Deciding what to talk about in part 2 speaking

How should you use your one minute’s thinking time in part 2 speaking? Perhaps the best thing to do is to make sure that you just select the right thing to talk about and don’t concentrate so much on making notes. That may sound scary but it can really help you get to two minutes.

Key ideas

The key ideas areThe first thing you think of may not be what you can talk most aboutIt can help to think about different things to talk about and then select the bestSometimes you may waste time writing notes rather than just thinkingThe only notes you should make are notes that actually help you speak better!

An example of selecting the right thing

Let’s start with the example to illustrate the skill. Here’s a tough question

Talk about a piece of furniture you like. You should say

what it is

where it is

how often you use it

and say why you like it so much

This is the first thing I think of:

It’s a chair that I have from my mother. One problem: I can’t think of very much to say about it. I can just about describe it but that’s it. Even though it’s my favourite and the first thing I think of, it’s not going to be the best thing to talk about.

The next piece of furniture I think of is this sofa. I quite like it. I have more to say about it, but again I can only describe it and say it’s slightly uncomfortable and I use it to watch tv.

Now this piece of furniture I can say lots about.

It isn’t my favourite but it has an interesting story and I know can extend my answer when I talk about it. Here are the ideas I have with the brief notes I make.

it’s a chair I bought for my daughter – daughter

it looks slightly odd – appearance

I kept it in the garage for months – garage

it’s now loved by my daughter and cat! – cat

it doesn’t fit with my other furniture – different

The point is that it’s the third thing I think of. If I decide too quickly to talk about my mother’s chair and make notes on that I may only speak for a minute or so. If I spend a few moments thinking of options, then I will get more to say.

How to make it work

This is a technique you’ll need to practise for yourself to see what works for you. But here are some ideas to start you off.

Don’t automatically make notes on the first thing you think of

Often people fail to get to 2 minutes because they choose the wrong thing to talk about. If you instantly decide on what you’re going to cover then you may waste your preparation time. Be prepared to stop and think a bit

Take a little time to choose

Obviously you don’t have a lot of time to do this. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should spend no time on it! Spending a few seconds choosing the right thing won’t be time wasted.

Think about different options

If you’re going to use this technique, then this bit should be obvious. In order to select the best thing to talk about you think about different options and decide which you can say most about. In my example above I’m sure I can speak about my daughter’s chair

Choose something you have more to say about

Again this part should be obvious. There is a trap though. Lots of questions ask you to talk about something you like or dislike. The trap is that you try and talk about the thing you like or dislike most. In the example above that would mean my talking about my mother’s chair. Instead I suggest that you consider:

the number of thing you can say

what you know best

You can still make notes!

While this technique is essentially a thinking technique, that doesn’t mean you can’t still make a few notes. If you look at my example above, you’ll see that I have made a few one word notes to help me remind myself of things I can say.

Look at all the parts of the question

This point is slightly different. Part 2 questions come in 4 parts and you are asked to cover all 4. While there is no task response score in speaking, it is generally best to try and cover all the questions. They’re really there to help you. The idea is that if you look at all the parts of the question before you start speaking, then it should be much easier to decide whether you have enough to say.

Go beyond the question – think of comparisons and history

This point is slightly different again. You can go beyond the question in part 2 as well – you’re not restricted to just talking about the points in the question. In fact, its quite natural to add detail that isn’t asked for. Here’s an example of how it can work where I add in lots of detail about another chair.

I’m going to tell you about a chair that I bought for my daughter. She’s a toddler now and when she was just a baby I bought her a bouncy chair for her to sleep in. It was a great success and she used to love bouncing up and down in it. The only problem was that she got too big for it and I had to buy her a new one. It’s that chair I’m going to tell you about.

If you’re stuck for things to say a neat trick is to compare the thing you’re talking about with something else. Here i compare my daughter’s chair with my mother’s chair. I’m able to do that partly because I spent a little time thinking of different bits of furniture before I started speaking.

Why do I like this chair so much? Well, it isn’t my favourite piece of furniture. That would be an antique armchair I inherited from my mother – it’s a much more elegant and stylish chair. But when it comes down to it, I get more pleasure from my daughter’s chair because it makes her smile and what makes her smile makes me happy.

Other ways to spend your preparation time

This is just one suggestion. It’s an idea that I think everyone should try, but it’s wise to try different techniques to see what works for you with different questions.

You’ll find an overview of the main techniques in this lesson.

How to use your one minute’s preparation time

It may be that you’ll find that you need slightly different techniques with different questions. You’ll find lots of different part 2 questions to practise your skills on here

Part 2 speaking practice questions

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