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Top 5 activities for your 1 minute planning time in IELTS speaking part 2

Before part 2 of the speaking interview, the examiner will say this:

“I’m going to give you a topic, and I’d like you to talk about it for one to two minutes. Before you talk, you’ll have one minute to think about what you’re going to say. You can make some notes if you wish. Do you understand? Here’s some paper and a pencil for making notes and here’s your topic.”

Do  you know what you should be doing during that one minute?

Researchers have asked IELTS candidates what they do during the 1 minute of planning time. These are the most useful activities that successful candidates use.

Top 5 activities for the 1 minute planning time:

1     They decide what to talk about.

There is a danger that you will spend the minute staring at the topic trying to decide what to say. At the end of the minute, you have to decide what to say. The sooner you decide, the more time you’ll have for planning and the more relaxed you’ll feel.

Practise looking at a lot of different part 2 topics. How many seconds does it take for you to decide what to talk about?

2     They reread the task and the bullet points.

The task is there to help you. You’ve decided your topic. The bullet points will help you think of different aspects of the topic that you can talk about.

Look at different part 2 topics to see how the bullet points can help you think of ideas.

3     They think about ideas and content.

Depending on the topic, you may feel that you have too much to say or too little. You might need to select what to say or brainstorm extra ideas.

You should talk for 1 to 2 minutes. If you speak for less than a minute, the examiner will encourage you to say more. If you try and speak for more than 2 minutes, the examiner will stop you. Practise talking for 1-2 minutes so that you know how much you’ll need to say.

4     They organize their ideas.

You know what you want to say, but have you decided how to say it? Where are you going to start? How are you going to order your ideas? Are you going to give a mini-presentation with main ideas and supporting points? Or are you going to describe personal experiences in a narrative?

Choose one part 2 task. Think of all the different ways that you could talk about this prompt? Then move on to a different task. Keep doing this and exploring different ways of answering questions. Which way of speaking about the tasks do you feel most comfortable with?

5     They make brief notes.

You don’t have time to write detailed notes. Your aim should be to write down key words that will remind you of the different details and examples that you want to talk about. The examiner won’t look at your notes. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or neat handwriting.

Practise taking notes. To being with, don’t time yourself. Then give yourself 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes and then 1 minute.

Commonly asked questions:

Do I have to use the one minute planning time?

No, you don’t but most examiners will want you to. Examiners use that time. They think about the range of bands you are likely to get (e.g. will you probably get between bands 4 and 6, or 7 and 9?) They also plan the questions they will ask you in part 3. In part 3 they need to choose questions to ask you in ways that are challenging but achievable. This is how they can make sure that they are giving you the right band.

What should I do if I don’t understand a word or phrase in the task?

Ask the examiner and ask him/her straight away. Don’t waste your minute worrying about the meaning and then ask at the end. This would reduce your planning time and increase your stress levels.

Can I ask for a new task?

No, you can’t. Once examiners have decided what to ask, they aren’t allowed to change their minds. All the tasks have been carefully written and tested so that they can be answered by all students. They  don’t require any specialized background knowledge.

What happens if I run out of things to say?

Look at the bullet points. Have you answered all of them? Have you answered them fully? Is there any last question underneath the bullets? If you really have nothing more to add, then don’t force yourself to keep on going. You are likely to repeat yourself or start talking about things which are irrelevant to the task. Remember, you only have to talk between one and two minutes. The examiner won’t stop you until you have been talking for two minutes. If you’ve run out of things to say, it may be that you have already spoken for more than a minute, that you’ve already said enough.

Should I memorize responses to common questions?

No, you shouldn’t. Examiners know when you’ve memorized something and this will lower your band. People speak differently when they’re speaking naturally than when they’re reciting something from their memories. Also, you may find that you are answering a task which is similar to the prompt, but not exactly the same. Instead of memorizing, use your time to practise responding to tasks.

Image (c) Stuart Miles


3 thoughts on “Top 5 activities for your 1 minute planning time in IELTS speaking part 2

  1. [A product] and [B product]: Most people compare the [A product] to the [B product], but after seeing how slim and surprisingly small and light it is, I consider the [A product] to be a rather unique hybrid that combines qualities of both the [C product] and the [D product]. It’s colorful [$$$] screen is slightly smaller than the [£££] screen, but the player itself feels quite a bit smaller and lighter. It weighs about 2/3 as much, and is noticeably smaller in width and height, while being only slightly thicker.

    Posted by Albino People | September 19, 2011, 5:36 am
  2. I wouldn’t normally let spam like this through, but I thought it was a nice example of a compare & contrast paragraph and wanted to share. I’ve removed the blatant advertising and the website link, so please just focus on the way that this is written. This spammer is comparing products A and B with reference to 2 other products. If you read carefully, you may be able to guess what these products are. However, I’d prefer you to read carefully and look at how the writer starts off with a great topic sentence (we know what the topic is, what’s being compared, why, and the writer’s position). Also look at the range of adverbs that the writer uses with the comparative adjectives (slightly smaller, quite a bit smaller, noticeably smaller, slightly thicker). He/she also uses conjunctions (but & while) to contrast the features of the products and this works well. One of my main criticisms of this paragraph is that the writer overuses the word ‘smaller’. This is obviously a key term for this product, but if you are writing a compare and contrast paragraph like this, avoid such repetition by using synonyms or paraphrasing. Of course, my other criticism is … it’s spam!

    Posted by help4ielts | September 19, 2011, 11:35 pm


  1. Pingback: Conversation rules for IELTS speaking « help4ielts - September 21, 2011

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