Covering bullet points in IELTS Speaking Part 2

One of my students has asked me this question:

What will happen if I don’t cover all the questions in the bullet points?

A common misconception among IELTS candidates is that the bullet points serve as questions to answer. That is NOT the purpose of the these points. They are there to prompt you to expand on your topic – or better yet, to develop a story from. You will need to come up with an interesting anecdote to make your talk lively and interesting. And if you are a natural storyteller in your own language, then you are definitely at an advantage!

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Let’s take a look at an example here:

Describe a day when you thought the weather was perfect.

You should say:

  • where you were on this day
  • what the weather was like on this day
  • what you did during the day

and explain why you thought the weather was perfect on this day.

~ Cambridge IELTS 11

From the task above, a low-scoring answer would be something like:

  • (Intro) I would like to describe a day when I thought the weather was perfect.
  • (1st bullet point) I was outside South Kensington tube station that day.
  • (2nd bullet point) It was very dark and pouring rain but I forgot my umbrella.
  • (3rd bullet point) I was waiting for my friend to go shopping together and she was late.
  • (Round off) I was very disappointed because I thought it was going to be a sunny day to go shopping in the afternoon but it suddenly became cloudy and rained.

Candidates are not going to get very far in the test if they answer IELTS Speaking Part 2 topics like this. A better, more appropriate talk should go something like:

Last weekend, I decided to go shopping with a friend of mine as we’d been planning to look around for snug winter boots for a Christmas party. So we agreed to meet outside of the South Ken tube station that day at about 1 pm and have lunch together first before scouring the shops. I think I was dressed appropriately then. I had on me a pair of sandals and a long dress with a light scarf over me as it had been a warm sunny morning. And I walked out the door thinking the weather was going to stay the same throughout. How wrong was I! 

As soon as I reached the station to wait for Mel, it became cloudy very quickly and in about 5 minutes, the skies had opened up. You should’ve seen the look on my face! I was close to tears as I’d been very much looking forward to a nice day out. Almost immediately, the station shelter was filled up with lots of passengers who’d either just come out of the trains and those who were stranded in the rain just like me. Space was a bit tight and I was starting to feel slightly uncomfortable. It didn’t help that my feet were soaking wet from the puddles around me. I had no umbrella, I was cold and miserable and I was thinking, what else could go wrong? 

I think it must’ve been a full 30 minutes before Mel showed up because, like me, she was also surprised by the sudden change of weather. She’d arrived drenched and her hair and clothes were all wet from the rain … 

And so on.

Here’s an audio version:

Now, candidates will not be assessed on what they say, but rather, on how they say it. Content is not part of your IELTS Speaking assessment criteria so, if you don’t cover all the points in the task, there should be nothing to worry about. If you are unable to cover all the bullet points because you are expanding on one of them, this is fine. However, if your examiner suspects that you have veered off topic, then they will gently remind you to stay on course by pointing you to the subject on the task booklet. Otherwise, no scores will be reduced for not addressing all the bullet points in your task.

I hope that clears up any doubts.

Until next time!
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