In this tutorial you will learn:
- How to use conditionals for real and unreal situations
This will help you in your IELTS speaking exam because:
- You will learn to use more complex grammar structures for part 3 of the exam.
In part three of the speaking test you need to elaborate on the topic from part two.
The questions in this stage are usually broader and more challenging than the first two stages.
For instance, in part two the examiner may ask you to:
“describe a wedding you have been to,”
Whereas in stage three they may ask
“How are weddings different between cultures?”
“In what ways have our ideas of marriage changed over the past 20 years?”
In this tutorial we look at how we can answer difficult and complex questions with the help of conditional sentences.
Why you should use conditional (if) sentences in part three of the exam
The best way to approach part three of the exam is to expand your answers as much as possible.
The topics are usually very broad, and the examiner wants to hear you speak in depth about a topic not answer as quickly as possible.
By discussing a question in detail, you will be able to show the examiner a greater range in your vocabulary, fluency, and grammar and so get a higher score!
Although there are many ways to elaborate on your answers, one of the most effective ways is through the use of conditional statements.
Generally speaking, there are two types of conditional statements: Real and hypothetical (unreal). Let’s look at these two types and when we should use them.
Real conditionals are used to talk about what you expect to happen from an event. The sentence is made of two parts the ‘if clause’ (if it rains) and the main clause (I will get wet).
The main clause usually uses ‘will’ or ‘going to’ or the present continuous.
If + statement + subject + will
- If it rains today, I will get wet.
- If I drink coffee now, I won’t sleep later.
How to use ‘real conditionals’ in part three of IELTS speaking.
Real conditionals are useful for predicting present or future events. Let’s take a look at an example from a speaking test:
Examiner: What difficulties do couples getting married experience?
Candidate: I imagine it must be difficult knowing who to invite. If you invite one friend, you will have to invite all your friends! I think it must create a lot of problems for…
In this example, the test taker has decided to use a ‘real conditional’ to explore possible problems that they think will come out of a decision.
By doing this, the speaker can expand on their ideas by following logical connections.
This will allow the speaker to demonstrate more language to the examiner.
Hypothetical conditionals are used for situations that are not real or that you don’t believe would happen.
Like the real conditional, the sentence is made up of two parts, the ‘If clause (If I won the lottery) and the ‘main clause’ (I would buy a new house).
The difference is that the verb in the ‘if clause’ takes the past simple form and the ‘main clause’ uses ‘would’.
If + Past simple + subject + would + present simple
- If I won the lottery, I would buy a new house. (You know you probably won’t win the lottery)
- If I broke my friend’s phone, I wouldn’t tell them. (You know you probably won’t break your friend’s phone.
The above examples talk about unreal events in the present or future. But what about past events? In the examples below the ‘if clause’ changes to the past perfect form and the ‘main clause’ uses would.
The speaker already knows what has happened in the past but wants to talk about how things would be different now if the past were different.
If + past perfect + subject + would+ present perfect
Let’s look at two examples.
- If I had known, I wouldn’t have asked (you didn’t know, so you asked)
- If I had studied more for the exam I would have passed (I didn’t study for the exam)
How to use ‘Hypothetical conditionals’ in part three of IELTS speaking.
Hypothetical conditionals are great for connecting ideas together. Let’s look at an exam takers response to a question.
Examiner: ‘How are weddings different between cultures?”
Candidate: Well, in the US the bride wears white, but if you got married in China you would wear red. The bride wears red in Vietnam because…..
In this example, you and the speaker both know you are not going to get married in China. They are using this example to give themselves a new topic to talk about more deeply, in this case, the color of wedding dresses and its meaning.
Another excellent use for hypothetical conditionals is to examine possible presents and possible pasts. Let’s look at an exam takers response to a question:
Examiner: ‘In what ways have our ideas of marriage changed over the past 20 years?’
Candidate: In the past, there was a much lower divorce rate than there is today. I think that if I got divorced twenty years ago, my friends and family would judge me differently than today. For example…..
In this example, we can see that the speaker has created a whole new topic to talk about: Views on divorce 20 years ago.
The test taker can now go much more in-depth and explore many ideas related to the question.
With this new topic, the speaker can show off their knowledge of vocabulary, past forms, passive forms, etc.
