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How to use the preparation time in IELTS Speaking Part 2


Test Takers


How to study

Date Published

01 February 2023

Do you know how best to use the one-minute preparation time in IELTS Speaking Part 2? Well, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you use this time so you’re ready to start talking when you need to. I’ve also included some advice about what not to do based on my experience as an IELTS teacher and examiner.

Step 1: Read the Speaking Part 2 task card and check you understand the topic

This may seem like the obvious place to start, but I’ve often had test takers wait until the end of the one-minute preparation time to ask what a particular word means.

Top Tip! If you don’t understand a particular word on the Speaking Part 2 task card, point to the word and ask the examiner what it means at the beginning (not the end) of your preparation time. Ask a question like ‘What does this word mean?’ or ‘Can you tell me what this word means?’.

Step 2: Decide what/who you’re going to talk about

Speaking Part 2 task card taken from IELTS 16

This step may also seem obvious but is not always easy, especially if there’s some vocabulary on the task card you don’t understand and you don’t ask the examiner what it means (see Step 1 above).

  • My general advice is to stick to the first example of the topic that you think of and that you feel you can describe in English.
  • My other advice is to change the topic slightly if the example you think of isn’t exactly the same as the topic on the task card.

For example, for the task card above, you could talk about:

  • A house/apartment that someone you don’t know lives in.
  • A different kind of home that someone you know lives in, e.g. a mobile home.

If you do this, just be sure to make it clear near the beginning of your talk so that the examiner isn’t confused, e.g. ‘I couldn’t think of a house or an apartment to talk about, so I’d like to tell you about a mobile home that ...’. You will not lose marks for doing this as long as you are clear at the start.

You don’t need to use a real example, but I recommend that you do. In my experience, test takers who make something up usually run out of things to say or are not coherent (i.e. easy to follow).

Step 3: Make notes

Making notes in the one-minute preparation time can help you plan and remember what you want to say. It can also give you more confidence because you know you can check them if you need to during your 1 to 2 minute speaking time. Think of the notes like a safety harness that will catch you if you fall (i.e. forget what you were going to say) and enable you to keep going!

When making notes, it’s important to:

  • Write in English so you don’t have to translate if you look at your notes during your talk.
  • Write phrases rather than full sentences so you have time to make notes on every point on the task card.
  • Write your notes in the order that you want to talk about them so you can quickly check where you are if you need to.
  • Write clearly so you can easily read what you’ve written.

And, if you have time, add one or two words/phrases you want to use (e.g. I’d like to talk about ...) so that you have more confidence to use them during your talk.

Follow the three steps above and you’ll feel less anxious and have a better chance of performing to your best in IELTS Speaking Part 2.

Best of luck!