Going Off Topic in IELTS Speaking Part 2

Is it wrong to go off topic in IELTS speaking part 2? Will you get a lower band score if you go off topic? Do you get a higher band score if you stay with the topic and follow the prompts given in IELTS speaking part 2? See the tips below to learn how your IELTS speaking is marked.

  • Is it essential to follow the prompts on your cue card for speaking part 2?
    • No, it isn’t. The prompts on the cue card are guidelines and support to help you build your talk.
  • Will you get a lower score if you don’t complete the cue card prompts?
    • No, you won’t. You can choose which prompts you want to use. You can ignore some and use others. You don’t get a lower score if you don’t complete the cue card prompts.
  • Are there questions to answer on the cue card?
    • No. There are no questions on your cue card. There are only prompts which are suggestions that will help you give a full talk. It is your choice to use them or not.
  • Can you add information in speaking part 2 that isn’t on the cue card?
    • Yes, you can. It is recommended that you add information to expend your talk. You will not get a lower score if you go off the topic by adding extra information that is not on your card.
  • Is the examiner marking your ability to use the prompts on the cue card?
    • No. You are not marked on ideas at all. You are only marked on your use of English language.
  • I heard that going off topic will reduce your score. Is that true?
    • Not for IELTS speaking. It is true for IELTS writing. In IELTS writing, you are marked on your response, ideas and being on topic. This is not the case for IELTS speaking. You can learn how band scores are marked on the links below.
  • Should you follow the prompts on the card?
    • I recommend that you use the prompts and also add extra information. The prompts are useful and provide a structure to your talk which will help your score. Adding extra information is a useful way to showcase your English language for a higher score.

Learn about how your speaking and other skills are marked: IELTS Band Score Explained

Prepare ideas for Common IELTS Speaking Part 2 Topics

Learn more tips for IELTS Speaking on the Main IELTS Speaking Page of this website.

Learn How to Start your Part 2 Talk

Main IELTS Pages

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  1. my topic for q card was talk about a person who helped u in your work/study place. and i spoke about an activity that held in my home town and my friend help me to overcome my problem of glossofobia. is it ok? or i may loose marks for this?

  2. Nisha Therasa says:

    the cue card does say: you SHOULD say before the cue prompts..does it not make it compulsory?

    • No, it is not compulsory. I advise all students to use the prompts because they provide an easy structure but to add your own prompts in order to decide which language skills to showcase.

  3. Nisha Therasa says:

    Hi LIz,
    if I were to prepare some common cue card topic talks, say “a favourite activity” and i happen to get a cue task to talk about an expensive activity that i do…assuming that I’m able to mask my “pre-rehearsed feel” and speak out the (memorised) favourite activity, of course with a few additions to indicate its expensive’ness’..would it affect my score assuming that fluency, vocal, grammar and pronunciation are good?

    • Do NOT memorise sentences. The examiner is trained to spot them and will not count those sentences. It is a 100% waste of your preparation time!

  4. Hi Liz, I found my examiner very strange in the part 3. And today I saw my score of speaking is 5.5, which was really shocking. ( With 6 in writing, 8 in both reading and listening.)

    At first she asked me: ” What kind of job do you think need a good driving skill?” I thought the answer was obvious and the question was a little too silly. So I answered drivers and extended the answer with my best.

    Then she asked:” What kinds of driver need a good driving skill?” I said: “I believe all the drivers need a good driving skill. For example, the drivers of the restaurant, they have to transfer the food from supplier to the costumer. They must be very careful.”

    She seemed unhappy and continued to asked the same question: “What other kinds of driver need a good driving skill?” I said: ” The driver of the chairman need a good driving skill. Because the chairman decides the affairs of the country. If the chairman bumps into a car accident, in my country, the driver will get into prison.”

    However, she was not satisfied and asked: “Don’t you think the bus drivers and taxi drivers need good driving skills?” Until that moment, I realized answers like “bus drivers” and “taxi drivers” were what she wanted. However, I think I am totally allowed to show my own opinion and I shouldn’t be judged by my speaking content.

    Do you think is there anything wrong in my answer? Should I give an answer which exactly the examiner wants?

    • You are 100% correct. You don’t need to show knowledge and you can have your own opinion. In this case, you have only one option. You must say “I didn’t say taxi driver or bus driver because that’s too obvious. I was trying to think of more interesting options.”. That way you show that you understood the answer but didn’t use the words because you chose not to. The examiner is basically testing your vocabulary – do you know these words? So, you need to reply – yes I didn’t use them because .. (indirectly of course). Your score is based on more than just one answer. It is based on grammar, vocab, fluency, pron – it is possible to you didn’t demonstrate the right language skills in your test. However, you must decide for yourself and decide if you want to go for a remark.

  5. Hello mam
    My topic was change in life(in school or college) but I told about how I change my college and experienced the change . Was it correct or not?

