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How to Take Notes in IELTS Speaking

As you are probably aware, the IELTS Speaking module has three sections.  In the IELTS Speaking Part 2 you have to prepare and give a short talk on a given subject, usually around a personal experience. This section tests your ability to talk about a topic, develop your ideas, and use relevant vocabulary and grammar. The examiner will give you a task card on a particular topic, which will include some key points that you should cover in your talk. You will be given 1 minute to prepare before you then have to talk for 1 to 2 minutes on the given topic.  The examiner will then ask you one or two questions. Part 2 takes 3 to 4 minutes in total.

In a way, this is like having to give a short speech on the spot, which can be very nerve-wracking, particularly if the speech isn’t in your native language! One easy way to calm those nerves is to take a few notes during your 1 minute preparation.  Luckily, a pencil and paper will be provided for you to do just that!

Why Note Taking is Important.

  • If your talk is not organized, you will lose marks! Simple as that. Remember, part of your marking is based on how coherent and fluent you are. Coherence involves following a logical and clear argument.
  • Without planning, it is likely that you will end up describing a general aspect of the question rather than the specific parts. This will also loose you points. Making a brief written plan helps you to stay on topic and stops you from veering away from the points  you have been asked to talk about.
  • You will not impress the examiner if you start immediately without planning, whatever your level. So do use the 1 minute you are given to plan your speech and make notes.

How to Plan and Make Notes

  • Write down words not sentences. Below is an example task card.  For each point you should write only one or two words to use as a prompt.  In total, you should not have more than 20 words.

IELTS Speaking Part 2 Example Task Card

  • You should only use nouns, adverbs and adjectives for your prompt words. See my notes for the task above:

IELTS Speaking Part 2 Example Notes

  • You cannot write on the task card.  So, on your provided paper, write your prompt words in a vertical list and in order of the points given.  It is easier to see them this way.
  • As you speak, refer to the list to organize your answer.  This should help ensure that you answer all parts of the task.
  • Do not prepare full answers by heart and repeat them word for word. This will sound artificial and will affect your score.

So as you prepare for the IELTS Speaking module, do practice making notes and using them to help you speak.  This will help improve your fluency and coherence, which will ultimately increase  your confidence and help you reduce mistakes.

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8 Responses to How to Take Notes in IELTS Speaking

  1. Farooq August 6, 2017 at 10:53 am #

    Hi,
    I find it really difficult to speak for 2 minutes on a topic which is completely alien to me. Any tips or strategy to deal with such topics?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 9, 2017 at 10:19 am #

      Hi Farooq,

      Honestly, the best advice is to practice, practice, practice. Make yourself talk (however awkward it is) about a random topic that is outside your area of expertise. Work on it over and over again, throwing new topics at yourself. This kind of “quick fire” practice will eventually lead you to improved skills! 🙂

  2. JJ September 6, 2017 at 11:03 am #

    Hi, is it ok to take notes in my own mother language other than the English? Would that be a minus?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 7, 2017 at 10:09 am #

      Taking notes in your first language won’t hurt your score, since you aren’t graded on the content of your notes. If taking notes in your native language makes you more confident and helps your performance, do it!

  3. Nata November 30, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    Hi, I know it sounds counterintuitive but note making and using them as a cue really makes me feel confused! When I start speaking I find that going over my notes and trying to remember what is it that I meant simply distracts me from answering the question. What should I do? What am I doing wrong? Thank you.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 30, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

      Hi Nata,

      This isn’t counterintuitive at all–just like any strategy, it takes time and practice to perfect the art of taking notes! You should make sure that your notes are short and allow you to outline what you are going to talk about in a coherent way. I recommend that you experiment a little–try different ways of writing notes and find one that works for you! Once you find a comfortable note-taking strategy, practice is as much as possible–the more you practice, the more comfortable you will become 🙂

      It’s important to note, however, that you may not need to take notes. We recommend that students take notes on the speaking section, but everyone is different–you may be able to deliver a strong, organized, cohesive answer without any notes. You may also find that it’s helpful to write notes so that you have a ‘map’ of what you want to talk about, but that you don’t have to look at the notes while you are speaking–just writing them down is enough, and you have them there if you need them!

      So, I encourage you to follow the basic directions in this blog post and find a way that works for you! Your notes might not look exactly like another student’s notes, but it doesn’t matter as long as you can deliver a strong answer 🙂

  4. Killer js February 22, 2018 at 10:50 pm #

    How to gain confidence. I am not comfortable in speaking

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 23, 2018 at 11:43 am #

      Hi there,

      The best way to gain confidence is to practice as much as possible! Don’t worry about being perfect, just try to speak in English at every opportunity. Try to find a conversation partner. If you don’t have anyone to practice with, then you can speak to yourself. This will help you to overcome your shyness and be comfortable speaking in English! Our Complete Guide to IELTS Speaking is a great resource, and it includes our Speaking Templates to help you structure and plan your answers. We also have videos on our Youtube channel that you can use to practice a realistic interview for speaking. Practice makes perfect, and you should try to practice as much as possible!


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