IELTS Speaking: Part 2 Topics, Questions & Tips

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by Daniel

by Daniel

ILAC IELTS & Pathway Teacher


Most English language learners fear speaking tests the most. Understandable. Speaking in a second language under timed conditions with a fluent speaker asking you questions can make students nervous, it is natural to feel this way. Especially with IELTS Speaking Part 2. But don’t worry, as always, here at ILAC, we have the experience to guide you through what to do, how you can prepare, and strategies to help you succeed. So, let’s get to it! 

(Click here if you’re looking for our IELTS Speaking: Part 1 blog!)

How Part 2 Works

IELTS Speaking Part 2 is often referred to as ‘the long turn’. In total it should last around 4 minutes, but it can feel like your ‘turn’ is lasting forever! This can seem overwhelming to some, but it is not as complicated or scary as it sounds. So, to understand how to give the best performance, let’s break it down: 

  • The examiner will give you a ‘topic card’. This includes a scenario that you will talk about, and a bulleted list of suggested things to talk about that are connected to the topic. (Keep reading for an example of a topic card.)
  • Then, you have 1 minute to read and prepare some notes that will help you speak about the topic.
  • Next, the examiner will start the timer. The goal here is to speak uninterrupted and continuously for 2 minutes.
  • Finally, the examiner will interrupt you when your time has finished and ask 2 or 3 follow-up questions that are related to the same topic (for 1-2 more minutes). 
Task Focus
  • Show your ability to speak at length on a random topic. 
  • Show that you can use appropriate language that is related to the topic.
  • Show that you can organize the delivery of your answers in a logical order.
Marking Criteria

There are four criteria that the examiner will be focusing on:

  1. Fluency and Coherence How clear and logically ordered is your speech? A good score means little to no hesitation; rarely repeating language; the use of discourse markers.
  2. Lexical Resource – Or vocabulary. A good score means you have used a wide range of vocabulary and varied your word choice. Use synonyms when you need to repeat a point again and avoid using the same words.
  3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy – Use a mix of simple and complex sentence structures; speak with little or no grammatical errors (such as incorrect verb tenses).
  4. Pronunciation – This is about how clear your speech is. Your speech should also have minimal mispronunciation of words and the examiner should understand what you are saying clearly.

Speaking Part 2 Topics

Test takers are often concerned about the academic topics and difficult academic vocabulary that is used in the Reading and Listening tests. However, you don’t have to worry about that in Part 2 of the Speaking test. The topics are usually based on your own opinion or you’ll need to describe something or someone from your life.  

Example Topic Card 1

Describe your favourite teacher. You should say: 

  • what subject they taught you;
  • what type of personality he/she has or had;
  • what age they taught you;
  • ..and explain how they helped you.
Example Topic Card 2

Describe a movie you like. You should say: 

  • what genre the movie is;
  • where you watched the movie;
  • what the movie is about;
  • …and explain why you like it. 

Tips For Success in Speaking Part 2

Tip 1: Practice
  • Find or create some example topic cards. Time yourself for 3 minutes (1 minute of preparation followed by 2 minutes to speak) to answer the question. It’s also a good idea to record yourself to listen back and improve.
  • Ask a friend to choose some topic cards and test you on them randomly.
  • Practice with many different types of topics. Find a useful list of topics here
Tip 2: Use the preparation minute effectively

You get 1 minute to prepare your answer. Use it wisely! Read and make notes for each of the bullet points on the topic card. This will help you keep structured and remember key points you want to talk about.

For example…

Describe your dream job. You should say: 

  • what the job is = teacher, education, language
  • what skills are needed to do the job = patience, communication, empathy
  • where the job is usually located = global, university
  • …and explain why you would like to do this job = help people, travel, experience new cultures.
Tip 3: Use the card to guide you, not to restrict you

A common mistake students make is to think that they must speak about everything on the card. You do not. You are marked on your ability to speak at length, not on how many different topics you can talk about. So, take your time and use the bullet points as a guide. 

Tip 4: Stay structured
  • To start, introduce yourself and the topic (Today I’m going to talk about…).
  • Then, follow the order of the bullet point suggestion;
  • Finally, conclude your answer.

Use signal phrases and discourse markers that show that you are moving on to a new point, or referring back to a previous point (next; firstly; as I mentioned; but, etc.) 

Tip 5: Speak slow and clear

Pace is important. When most people are nervous, they tend to speak quicker. Speaking quickly often means you are being unclear; it also means that you could run out of words to say.

  • Breathe consistently to slow down your speech.
  • Use delaying techniques and stalling phrases if you need a few more seconds to think about your answer (“Let me think…” or “That’s an interesting topic…”)
  • Paraphrase the statement and bullet points on the topic card.
  • Do not use sounds like “er” or “um” – these are meaningless. Instead, focus on stalling words and phrases.

So, hopefully, you feel more knowledgeable and comfortable about the format, process, and what is needed for success. The personal and informal nature of the topics should comfort you. Now you know that speaking about everything on the card is not necessary; the goal is just to speak for up to 2 full minutes about you and your opinion – just like you do with your friends! With the right preparation and practice, IELTS success is an achievable goal.  

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