In the IELTS speaking test, students have to speak for two minutes about a topic with one minute of preparation. This week we looked at the topic:
Describe a time you got angry
We focussed on ‘giving context’ to the description because when we were practicing the students tended to jump right into the story without giving basic background information. This information is crucial because it helps the listener understand the story, and it gives the student material that they can usually deliver easily and naturally.
Background comes from asking a few simple questions:
1. Who am I? (The examiner doesn’t know me)
2. When and where was I?
3. Who else was there?
4. Why was I there?
5. Why did I choose this time (and not another time)?
Background forms the ‘introduction’ part of the speaking topic, when the student ‘sets the scene’.
Here is an example of the background given by a student before practice:
I’m going to talk about a time I got angry at my work
Here’s one after some practice:
I’m going to talk about a time I got angry at work. I’m a computer software engineer back in Cali, in Colombia, and last year I was working with a colleague called Dayan who really got on my nerves. This time really sticks in my mind because I’ve never been so angry in my life.
Obviously the second description is better for many reasons, but primarily it ‘forces’ higher level language and gives the student more material to access.