb to the west of Auckland. Although it can be a little quiet, it’s only 20 minutes from the city centre. There are a couple of interesting things about Henderson. UNITEC College has a building there, although it’s not their main campus. It is also one of the places in the North Island where a lot of movies are shot – in fact, some sections of the Lord of the Rings were filmed only a few minutes away from my house!

Talking about your hometown #2

I’m from Invercargill, the southernmost city of New Zealand. It’s an interesting place because there’s so much history there. The area was first settled by sheep farmers driving sheep from Dunedin. It was actually named after William Cargill, a Scotsman involved in the administration and settlement of the local region. When it was first constructed, the city was famous for wide streets and beautiful buildings such as the railway hotel and the water tower.

Talking about your hometown #3

Wellington, where I’m from, is the capital city of New Zealand, although a lot of people think it is Auckland. It is set between a magnificent harbour and rolling green hills – the city itself is very hilly. There four different areas within then city, but my favourite is the Lambton quarter, which has the most concentrated shopping area in New Zealand. There are lots of things to do and see when you visit, but it can sometimes depend on the weather. In fact, the area is famous for being very windy and is often called ‘Windy Wellington’.

Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 3


Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 3

Before starting this lesson, make sure you have completed Lesson 1 and Lesson 2.

Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 3

Learning synonyms is a good way to enrich your English vocabulary, and this will help you achieve a higher IELTS band score. The two columns below contain two lists of adjectives.

Try to match up a word from column one with a synonym in column two, in ten minutes or less.


Column One

1   amusing

2   diligent

3   easy-going

4   fearless

5   generous

6   intelligent

7   loyal

8   optimistic

9   passionate

10 creative

11 rational

12 utopian

Column Two

a dedicated

b idealistic

c funny

d kind

e enthusiastic

f inventive

g faithful

h relaxed

i logical

j intrepid

k positive

l clever

Show answers
  1. amusing = funny
  2. diligent = dedicated
  3. easy-going = relaxed
  4. fearless = intrepid
  5. generous = kind
  6. intelligent = clever
  7. loyal = faithful
  8. optimistic = positive
  9. passionate = enthusiastic
  10. creative = inventive
  11. rational = logical
  12. utopian = idealistic

Now practice in a complete sentence.

Finish the sentences below with an appropriate adjective from Part One.

1. In order to be a successful artist you need to be __________.

Show answers

2. John is such a _________ student, he studies for four or five hours every night.

Show answers

3. Dogs are man’s best friend because they are so _________.

Show answers

4. Sandra’s grandfather is really __________ , he bought her a car for her birthday.

Show answers

5. In an ___________ world there wouldn’t be any suffering or unhappiness.

Show answers

6. Sharks are naturally ___________ , they have no predators and killing is instinctive.

Show answers

7. Maxine is so __________ about Italian movies, she’s decided to study Italian.

Show answers

8. Mathematics requires a ___________ process of thinking.

Show answers

9. In New Zealand you can enjoy an __________ lifestyle.

Show answers

10. It is better to be an ___________ person – it is a much happier outlook on life.

Show answers

11. We watched a very _____________ comedian on TV last night.

Show answers

12. Albert Einstein was an extremely ___________ scientist and mathematician.

Show answers



Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 1


Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 1

Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 1Before you start this exercise, check that you know the meaning of the following words:

  • naughty
  • anxious
  • greedy
  • disappointed
  • polite
  • diligent
  • cheerful
  • depressed
  • messy
  • adventurous

Once you have checked the meaning of the words in the list above, complete each sentence using one of the words.

1. My friend Tom loves activities like mountain climbing, abseiling, white water rafting, bungee jumping and sky diving. In fact, it seems like dangerous situations excite him! Sometimes I wish I could have no fear like him. He is a veryperson.

Show the answer

2. My friend has a very important job interview today. He is really worried about it. He keeps biting his nails and seems so nervous. I told him to calm down and try to relax but he said he feels too.

Show the answer

3. My friend just lost his job and his girlfriend broke up with him. He is feeling very down and. I’m not sure how to cheer him up.

Show the answer

4. My friend’s dog never does what it’s told. It always runs in the house and breaks things. It is very. They need to learn how to discipline it better.

Show the answer

5. My friend’s niece always smiles and laughs. She seems so happy. In fact, I don’t’ think I have ever seen her in a bad mood. She’s a veryperson.

Show the answer

6. My friend is so untidy. He almost never cleans his room. You should see it! It’s so! I told him he will never get a girlfriend if he doesn’t become a cleaner person.

Show the answer

7. My friend didn’t like what his girlfriend got him for his birthday. He looked so! But I told him he should stop being so picky and just appreciate the gift. I think he really hurt her feelings.

Show the answer

8. My friend studies so hard. She always gets her assignments done on time and gets great results. She’s so. I think I should try and be more like her.

Show the answer

9. Ever since my friend got his new job, all he has cared about is money-money-money!! In the past he was so generous and money and possessions didn’t seem important to him. Now he is a very selfish andperson.

Show the answer

10. My friend is a waitress. The job is perfect for her personality because she is always so kind and. Even when the customers are rude to her she keeps smiling and acts very professional.

Show the answer


Now take a look at lesson 2 for describing people in the IELTS test

Making predictions in IELTS

Making predictions in IELTS

NOTE: This lesson is aimed at IELTS writing, but can also be useful for the speaking test.

Making predictions in IELTSExpressing predictions is a useful IELTS skill. Not only does it apply to writing a conclusion, but there is also the possibility of having an essay title that asks you to predict. Verbs, adjectives and adverbs can all be used when writing a prediction.

Here’s a handy guide to help:

Verbs of prediction

  • Many people think/do not think …
  • This can be anticipated to…
  • This will…
  • Many people strongly suspect this will…
  • It is commonly believed …
  • From a personal opinion/view …
  • Some people hold that this will…

Adjectives of prediction

  • It is probable that…
  • It is likely that…
  • It is possible that…
  • It is unlikely that…
  • It is doubtful that…

Adverbs of prediction

  • This will undoubtedly lead to…
  • This will certainly lead to…
  • This will definitely lead to…
  • This will probably lead to…
  • This will possibly lead to…
  • This would lead to…
  • This would possibly lead to…
  • This might lead to…

Be careful when using the stronger degrees of certainty (e.g. will undoubtedly) – if you are only presenting an opinion that others are likely to disagree with, then it could be considered too dogmatic (an opinion presented as a fact).

Supporting your predictions

Predictions are just like any other opinion in a Task II essay. After you have stated them, you should justify and support them.
For example (the section in bold is the support):

It is likely that newspapers will become less popular, largely because of the dominance of the internet and the availability of many news websites.

Practice writing about predictions

Can you extend these prompts into complete sentences using the language in the table above, and then adding your own support? An example has been done for each prompt.

1. Journalists / more interested in the social lives of famous people

Click here to see an example answer
It is highly likely that journalists will become increasingly interested in reporting the social lives of famous people,  as there seems to be a popular demand for such news that has increased in recent years as can be seen by the exposure given to the Kardashian family.

2. Tabloid newspapers / become more widely read than serious newspapers

Click here to see an example answer
Fewer people are reading serious newspapers these days, which will certainly lead to tabloid newspapers being read more than serious newspapers. This is arguably the result of a reduced focus on being informed rather than entertained.
3. Newspapers / become interactive / within ten years

Click here to see an example answer
Many people anticipate newspapers becoming more interactive within the next ten years, as can already be seen by the number of apps available to read newspaper content online using tablets and smartphones.
4. Majority of candidates / get / 8.5 / IELTS test

Click here to see an example answer
It is doubtful that the majority of candidates will get 8.5 in their IELTS tests, as this is almost the highest possible score and higher than is required by most universities or immigration departments.


Complete IELTS Task 2 essay requiring predictions

As mentioned at the beginning of this page, there is a chance that you will be required to focus on predictions for the majority of your essay. Take a look at the essay title below and see if you could write a good essay.

Click here to read a model answer for this Task

The task should take about 40 minutes.
As we move into the digital age, books and newspapers are becoming less important. Within
the next 20 years, computers will have entirely replaced any other such form of media.
To what extent do you agree with the above?
Write a minimum of 250 words.

Difficult Part 2 topic cards in IELTS

Difficult Part 2 topic cards in IELTS

Difficult Part 2 topic cards in IELTSIn Part 2 of the IELTS speaking test the examiner will give you a topic card that you will need to talk about for 2 minutes, after you have had 1 minute preparation time. But what happens if the examiner gives you a topic card that you have no ideas about and will not be able to talk about?

For example, if you have no interest in art or art galleries and really have no opinion on the subject, what would you do if this was your topic?

 Describe a piece of art that you likeYou should say:
  • what it is
  • where you saw it
  • why you like it

You should also say whether you would recommend it to someone else.


Here are some tips that will help!

Tip 1: Don’t panic!

It’s hard to do when you’re in the middle of your test, but it’s important to remain calm. Remember you have 60 seconds to prepare an answer, so take a few seconds to read the topic card again to see if there’s anything there that can you feel you could talk about.

Tip 2: Be honest

Although you cannot ask the examiner to give you another card and you cannot simply say ‘I don’t have anything to say about this’, you can tell the examiner that this is not really your kind if subject. For example:

‘Well, the topic card is asking about a piece of art that I like, but to be completely honest, I’m really not that interested in art in any form. However, I can tell you about…..’

