Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Today you’ll learn the appopriacy issues of discussing personal tragedy on IELTS Exams.

Situation #1

In Speaking Part 1, a candidate is asked about a gift they received that they really liked.

The lovely student then mentions a necklace she received from her father. Her voice catches, and she has to pause to gather herself.

Then, as she goes on to describe the gift, she begins to cry. Her dad passed away last year, and the grief is still very sharp for her.

This poor student then has difficulty controlling herself for the remainder of the exam, and is unable to answer any of the questions well.

She ends up giving short, indifferent answers in the rest of Speaking Part 1, 2 and 3, and finishes her exam despondent.

Unfortunately, there is no second chance to do the Speaking Exam, and her scores then reflect her performance on that day.


Situation #2

In Speaking Part 2, a candidate is asked to describe an event that changed their life.

The student chooses to describe a car accident they were in a few years ago, and had to spend months in the hospital afterward.

In telling about this painful period, the student is able to describe a story of hardship and eventual recovery, with personal details and perceptive reflections.


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Toward the end of the answer, the student noted how this experience ultimately made her a stronger and more motivated person, showing her how important it is to value the present and take advantage of all of life’s opportunities.

The examiner was impressed with the story. However, note that the story itself, with its strong messages, would not be enough to get high scores. You’re not graded on the hardships you’ve overcome.

What you are graded on, and what this performance provided, was a well-organized narrative, specific details and vocabulary, and expressive pronunciation when relaying information.

Therefore, the candidate was scored very well, at least for this piece of her Speaking Exam.

So, should you talk about personal tragedy?

Avoid talking about any situation that causes you extreme pain and negative emotional reaction, be it sadness or anger.

Not only will this make your performance poor and lead to lower scores, but it could also be considered as inappropriate in any situation beyond that of a personal conversation with a friend.

However, if you are able to convey a personal story in a controlled way that will still allow for high scores, and won’t overcome you for the rest of the exam, you definitely can.

What are your opinions on today’s article?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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