Tips and Topics for the IELTS Speaking Test part 2: the ‘Long Turn’

student going to do the ielts speaking exam

The IELTS exam continues to be an important requirement for work or study in other parts of the world. As English becomes more and more important, the numbers of students taking the exam is increasing rapidly.  One of the more challenging areas of the IELTS exam is is the Speaking test where many test takers mess up because they were not ready for it.

In this article, you will learn all about the IELTS Speaking Test Part 2. You will learn some common IELTS Speaking topics for part 2 of the exam and also some helpful IELTS speaking tips so that you can do well in this part of the exam.

The IELTS Speaking Test

The IELTS Speaking test is the shortest of all the tests.  It is a one-on-one interview which lasts between 11-14 minutes where the IELTS examiner tests your level of spoken English.  There are three parts to the speaking test, namely the Introduction, the Long Turn, and the Discussion. Each part becomes more challenging than the first as the examiner gauges your Fluency in English, Vocabulary, Grammar, and Pronunciation.  The interview is also recorded to have an official record for your benefit.

Learn about the IELTS ‘Long Turn’

The second part of the IELTS Speaking Test is called ‘The Long Turn’. It is an important part of the exam and lasts 3-4 minutes.  If you would like to get a very high score (Band 7.0 and above), then you must do well in this section.  The IELTS Speaking Test Part 2 is similar to an extemporaneous speech, a talk with very little preparation time.  The test taker is handed a topic card and given one minute to think and write notes about it.  After that, the test taker must speak for up to two minutes about that topic.

Basically, IELTS Speaking Test Part 2 tests how well you can talk for an extended period of time.  A two minute answer is quite long compared to the answers expected in Parts 1 or 3 of the test. When written down, a good answer is around 220 to 270 words long, just like part two of the Writing exam!

Learning More About the Long Turn Topic Card

On every topic card there is a main question followed by sub-questions.  The main question is the most important one so every test taker should consider that first.  The sub-questions are just there to help guide your answer.

Example: Describe a hotel that you have visited.

  • Where is it located?
  • When did you go there?
  • Who did you go with?
  • What did you like about it?

When answering, it helps to answer in order as your response will make more sense that way.  However, it does NOT have to be like that. You can change the order; choose not to answer one of the sub-questions; or even add something different.  What matters is that you can answer the question well in a fluent and coherent way, while reaching the required time limit.

Here’s an example of a good answer for the question above:

The hotel that I visited before was the Lucky 7 Hotel.  The last time I went there was last year during my colleague’s birthday party.  It was a dual celebration for her because she had just been promoted, so she held the party there.  I went with my wife, but not the kids. It was a semi-formal affair so I didn’t want my kids running around.  I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the celebration if I had to keep an eye on the children all the time.

As for the hotel, I thought it was nice.  It wasn’t a five star hotel but the service was still very good.  The employees were nice and accommodating. I remember that I asked to be moved to another table since we were seated quite far from the stage.  They immediately found my wife and I another seat. The food was surprisingly good. It looked like food you would see in a cheap buffet. But when you ate it, each mouthful was packed with flavor.  I remember having thirds. My wife had seconds for dessert. Another thing I liked was their bathroom. You can often tell the kind of service you’ll get by the way they maintain their bathroom. It was spacious and clean.  It even smelled good! It spoke volumes about the kind of management they have, especially since it wasn’t a fancy hotel. Overall, it was a good place. (243 words!)

The answer is a very clear response with good vocabulary.  It has a lot of details about the person’s experience at the hotel.  The guide questions were generally followed, though the first sub-question (location) was skipped. Other details were added like why the children were not brought along and how many times they went back to the buffet.  

What is the IELTS Examiner Looking for?

In IELTS Speaking part 2, there are some key things the examiner is looking for: a clear and coherent answer; minimal pauses and repetition; and good vocabulary and grammar.

Give a Coherent Answer

Many test takers don’t do well in this part of the test because their story does not make sense.  This usually happens when the test taker does not know the topic well and decides to make up an answer.  Since they are NOT telling the truth, they end up with a very unclear answer.