Tip 3: Focus on anything in the subject or the prompts that you can talk about

In the example topic card above, you may have nothing to say about a piece of art you like, but can you talk about anything related? The second prompt on the card asks ‘where you saw it’ – can you say anything about local art galleries in your area or your hometown? Have you ever been to an art gallery? If so, did you like it? If you have never been to an art gallery, why not? You can talk about the lack of local facilities, or a general disinterest in art because no-one in your family is interested and you never went to galleries as a child. Even if you are only talking tangentially (not exactly or directly) about the topic, you will not lose points.

Tip 4: Be someone else

Personally, I have no real interest in art, so if I had to speak for two minutes on the topic card above, I would have trouble – and I’m a native English speaker and IELTS instructor! However, I do have a friend who is interested in art, so for the two minutes I was talking, I would pretend to be him. Why does my friend like going to galleries? What does he get out of his visits? How does he feel about art? Has he ever said anything to you about traditional versus modern art? By thinking about a question from the perspective of someone with an interest in the subject, it becomes easier to talk about.

Tip 5: Redefine the question

If you really feel that you will not be able to talk for the full two minutes of the subject, make sure that the examiner knows that you are modifying the question slightly. For example:

‘To tell the truth, I can’t talk much about art, but I am quite interested in museums. I think they are more important than art as they are a reflection of our past, and our history tells us more about who we are than art does – at least in my opinion.’

You have now told the examiner that you are moving the question away from the topic and on to something else. NOTE: try to make what you are going to talk about related to the topic in some way. For example, don’t start talking about a holiday you had or your favourite type of food!

Tip 6: Remember the focus of the speaking test

Keep in mind that is a speaking test – you are being assessed not on how accurate your response is compared to the question, but on how well you can communicate your point of view. You are NOT penalised for an indirect or unrelated answer so long as what you are saying is clear and logical. To illustrate, did you know that there is NO penalty for not covering all of the prompts on the topic card?


Take a look at some of the more unusual topic cards below – how would you respond?

Talk about something you used to collect.

You should say:

  • what you collected
  • whether your collection grew over time
  • why you collected them

You should also say whether you normally collect things.


Talk about a board game you have played.

You should say:

  • what type of game it is
  • how the game is played
  • when you started playing it

You should also say whether you still play this game.


Describe a sporting event you took part in recently.

You should say:

  • why you were involved
  • what you did
  • how many people were with you

You should also say whether you would do this again


Speaking fluently in the IELTS test

Speaking fluently in the IELTS test

Six tips for better fluency

For many people preparing for the IELTS speaking test, it can be difficult to improve your fluency unless you have an opportunity to speak with people in English regularly. However, here are 6 tips that will help you speak more fluently in the IELTS speaking test:

Tip 1: Don’t be afraid of mistakes

speaking-fluentlyThe first rule of fluency is that you are able to communicate the main message of what you are trying to say. Don’t overly worry about whether you have chosen the best grammar or vocabulary to express yourself – so long as the person you are talking to understands what you mean! If you feel that you have made a mistake, then stop, go back and repair the sentence, then continue. For example,

“My brother are a doctor, so he has always recommended eating well. Sorry, I mean by brother IS a doctor. Anyway, he suggests eating fruit and vegetables every day…”

Tip 2: Don’t focus too much on studying grammar

We all know that good grammar is important in order to accurately express yourself. However, make sure that you don’t become so preoccupied with the grammatical structure of your sentence that your speaking becomes irregular, too slow or disjointed. As mentioned in Tip 1 – don’t be afraid of mistakes! If you find that when speaking fluently you tend to make repeated errors with a particular grammar area (for example, using the present continuous when it should be the present simple) then spend some time alone reading and taking practice exercises – there are lots on this site!

Tip 3: Don’t translate your sentence in your head first

This is a difficult skill to master, but when you have a basic understanding of English (or any other foreign language) you need to start thinking in that language when constructing sentences. Not only will there be a loss of fluency as you delay the conversation to translate, but you will also find that words, phrases and sentence constructions become less easier to directly translate into your own language.

Tip 4: Take every opportunity to speak

Although it is convenient to break English into different skills such as reading, writing, grammar and speaking, it is important that you make whatever you are studying into an opportunity to speak. If you are reading an article – or even this page! – then read it aloud. If you read the same 100 or so words a few times, you will find that you have a much better chance of improving your fluency as you are training your tongue, mouth and vocal chords to move in a particular pattern, and that pattern will help when you are later in conversation. If you are listening to something and have the chance to pause whatever is playing, then listen to a sentence or two, stop it, you say it, then you play the recording again. This will help with your intonation (the sound of your voice) making you better able to pronounce words clearly and thus improving your fluency.

