IELTS Speaking Part 2 | Describe an interesting place you have visited as a tourist.

Describe an interesting place you have visited as a tourist.
You should say:
– where this place is
– why you went there
– what you did there
and explain why you though this place was so interesting.

Suggested Answer:

I’m going to talk about the time I visited Palawan.1

Palawan is a large island in the Philippines, famous for its beautiful beaches and limestone cliffs. My wife and I went there for a holiday seven or eight years ago2 after receiving a strong recommendation from a friend of mine. Even though I travelled extensively when I was younger, I can honestly say that Palawan is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to, so I’m glad we took his advice.

We spent ten days on the island and stayed in four different places: a city called Puerto Princesa and three different beach resorts. Although Puerto Princesa was an interesting place, it was the beaches3 we enjoyed the most. We’d both been very busy with work, so we weren’t really looking for excitement and would have been quite happy lying on a beach for the whole trip. Having said that, it was the chaotic nature of the place I found most interesting, and in particular, the bus journey from Port Barton to El Nido.

Now …4 I knew that the Philippines wasn’t well known for its health and safety5 laws, but what happened that day shocked me. After booking our bus ticket to El Nido, we turned up to find the bus was full, with people even standing in the aisles for the six-hour journey. Luckily, the bus company had a contingency plan6 for that, though … we could sit on the roof!7

For six whole hours,8 we sat on the roof of the bus as it sped along9 dirt tracks going through the Palawan jungle. I’d love to talk about how much I enjoyed the scenery, but in all honesty, I spent the entire time holding on for dear life. Filipinos will no doubt laugh at me for being soft, but it was probably the scariest – and most interesting – experience of my life.

Aside from the nightmare of that journey, there was so much I found fascinating about Palawan, such as the food and the way the locals switch effortlessly between English and Tagalog in the same sentence. If I get the chance, I’d love to go back there again.10

Notes:

1 – One of the biggest errors I’ve encountered with Part 2 is students getting stuck on an introduction, often taking 30 seconds to tell me what their monologue is about. This will destroy your fluency score, so if you’re one of those students, I strongly advise you memorise a simple opening line – I’m going to talk about (noun) – and just use that. Your introduction is not going to increase your band score but it may well reduce it.

I’m going to talk about New York.
I’m going to talk about the time I went to New York.
I’m going to talk about a present I received last Christmas.

2 – Students often mistakenly believe you have to be accurate and tell the truth. You do not! IELTS is a language test, not a lie-detector test. On so many occasions, I’ve seen students lower their fluency score as they try to remember exactly when something happened or where they were. Don’t do this. You have two options:

i) Lie; or
ii) Give a rough approximation/tell the examiner you don’t know.

Both are fine. I can’t remember the exact date I went to Palawan, but instead of racking my brain for 20 seconds, I just used “seven or eight years ago.” The examiner doesn’t know or care when it was, but s/he does care about you saying “errrr” for 15 seconds.

3 – Paraphrasing is important. I used beach resorts in the previous sentence, so I mixed up my language by using beaches instead. It isn’t a huge change, but it sounds so much more natural when you don’t continuously repeat phrases. For example:

I like to watch TV. I usually watch my favourite shows at the weekend.
I’m his manager. As I’m his boss, it’s not really appropriate for me to hang out with him after work.

4 Now … is an example of a discourse marker that is commonly used by native speakers. It is often followed by a pause. This is often used at the beginning of a sentence in which you talk about your expectations being surpassed.

Now … I knew that Siberia was cold, but I hadn’t expected it to be minus 40.
Now … My friend told me she was good at the piano, but I was shocked to see her perform at the Royal Albert Hall.

5 – Collocations are a great way to improve your lexical resource score. These are groups of words that are (almost) always used in a particular order, such as:

Safety and health is important in the UK.
Health and safety is important in the UK.
Newspapers are printed in white and black.
Newspapers are printed in black and white.
Americans usually eat with a fork and knife.
American usually eat with a knife and fork.

6 Contingency plan is a nice phrase that I rarely hear from EFL students. It is similar in meaning to a back-up plan or Plan B, i.e. a future plan for situations do not turn out as expected.

Many large companies in London have contingency plans in case of terrorism.
We need to prepare a contingency plan in case of bad weather.

7 – A huge problem I’ve encountered with IELTS Speaking students is when they sound robotic. Pauses, which I demonstrate with ellipses (…), are something most people use in their native language. They are especially good for creating a dramatic effect.

Then I finally received my grade … I’d scored band 9!
Finally, my boss called me … I’d received the promotion!


Remember, it’s not all about vocabulary and grammar, but also sounding natural when you speak. I always tell students to learn to act. Use the facial expressions, hand gestures and story-telling skills you use when speaking in your native language. AS LONG AS YOU LOOK/SOUND NATURAL! These are not specifically marked by examiners, but there is no doubt that subconsciously they have an effect. IELTS examiners are human (well, some of the ones I’ve met have been borderline), and if you look and sound more relaxed/natural, it can only be a good thing.

8 For (number) whole (unit of time) is a good way to stress that the time you are talking about is a long time. This is one of those subtle uses of language where you can put more emotion into an otherwise neutral statement.

Neutral – We waited for two hours.
Emotive – We waited for two whole hours.
Neutral – I haven’t seen my girlfriend for three months.
Emotive – I haven’t seen my girlfriend for three whole months.

9 To speed along/through is a phrasal verb that allows you to add more meaning than simply using to drive or to travel. It means to travel quickly, usually in a vehicle. It is commonly used in the past tense (sped along/through) when telling a story and should be followed by a noun.

I was late for work, so I sped along the country roads.
We sped through the waves en route to the shore.
He sped through the crowds, looking for his friend.

10 – It’s always quite awkward for an examiner when they don’t know whether the test taker has finished Part 2 or not. I think it’s a good idea to finish with a brief overview sentence then stop and smile at the examiner. This isn’t really an essential strategy, and it’s probably more my personal preference, but it certainly won’t hurt!

All-in-all, that’s why it’s the best present I’ve ever received.
I’d love to eat there again.
We all had a great time.

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