Advanced Speaking: Using Hypotheticals, Proposing Solutions to Problems, Agreeing and Disagreeing
In this tutorial, you will learn how to:
- incorporate hypothetical language into your speaking
- propose solutions to problems
- improve your ability to agree and disagree
In today’s podcast, we’re going to look at ways to improve the range of language you incorporate into parts two and three of the IELTS speaking test. First, we’re going to focus on ‘grammatical range and accuracy’.
Here’s an example of a part two question:
|Describe a time when you were late for something important. You should say:|
– when it happened
– how it happened
– how late you were
and explain what the result was.
Here is the first part of a candidate’s answer:
Well, this all happened a few years ago, when I was living in London. I had applied for a job with a new company and they had offered me an interview.
Unfortunately, I misread the address of the office where the interview was to be held. I had only glanced at it quickly and I had thought it said, ‘Queen’s Avenue’, which was about a ten-minute drive from where I was living…
On the day of the interview, I was just checking the street number when I realised that it was ‘Queen’s Road’ – not ‘Queen’s Avenue’. When I looked at a map, it turned out that ‘Queen’s Road’ was miles away..!
Here is the last part of the response:
What a disaster! Looking back, I just can’t believe I made such a stupid mistake! If I had just read the address more carefully in the first place, I would probably have got the job!
The candidate wraps up his talk strongly, using the following sentence:
If I had just read the address more carefully in the first place, I would probably have got the job!
This is an example of a third conditional, which is used to talk about a hypothetical situation in the past. Here the candidate is saying that he didn’t read the address carefully – and so he didn’t get the job.
We make third conditional sentences like this:
| If + subject + past perfect, would / could / might + have + past participle|
Let’s practise with a few examples. How could you convert these ideas into third conditional sentences?
a) I didn’t realise the office was in Queen’s Road and I didn’t allow enough time.
If I had realised that the office was in Queen’s Road, I would have allowed more time.
b) I left home late and I was late for the interview.
If I hadn’t left home late, I wouldn’t have been late for the interview.
c) I was late so they didn’t offer me the job.
If I hadn’t been late, they would / might have offered me the job.
Now let’s have a look at incorporating a wider range of IELTS vocabulary into part three of the test. In this final part of the speaking test, you may be asked to propose a solution to a problem.
Obesity is a problem in many countries in the world today. What do you think can be done about this problem?
Governments around the world are struggling to find solutions to problems like this, so it’s important to bear in mind that the examiner is not expecting you to have the ideal solution..!
You could respond by saying something like:
Well, firstly I think it’s important to recognise that there are no easy solutions.
Well, to start with I think we need to accept that this problem is not going to be solved overnight.
… and then move on to give your opinion.
In part three, you may also be asked to agree or disagree with a statement.
Many people are of the opinion that it’s the government’s responsibility to tackle the problem of obesity. Do you agree?
There are lots of different phrases we can use to agree and disagree. Here are some examples:
Do these people agree or disagree? How strongly do they feel?
‘Yes, I completely agree.’ – This person agrees strongly with the statement.
‘Well, I understand why some people feel this way, but I think…’ – This person disagrees.
‘I’m afraid I totally disagree.’ – This person is expressing strong disagreement.
‘Actually I think we need to take personal responsibility…’. – This person disagrees with the statement.
‘Well, I think they’re right to a certain extent.’ – This person agrees to some extent.
‘Well, I think it’s more complicated than that, actually…’ – This person neither agrees nor disagrees.
‘I would have to say that I think that’s absolutely true.’ – This person is expressing strong agreement.
‘I really don’t think that’s true at all.’ – This person strongly disagrees.
Now listen again and practise saying the phrases with the appropriate sentence stress and intonation. Record yourself and then give yourself some feedback on your pronunciation.Finally, what’s your opinion? Do you agree?!
You can download or listen to the audio version here:
You can read the full transcript below:
Female Voice: You are now listening to the IELTS podcast. Learn from tutors and ex-examiners who are masters of IELTS preparation. Your host, Ben Worthington.
Ben: IELTS Speaking: using hypotheticals, proposing solutions to problems, and agreeing and disagreeing. In this tutorial, we will specifically look at how you can and will incorporate hypothetical language into your speaking. The irony there; I’m talking about advanced IELTS speaking skills and I can’t even pronounce the word hypothetical.
Anyway, also, we’re going to look at how you can propose solutions to problems and how you can improve your ability to agree and disagree. Firstly, in this tutorial, we’re going to look at a sample cue card. Then you will hear a sample answer and then we’re going to break down that sample answer and look at some of the point-scoring attributes that it has especially with regards to hypothetical language, which is basically the conditionals.
Let’s first have a listen to this part 2 presentation. Well, this all happened a few years ago when I was living in London. I had applied for a job with a new company and they had offered me an interview. Unfortunately, I misread the address of the office where the interview was to be held. I had only glanced it at quickly and I had thought it said Queens Avenue, which was about a 10-minutes’ drive from where I was living.
