Heart racing, sudden stuttering, memory slips. You probably know the feeling. Whether it’s giving a presentation in front of an audience of fifty people or speaking on a topic in a one-to-one interview, delivering a talk can be a nerve-wracking experience for many of us. And that’s perfectly normal. Unless you are a professional presenter, you are much more likely to engage and feel comfortable in two-way conversations, as opposed to one-way talks. The good news is if you think you might get nervous when the big day arrives and it’s time to deliver your short talk as part of your IELTS test, there are things you can do to help you be prepared and succeed. So keep on reading!
The IELTS Speaking Module: An introduction to the short talk
As you may already know, the IELTS Speaking test (https://www.ielts.org/about-the-test/test-format-in-detail) takes the form of a one-to-one interview and is divided into three parts:
- Part 1: Introduction and interview
- Part 2: Long turn
- Part 3: Two-way discussion
In this post, let’s focus in on Part 2. You will be asked to deliver a short talk for up to two minutes on a topic chosen by the examiner. Even though two minutes may not seem like a long time, very often unprepared candidates run out of ideas and finish their talks way before the two-minute mark. This is why thinking about what you are going to say and structuring your talk is vital to keeping up with the expected length of your long turn. Luckily, you will have one minute to prepare.
How do you make the most of your preparation time?
There are three main steps you can follow to help you to make the best use of the time you will have to prepare:
1) Understanding the topic
Once the examiner finishes reading the instructions out loud you will be given a task card which includes the topic and points to cover during your talk (see an example of a task card for Speaking Part 2 above), as well as a pencil and paper to make notes. Make sure you read the task carefully and make a note of the key ords (e.g. describe, something I own, important) before deciding on what you are going to talk about (e.g. My engagement ring).
2) Brainstorming ideas
To help you structure your talk, the task card includes three points designed for this purpose (once again, see example above). Make a note of at least two key ideas for each of the points in the task. These notes will then be used to prompt you while you are speaking.
Here’s what jotting down key ideas would look like:
- gift, my husband, Canada ————— where
- 6 years, one year before wedding ————— how long
- symbol of love, wear it every day ————— what for
- marriage, family ————— why it is important
3) Noting down relevant vocabulary
Writing down useful vocabulary or expressions that you can use in your talk can also help you to complete your long turn successfully. Remember that the examiner will be paying attention to the range of vocabulary you use, as well as the precision with which you can express meanings and attitudes.
Key vocabulary for the example task above could include the following:
proposal, commitment, sentimental value, irreplaceable
Make sure you have a good idea of how long a minute lasts so that you can use this time effectively and cover all three steps. Once it’s time to give your talk, don’t forget to use your notes to guide you so that you stay on topic and say something about each point on the card, using relevant vocabulary. Keep in mind that the examiner will remain silent while you are talking but will stop you when the two minutes are up.
Ideas for practicing the delivery of the talk
Just as you need practice at judging your preparation time, you also need to be aware of how long 2 minutes is, in order to be able to produce a rounded talk that is long enough. To achieve this, it is important that you practice giving your talk with a clock or watch in front of you. Other ideas for practicing your long turn that you may find helpful include the following:
- Record yourself and listen to your short talk afterward. Make notes on positive things from your talk, as well as on things to improve. You can also ask someone you know to listen to your recording and give you feedback.
- Watch the IELTS Speaking Test Sample Part 2 and read the examiner comments. As well, you may use the Speaking Band Descriptors to better understand the difference between the band scores.
- Practice speaking English - with relatives, friends, at school or work and on the phone. This will help you feel more confident speaking English.
The day of the test!
On the big day, try to stay calm so you can do your best. Speak English before your Speaking test so you go into it thinking in English. If you start feeling nervous, take deep breaths. Think about the test as a valuable opportunity to show off your skills and shift the focus from yourself to your true purpose - achieving your IELTS goals!