In this lesson I talk you different ways to extend answers in part 1 speaking. I start off by explaining a little about why it’s important and then I show you several different techniques to work on the skill.
Why you need to say more and say it well – fluency AND coherence
One reason why you need to extend answers in part 1 speaking is that your speaking is judged on both fluency and coherence. Put very simply this means:
you need to say more – that’s fluency
you need to say it well by linking it together – that’s coherence
Both are equally important. And the idea in this lesson is not just to show you how to say more but to show you how to do it coherently so that you make sense.
Learn and use some key language – think coherence
The key language you need for saying more is actually the language you already have. Key words/phrases include:
Why are these words important? They are the most common and most useful connectors. They are the ones we use in speech to link things together. If you want to say more you need to link things together. This is coherence.
Part 1 speaking should be easy. You are being asked about simple things. The best way to approach it is to learn to give simple and straightforward answers – there’s really no need to be clever here. These guidelines should help:
1. Move from the general to the particular – add detail
This is a key skill that can help you. It’s something most natural communicators do. They give a general answer and then add detail. You should see that this technique is similar to using examples below.
How to do it
You start off by making a general statement giving your opinion. Then you think of detail. To make it work you just have two ask yourself wh questions in your head – who/where/when/what. These questions give you the detail. It can help you to use phrases such as in general, overall and one thing or in particular to show what you are saying and to organise your answer.
Do you think schools should teach handicrafts to school children?
Yes I think it’s a good idea in general. Learning to make things by hand is an important human skill. One handicraft I think children should learn at school is carpentry. It’s useful for later life and also helps instil creativity.
Do you like your country?
Of course! I love my country I’m very patriotic. One thing I like about it in particular is the countryside. The wilderness areas in Romania are very special to me and I love to go hiking there.
What is the transport like in your town?
It’s not too bad overall. It’s fairly easy to get from one place to another. One form of transport that is particularly good is the tram service – it’s very regular and quick. The bus service is also pretty good but you can often get caught up in traffic.
2. Learn a coherence skill – expand on the words you have already said
This is a skill you can borrow from writing. You say something and then explain it with some detail. This is a core skill that can improve your coherence quickly with practice.
How to do it
You give a quick answer to the question and then you explain more about the words in your answer. It helps to think in sentences. Each time you say one sentence you explain a bit more about your previous sentence by repeating a word and explaining it.
Don’t be worried about repetition – we repeat a lot in speaking and it can help coherence.
Do you like flowers?
Yes I do like flowers. They’re often very beautiful. They’re beautiful because they’re so natural and colourful. There are so many colours and each one is slightly different. The red of a rose is different from the red of a tulip.
Have you ever been to an art exhibition?
No I haven’t. I’m not really that into art and I enjoy the cinema more. What I like about the cinema is that it’s much more fast-moving and films tell stories. For 90 minutes you just watch a film and learn see a new story.
3. Give Reasons
One simple way to say more is to add a reason to what you say. This applies for yes/no type questions and opinion and like/dislike questions
How to do it
Just ask yourself the question “why?” even if the examiner doesn’t say it. Give a short direct answer and then add the reason. The key word in your answer is because. Make yourself say it.
Do you like dancing?
Yes I do quite like dancing. In a way I guess it’s because it’s good exercise and a way to keep fit but you get the bonus of the music too. It’s also a really social activity and it’s how I can have fun with my friends.
Is the bus service good where you live?
It’s not too bad I guess because there are fairly regular buses during the day. It’s quite easy to get from where I live into the centre of town.
Do you think that your job will change in the future?
Yes. I’m sure it will. That’s because work is changing so much generally. Computer technology is going to be more and more influential and I’m sure that in the future they’ll change my job even more.
4. Use Examples
This is a slightly more complex technique – one that you’ll use when you want to say more about one question as you have the detail in your head. It can work with almost any question type. Again you start with a short direct answer to the question and then use an example to explain why. This should be familiar to you from writing.
How to do it
The key word/phrase here is for example – although you may vary it.
Do you think your job is interesting?
Yes I do. I really enjoy it and I positively look forward to going into work. I think what I find most interesting is how I have to interact with people. For example, one thing I have to do is act as a line manager – it’s quite a responsible position – but it’s fascinating learning how to manage different people.
Do you prefer to study in the mornings or the afternoons?
That’s a tough question. It really just depends on the day and what I’m doing. To give you an example – sometimes I prefer to work at home in the morning if I have something to write – I get more done that way. But sometimes when I have speaking to do I prefer to do it in the afternoon when more people are free to practise with.
