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Storytelling: Tips for Part 2 of the Speaking Test

Published on January 22, 2018

Since people could speak, they have been telling stories. Storytelling can be a struggle for some, while others excel at it. Telling a story about a particular topic is essentially the same skill in Part 2 of the IELTS speaking test.

Candidates get nervous about their grammar when telling a story. Here are some tips you should be focused on when storytelling to keep the examiner intrigued by the content, and less on your grammar mistakes.

1. Knowledge of the Content

You tell a story with confidence when you know it well. Once you have read the topic, you should always tell the first story that comes to mind.

For example:

Describe something you own which is very important to you.

You should say:

  • Where you got it from
  • How long you have had it
  • What you use it for

and explain why it is important to you.

What is the topic that comes to mind after you read the first sentence? Your first idea will probably be a familiar one and thus the easiest for you to speak about. There are no right or wrong responses so try not to invent the “perfect” answer or the answer you think the examiner would prefer. Talk about whatever is easiest, therefore allowing you to feel confident about your answer.

2. Intonation

Changing the sound of your voice will make your story interesting. When telling your story for two minutes, try not to be monotone. Creating interest with your voice may mask some of the grammar or vocabulary mistakes in your story. Increasing or decreasing your volume, stressing certain words in your sentences e.g. subjects, objects, nouns, adverbs, etc., using different tones in different parts of your sentences, and pausing between sentences or ideas are all included in using your voice for storytelling.

3. Transitions: Words and Phrases

Try to not just answer each part of the question separately. For example:

My necklace is important to me.

I got it from my grandmother.

I’ve had it for 10 years.

I use it to dress up for special events such as weddings.

It has been passed down from generation to generation.

Without using transitions, it will be much more difficult to fill two minutes. Also, the story will be too straightforward and uninteresting. Make the story more alluring for the examiner by connecting your ideas together with transitional words and phrases.

The most important thing I own is my necklace because I got it from my grandmother. I’ve had it for 10 years. It is not only beautiful, but also full of memories. I wear it to dress up for special events such as weddings for the most part, but I also wear it on days that I’m missing my grandmother. In fact, this necklace has been passed down from generation to generation. Therefore, this necklace is very important to me.

The response is more story-like and more interesting to listen to because of the added words and phrases.

4. Colloquialisms

You can add a bit of naturalness to your speech by using informal language or slang. The examiner may also feel more connected to your story when you add these words and phrases.

The most important thing I own is, hands down, my necklace because I got it from my grandmother. I’ve had it for 10 years. It is not only the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, but also full of wonderful memories. I wear it to dress up for special events such as weddings for the most part, but I also wear it on days that I’m longing to see my grandmother. In fact, this necklace has been passed down from generation to generation. Therefore, this necklace has a special place in my heart.

The examiner can get a vivid picture of what is important to you by adding more descriptive language.

5. Fluency

Try not to fix every little mistake or take long pauses because you are thinking of the most accurate word form or tense as you want your story to flow from beginning to end. This may cause the examiner to feel disconnected from your narrative because your story will sound discordant.

Although grammar is important, focusing on the above tips will allow your storytelling abilities to shine, resulting in a potentially higher score. Do not let grammar be your only focus as it is only a part of your overall speaking score.

Imagine your friend or family member is asking you the same question when practicing for Part 2 of the Speaking test. Tell your story as if you are talking to someone you know. First, pick out ways to improve the aspects listed above once you have recorded and timed yourself. Practice definitely makes perfect when it comes to the speaking section of the IELTS test. You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome if you improve your speaking skills in these ways.