Why do so many IELTS students struggle with Speaking Part 2 (The Long Turn )?

More than 3 million IELTS exams are taken each year in exam centers all over the world. That’s A LOT of exams and a serious number of stressed out students ! Based on my teaching experience with IELTS, many students really let themselves down when it comes to Speaking Part 2 ( the long turn). These same students are very comfortable when it comes to answering direct questions from the examiner in Part 1 and Part 3, so what’s the difference with Part 2?

What is IELTS Speaking Part 2?

In IELTS Speaking Part 2 the candidate must speak for between 1 to 2 minutes on a topic chosen by the examiner. The topic is presented on a cue card, just like the one below. Students have one minute to prepare their answer and they can take notes, which they can then look at while speaking. You can use the prompts given to help you but they are NOT MANDATORY.

IELTS Speaking Part 2 Cue Card

It seems pretty straightforward, right? So, why do so many students struggle with this part of the exam? Well, based on my experience teaching hundreds of lessons with IELTS students, the same problems arise repeatedly. However, the two issues I have highlighted below are by far the biggest errors students make when it comes to part 2. You are really damaging your own chances if:

  1. You don’t practice planning your answers

Speaking Part 2 is the only section of IELTS Speaking where you have time to prepare. The examiner will give you 1 minute to plan your answer, and remember, you can write notes on the paper provided. This is your opportunity to structure your answer and to get key vocabulary written down on the page that will help you while speaking. Making the very best use of this 1-minute prep time is an exam skill that amazingly, most students never practice!

  1. You don’t use a structure

If you do not follow a structure in IELTS Speaking Part 2, you cannot guarantee that you will show the examiner the full range of your speaking ability. You only have one shot at this question in the exam and so you HAVE TO MAKE IT COUNT! Using the correct structure provides a platform for you to demonstrate your full range of vocabulary and your ability to use different grammatical tenses fluently. It also helps you to extend your answer in a natural way so that you don’t run out of things to say and end up repeating yourself.

BE CAREFUL! There is not one structure suitable for all questions and so you need to have a few different options at your disposal. Generally, a good structure will incorporate some of the following language functions.



The prompts provided

Opposing View




Deciding in a matter of seconds which structure is the best for your IELTS question requires a lot of practice. Luckily for you, in the next blog post in this series, I will show you how to plan your IELTS Speaking Part 2 answer and also detail which structures are most suitable for common IELTS questions.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting several articles related to IELTS Speaking Part 2. They will explain how to prepare, structure and expand your answer in a way that gives you a great chance of getting the band score you need. If you don’t want to miss any of the action, sign up for the PJC English Newsletter. It’s 100% free and a wonderful resource for free IELTS and Business English materials.

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