Strategies for speaking, the topic card!….

Continuing on from the last couple of posts I want to move on to the topic card for part 2 of the speaking test. As you may remember, I mentioned a strategy that you might adopt for the first part, which was to always give an answer followed by an explanation and to try to give an example, thereby extending your speaking time. In the same vein, I would suggest a formula for part 2 which is designed to help you extend your speaking for two minutes and also to allow you to show the examiner a wide range of tense and structure. First, I want to make some more general points.

Make notes, this is always a good idea as you can refer to them during your talk and if you get stuck, they may help you to get unstuck, if you see what I mean. However, don’t try to write out your whole speech, you don’t have time, all you need is to make five points with some key words and bits of vocabulary.

Next, make sure you understand what the card is asking you to talk about. This is very important, if you misunderstand and start talking about the wrong things you will lose marks. For instance,

topic card

consider this topic. What do you think it is asking you to say? Well, one of my students last week told me all her about her summer holiday, which was nice but as you see the key word here is “Would”, which makes this an imaginary holiday, not an “actual” holiday. Marks would therefore be lost as a result.

So, what can you do? The five points I mentioned are: Introduction, Past, Description, Opinion, and Future. If you arrange your notes and talk around these things you will ably demonstrate to the examiner a wide range of grammar and structure. Now I know the card has some points on it for you to cover, however, these are only suggestions, and the criteria does not specifically state that you must address these points in order. As long as you mention them in whatever order, even if fleetingly, that will be fine. As I have written before, this is not a truth test, nor a content test.

You might say something like this.

Introduction: “Ok, I want to talk about my dream holiday, you might call it my fantasy in fact. My ideal holiday would be two weeks in the Seychelles, off the coast of India.”

Past: “You know, I have always wanted to go on some exotic foreign vacation, for as long as I can remember I dreamt of laying on a beach somewhere tropical, but I was never able to afford anything. When I was a kid my parents used to take us to the seaside in England which is not exactly tropical”

Description: “So to tell you some details, well, I have seen some fantastic looking photos on several travel blogs about the Seychelles, it looks like paradise! The golden sands, the palm trees, the crystal clear water, the whole thing looks amazing! Maybe it’s a cliche but the whole idea of a tropical island where I can swim and lay around drinking coconut milk seems like a fairy tale, especially for someone who lives in England”.

Opinion: “Anyway, I am sure that I would love this lazy life, doing nothing all day, working on my tan for two weeks, all my friends back home would be jealous when I went back and they could see how golden I was”

Future: “As I mentioned before, If I could ever afford it, then I would definitely go there, this is a holiday I would love to go on as it has long been my dream. So, who knows, maybe I will win the lotto next week and I can buy a ticket, if only”

You see? This is just something from the top of my head that I made up very quickly, but it would do the job. Notice the range of tenses I use and the different structures that connect my ideas. You can be more explicit if you want, and introduce your ideas, stage by stage, “First I want to mention”, “Turning to the activities I would do”, etc, but it is not strictly necessary as long as you cover all the tenses and connect your ideas.

And that’s it. Relatively simple and it should give you enough to talk about for two minutes, don’t worry about saying too much, the examiner will interrupt you after two minutes and stop you, so just keep talking.

For tomorrow, I will say something about part 3 and give you some more hints and tips for that. If you have any questions, as always, drop me a line and I will try to answer you.

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