We have looked at a lot of grammar in this article, but it really comes down to one simple idea. In part three of the oral exam the examiner wants to see if the test taker can talk in depth about a topic.
They want to see how much language you have to talk about a single topic. One of the most effective ways to do this is to take advantage of imagining real and unreal situations by using conditional sentences.
You can download or listen to the audio version here:
|Direct Download Here | Stitcher | iTunes | Spotify | Soundcloud | Transcript |
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: Advanced grammatical structures for part 3. We are going to specifically look at using conditionals in part 3 of the exam. Now, this will help you in your IELTS speaking exam because if you can employ in a natural fashion, of course, more complex grammatical structures then– especially for part 3, then you will end up with a higher grade assuming, of course, that you use them correctly and in a natural that means unforced way.
|IELTS SPEAKING PART 3|
Let’s jump into it. So, in part 3 of the speaking test, you need to elaborate on the topic that you were talking about in part 2. You need to elaborate in a more broader and in a more challenging fashion than the earlier stage. So, for example, we have had in part 2 describe a wedding you have been to. Describe the people there, the celebrations and the most memorable moment.
For example, a typical part 2 card. As we know, these are usually about people or places. And we’ve just given our two-minute talk about the wedding. We went through all the bullet points probably a few sentences, maybe some examples or some anecdotes for each point and then we finished in the very eloquent style that I teach in the online course which is “And that’s my small presentation about a wedding I’ve been to. I hope you’ve liked it.” Why do we add that ending? Well, we add that ending just to signal to the examiner we’ve finished.
Now then, in the next part, the examiner is going to ask you more challenging questions. They might ask you how are weddings different between cultures? In what ways have our ideas of marriage changed over the past 20 years? Quite challenging these ones and there’s– in the online course we’ve got, we teach a method that helps you respond quickly and automatically and then after you’ve started your response, after you’ve got the ball rolling, so to speak, then we can start using more complex structures.
I know for a fact a lot of students their mind goes blank as soon as they get to this part of the exam and nothing comes in and if that happens to you, then the best way is to say something. Get started. Get momentum and then after you’ve got that momentum and you could even paraphrase, but after you’ve got that momentum you can start to expand and there’s a few different ways of expanding. Maybe you can give an example. Maybe you can go into more detail. Maybe you can tell an anecdote. And another way to expand is what I’m going to tell you now. You could use a complex grammaticalstructure, a conditional and you can use real and unreal conditionals.
The reason why you should do this is because the examiner wants to hear you speak in depth about the topic. So, this means that you’ll have to talk a little bit longer than what might be the case in a natural conversation. Remember they are there listening in order to give you points. It’s your opportunity to shine. They want to give you as many points as possible and they can only do this by listening to you, okay?
So, develop your answers. Don’t go on and on and on rumbling, but develop them. Think of it like you structure your essays. You might have your introduction. You might have your two body paragraphs and then a conclusion. You want to give full in-depth complete answers, not just rapid one-sentence answers.
Now, by discussing the question in detail, you’ll be able to show the examiner a greater range of your vocabulary. Hopefully, you’ll be able to speak more fluently and you’ll be able to employ more grammar structures. As I’ve said before, there are ways to get into detail, to talk in depth, and to talk at length.
Just as a refresher, you can give examples, you can give anecdotes. You can talk about hypothetical situations as well. There is a few more. I can’t remember them off the top of my head. We’ve gone into detail about these ways of how to extend your answer in the online Speaking Confidence Course, but right now, we are going to zoom in and focus on conditional statements.
These can be broken down into two types: real and unreal or real and hypothetical. So, we can use real conditionals when we expect– sorry. We can use real conditionals when we want to talk about what we expect will happen from an event. Unlike most conditional sentences, it’s made up of two clauses, two parts. We have the if clause. For example, if it rains, that’s the main clause. The second part, I will get wet.
The main clause usually uses the will, okay? Usually uses will or going to or even the present continuous. Just for the sake of this example or for this tutorial, we’ve broken them up just into two parts: real and unreal. So, the structure is if + the statement + subject + will. Or if + subject + — sorry. If + statement + subject + going to. If it rains today I will get wet. If I drink coffee now I won’t sleep later.
Now, how do we use these in the part 3 of the IELTS speaking? Well, these real conditionals are useful for predicting present or future events. This is really important. I must say it again. The real conditionals are useful for predicting present or future events. Let’s see them in an example. The examiner asked us this question. What difficulties do couples getting married experience?
Perhaps you might want to pause the recording now and try and answer it. Try and answer it even with the conditionals. Next one. So, the answer– the question. What difficulties do couples getting married experience? Answer: I imagine it must be difficult knowing who to invite. If you invite one friend, you have to invite all your friends. I think it must create a lot of problems for the bridegroom– for the bride and groom.
In that example, I decided to use a real conditional to explore the possible problems that I would encounter if I were to get married– if I was going to get married. You see? What I’ve done there is I’ve enabled my topic– What I can do is I can expand on my ideas by following logical connections, okay?
So, just like I said with the essays, we’ve got– a good essay is coherent because we’ve got logical connections flowing all the way through the essay hopefully and likewise with your speaking, there we just had a small introduction and then we had almost the same as a body paragraph. I’m not going to say it’s a body paragraph, but we have the introduction and then we have the body paragraph where we develop it, okay? And we develop it in a logical coherent manner.
So, introduction: I imagine it must be difficult knowing who to invite. If you invite one friend, you’ll have to invite all your friends. I think it must create a lot of problems…There is the logical connection there and we can go further into it. We’re developing the topic just like we do with the writing and as I said before, it’s going to allow us to demonstrate a higher level of speaking. We are going to demonstrate more language to the examiner and the examiner wants to give you points.
So, if you are speaking in depth, if you are speaking at length and you’re not grumbling and you’re giving clear coherent answers then it’s going to be much easier for the examiner to give you the points. Let’s move on.
Hypothetical conditionals or as we spoke about them earlier, unreal situations or unreal conditionals. Let’s see. So, these are, as I said, the situations that are not real or you do not believe will happen or could happen. Once again, it’s made up of two parts: an if clause and then the main clause.
So, we have if I won the lottery, I would buy a new house. The main clause there is I would buy a new house. Now, the difference here is that the verb in the if clause takes the past simple form and the main clause will use would, okay? This is quite straight forward. So, we have if + past simple + subject if I won the lottery– sorry if I won the lottery, I would buy a new home. So, I would is the main clause and present simple buy a new home. Or you could also say after a modal verb, it’s 99% of the time in the infinitive.
So, another example. If I broke my friend’s phone, I wouldn’t tell them. Okay? And that’s conditional because you know you probably won’t break your friend’s phone or if I won the lottery, I would buy a new house. You know you probably won’t win the lottery.
Now, these events or these examples, sorry, talk about unreal events in the present or the future, but what about past events? Well, in this case, the if clause changes to the past perfect form and the main clause still uses would. So, for example, if I had known, I wouldn’t have asked. If I had studied more for the exam, I wouldn’t have passed. Can you see how these now are about– sorry, these are about events that happened in the past, okay?
Right then, let’s move on. How do we use these hypothetical conditionals in part 3 of the IELTS speaking? Well, once again, these are great for connecting ideas together. Let’s have a look. So, the examiner asks: How are weddings different between cultures? You can say, “Well, in the U.S., the bride wears white, but if you got married in China, you would wear red. The bride wears red in Vietnam because…”
In that example, the examiner and me, we both know that I’m not going to get married in China, but by introducing this topic now I can talk about China. I can talk about more– I have opened it up. I can talk broader and I can speak more deeply about the subject and I’m going to elicit more vocabulary and I’m going to give an example about Vietnam and I’ll probably maybe talk about the history there. I don’t know exactly why not– I don’t exactly know why they dress in red, but I can talk about that if I knew about it. Weddings isn’t my strong point. I’m just giving you examples here.
Let’s just have a look at the example again. Well, in the U.S., the bride wears white, but if you got married in China, you would wear red. I have opened it up. Now, let’s talk about China because I’ve opened it up to talk about China. I can also mention other countries and probably steer the conversation towards a country that I know a lot about.
Also, hopefully you will have heard me answering directly the question. How are weddings different between cultures? Well, in the U.S., the bride wears white, but if you got married in China, you would wear red. So, I’m clearly answering the question. Now, I’m going to go into more detail about Vietnam, about brides wearing red. I will pick up more points because I could hopefully offer a detailed example.