5. Talk about results and consequences – use so
Another way to extend answers in part 1 is simply to talk about the consequences of what you say. The key word here is so – another very common linking word in speech. This can be used with different question type sand is especially good for talking about habits and likes.
How to do it
This works in many ways like and below when you add a point. The idea here though is the point you add is a result of what you have just said. When you say you do something or like something you just need to ask yourself what happens because of that.
Do you like the people you work with?
Yes I do like them very much – we enjoy each other’s company and are good friends. So we actually spend a good deal of time with each other out of work and not just in the office.
How do you study your subject?
It’s quite a complex subject and I need to study in different ways. So what I tend to do is make a schedule of what I need to do at the beginning of the week and decide how I am going to study that week.
6. Talk about both halves of the question
Some questions you get will be select type questions where you are asked to choose between one of two things. A very simple but useful technique is to talk about both – you have twice as much to say!
How to do it
As ever it helps to give a short direct answer to the question and then expand. It helps to make it clear by using the words in the question. Another key word may be but – that allows you to contrast ideas.
Do you prefer to study by yourself or in a group?
Oh I prefer to study by myself because I get so much more done that way. I think the trouble in studying in a group is that it’s easy to get distracted by the other people and sometimes you do what they want to do and not what you want to do.
Do you prefer to buy things in big shops or small shops?
My general preference is to shop locally in small shops – you just get better and more personal service there. But sometimes of course big shops like department stores are better as they have a greater range of products and you’re more likely to find what you want.
7. Be precise and say exactly where or when or how often – adding detail
A lot of speaking questions ask when or where or how often you do something – these are mostly questions about your habits. The way to say more is often just to think of precise details and not just answer generally.
How to do it
This is where you ask yourself questions in you head. The question should be “exactly when/where/what”. This is a time when it may help to visualise (quickly) a time or a place and add the detail you see in you head. One way to do this is to try and use the words when/where in your answer.
When do you listen to music?
Oh I mostly listen to music in the evenings. When I get home from work I turn on my music system and listen to music while I’m preparing the evening meal – it’s a kind of soundtrack to cooking for me.
When was the last time you bought flowers.
The last time I bought flowers was just last week. It was when I went to see my godmother and I always take her flowers when I go to see her. It’s a tradition in our country to take flowers to a family when you visit them.
Where do like to read?
Actually I generally read in bed. It’s the one place where I can lie down and relax and concentrate on the book I’m reading. My bedroom is very quiet and no one can disturb me there when I want to focus on my book.
8. Compare and contrast
This is a great technique that work with lots of questions. The idea is that you don’t just talk about the question you are asked but you compare/contrast with related things you know. You get twice as much to talk about.
How to do it
You want to answer the question directly to start with. It’s fairly important to show the examiner that you are on topic and then you expand by adding details about related ideas. This can work for
The key words here are comparison words/phrases such as but, in comparison, in contrast. It helps to use these words in your answer as that will help you to stay coherent
In this example you compare two trips in the past not just one
When was the last time you travelled abroad?
My last trip was to Japan – I went there last year. That was fairly dull – just a business trip. But my favourite trip was when I went on a tour of China a couple of years ago. It’s a fascinating country with so much to see and do.
In this example you talk briefly about one past trip and then go on to talk about the future.
When was the last time you travelled abroad?
The last time was in 2010 when I went to Japan. I quite enjoyed it. But what I’m really looking forward to is my trip to Korea next year – that I hope will be the trip of a lifetime.
9. Change your mind – use but
This is similar to the techniques below of saying “I don’t know” and “comparing/contrasting”. The difference here is that you start off by saying one thing and then you change your mind and say something else. This is 100% fine. We do this in conversation all the time and you can do it in IELTS too.
How to do it
You start off by giving one answer and then you decide that it wasn’t the best answer so you say something different. The words you need to use here are but and actually or in fact.
To make it work well you should tell the examiner what you are doing as in the examples below. This may mean using phrases like “Sorry I’ve changed my mind”.
Note also that this is one case where you might give a little summary statement at the end – repeating your real view.
Do you think online advertisements are useful?
Yes I suppose they are – we all shop online nowadays. No sorry. Actually when I think about it they aren’t useful at all. They make you buy things you don’t want. In fact I have an ad blocker on my computer.
Do you prefer to send letters or emails?
I prefer to send emails they’re so much quicker and easier. But then again I suppose letters are more personal and a bit more special. I certainly prefer to receive letters and I guess my real answer is that I get more pleasure out of sending letters too.
