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IELTS Speaking: The most important 60 seconds

IELTS Speaking: The most important 60 seconds

In Part 2 of the Speaking test, you are given a card with a topic, and 60 seconds to prepare. You then have to speak on the topic for one to two minutes. This one minute of preparation time is absolutely critical, and can make all the difference in achieving the band score you need — or failing to reach it. In this post, we will look at how you should use that crucial 60 seconds.

What topic can I expect?

The IELTS Speaking Part 2 question will not require any specialist knowledge. You may be asked to talk about a friend, a possession, a place, an advertisement or an invention. Here is an example:

Describe something you own which is very important to you.

You should say:

  • where you got it from
  • how long you have had it
  • what you use it for; and
  • explain why it is important to you.

You will have to talk about the topic for 1 to 2 minutes.

You have one minute to think about what you’re going to say.

You can make some notes to help you if you wish.

Once you have read the task card, the most important thing you should do is take notes.

Taking notes

First, focus on the topic and underline it. In this case, you would underline ‘something you own’. All of your talk must be about this item; you will get no marks for talking about something else. Now you must decide exactly which item you will talk about. For this task, let’s use the example of your mobile phone.

Look at the task card again. The card above has four bullet points. These points can help you structure your talk. Ideally, you will allocate three ideas to each point, and this will give you plenty to talk about for two minutes. As you think of these points, remember that you do not have to tell the truth.

So, using the mobile phone example, for bullet point 1 on the task card (where you got it from) you might make the following notes:

  • present from parents
  • bought in US
  • big surprise

This gives you three things to talk about:

Firstly, I’m going to tell you about where I got my phone. It was a present from my parents for my eighteenth birthday. My mother had been on a business trip to the US, and she bought it there. It was a fantastic surprise to me because I’d never had such an expensive present before.

Now move on to bullet point 2 (how long you have had it):

  • 8 mths / since bday (8 months / since birthday)
  • last phone 5 years (last phone was used for five years)
  • 5 years is max (five years is the maximum for a phone)

Again, you have three points to make:

As I mentioned before, I was given the phone for my birthday which was eight months ago, back in September. It was just in time because my last phone was five years old, and had almost stopped working. I think five years is the maximum for a phone. That means that this one should be good for about another four years, which is great.

Now try making notes for the last two points yourself.

Using structural language

If you look back at the two examples above, you may notice a few useful phrases at the start of sentences. Here are three examples:

  • Firstly, I’m going to tell you about…
  • As I mentioned before…
  • As a result…

This is called ‘structural language’. You can prepare these phrases beforehand to help structure and guide your talk. These are similar to opinionated discourse markers. Having this language at your fingertips gives you two advantages. Firstly, it sounds impressive to the examiner. Secondly, pre-prepared language gives you that little bit of extra time to focus on the topic.

Now try this

  1. Practise
    Take out your phone and open up the timer. Set it for one minute. Then choose an item to talk about, and make notes. Think of three points for each of the bullet points. Then record yourself talking for two minutes.
  2. Review and learn
    Listen to your talk, and note down what you said. How well did you structure your ideas? Did you use ‘structural language’? If not, think about how you could have done the task better. Note down some ‘structural language’ that you could use.
  3. More practise
    The best way to improve is to keep practising. Search for ‘IELTS Speaking practice’ online and you will find lots of examples of Part 2 tasks. Why not try one a day for a week?

Final thought

Worried about your fluency? Kevin McLaven, British Council Director, is giving out advice on how to improve your fluency in IELTS Speaking Part 2 here.


  1. Veronika says:

    Maybe I’d be less worried if I didn’t have time to prepare at all and talk impromptu. This minute just makes me more panicky and my thoughts get confused.
    But maybe if you are confident in your knowledge, I think you can pass this part of the exam successfully if you know in advance what is expected of you.

  2. Daniel Ahedor says:

    Wow, these tips are not only useful but also very practical. Thanks. My first time on this webiste and am loving it. My test date is about three weeks away from today.

    • Hi there! Structured language can help you make your talking points clearer. It isn’t meant to sound mechanical – it should actually help you sound more natural. I’m not sure what you mean by reduce the mark for copying but memorising and using structured language phrases in your test can be very useful to you.

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