The IELTS speaking test is comprised of three parts, each of which is a little harder than the previous. Part 2 is different from the others as it has no question to answer. Instead, there is a cue card that gives you a task. This will say “Describe a…” and then has some further instructions in the form of bullet points. It is sometimes called “The Long Turn” by tutors and students, as you need to speak for a longer time.

Today, I’ll show you everything you need to know about this tricky task.

If you prefer, this lesson is available as a YouTube video as well:

IELTS Speaking Part 2 Format

Ok, so what do you actually have to do in IELTS speaking part 2?

  • Speak for 1-2 minutes
  • Describe something (like a person, place, event, animal, etc)

That’s essentially all you need to do. You should not speak for less than one minute, and you should not go off-topic. Just describe something according to the information on the cue card.

There will also be a few related questions at the end, once you have finished talking. These will be related to the topic on which you spoke.

What is an IELTS Cue Card?

In the IELTS speaking test part 2, you will be given a cue card by the examiner. This is a piece of paper that contains some instructions for you to follow. It will look like this:

Describe a historical place that you know about.

You should say:

  • what the place is
  • where it is located
  • what is the historical significance of the place

and describe your experience of the place.

In short, the first line will say “Describe…” something. Then there will be three things you should talk about, followed by a final point. This last line will usually say “why” but not always. Sometimes it is just an additional thing to describe.

Here’s a visual description of a cue card. It comes from the PPT below, which I made recently for my students.

ielts cue card explained
The three common elements of an IELTS speaking cue card.

Making Notes

Once you receive the cue card, you will be given one minute to make notes and prepare your answer. This can be challenging because it is not a lot of time to prepare. The key is to follow this pattern:

  1. Choose an answer quickly.
  2. Make short notes.

That’s all. Just decide what you want to say, and then write down some notes that will help guide you as you speak. To do this, you should note down words that will help you remember a loose structure, as well as important words such as difficult vocabulary.

You have no time to waste here, so don’t try to write full sentences. I cannot stress this point enough. My students often try to write full sentences and then immediately run out of time. What you can write down in one minute is only enough to speak for about ten seconds! This is not surprising because even a native speaker can only write about 13 words per minute. (source)

Here is an example of good notes:

IELTS speaking part 2 notes
Notes for describing a restaurant.

Video Guides

I have made many videos to help my students prepare for their IELTS speaking exam. In these videos, I analyze a question, show them how to make notes, and then give my own sample answer. You can find these on my YouTube channel. Here are some of the popular ones:

Don’t forget to give those videos LIKES if you found them useful, and also subscribe to the channel for more regular updates and IELTS advice.

Answering the Question

Don’t let stress stop you succeeding.

Once you have read the cue card and made some notes, it is time to speak. First of all, don’t be nervous. Nerves are a huge problem in any exam, but for IELTS they can cost you dearly. Practice regularly to reduce the fear you feel. Talk with speaking partners and take lessons with tutors. You can also try breathing exercises to calm you down.

The big problem with feeling nervous in IELTS speaking part 2 is that it can make you speak too fast. Why is that so bad? Well, if you speak too fast then your 90-second speech might turn into a 45-second speech! Then you have spoken too little, and will lose marks.

Then, you should focus on speaking clearly and confidently. Make eye contact sometimes with the examiner. Use body language and intonation to get your message across. These are all essential parts of communication.

Follow the notes on your cue card. They will give you strength and courage. Use any ideas you wrote down, and also the useful vocabulary. You can also refer to the cue card while you speak so that you don’t forget anything you needed to say.


  • Don’t be nervous
  • Speak slowly
  • Use intonation
  • Follow your notes

If you do these things, you will give yourself a good chance for a high band score.

If you are worried about your score, check out my practice speaking test service.

practice ielts speaking tests

Follow-up Questions

There will also be some follow-up questions in part 2. After you have given your 1-2 minute talk, the examiner will ask you a few related questions. Don’t panic once these questions are asked. Just try your best to answer them. Remember that they will be on the same topic, so you can re-use some of the vocabulary and ideas you previously mentioned.

More Resources

I have made many, many videos and written many, many articles about IELTS speaking part 2. You can find them on this website or on YouTube. I embedded some of my popular videos above, and I will link some popular articles below. These all contain good advice on the issues I raised above, like making notes.