On the day of the interview, I was just checking the street number when I realized that it was Queens Road and not Queens Avenue. When I looked at the map, it turned out that Queens Road was miles away. What a disaster. Looking back, I just can’t believe I made such a stupid mistake. If I had just read the address more carefully in the first place, I would probably have got the job.
Now, let’s have a look– let’s focus on the last part of the presentation– of the response. The student says what a disaster. Looking back, I just can’t believe I made such a stupid mistake. If I had just read the address more carefully in the first place, I would probably have got the job. Now, this is a very strong way to finish up your presentation. If I had just read the address more carefully in the first place, I would probably have got the job.
Now, this is an example of a third conditional, which as you probably know, is what we use to talk about a hypothetical situation in the past. So, basically what this candidate is saying is that he didn’t read the address carefully, so he didn’t get the job. Now, if you can employ natural and accurate use of these structures, this will definitely help you improve your score for grammatical range and accuracy.
Let’s have a look at how we make these third conditional sentences. Well, we use if then the subject then the past perfect then would, could– then the modal verb would, could, might or have and then the past participle. So, in this case, it’s if I had just read the address more carefully in the first place, if I had just read and then I would probably have got the job.
Actually, this is an exercise that is going to be used on the speaking app we are developing. I know I said this a few months ago. We are getting there. It’s taking time, but we are getting there. If you’re interested in this speaking app, then send us an email and we’ll put you on the waiting list.
TRANSFORMING THE SENTENCES
So, let’s transform these sentences. I didn’t realize the office was in Queens Road and I didn’t allow enough time. How would we say that? Well, as you probably just heard, if I had realized that the office was in Queens Road, I would have allowed more time. Next one: I left home late and I was late for the interview. So, if we start with if: If I hadn’t left home late, I wouldn’t have been late for the interview.
If you go to the tutorial, you’ll see a few more of these and they are all of these exercises where you read the standard sentence and you convert it into a hypothetical statement or conditional. Actually, in the speaking app, there’s a whole exercise developed around this exact exercise of transforming these simple sentences.
The key to mastering this, the key to doing this is to reach a level of automaticity that means that you can use these phrases without even thinking about using them. That’s when they sound natural and you can use them like in automatic responses, but the key here is that we say them so many times or that we use them so many times that they just become natural and you’re not even consciously aware that you’re using them.
This is automaticity or some others say it’s fluency, but I honestly think it’s a bit like a sport. When you’re playing, you’re not consciously thinking about your moves. You’re just doing it. You’re making sure that– I don’t know, the racket is at 90-degree angle with the ball. It’s just something that you’ve done so many times that you can free up mental resources to be focusing on other things.
IELTS SPEAKING VOCABULARY
Let’s move on. Let’s look now at incorporating a wider range of vocabulary into your speaking test. Now, the examiner may ask you to propose a solution to a problem. For example, they might say obesity is a problem in many countries in the world today. What do you think can be done about this problem? Now, as I have said before, that this is a language exam and language is communication. So, you don’t have to worry about the quality of your answer.
I think I was reading online the other day that one possible solution to obesity is to close down the dog pounds, you know the dog shelters and let these dogs roam wild, so to speak, in parks, in the streets and then that would solve the obesity problem because– I shouldn’t be laughing, but the dogs could hunt down the bigger people because they wouldn’t be able to run away.
Sorry about that. Obviously, you wouldn’t propose something like that in the test, but what I’m saying you probably wouldn’t propose something like that because we’ve got to think of this as a job interview, all right? What I’m saying is that the quality of the answers doesn’t have to be sort of like government policy level answers. You just have to give a reasonable and expected answer.
My answer wasn’t expected; just shut down the dog pounds and let the dogs turn into wild dogs and take care of the big people. You could not say that in an exam. As I said before, you’ve got to treat this as a job interview. So, we need that level of formality.
Anyway, you could respond by saying something like: Well, firstly, I think it’s important to recognize that there are no easy solutions. That’s quite an easy copy-paste sentence. Another sentence: Well, to start with, I think we need to accept this problem is not going to be solved overnight and then we move into our opinion.
You could say something like this problem isn’t going to be solved overnight. For example, the U.S. Government has been struggling with this and they’re close to an epidemic at the moment. A few states in the U.S. have proposed a sugar tax. Other people actually think that they should just let the problem take care of itself and don’t believe that the government should actually have to do anything about it.
So, that example answer I just gave two points to it and then if I wanted to really develop it, I could give an example. I could say, for example, California I think a few years ago was seriously talking about a sugar tax that would definitely increase the cost of sugary drinks and other sugary products, but in the end I think big business got involved and lobbied against such a proposal so us just to keep the prices low regardless of the sugar content.
I don’t actually know if that’s true or not. I’d have to jump online, but the point is it sounds reasonable. Definitely more reasonable than letting dogs chase down the big people. Anyway, now what other kinds of questions could we get in part 3? Well, similar to task 2 in the writing test, we might have agree or disagree questions. For example, many people are of the opinion that it’s the government’s responsibility to tackle the problem of obesity. Do you agree?
So, it’s kind of similar to what we were talking about before. How do we respond? Well, in a natural fashion we say, there are lots of– we could start– sorry. We could say yes, I completely agree. Obviously, that means we agree strongly.
Next one: Well, I understand why some people feel this way, but I think… and then we develop our answer. So, we kind of acknowledge that point of view, but then we give our point of view. Other phrases we can use: I’m afraid I totally disagree and as with all of these statements what we’re going to do next is give reasons and then ideally giving examples that prove your point, that almost make it irrefutable and then we’ll– I don’t think a conclusion is necessary, but sometimes some people like to put that at the end.
Other phrases we can use: Well, I think they’re right to a certain extent… and then we just develop that answer a little bit more. They are right to a certain extent and that’s probably going to set you up for a conjunction afterwards.
Well, I think they’re right to a certain extent. For example, obesity is becoming increasingly dangerous. However, I honestly believe that people should be left to make their own decisions. For example, in countries or in regions such as Scandinavia, there’s no sugar tax and behavior that governments dislike or do not want to encourage they kind of just make it more expensive and plus there’s a whole cultural thing.
Anyway, about governments handling obesity, I think it could be done, but it largely depends on how they do it. For example, taxes are not the best way. Perhaps encouraging people to participate in sport would be a much healthier long-term way to do this. I did kind of get myself into a bit of a mess there halfway through because I was going to talk about taxes, but then I just pulled it back and I talked about governments doing campaigns and promoting healthy living.
Other phrases we could use: I would have to say that I think that’s absolutely true. The government should definitely be controlling obesity because otherwise, it ends up becoming a much more serious epidemic. For example, if obesity isn’t controlled, then national health services have to deal with the consequences of obesity such as diabetes, heart attacks, and then there are all the heart operations that might be needed just as a result of obesity.
So, if the governments can tackle obesity before it starts, then it’s probably going to save them a lot more money and resources in the long run. So, there we had the reasons then we had the example and then sort of like summarizing statement of why it’s a good idea for governments to control or to handle obesity.
Next one: I really don’t think that’s true at all. Then we’re going to give a list of reasons, for example, why we dislike the idea of government handling obesity. Maybe we could talk about freedom of choice. Maybe we could talk about the nanny state. Then talk about all these different options and then give examples and we are on our way to scoring well, all right?
SENTENCE STRESS AND INTONATION
Now then, what I would recommend you do is just have a listen to those phrases again and perhaps you can record yourself and try and identify where you’ve put the sentence stress or where you’ve put the intonation. As we talked about in previous tutorials, that this is an important part of having full control of the English language. Now, what we need to be doing is stressing the important words. I won’t go into it right now. There’s lots of material about it at IELTS podcast.
Right, that’s everything for us today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial. If you want more speaking resources, then go to ieltspodcast.com and have a look at the Speaking Confidence Course. In this course, we look at how you can respond quickly and automatically. We look at strategies on how to attack part 2 and part 3. There’s the good old reflection method, paraphrasing methods, lots of different methods and frameworks and vocabulary in the course. We’ve been doing this for a while and we know what works, what gets results and what doesn’t work and we’re slowly refining and improving it and as you probably know, we’ve got a new part 2 framework in the pipeline coming soon.
IELTS ONLINE COURSES
The other thing I want to say before we finish is if you are struggling with the IELTS exam, then have a look at the online courses. We’ve got this Speaking Confidence Course. We’ve got the Jump to Band 7 or It’s Free writing course and we’re getting some fantastic results from both of those.
This is why we continuously interview the successful students, not only to get to know how they passed for them to disclose their strategies but also to inspire and just show you that this is possible, that you’re not alone and that we can do this together and it’s just a hurdle that you’re going to jump and you will pass and then you move on to the next obstacle. That’s the best way of looking at this.
And final message before we finish: if you know any students or friends that are struggling with the IELTS exam, then share this podcast with them. I’d love to help them, too. They can listen to the tutorials while they’re washing the dishes, loading the dishwasher, cleaning the house, walking to work, on the treadmill in the gym, having breakfast, or whatever.
I think the key here is to incorporate it into your routine, into your lifestyle. So, if you are always walking to catch a bus and then you’re on the bus and then you’re at work, then use that dead time, use that downtime to start improving your IELTS score.
Right. That’s everything from me. Thank you very much for listening. I hope you keep on improving and eventually you will get there. Take care. Thank you very much. Bye-bye.
Female Voice: Thanks for listening to ieltspodcast.com