Top Tips for IELTS

Telling a story in IELTS speaking

In this post I am going to give you the chance to listen to and learn from one of my former students doing part 2 speaking in IELTS. The general idea is that telling a story in IELTS can help your fluency. If you’re not sure how to do this, I explain briefly how you can learn the skill.

One fluent approach – telling a story

The  version you are going to listen to is extremely fluent. How is this done? By telling a story. Here are some reasons why I suggest story telling works well:

  1. it’s natural: many people enjoy telling stories and find it quite easy. When you are under stress in the exam, doing the easy thing is normally good advice
  2. it’s interesting: examiners like to be interested and hate getting “learned” answers. Make the examiner like you and you are half way there
  3. stories tend to give you interesting vocabulary. You start to use a greater variety of words to describe things. Variety is good
  4. stories are great for fluency: you just keep adding more detail

Listen and learn

This is an extremely good answer from one of my former students. She got a 9 in speaking, so don’t worry if you’re not quite as good!

How to do this – who/where/what/why/when

Stories work because of detail and you are always allowed to add detail. To do that learn to ask yourself the who/where/what/when questions as you are speaking and don’t limit yourself to what is on the question card.

Look at this example when she talks about when she met her friend. She doesn’t just say at Christmas but:

I remember this particular instance. [When?]It must have been Christmas, or around Christmas anyway [Why?] because we had this massive Christmas tree and she came over and it must have been early/mid afternoon…..

The skill here is to think of the questions when and why even though they aren’t on the question card and to try and be as precise as possible. This detail allows her to use  interesting language such as “early/mid afternoon”

How to do this – and

When we tell stories we add detail normally. How? We just use and. This is something everyone can do.

Spoken language is simple language. If you try and use complex linking structures, you only make life difficult for yourself. So do the simple thing and use “and”. Count the number of times she uses “and”. I lost count.

How to do this – close your eyes and see the picture – stimulate your memory

Some people are much better visual thinkers than linguistic thinkers. One trick I have tried with my students is getting them to close their eyes before they speak and not make notes. It may sound silly but it can work. If you see a picture, then it can be relatively easy to describe it. Your memory is a powerful tool. You just say what you see.  This is what my student was doing here -she didn’t use notes once.

If, however,  you just look at your blank piece of paper and try and think of words, you see a blank piece of paper with no notes on it. Frightening.  Your brain can freeze.

Do try this technique. It really can work.


Get more speaking lessons

How to like it, share it and share it


Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

Home page

Speaking Guide

Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

Reading guide

Listening guide

IELTS vocabulary

IELTS grammar

Keep up with me on Facebook - all the updates and even more advice there


Or just get all my free lessons by email

Subscribe to DC IELTS by Email


3 Responses to Telling a story in IELTS speaking

  1. school grants November 27, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

    • lasam o June 6, 2011 at 1:47 am #

      Hi Dominic, though i have just key into your tips, u a indeed a teacher.God is a rewaeder. As you freely give to all without payment you are blessed. I desire to emulate you near future.Pls. remember me in your updates. Thank you very much


  1. IELTS Speaking Part 2 | The IELTS Tutor - August 8, 2014

    […] Part 2 IELTS speaking: telling a story […]

Leave a Reply