In the IELTS Speaking Part 2 or Topic/Cue/Task card section, candidates often become confused and nervous to talk about any unusual/unknown/strange/irregular topics due to their lack of preparation. This post focuses on some easy strategies or steps which any candidate can apply if they face such a situation in the real IELTS Speaking test. Here, I’ve discussed this issue in detail and explained it by showing an example cue card which is ‘An Unusual Activity’. I hope this post helps all the candidates who face such problems.
IELTS Speaking Part 2: How to face any unusual/unknown/strange/irregular topic card
Among the three sections/parts of IELTS Speaking, most candidates are afraid of Speaking Part 2 where they have to talk about a particular topic for about 2 or 2 and a half minutes.
Before you start speaking on the given topic, you are given 1 minute to prepare.
So, we can say Speaking Part 2 has two sections:
Section 1: Preparing for the topic (1 minute) The silent moment
Section 2: Delivering the topic (2 minutes) The noisy moment
It’s quite like a horror movie! Isn’t it? The silent moment (1 minute) indicates that something bad is going to happen (2 minutes). Well, I’m not saying it is a danger because your preparation was not good or you were too nervous about your mistakes. Unfortunately, the examiner does not consider whether your prep was good or bad or whether you were nervous.
It’s more like the examiner has to follow the marking criteria which are:
- Fluency: how natural and effortless you are in speaking at different levels
- Pronunciation: how accurate is your pronunciation of different words
- Lexical resource: how many difficult and beautiful words you use &
- Grammar: how good or bad you are in using tenses, different sentence formations etc.
Ask yourself one question. Is there any mark for your preparation of topics (the number of topics you have memorized)? Nothing!
What are you doing? You are passing sleepless nights trying to memorize as many topics as you can cover. You are collecting innumerable pdf and doc files that give the model answers to hundreds of IELTS Speaking topics. And then, when you don’t get your expected topic in the actual exam, you just break down! And that’s where you are defeated!
But what if we put less pressure on ‘what topic we are talking about’ and give more attention to ‘how we are talking on the topic’?
I believe this Speaking exam is more of a psychological game and if you follow my recommendations in the following sections and try to just talk about and around the topic with minimum worries, you may get far better results than ever.
You need a focused mind-setting, whatever the topic is, you can talk about it, at least for a minute and a half. Take a vow, come on! Tell your mind and soul, “I can talk about any topic for a minute and a half; whatever the topic is.”
Let’s take a look at an unusual topic card! Okay? Don’t worry. If you don’t know the topic, just follow my lead.
Suppose the following is your topic card. This might be common for many; then again, it can be uncommon for many candidates.
Many of you are now thinking, if such a topic card appears in your real IELTS test, you might not do as good as you expected.
But, think again about the following points about the IELTS Speaking test:
- It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters how you say it.
- You can create something that you didn’t do, just maintain basic logics.
- You can describe something which other people did and make it for your own.
- You need to talk only for about 2/3 minutes.
- You need to talk on the given prompts but need not maintain any sequence.
You may not be familiar with ‘an unusual activity’ but you may know many common activities. So, make a usual activity which you do but not like all other common activities. Think about such activities; it can be fishing in the open waters, playing games with little kids, cleaning the neighbourhood, watching a movie with the whole neighbourhood, or arranging a neighbourhood party. All these activities may be common ones, but think again carefully; for many of us, these activities can be unusual. Many people don’t like to be a part of the society but sometimes we see them working with us and helping. The activities are, therefore, unusual to them because they are not accustomed to those activities.
I’ll just make a short note like this one in 1 minute:
Now, I’ll begin with an opening statement confessing intelligently that I don’t know much about the topic. Let’s take a look:
“Thank you for the topic card. Frankly speaking, I don’t do much unusual activities nowadays as I’m quite busy with my job/studies. I did some social work when I was a student in grade 5/6 in my school life. Then I became an introvert due to my experience of getting bullied in school. So, gathering with a group of people or joining a party has always been something that I wanted to avoid. I used to hide when there was a party at my school, my house, or in the neighbourhood as I found it completely strange in the midst of a cluster of people. It is, therefore, quite difficult to recollect any such activity.”
This is how I’ll start talking about the topic following the prompts. I’ll try to add as much information as I can to prolong my speech. I’ll also keep looking at the notes I made to balance my speech with the topic card.
The trick here is to talk about a common neighbourhood party but when you describe it, let the examiner believe that it was an unusual experience for you.
“A few years ago, as I recall, some of my neighbourhood teens suddenly knocked at my door. When I opened my front door, they hurled themselves inside and I felt an excitement working on them. They told me to help them with decoration for a party that was due to be held on the following weekend. As I mentioned before, I was quite an introverted person and I didn’t like the idea much. However, when I saw the cute little faces, I couldn’t say no. I gave them my word that I’d help them decorate the party. Actually, one of the youngsters knew my mom and I suspect my mom told her about my skills in arts and crafts.
The next day I worked with the kids in the nearby park where the party was due to be held. They told me about the theme which was ‘Parent appreciation’, and I helped them buy the necessary things for the decoration. I found it quite unusual and interesting to work with teenage boys and girls as I was way much older than them. The theme colour of the party was green; which was my favorite colour by chance. I didn’t talk much but assisted the young kids to decorate the stage with green bamboo sticks and artificial green leaves. We also made some lanterns with bamboo and green leaves.
Later that afternoon, the party started and like all other party days, I wanted to hide. Again, those kids somehow found me and urged me to join them at the party. They also promised me that I wouldn’t be bothered by anyone. When I went to the party, I saw all the people from the 50 houses in my community. I saw adults, aged people, little children, and youngsters. Then, a very unexpected thing happened. Everyone stood up from their chairs and started clapping and appreciating me for the beautiful decoration. I was quite shocked when the Mayor of our council called me by name to the stage to share my thoughts about the party. I had never faced such a strange moment in my life. I somehow managed myself and went to the stage, giving a very short speech by thanking everyone at the party, especially those kids who actually helped me get out of my room and become a part of the community. After all the speeches by guests and parents, we had a big feast in the park. I went to the kids and thanked them again. Each of them gave me a hug which made me quite emotional. They became my neighbourhood friends from that day.
It was an unusual experience to work with teenagers as I have never done that before. It was also quite special and a first-time experience for me to be appreciated by seniors in my community.
Not as tough as you thought before! Right?
Well, this is how you can manage to talk about any unexpected topics in the exam. Never feel panicked and try to say as much as you can.
I hope you keep practicing on different topics and get accustomed to such experiences. Ask your trainers to arrange some MOCK exams for you and arrange some unusual topics so that you become habituated to speaking about them.