The cue card question in IELTS is a part of the speaking test module. This is generally the second of the three tasks that you have to complete while appearing for the test. These tests require a host of skills developed overtime to be able to tackle them effectively, the least of which include being able to think on your feet.
When you are put under the spotlight in the speaking test a host of things can come to your rescue – preparation, confidence, breathing right, checking your body language and smiling can be used as shields or weapons when needed.
During the examination you will be given a cue card, it will consist of one main question and 3 questions that will guide you on how to answer the said question. There is no option to change the question that you are given and you will have a minute to prepare the answer. You will be given a pen and paper to write down your thoughts. The examiner will ask you to stop, but until he does, you have to continue speaking.
Here is a sample question:
Q. Talk about a new activity that you recently discovered
You should say:
What activity it is
Why you took part in it
How did you find out about it
And share your feelings about this experience
So how does one prepare for something that needs to be done impromptu?
We can give some advice that can help you shine when the spotlight turns on you.
If you can imagine that this will be easy, then your mind is fooling you into believing that you are better than you really are. Practice speaking out loud on a topic for 4 minutes with a stopwatch and you will know how difficult it really is. Make sure to record what you say to listen to intonation and cohesiveness later. If your thoughts are scattered, your flow will be broken. Practice making notes within a minute while training as well.
The internet is full of websites that list out each year’s topics that students faced. This will not only help you anticipate but will also help you build a vocabulary around the topics. For example, when you are asked to talk about your family, words like – parents, siblings, maternal grandfather, uncle, aunt, niece, and nephew should be a part of the list that you make as a preparation for the test.
There’s a strong reason why the IELTS is not virtual yet and the reason, the examiner will not only listen to the words you say but also gauge your comfort with the language. Everyone has a nervous twitch or sweaty palms or makes loud gulping sounds when nervous. If you are confident in your skills none of this will happen. You do not need to know everything but you have to be confident in whatever you do know. So, smile, breathe and speak like you mean it.
When you are given time to make notes, make them in a sequential fashion. Don’t randomly scribble words onto the available space. Once you are done preparing, you only have to refer to the piece of paper to help you flow. Pausing for long has led to reductions in the past.
When you are given a topic, you are expected to speak for a minimum of 2 minutes even if the question can be answered in 30 seconds. Expand the talk to include things that you were not asked if you feel the need for it. Say, a question is about something that has been in your family through generations, you may not have it but you can venture to talk about the importance of heirlooms in families in general.
Everyone experiences the same emotions and the same anxieties; the difference is in how you train yourself to cope with it. An examiner is more likely to pardon a slip of tongue if the candidate looks confident in his or her skills. So, before you begin to answer a question, take a deep breath and exhale, center yourself, clear your brain of panicky thoughts and begin.