Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Today we’ll talk about how you can acceptably go off-topic in IELTS Speaking Part 2.

What if, on exam day, you are given a Part 2 topic card featuring something you are unfamiliar with, or have no experience with? How can you fill the 2 minutes?

Go off-topic!

This will not hurt your score necessarily.

In fact, the only way that going off-topic will hurt you, according to the IELTS scoring rubric, is if you begin by talking about something completely unrelated, such as describing your favorite book when you were asked to talk about a competition.

If you do that, without recognizing at all that you do not understand the topic presented on the card, you will lose points for Fluency and Coherence as well as Vocabulary.

That is because it seems as if you simply do not have the vocabulary to understand what the examiner is asking.



To avoid this, follow this strategy for impossible topics:

1. Directly say you do not know a lot about this specific topic

2. Say why you do not know

3. Talk about something related to the topic (such as a book, movie, TV show, anything!)


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Examples of successfully veering off-topic:

Part 2: Describe a museum

Oh, my, well my heart missed a beat when I saw this! I’ve not had much opportunity to visit a museum, but, when I was in California, I did wander around an old mission…

My heart missed/skipped a beat’ is a fantastic idiom to describe momentary and immediate shock or fear.

Part 2: Describe your favorite animal

Honestly, I’m a city person, which is to say that I haven’t got a clue about animals. The only thing that came to mind was a book I had to read in 6th grade called Old Yeller…

Haven’t got a clue’ is a native idiom to use if you have no idea about something.

This is a great strategy to write down, along with these native phrases, to have in your back pocket for exam day.

Be prepared for anything that IELTS throws at you, and control your score!

What IELTS Speaking Part 2 card do you feel nervous about?

Leave us a message in the comments section below!

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