In part 2 of the IELTS speaking test, you will be asked to speak about a topic given on a cue card. You should speak for between 1 and 2 minutes… but many people wonder how they should begin. Today, I’m going to explain how to start your part 2 answer.
Start with a personal anecdote
I have written many times about how to answer an IELTS speaking cue card and in almost all of my sample band 9 answers, I start with a personal anecdote – meaning a memory or story.
Because this is the easiest and most effective way!
Let’s say that you are asked to describe a close friend. You can begin by saying something like:
When I was fourteen years old, I met a boy called John in my English class…
This is a perfectly natural beginning that sounds authentic and is easy to think of. More importantly, it also allows you to develop your answer easily because your brain will move from this memory to the next logical thing.
Starting with a personal anecdote allows you to go from one idea to the next logically and so your brain can focus on choosing the right language rather than thinking about the structure of your answer.
There will be many things that you naturally want to say in a part 2 answer and also you should try to cover those things mentioned in the bullet points. By starting with a personal anecdote, you can jump from idea to idea easily instead of artificially.
This is all explained in the following video:
How to NOT start your part to answer…
I have done countless practice speaking tests and unfortunately it is really common to hear people start with an ineffective first sentence. For example, many people say:
- Today, I want to talk about…
- In this talk, I’m going to speak about…
- I want to tell you about…
First of all, this makes it seem like you are giving a presentation when you are not. It is unnatural and sounds memorised. It is far better to start with your own language and ideas. At IELTS Advantage, they recommend this approach:
Start off by saying ‘I’d like to talk about (X). ‘ Then say ‘I chose this topic because…’ and you will be able to say why you choose this topic. If you can’t think of a reason just make one up, although it’s always better to talk about real experiences.
Personally, I disagree with this. It’s a dull and uninspiring start. You will sound like 95% of other candidates, which is not a good thing. Whilst originality is not necessarily the ultimate goal, you don’t want to start like you are reading from a script.
In all parts of the IELTS test, I highly recommend that you avoid memorised language and IELTS clichés. Your examiner will have heard them all before a thousand times and will not be impressed.
I have posted lots of sample band 9 answers on this website. You can read them to see how I begin and then develop my part 2 answers. Here are some:
- Describe a tradition
- Describe a job
- Describe a game
- Describe your hometown
- Describe a person who dresses well
- Describe a person who influenced you
- Describe a possession
In all of those answers, I started with a personal memory and developed the topic naturally from there! It is a really effective way of beginning and I highly recommend that you do it.
You can also check out a huge playlist of videos in which I give sample band 9 answers here. I cover loads of topics in this one.
Here’s me describing a charity, for example: