IELTS Cue Card FAQs

FAQs on IELTS Cue Card/Candidate Task Card:

Your IELTS Speaking Test has 3 parts, and in the 2nd part of the test, the examiner will give you a cue card or a task card (a piece of paper that will have a topic and four questions written on it). It will also contain some instructions. You will have one minute to think about the topic and make some notes on what you are going to say, and then you need to talk about the topic for one to two minutes.

Here is a sample Cue Card topic accompanied with the question instruction:

Describe a writer you would like to meet.

You should say:

   - who this writer is
   - what you already know about this writer
   - what you would like to find out/learn about him/her

and explain why you would like to meet this writer.

[You will have to talk about the topic for one to two minutes. You have one minute to think about what you are going to say. You can make some notes to help you if you wish.]

In this section, we'll be discussing some commonly asked questions about the IELTS cue card or candidate task card topics (formally known as the "Individual long run" section), and we will also answer these questions here. 

Q. What is IELTS Cue Card?
A.
Your IELTS Speaking Test has three parts. The second part of the test gives you a topic (written on a paper as a cue), and you need to talk about it for a couple of minutes. This section of the test is called Cue Card or Candidate Task Card.

Q. How many Cue Cards will I have in my exam?
A. You will be given only one cue card topic in your IELTS Speaking exam. You just need to talk about it for about two minutes.  

Q. Can I choose the cue card topic in my IELTS Speaking exam?
A. No, you can not choose the topic for your IELTS cue card section. The examiner will give it to you.

Q. Can I change my topic in my cue card section if I find it difficult?
A. No, you can not change the cue card topic. Once you are given a topic, you will have to talk about it.

Q. Can I make some notes to talk about the topic?
A. Yes, it is highly recommended that you make some notes on the topic and jot down your ideas on it so that you can talk about the given topic fluently without pauses and hesitations. Just after you get the cue card paper (that has the topic and questions written on it), you should make brief notes and get ready to talk to the examiner.

Q. How long will I get for my preparation and note-taking?
A. You will have one minute to prepare for the topic. Since one minute will pass pretty fast, please do not write down full sentences or paragraphs. Rather, just write down the main points that your talk is going to cover. It may include some words, short sentences and other clues. For example:

Favourite hobby/activity = Travelling

How frequenty= 2-4 times a year. 

With whom= Mostly with friends and sometimes with family.

Why favourite? = 

    a) Refreshes me, b) gives me new hope and inspiration c) and I can learn about diver cultures, traditions & history. 

Q. Shall the examiner look at my notes?
A. No, your examiner would not look at your notes. So, don't worry about it.

Q. Will the examiner give me the paper and pencil for making some notes, or do I have to take them on my own?
A. Your examiner will give you the paper and pencil during your speaking test part 2 exam so that you can make some notes. You are not allowed to take any papers and/or pencils on your own.

Q. how long do I need to talk about the topic?
A. You are advised to talk about the cue card topic for two minutes. Do not stop talking until your examiner asks you to do so. 

Q. What if I cannot finish my talk in two minutes?
A. In that case, the examiner will politely ask you to stop and then carry on to the next part of the test. Try to finish your answer in two minutes, and if the examiner does not ask you to finish, you should be able to give additional information about the topic and carry on a few more seconds.

Q. What if I cannot find enough ideas to talk about the entire two minutes?
A. During your preparation time, make some notes and write down the main points about which you will talk. Even if you think you are done answering all the questions that come with the topic during your exam, you can always give some additional information and stretch the story that you were telling to the examiner. Stop when the examiner asks you to do so.    

Q. Do I need to follow the prompts on the cue cards?
A. The four questions that come with the cue card topic are a general indication of what you should talk about for the topic. Though it is not mandatory to answer these questions in your talk, we recommend that you satisfactorily answer these questions and then give some other necessary and interesting information in your talk.

Q. What are follow-up questions?
A. After you finish talking about the cue card topic, the examiner will ask you a couple of brief and related questions that you need to answer. Those questions are called "follow-up" questions. They are not part 3 questions, which are generally broader in perspective and cover much wider areas. An example is given below:

    Q. 1) Have you ever tried to write a book?
    Q. 2) Have you ever met a famous person before? 

Q. Does IELTS cue cards repeat?
A. IELTS Cue Card topics can repeat. However, you should be ready to answer any type of cue card topic that you might get in your exam, and not rely on preparing for a few important topics with the expectation that they will repeat.

Q. How do you answer a cue card topic?
A. The style may vary from candidate to candidate. However, a common and recommended format is that you first thank the examiner for allowing you to talk about the topic and for giving you a nice topic. Then give some hints about what you are going to talk about in just 10 seconds. This should end your introduction. After that, start answering the first question, second question, third question and then the fourth or final question of the topic. If two minutes is not still over, give some additional information related to the topic, or give your present impression on it. Adding some examples or personal experience or expectations is also a very good idea.

Q. Which tense should I use to describe my cue card topic?
A. If the topic asks you to talk about something that is a past event (for example: Describe a time when you visited a relative or a family member at their workplace), your tense should be "past simple". Please note that most cue card topics are related to past events, so you might need to practice how to describe something from the past using "past simple" tense. 

Having said that, some topics may ask you to describe what is going to happen in the future (for example: Describe a city you would like to visit in the future), and in such cases, you need to use future tense. Finally, if the topic is related to something that does not indicate any future or past tense (for instance: Describe an idea that may bring a positive change in your community), you might want to use present simple or a combination of present and future tense.

Q. Is grammar essential when I talk in my IELTS Speaking exam?
A. Accurate grammar is essential for the IELTS Speaking test. Your speaking skill will be assessed based on a few criteria, and grammatical accuracy is one of them. So without proper grammar, you can not expect to achieve a good score in your IELTS speaking exam.

Q. Do I need a British or American accent to get a high band score in my speaking test?
A. If you are not someone from the UK or the US, it is not expected that you will have a great British or American accent. So do not worry about the accent. Speaking clearly and at a natural speed in an accent that is neutral. British or American accent is not a requirement to achieve a higher band score. 

Q. Will the examiner record my cue card answer?
A. The examiner will record the whole speaking test that includes the speaking part two or the cue card section. The recording is done for a later assessment and accurate grading. 

Q. Can I ask the examiner a question if I do not understand something about my topic?
A. Yes, you can ask the examiner about something you do not understand. However, do not ask to change the cue card topic, which the examiner would not do. Also, do not say that the topic is asking something you have not done or do not know anything about. The examiner has hardly anything to do about it or help you out here. Use your imagination or experience instead. For instance, if the topic asks you to describe a wedding party that you have attended, and you think that you have never been to a wedding ceremony, try to use your knowledge of a wedding party and describe as if you had been to one.

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