In this lesson I aim to show you one possible approach to help you speak for 2 minutes in IELTS speaking. The general idea is that expand on what you see on the prompt card by comparing and contrasting.The benefit is that if you get it right you can have almost twice as much to talk about.
The general idea – add detail by comparing contrasting
The prompt you are given asks you to talk about a topic using certain ideas. For example:
- where you went
- who you went with
- when it was
And why you enjoyed that holiday so much
Here you talk about one holiday but compare it with another one. This works particularly well when you get to “why you enjoyed it”. You should find it much easier to say more when you start:
I enjoyed this holiday more than that holiday because ….
How comparing and contrasting might help – two situations
This idea can help in at least two different situations.
The problem – you don’t have enough to say about that topic
A typical problem is that you just don’t have much to say. In your minute this is all you produce:
You went on holiday to Florence
You went by yourself
The Uffizzi was brilliant – Michelangelo’s David
It’s actually quite hard to get to 2 minutes with that – particularly if you can’t remember much about the holiday.
Another problem – you’re just a bit reticent
If you’re reticent you just don’t like speaking much – even in your own language. I’ve had lots of students like this. their English is absolutely fine but they just like to say everything directly and then just stop. It isn’t natural; for them to “say more”. If that’s you this idea could really help.
See an example of how it can work
This is a possible long turn answer. I’ve expanded some very short notes into a long answer mostly by using comparisons and contrasts. You should note:
I stay on topic – even though I add detail by comparing
I am still following the prompt card.
I make my comparisons explicit – that is I tell the examiner what I am doing – this is great for coherence. Look at the bold words to show where and how often I compare and contrast
I’m going to tell you about the holiday I went on last year to Florence. I guess it’s the best holiday I’ve ever had – it’s certainly the most memorable trip I’ve made so far.
One way to explain this is to compare it with the holiday I went on the year before last – when I went to Ibiza. It was quite a different experience at any rate. I suppose one of the biggest differences was that when I went to Florence I was travelling by myself but when I went to Ibiza I was with a large group of friends – it was our graduation trip after we finished uni. Some people may not like travelling alone and get lonely but actually I prefer my own company. It’s probably because I get to do exactly what I want. Certainly when I was in Florence I just pleased myself and spent all day at the art galleries if I wanted. But in contrast in Ibiza I ended up doing what the group wanted.
Then another reason I enjoyed Florence so much was that I got to spend so much time looking at art – it’s one of my great passions. I can’t remember all the great works of art I saw but Michelangelo’s David was magnificent – much better than the pictures. Again, I can perhaps explain this best by contrasting it with my holiday in Ibiza. There we seemed to spend the whole day on the beach and then went clubbing after dark. My friends seemed to enjoy it but I certainly didn’t. I’m not really into that scene.
How to make it work – use your one minute to make notes – ask yourself simple questions
I think the best way to use your minute if you want do this is to think of good comparisons you can make – ones that you have something to say about. You really just need to think of a similar experience/person/object and ask yourself what is different or what the same.
Your notes may be quite short – just enough for you too remember what to say. Single words can be good. You’re not trying to think of words here but ideas that you can talk about. To get the ideas just ask yourself Same? Different? Why?
It can also help to add question words to your notes to remind you to compare. Here I add words like “why” to remind and “how different” to remind me to compare the two holidays.
where I went – Florence – Ibiza – why?
when – last year – year before
who with By myself – with friends – why? how different?
why enjoyed – Art – beach – why? different?
How to make it work – explain to the examiner what you are doing
There are two related reasons why I suggest this – both are to do with coherence
Easier to understand
The first is that if you tell the examiner you are going to compare two holidays then it just makes your long-turn talk much easier to understand. If you don’t do this the examiner may get confused about what you’re saying – why are you suddenly talking about Ibiza and not Florence? s/he may be expecting you to talk about just one holiday and not compare two.
The phrases I use in the example above are very clear:
One way to explain this is to compare it
Again, I can perhaps explain this best by contrasting it
If you tell the examiner you are going to compare then you’ll also start to make your comparisons more explicit and use better linking words and phrases. This is good for your score as how you structure and link is important. The words you use here can be easy – you just want to be clear. The ones I use above are
One of the biggest differences
But in contrast
How to make it work – follow the prompts/cue card – don’t get confused
There are different approaches possible in the long turn. If you do decide to use comparisons/contrasts though my advice is to be a structured a possible and follow the points on the cue card in order. If you don’t your answer may become confused.
More connected lessons
One minute preparation time
Learning what to do in your one minute preparation time is something you should definitely practise. I suggest one idea but here are in fact many different things you can do. Read about them here and experiment a little:
Different approaches to speaking in the long turn
One idea in this lesson is that you may need to try different approaches to different questions. I talk you through some of the main possibilities in this lesson: