IELTS Speaking Part 2: 'busy' topic

IELTS Speaking Part 2: ‘busy’ topic

Here’s a recent question that someone sent me:

Describe a time when you were really busy. You should say

- when this was
- why you were so busy
- how you managed the situation
- and explain how you felt at the time.

Here are three topics that you could choose for this task: 1) finishing a work or study project 2) preparing a big event like a wedding 3) going on a trip or holiday.

I’ll show you my answer next week.

IELTS Speaking Part 2: ‘busy’ answer

Describe a time when you were really busy. You should say

- when this was
- why you were so busy
- how you managed the situation
- and explain how you felt at the time.

Here’s my full band 9 answer to this question:

  • I’m going to talk about the time I left a university assignment until the last minute and had to work flat out to get it finished. This was about ten years ago when I was doing my Master’s degree.
  • I had to do several 3000-word assignments for the modules on my Master’s course, but I remember that there was one in particular that I really struggled with. I had been procrastinating and putting it off for weeks, and in the end I left myself just two days to get the whole assignment done. This included finding and reading relevant books and articles, deciding on my thesis and assignment title, and producing a final draft which had to be handed in to the department office before the deadline.
  • The pressure of such a close deadline actually forced me to manage the task in a really efficient way. My first step was to decide on the general area that I wanted to write about, and then I limited myself to just ten research sources. I printed the most relevant pages, highlighted the key paragraphs and made some notes to summarise and synthesise the ideas that I found interesting. Finally, I just started writing the main body of the assignment, and I wrote the title and the introduction last.
  • I had mixed feelings at the time. I was annoyed with myself for leaving it so late to get started on the assignment, but I was relieved and quite impressed with myself when I managed to complete the final draft so quickly. It was also quite stressful and tiring to have to find articles, do photocopying and then write everything so quickly. I wouldn’t want to go through that again!

IELTS Vocabulary: less formal for speaking

In the speaking test, you can use conversational (less formal) phrases that you wouldn’t use in the writing test. Here are some examples from yesterday’s lesson:

  • leave something until the last minute
  • work flat out (meaning: work hard without stopping)
  • get something finished
  • get something done
  • one in particular that I really struggled with
  • put something off (meaning: avoid doing it)
  • in the end
  • have mixed feelings about
  • get started on something
  • to go through it again (meaning: to do or experience something again)

I also used some good words and phrases that would be suitable for both speaking and writing (i.e. this vocabulary is not informal):

  • procrastinating
  • producing a final draft
  • complete the final draft
  • the pressure of such a close deadline
  • manage the task in an efficient way
  • I limited myself to just ten research sources
  • summarise and synthesise
  • I was relieved and quite impressed with myself

The vocabulary in the two lists above might not seem ‘difficult’, but it’s the kind of natural “native-speaker” language that will impress the examiner. That’s why I gave the answer a band 9.