IELTS Speaking Part 2 | What if I speak for less than one minute?

Before we get started, let’s get one thing clear: for 11-14 minutes, your IELTS Speaking examiner is your god, and if you want a decent score you should do whatever they ask you to. If they tell you to get down and give them 10 push ups, you’d better get on that floor and work.

Okay. So that probably won’t happen, but what will happen is that just before you start Part 2, the examiner will ask you to speak for between one and two minutes. Thus, my advice is …

SPEAK FOR BETWEEN ONE AND TWO MINUTES!

I understand, though. Sometimes things don’t always go to plan. I recently had a student message me in distress after IELTS Speaking. “Everything went well during the test, but I only spoke for 45 seconds during Part 2. What will happen to my score?” This is what I told him:

Your score is based on your overall test performance using the four marking criteria (fluency, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation). It also depends on the examiner’s interpretation of the criteria. Speaking for only 45 seconds in Part 2 isn’t great, but it really depends on: (a) your examiner; and (b) how you performed in the rest of the test.

One way to interpret a Part 2 answer below a minute is that the student cannot “speak at length” about topics, a requirement for band 6 in Fluency. In other words, the best your Fluency score will be is 5.

Some examiners may interpret the marking criteria less strictly, while some may actually be stricter. This post in Quora suggests there are examiners out there who interpret “speak at length” as being a full 2 minutes for Part 2. This does seem exceptionally rigid and draconian.

The advice I – and most other tutors that I’ve spoken to – give students is to try and speak for the full 2 minutes. However, this is only if you are speaking well and fluidly. Too often I’ve seen students speak well for 90 seconds then try to reach the two-minute buzzer by stuttering out, “Errrr, and another reason, errrrr, I liked that restaurant …. errrr …. it was … good. Errrrrrr.” Don’t do this.

Bear in mind that IELTS is a language exam, and the examiners are assessing your English ability not your choice of restaurant. If you get to 90 seconds and can’t think of anything else to say, why not talk about that? “To be honest, that’s all I’ve got to say about that restaurant. Although the meal was fantastic, there’s not a lot else to talk about as …” If you stay on topic and showcase your language, it is better to talk for longer.

So what happened to the student who only spoke for 45 seconds? He scored 6.5, which is exactly what he needed. One of two things must have happened:

(1) He scored 5 in Fluency, but the rest of his marking criteria bumped up his score, e.g. 7 in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation (5+7+7+7)/4 = 6.5.

(2) The examiner had a looser interpretation of the marking criteria, and the student did enough across the test to convince her/him that he could speak at length. His Fluency score was not affected.

Key takeaways from this post: (1) Try and talk for 2 minutes. (2) Don’t worry too much while waiting for your result. There’s no point stressing yourself out over something you can’t change.

If you need help getting yourself up to 2 minutes for Part 2, why not treat yourself to some private speaking lessons with me!

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