10. Say you don’t know – say yes and no – talk about two things not one
You’ll get some questions where you think you need to give one precise answer. That’s not the idea. This is just a conversation and your answer may be more complex. You may be undecided or you may not know. That’s not a problem at all. Just say so and then you have more to talk about.
How to do it
The best way to do this is to say at the beginning that you don’t know and there explain why. The thing to avoid is to just give two different answers.That may be confusing. This is another time when but may be the key word. Also don’t be afraid of saying I don’t know or I’m not sure – just explain why you don’t know.
Do people care if you buy them expensive presents or not?
I don’t know. I think it rather depends on the person. I know my wife doesn’t care at all – she always says it’s the thought that counts. But my daughter is quite different – she always wants the most expensive toy – I guess so she can show off to her friends.
Do young people like to read newspapers in your country?
Yes and no. Some of my friends are avid newspaper readers and read then online all the time. But I’m not sure that’s true for everyone – there are all sorts of different people. I guess some do and some don’t.
11. Just say and
And is one of the most important words in English. It’s one of the words you should be using most in speaking. We use it of course for just adding another point. The simplest way to say more is just this – add one more point.
How to do it
You hear the question, you answer it and then you think of something else to say. Another detail or related point.
Where do you usually walk?
I normally walk in the park – it’s next to the block I live in. And I also walk to the bus stop when I come to think of it. And then of course I also walk quite a lot when I’m out shopping.
12. Qualify what you say – think sometimes and often not always
A lot of questions will ask about habits. This technique works very well for questions like that. The idea is that you don’t give a general answer but think precisely and qualify your answer using words like sometimes. This gives you more to say as you can talk about more things.
How to do it
This is another place where you may start generally but then give a more particular answer. The trick to getting it right is to avoid words like always in your answer and to ask yourself questions like how often. It can help to start your answer by saying something like “it depends”. This another time when but comes in useful. Other useful phrases are sometimes ,once in a while from time to time
When do you do the shopping?
It depends. Sometimes I go shopping at the weekends and that is mostly too the supermarket. But there are times when I just pop out to the local corner shop to buy cigarettes or something like that. That can be any time day or night.
Do you do much sport?
I play sport quite often. Generally I try and do something active over the weekend. But once in a while I go through a keep fit phase and then I’ll go to the gym every night of the week. That doesn’t last long of course.
I’m not a fan of this – especially in part 1. If you lie you put yourself under pressure and stress – that’s how lie detector tests work – they measure stress. And the last thing you want to do in part 1 is put yourself under stress. The questions are supposed to be easy and there’s no need to make up answers to impress the examiner. If you don’t have much to say, say so and move on. There’s always another question coming.
14. Change the question to one you want to answer????
Tricky. There isn’t any task response score in speaking so you can talk about more things than the question asks you but it’s a good idea to base your answer on the question you do hear. Nearly all examiners are going to prefer that.
How it can work – talk about what you do know – just adapt the question a bit
One way this can work is that you get a question that doesn’t quite fit you. You are though able to talk well about something closely related. See the example below to see how it can work. The idea is that you start off by addressing the question directly and then say more.
Which is your favourite room where you live?
I’m not sure what to say. I’m living in rented accommodation right now and I don’t like it at all. But where my home is – in Italy – much my favourite room is my bedroom. It’s the room I spend most time in and I’ve been able to decorate it myself.
But you have no idea about what to say
Say so and explain why is my best advice. That way you will still be talking about the question and in fact you may find you have more to say than people who “know the answer”. Look at the example below to see how it can work. You can still get a lot of language out.
Do you think paper newspapers will be replaced by digital papers in the future?
I’m sorry I have no idea what to say. I don’t actually read newspapers at all and I don’t know what the difference is between digital and paper newspapers. I get my news by watching the tv and listening to the radio and sometimes using apps on my smart phone.
15. Play for time by saying it’s an interesting question
Be careful here. Most of the questions in part 1 are not interesting!! You can use some thinking time techniques to give yourself more time to find an answer but please don’t overdo it. You have around 12 questions in 4 minutes. That’s about 20 seconds a question. If you get a bad question, give a short answer and then give a long answer to a question you do like.
More connected lessons
Think about the most common questions – they can be the hardest to answer
Some questions are very common in IELTS speaking. One of these is the work/study question. In this lesson I give you some tips for part 1 as a whole and ideas for answering work/study questions.
Ask yourself questions as you speak
One technique I refer to in this lesson is asking yourself questions as you speak. It’s a great way to learn to say more. This old and quite brief lesson gives you one example of how you can make it work.
Coherence and speaking
A large part of this lesson is about coherence. If you want an overview of coherence and speaking and ideas about how to make it work in different parts of the test you can try this lesson.