Most importantly, I’m going to offer a comparison. For comparisons, we can use whereas, while, in comparison, and these are also useful grammatical structures to employ if we want to get over a band 7. If we are aiming for a band 9, it’s probably essential that we use them. Now then, another excellent use for hypothetical conditionals is to examine possible presents and possible pasts. That sounds quite deep, doesn’t it?
So, let’s have a look at the question then I’ll give you an example. In what ways have our ideas of marriage changed over the past 20 years? Interesting. In the past, there was a much lower divorce rate than there is today. I think that if I got married– sorry. I think that if I got divorced 20 years ago, my friends and family would judge me differently than today. For example, my grandma got divorced when she was 26. Apparently, the family shunned her… Okay?
In this example, we can see that I’ve answered the question in a way that has given me a whole new topic to talk about and I should probably introduce a new topic that I can talk at length about. In this case, it’s maybe my grandma’s divorce.
Let’s look at that answer again. In the past, there was a much lower divorce rate than there is today. I think that if I got married– I’m doing it again. I think if I got divorced 20 years ago, my friends would judge me differently than today. For example, my grandma divorced…
I can now talk about my grandma. I can talk about what happened and probably because it’s a real story– actually it’s not, but in your case I hope you don’t invent it like I just did, but in your case, you can steer it to a real story, a real event that happened in your life and then you can go into detail. So, this just goes back to what we mentioned before about giving examples.
Also, I slipped in a little comparison there. So, my friends and family would judge me differently than today. So I’m answering the question as well. In what ways have our ideas of marriage changed over the past 20 years? By the way, keep the question in your mind because it’s easy to go off topic and this is why long, long, long answers I think are dangerous both in the writing and the speaking.
A lot of students struggle with the appropriate length and here’s a tip directly from the course. As I’ve said before, if you can think of this as an essay, so you can maybe paraphrase the question, talk a little bit– give an example and then summarize and this clearly shows the examiner that you’ve finished and it will keep you on topic as well because when you’re summarizing, you’re probably going to go back to the question.
So, in this case, we can say for the summary it would be, “So, that’s how I think our ideas or thoughts of marriage and divorce have changed over the past 20 years.” Or over the past two decades if I wanted to change the– or introduce new vocabulary to avoid repetition or using words directly from the question. You see?
|ONE SIMPLE IDEA|
So, in this tutorial, we’ve looked at complex grammatical structures, but it really just comes down to one simple idea. In the speaking exam, the examiner wants to hear you talk in depth about a topic. They want to see how much language you have to talk about for a single topic and the best way or one of the most effective ways to do this is to take advantage of imagining real and unreal situations by using conditional sentences and try and link these to your own experiences, okay?
We did mention a few other points which I’ll just very briefly mention using examples, using comparisons and paraphrasing. Also, if your mind goes blank, start in immediately in getting momentum. These are just the points that we go into much more detail in the course, but it’s I think they are worth mentioning now because they are quite effective and easy to implement today in your next part 3 speaking exercise.
|ONE LAST BONUS TIP|
Right, just one last bonus tip. As I’ve said before, you want to review the grammatical structures, jump online and review the grammatical structures especially for the conditional then you want to write out your answers. Try and incorporate these conditional sentences. Get them checked and then you will be able to use them more effectively. If you can write them out first, get some feedback, see if you are on the right track and then you will be able to spot your errors and hopefully avoid them– hopefully avoid making them again.
Okay, my name is Ben Worthington. You’ve been listening to the IELTS podcast. If you’ve got any friends who are struggling with IELTS, please send them an IELTS podcast link. Tell them to listen. Tell them to download the podcasts and if you’re still struggling, reach out. You can join our email list. We’ve got a ton of tips on there or you can get your essay corrected or you can send us an email and tell us what you’re struggling with and we’ll try and help you out.
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One last thing. I know I’m going on a bit now, but I’ve used my goals– sometimes I put my goals as my passwords, okay? Not the smartest thing to put on a podcast, but hey. I sometimes put my goal as a password. I was logging into an old website the other day and I was– I eventually found out that– I did the password reset and the password was a goal that– from like three or four years ago that I’ve now surpassed and exceeded. And I smiled because I was like yes, I did get there. It did seem impossible at the time. A few years later, I did get there. So, yes. As I said, keep your head up high. Keep working. Keep moving.
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