Difficult Part 2 topic cards in IELTS
In Part 2 of the IELTS speaking test the examiner will give you a topic card that you will need to talk about for 2 minutes, after you have had 1 minute preparation time. But what happens if the examiner gives you a topic card that you have no ideas about and will not be able to talk about?
For example, if you have no interest in art or art galleries and really have no opinion on the subject, what would you do if this was your topic?
| Describe a piece of art that you likeYou should say:|
You should also say whether you would recommend it to someone else.
Here are some tips that will help!
Tip 1: Don’t panic!
It’s hard to do when you’re in the middle of your test, but it’s important to remain calm. Remember you have 60 seconds to prepare an answer, so take a few seconds to read the topic card again to see if there’s anything there that can you feel you could talk about.
Tip 2: Be honest
Although you cannot ask the examiner to give you another card and you cannot simply say ‘I don’t have anything to say about this’, you can tell the examiner that this is not really your kind if subject. For example:
‘Well, the topic card is asking about a piece of art that I like, but to be completely honest, I’m really not that interested in art in any form. However, I can tell you about…..’
Tip 3: Focus on anything in the subject or the prompts that you can talk about
In the example topic card above, you may have nothing to say about a piece of art you like, but can you talk about anything related? The second prompt on the card asks ‘where you saw it’ – can you say anything about local art galleries in your area or your hometown? Have you ever been to an art gallery? If so, did you like it? If you have never been to an art gallery, why not? You can talk about the lack of local facilities, or a general disinterest in art because no-one in your family is interested and you never went to galleries as a child. Even if you are only talking tangentially (not exactly or directly) about the topic, you will not lose points.
Tip 4: Be someone else
Personally, I have no real interest in art, so if I had to speak for two minutes on the topic card above, I would have trouble – and I’m a native English speaker and IELTS instructor! However, I do have a friend who is interested in art, so for the two minutes I was talking, I would pretend to be him. Why does my friend like going to galleries? What does he get out of his visits? How does he feel about art? Has he ever said anything to you about traditional versus modern art? By thinking about a question from the perspective of someone with an interest in the subject, it becomes easier to talk about.
Tip 5: Redefine the question
If you really feel that you will not be able to talk for the full two minutes of the subject, make sure that the examiner knows that you are modifying the question slightly. For example:
‘To tell the truth, I can’t talk much about art, but I am quite interested in museums. I think they are more important than art as they are a reflection of our past, and our history tells us more about who we are than art does – at least in my opinion.’
You have now told the examiner that you are moving the question away from the topic and on to something else. NOTE: try to make what you are going to talk about related to the topic in some way. For example, don’t start talking about a holiday you had or your favourite type of food!
Tip 6: Remember the focus of the speaking test
Keep in mind that is a speaking test – you are being assessed not on how accurate your response is compared to the question, but on how well you can communicate your point of view. You are NOT penalised for an indirect or unrelated answer so long as what you are saying is clear and logical. To illustrate, did you know that there is NO penalty for not covering all of the prompts on the topic card?
Take a look at some of the more unusual topic cards below – how would you respond?
|Talk about something you used to collect.|
You should say:
You should also say whether you normally collect things.
|Talk about a board game you have played.|
You should say:
You should also say whether you still play this game.
|Describe a sporting event you took part in recently.|
You should say:
You should also say whether you would do this again