So, tell the truth.  If you are not familiar, you may say so at the start then try your best to answer.  For example, “Well I haven’t been able to visit a museum before.  The closest one is five hours away from my town so it is too difficult and expensive to visit.  But I have seen the museum before on the internet so I’ll tell you about what I think about it when I saw it online…”

Too Many Pauses or Repetition

Another error is trying to sound like an expert in a topic you are unfamiliar with.  When you do this, you will either pause too much or repeat yourself since you do not know what to say next.

For this, you should speak from personal experience.  For example, for the question, “Describe an important building in your city,” a good answer may sound like this, “Hmm. In my view, an important place for me is the downtown mall.  I think almost everybody goes there at least once per week. It has …”

Since the test taker knows the place well, it is easier to answer.  While others may say that city hall or the power plant might be more important places than the mall, the question does NOT require that.  This is not a test where the person has to study something in advance and give a textbook answer. Just answer from what you know.

In addition, it also helps to look at the topic card and your notes.  Sometimes test takers skip a sub-question which is why they end up repeating themselves.

Wide Vocabulary and Good Grammar

Of course, the examiner looks at the vocabulary and grammar.  Since a two minute answer is required, it is important that vocabulary is changed and that correct grammar is sustained. As mentioned earlier, tell the truth and choose something you are familiar with.  If you do, you will know what vocabulary words to use.

Now let’s look at some of the common IELTS Speaking topics and questions that are asked in the IELTS Speaking part 2.

Common IELTS Speaking Topics for Part 2

The following are some common questions you can practice on:

Describe a gadget you would like to buy.

  • What is it?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Where can you buy it?
  • Why do you want it?

Describe your favorite pair of shoes.

  • What are they like?
  • How did you get them?
  • How often do you use them?
  • Why are they your favorite?

Describe your dream car.

  • What does it look like?
  • Where can you buy it?
  • Why do you want it?
  • How easy will it be to get it?

Describe a friend that has helped you.

  • Who is he/she?
  • How did he/she help you?
  • How did he/she know you needed help?
  • How did you thank him/her?

Describe a family member that you think is funny.

  • Who is he/she?
  • How often do you see each other?
  • What makes him/her funny?
  • Do your friends or family also think he/she is funny?

Describe a politician that you admire.

  • Who is he/she?
  • How did you find out about this politician?
  • Why do you admire him/her?
  • Do your friends or family admire him/her too?

Describe a bank that you go to.

  • Where is this bank?
  • How often do you go there?
  • What do you like about its services?
  • What would you like to improve?

Describe a gym that you know about.

  • Where is this gym?
  • How affordable is it?
  • What facilities does it have?
  • How popular is it with other people?

Describe a popular school in your hometown.

  • What is this school like?
  • What kind of facilities does it have?
  • Why is this school popular?
  • Would you like your family to attend this school?

5 Things to do to prepare for the IELTS Speaking Test Part 2

1. Practice the Different Topics

– As you do not know what you will get, it is important to practice with a variety of topics.  If you know you have difficulty in some areas such as environment, media, or architecture, then practice answering questions related to them.

2. Do NOT Completely Memorize Answers

– Unfortunately, some weaker candidates try to memorize answers, thinking that if they talk for two minutes then they will be safe.  The examiner is wise and will know if you are repeating something you memorized, especially if it has nothing to do with the topic card.  This will NOT help you.

3. Speak from Experience

– As mentioned earlier, if you make up an answer or try to sound like an expert, you will just make a mistake.  Speak from experience so you will know what to say and have better control of grammar and vocabulary.

4. Look at the Questions and Your Notes

– It is OK to look at your notes. This is the purpose of the time you are given to prepare. By looking at the sub-questions and your notes you will avoid repetition.  If you miss something, you are allowed to go back to it.

5. Add Details to Your Answer

– Finally, do not just rush through your answers. Remember that you need to speak for up to two minutes.  Be descriptive and give details to your story. Details add vocabulary and they ensure you will hit the two minutes.

The IELTS Speaking Test Part 2 is a very, very important part of the test if you want a high score.  Try to speak from experience and practice a lot, especially on topics that you don’t really like.  If you follow the tips and strategies in this articles then you should do very well in the Long Turn.  

Best of Luck!