  6. Hey Liz
    Just now i came back home after completing the speaking test and the immediate thing i am doing is messaging you. So the examiner asked about my happiest experience in my childhood and i ended up saying my bitter experience in my childhood but at the beginning i told him that it is not so happy experience but i wanted share because it is more satisfying…actually my plan is to tell how the bad experience turned out to be good but i was stopped because i ran out of time😑

    Please tell me is it off the topic am i going to loose score😣

    Anyways Thank you so much for all the wonderful work in your website😊

    • IELTS speaking scores are language based, not ideas based. So, even if you go off topic, you will get points for the language you used. Going off topic doesn’t affect your score. Good luck with your results 🙂

  7. Aziz Radjabov says:

    Hi Liz
    Today I was at speaking exam.My question in part 2 was about thing that I bought and was happy.I said about it and I also added information about nowadays-how I use it.She emphasised that I shoud use past tenses, after that I told about past a bit.Will it affect to my score?Explain me please

  8. hi liz
    do I loose marks if i go off topic in speaking part 3,assuming the examiner had to call me back after rounding off?

  9. Dear Liz,

    I’ve had the speaking test today. In the third section, I went off some topics by giving a slight different answers, for e.g: when the examiner asked me what I like about my speciality, I answered by stating the reasons why I like my speciality. Will this affect my score? Thanks in advance.

  10. Pardeep Dua says:

    Just a few minutes back I completed my speaking round. In my cue card I was asked to explain about countyside life/visit but I explained the urban visit. it seems completely away from track, will my marks be deducted for not understanding?

  11. Shaifali says:

    Hii mam today was my speaking exam
    My cue card was describe a product or service you got for free

    I went off the track ….and talked that I was going to Manali ( a place in India) my car got punchered and somebody give me lift ….and he started talking to me ….at last I told him that I want to pay but he refused

    Plz tell mam what will happen
    I think my marks will get affected bcoz of this

    • You are not marked on your ideas. You can take your talk in any direct you want.

      • But the thing I talked is help not service ..right ??
        I am very tensed

        • One thing more

          Mam in writing is it right to write
          Without any qualm or without any qualms ….

          Is s will make any difference ??

        • You are not marked on your ideas. You are not marked for being on topic. You can be off topic and it won’t affect your score. Your score is based on fluency, grammar, vocab and pronunciation – nothing else affects your score.

  12. Dear Liz,
    Thank you a lot for your helps. I had speaking test today and the cue card of part 2 was about inventions that changed the world. but I confused the word invention with convention and the whole 2 minutes I spoke about international conventions. As it is obvious, my answer was ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVANT to the cue card and I had talked completely about another subject (conventions instead of inventions). Do you think that I would lose a lot of scores on that?

    • It will not impact your score at all. Having relevant ideas is not marked in IELTS speaking. It is essential in IELTS writing, but not in IELTS speaking. The examiner will know you mistook the word and your whole talk will still be marked as usual based on the language you produced. So, relax 🙂

      • Tnx a lot liz, such a relief, I will let you know of my score. tnx again.

        • Sumi devkota says:

          How much you scored? Coz today i spoke off topic as well. They told me to talk about countryside but i spoke about city area. I was confused whether countryside represent urban area or rural area. So worried

  13. Hii
    I had speaking today .My topic was Free service from company like ticket product etc. But I went complete off topic .I spoke about ticket received from my uncle for journey.
    Will it affect my band?

  14. Rajshree Sable says:

    Hi Liz,

    I had a speaking test today. For PART 2 of speaking test, topic given to me was DESCRIBE GIFT WHICH YOU WOULD LIKE TO GIVE TO SOMEBODY. But in my case, I went complete off topic. I spoke about GIFT WHICH I RECEIVED FROM SOMEBODY. I am so anxious now regarding band score for this. Kindly guide me how much will this affect my SPEAKING band.

    Thank you.

    • As this page explains, going off topic won’t affect your score in speaking.

      • Rajshree sable says:

        Thank you so much Liz for your guidance. It was really helpful.

      • Parth latel says:

        Hey !
        MY TOPIC WAS



        • You are not marked on your ideas or the information you provide or going off topic. You are marked on your language only.

  15. dear liz
    can u please assess my ielts essay… m going to appear for the test on 21st of this month

  16. Victor Chidiebere says:

    My kind regards to you. keep it up.

  17. Thank you so much Liz for all your work. It helped me greatly with my preparation for the exam. You are amazing!

  18. Yassir adam says:


  19. Ahmed Mohammed says:

    I highly appreciate all your outstanding dedicated hard work here.I still can’t figure out your answer regarding following the prompts on the cue card.If the prompt instructs to describe a gift in your life is it OK if the candidate describe his/her favorite family member.Just asking.
    Best regards

    • You are given a topic with prompts and the advice above is about using the prompts, not about changing the topic completely. Design your talk around the topic but develop the prompts and use the prompts in any way you want – add your own prompts.

  20. Hi Mrs Liz

    Should i use capital letter in all reading answers?


  21. Anil pandey says:

    I am confident by yours support..thank you

  22. Hany Youssef says:

    Thank You for all useful information & efforts. you are a great help.

  23. jaswinder kaur says:

    thank you my respected Liz mam

  24. Arif Equbal says:

    Thanks Liz.

  25. Thanks

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