Tip 5: When learning new vocabulary, learn it as part of a useful phrase or sentence

Studying word lists might help you improve your understanding of individual words, but learning a few relevant phrases or sentences including the new word will make it a lot easier for your to fluently use the word in conversation. For example, if you learn the word ‘optimistic’ (meaning that you focus on the positive things, not the negative), then think of and learn a few phrases or sentences. E.g. My uncle always has hopes for the future because he’s a very optimistic person or The weather forecast said it wouldn’t rain, but judging by those clouds I’m not so optimistic.

Tip 6: Use appropriate resources

For many people learning English, the BBC is considered to be the best form of ‘pure’ English, with clear pronunciation and intonation. However, it is also important to spend some time with more ‘common’ English, such as listening and copying the patterns of speech you might hear on a TV show, movie or radio or radio programme. For some people the only way of practicing your speaking and fluency is by talking to another person who is also learning English. Although this can be effective, make sure that you do not pick up each others bad habits!

We hope these 6 tips help!


Talking about likes & dislikes in IELTS

Talking about likes & dislikes in IELTS

Talking about likes & dislikes in IELTSIn Part One of the IELTS speaking test, it is common to be asked questions about what you like or don’t like, and you may have to talk about your preferences. Here are some possible questions you may be asked:

Likes –

  • Do you enjoy travelling?
  • Do you like playing computer games?
  • What hobbies do you enjoy doing?
  • What’s your favourite food?
  • What do you do to relax?

Dislikes –


  • Is there anything you dislike about mobile phones?
  • Is there any food you don’t like eating?

Preferences –

  • Do you prefer to go out with friends or spend time at home?
  • Would you rather a home cooked meal or a meal in a restaurant?
  • Is it better to spend time in a hot or cold place?


It is important (as with any question in the IELTS test) that you give a full, extended answer to the question using a range of vocabulary, so here is some vocabulary that you can use when talking about likes, dislikes and preferences.


  • I’m fond of (X)
  • I’m into (X)
  • I’m keen on (X)
  • I adore (X)
  • (X) is stunning
  • (X) is excellent



  • I’m not keen on (X)
  • I detest (X)
  • I can’t bear (X)
  • I loathe (X)
  • I can’t stand (X)
  • I hate (X)



  • (X) is better
  • I like (X) more
  • I’d rather (X)
  • (X) is far superior
  • I’d sooner (X)


Tip 1: Concession words

When expressing preferences it is common to use concession words. A concession word allows the speaker or writer to express another point of view that is opposite to their first point. For example:

Do you prefer to study with other people or in a private class?

I much prefer a group class. Admittedly, you do get more personal attention in a one to one class, but you can also learn from other students when you study together.
Do you enjoy trying new foods?

Yes, I’m keen on experiencing anything new and I love going to restaurants where you can try a little of lots of different things. Having said that, though, I do have some favourite meals that I really enjoy no matter how many times I’ve had them.


Tip 2: Change of focus with +ing or to…

You can use like, love, hate and prefer with an –ing form or with a to-infinitive. However, there is a slight difference in meaning.

For example:

I like to study every day – this is something that is a habit for the speaker, something they think is a good idea

I like studying in the morning – this is something that the speaker actively enjoys studying.


Unexpected questions in the speaking test

Unexpected questions in the speaking test

The interviewer has just asked you about a subject you have never thought about and you have no real ideas. What can you say?

If this situation occurs during your speaking test, the most important first step is not to panic. Avoid responding with ‘I don’t know’ by using an alternative expression. There are a number of phrases you can learn that will give you some time to think of an idea.
Unexpected questions in the speaking test1 Well, it’s difficult to say, but …
2 I don’t have any personal opinions, but I suppose …
3 That’s an interesting point and I think I would have to say that …
4 Mmm … I’m not really sure, but …
5 Actually, that’s not something I’ve really thought about, but …
6 I don’t really know much about that, but …

For example, imagine the interviewer asks the following question (don’t panic – it’s an unlikely question!):

What impact do you think power steering has had in reducing traffic accidents?

Now read the candidates response below:

Well, it’s difficult to say but … umm … in my opinion the most effective factor in the reduction of traffic accidents is a result of stiffer punishments for poor driving. Although speeding is still a serious issue, other traffic offences such as drink driving have fallen because of the risk of heavy fines and even imprisonment. This has been reinforced by hard-hitting television advertisements highlighting driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Useful tip:

If you still cannot think of anything to say after a few seconds, you should focus on an aspect of the question you do know and move your answer onto related but more familiar topics. This is not ideal, but better than saying nothing at all!


Here are some other topics to practice with – they are NOT questions you would be asked in the IELTS test, but they will hep you practice the skills from this lesson!

See what you could say about….

  • the British Royal Family
  • Postage stamps
  • Woodland insects
  • Donating blood
  • Learning via video conferences
  • Aeroplane safety checks
  • Video piracy in the 1990s