The importance of adding details to your IELTS Cue Card
I want to start this post by telling you something that you might find a bit shocking. Are you ready? In IELTS Speaking Part 1, you don’t need to address all of the bullet points on the IELTS cue card. That’s right, there is no penalty for missing one, or two or even three! 😲
If this is the first time you have heard this piece of information, it might be a bit hard to take in, but the point is that the bullets are simply to there to HELP YOU speak for 2 minutes. They are designed to trigger ideas and support you through your speech. However, when the examiner gives you your Task 2 card on test day, it can be easy to focus ONLY on the bullet points, and this can cause problems because, very often, addressing the bullets on their own will take no more than 30 or 45 seconds. For example, let’s imagine that you are given this cue card:
Talk about your favourite book.
You should say:
• what the book is
• when you first read it
• what the story is about
and explain why you like the book so much
If you simply “answered” the bullets, you would probably only speak for about 30-45 seconds.
The book I’d like to talk to you about is Generation X. I first read it when I was a student and it’s about a group of young twenty-somethings who are trying to understand what to do with their lives now that they have finished university. I guess, actually, that’s why I liked it so much at the time, because it reflected what I was feeling. 🛑 STOP = 35 seconds.
Have I answered all of the bullets? YES ✔
Have I completed the task well? NO! ✖- I still have to speak for another 85 seconds!
The problem here is that the test-taker focussed on including the information in the bullets rather than actually speaking freely about their favourite book. Remember, you are not penalise for missing a bullet, so it’s much better to focus on giving a FULL STORY or DESCRIPTION than quickly trying to tick off the bullet points. And, what do full stories include DETAILS! Seriously, when we tell people about our favourite books or a time we were late, or even our favourite period of history, we aren’t fooling a checklist in our head of important details we must include, we are COMMUNICATING INFORMATION! And very often that means giving lots of SMALL DETAILS to help the listener follow our story. It is these details that are the key to being able to speak for two minutes on ANY topic.🗝🗝🗝🗝🗝
Don’t be afraid to:
start your speech with some context for why you chose to talk about a particular event/object/person
- give small explanations that add to the story throughout your talk (as you would in the real world) – it is perfectly fine to go off on a tangent if it adds to the meaning of your story.
- give examples that illustrate the points that you are making (this is especially useful if you are describing a person, as I discuss in this post)
- add a second example if you feel you are running out of things to say (here you could talk about another book by the same author, or another favourite book)
Now, I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t answer the bullets on the IELTS Cue Card or not focus on them. What I am saying is don’t ONLY focus on them. Good performances in Task 2 have DETAILS. So, what would my favourite book 2-minute talk look like with some content and added details (in CAPITALS?
The book I’d like to talk to you about is Generation X. IT’S WRITTEN BY DOUGLAS COUPLAND WHO IS BY FAR MY FAVROUITE AUTHOR. ACTUALLY, GENERATION X WAS THE FIRST BOOK OF HIS THAT I READ, BUT I’VE READ ALL OF HIS BOOKS NOW. I think I first read it when I was a student. I THINK IT MAY HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO ME BY BEST FRIEND, DAN.
ANYWAY, it’s about a group of young twenty-somethings who are trying to understand what to do with their lives now that they’ve finished university. HONESTLY, I CAN’T REALLY REMEMBER THE PLOT VERY WELL BECAUSE IT’S NOT A BOOK IN WHICH VERY MUCH HAPPENS. WHAT I DO REMEMBER IS THAT THE GENERAL THEME OF THE BOOK IS THAT THE CHARACTERS ARE AFRAID OF GROWING UP. OH, THERE ARE ALSO THESE GREAT ILLUSTRATIONS ON ALMOST EVERY PAGE THAT REPRESENT WHAT THE THEY ARE FEELING. I REMEMBER I COPIED SOMEOF THOSE IN THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY AND STUCK THEM TO MY BEDROOM WALL.
I guess the reason why I liked the book so much at the time was because it kind of reflected what I was feeling. I MEAN, I WAS ABOUT TO GRADUATE UNIVERSITY MYSELF AND I HAD ABSOLTELY NO IDEA WHAT I WAS GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE. TO MAKE MATTER’S WORSE, EVERYONE I LIVED WITH OR KNEW ON MY COURSE HAD A DEFINITE PLAN, AND THAT MADE ME FEEL EVEN MORE ALONE. I THINK I REALATED A LOT TO THE CHARACTERS AND WISHED THAT I COULD BE PART OF THEIR FRIENDSHIP GROUP.
ACTUALLY, IT’S BEEN ALMOST 10 YEARS SINCE I READ GENERATION X. IT MIGHT BE INTERESTING TO GO BACK AND READ IT AGAIN NOW TO SEE IF I STILL LIKE IT AS MUCH. IT MIGHT BE THAT NOW I’VE GROWN UP, I WON’T RELATE TO THE CHARACTERS ANYMORE. = 2 minutes 🎉🎉
Can you see the difference that adding extra details makes? Now my 2 minute talk feels natural and, more importantly for my Fluency and Coherence score, IT IS TWO MINUTES!!!! Again, let’s be clear, I’m not saying that you should always go into such small details, but if you struggle to speak for two minutes, details are the key to extending your answer.
So, next time you are practicing Speaking Part 2, use the bullets on the IELTS Cue Card as a spring board for your imagination, but focus more of communicating than listing. Good luck!💥🚀
If you would like to practice this technique for Speaking Part 2 with me, then book yourself a Skype class today to increase your chance of a high score on exam day!