Top Tips for IELTS

Part 2 speaking – using the cue card – describe a childhood friend

This post looks at another way of organising your part 2 talk. While telling a story is a useful technique, it doesn’t always work and it is sensible to have a second option so that you don’t panic half way through the talk. The key advice though is to have a strategy for your talk before you begin speaking. This should give you more confidence and confident speakers tend to be good speakers.

The basic approach

The option here is to use the cue card to help you organise your talk in a more structured way . The suggestion is that you go through the details on the card quite quickly and then focus more on the summary task. There are at least 3 good reasons for trying this approach:

  1. this way the examiner knows that you have covered all the points on the cue card (something that is a danger in telling a story)
  2. there is often more to say about the summary task so don’t worry about saying too much about the details
  3. it’s a nice idea to do the easy thing first in describing details and then, when you are more confident, do the harder thing and give your opinion in the summary task

Understanding the cue card

Look at this sample cue card asking you to describe a childhood friend

All IELTS cue cards follow the same pattern. There is

a main topic: “describe a friend you had as a child”

3 details to include :”how you first met” “how long you were friends: “what you used to do together”

a summary task: “explain why you liked this person”

Use your preparation time well

Before you start speaking, it’s a good idea to decide how much you have to say about each part. This is very practical advice to help you decide whether to tell a story or try and be more structured, you should consider:

  • if you can remember a lot of details, then you might choose to tell a story focussing on the 3 details to include
  • if you can’t, then you are more likely to focus on the summary task and say more about that

An example

Listen to this example from one of my former students and look at my notes below:

Organisation notes

She deals with the 3 details in the first 25-30 seconds. The examiner knows she is on task

She is very coherent when she describes why she liked her friend. The simple structure she uses is:

  • There were many reasons why
  • One was
  • A second was
  • The third reason was

This is an excellent structure to use because it helps the examiner listen and it also helps her organise her thoughts as she speaks.

She finishes by coming back to the main question. It doesn’t matter that she repeats herself: this is what we do when we speak and it is nice to find a way to finish speaking.

Language notes

Although this performance may be slightly less fluent than when she told a story, it is highly coherent. One way she achieves this is by using “filler” language to explain to the examiner what she is thinking. Look at these examples:

  • Let me just try and remember
  • Well
  • Let me just think about this
  • How shall I put it?
  • You know
  • I’m not sure how to explain this

This language works because it stops the pauses being too long and helps the examiner to keep listening.

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5 Responses to Part 2 speaking – using the cue card – describe a childhood friend

  1. jess August 1, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    Hi Dominic,
    Can u plzz provide me with some listening practice tests………i really need it.

  2. Manish April 21, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    Dear Dominic,
    I would appreciate if you can tell me how many sentences could be an ideal sentence for different sections in IELTS speaking.

  3. natalia February 16, 2014 at 5:04 am #

    Hello! Thank you for your site! Unfortumately, I’ve discovered it too late to read and follow all the instructions; I’ve had my exam today.
    Tell me, please, what can happen if I spoke less than 2 minutes in part 2? (about 1.50).
    Thank you.

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