Organise your thoughts, a framework for tackling the topic card.

So, today I want to write about the cohesive devices that you might find useful for connecting your ideas when preparing for the topic card section of the speaking test. As you know you have 1 minute of preparation time for this task and then you have 2 minutes to speak. As I have mentioned more than once before now, there is a strategy for this. When you are writing your notes (and I recommend that you always make some notes) you can organise your ideas into 5 points, Introduction, Past, Description, Opinion, and Future. I gave an example of how this might work in an earlier post so I shall not repeat myself here. What I shall do is to give some examples of the kind of connecting words and expressions that you can use to link your sentences when following the strategy.

Some authors recommend that you use a formula of set phrases to link your ideas, such as, “In addition, On top of this, what’s more, However”. I would advise against this as it can sound unnatural if done badly, consider, have you ever spoken to someone like this, maybe if you were giving a lecture as it’s a touch too formal for my liking. That is not to say that you shouldn’t use it if it makes things easier for you, and this is the point of my advice, to try and make things as easy for you as possible.

What I would suggest then, is to learn more of these “connectors” and to practice using them so as to impress the examiner with your wide range of vocabulary and your obvious cohesive skill, not just for part 2 but for all 3 sections. With this in mind, I shall make a list of some of the most well used linking words and phrases and the situations they should be best used in. So try these out for size, and remember to mix them up and above all, try to be natural.

Stating two contrasting views in a balanced way

On the other hand

I really like the idea of studying in England, on the other hand it is probably cheaper to study in Europe.

Alternatively

I would like to study in England, alternatively, I could do it in Europe.

Then again

I was thinking about studying in England, then again, Australia is always an option.

Stating two contrasting views and emphasizing the difference

However  (a bit formal)

I am interested in studying medicine, however, psychology has always fascinated me.

Nevertheless (a bit formal)

I wouldn’t say that London is a bad place to study, nevertheless,  rental prices are very expensive there.

Having said that (a bit formal)

Learning English is a bit tricky, having said that, many people become fluent after some years of study.

At the same time

I think you need to be strict with yourself while studying, having said that, you need to do something fun in English once in a while.

All the same

Studying in a foreign country can be exciting, all the same, students need to be aware they aren’t there just for fun.

Mind you

To be honest, I don’t really like studying, mind you, it is important for my future.

Still

It’s going to take me three years to graduate, still, it should be worth it in the end.

Instead

I don’t like watching TV, instead, I watch videos on the internet.

In spite of/despite/this/that

London is very expensive, despite this, I had to come here for study.

Even so

Learning English in the UK is expensive, even so, it’s the best way to learn the language.

Talking about similarity

Similarly

Yes, I think that learning grammar is important. similarly, we need to study vocabulary too.

In the same way

My mother learnt English when she was a child,  in the same way,  I will teach it to my children.

Contradicting

On the contrary (a bit formal)

Are you Australian? On the contrary,  I am English.

Concession (to show you recognise an alternative view)

Of course, there’s always an exception to every rule.

Admittedly, some people do like watching reality TV.

Naturally, I love studying English, it’s great!

Obviously, learning English can be difficult some times.

Persuading

After all

I don’t take things too seriously, after all, I am still a student.

Addition  (giving more details)

As well as that

Studying abroad can really give you a feeling of independence, as well as that, you can improve your language skills too!

On top of that

Well, I really love studying English, on top of that, it will be very useful for my future.

Another thing is

Learning English is fantastic, I love it, another thing is, it’s going to be really useful for the future.

For that matter

I’m not very interested in football, for that matter, I’m not interested in any sport.

Besides

I haven’t seen that film, besides, it’s not very good.

What’s more

Yes, I think that learning English is very useful, what’s more it can be very enjoyable.

Furthermore

Actually, I think English language skills are very important, furthermore, they are very enjoyable to use.

Well, that’s enough for now, there are more, this list isn’t exhaustive but it should give you some ideas how to connect your sentences. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to write to me at any time and I will try to answer you.

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