IELTS Speaking Section Part 1, 2 and 3 - Talking about Books and Leisure Activities

IELTS Speaking Section - Talking about Books and Leisure Activities
Reading books and other leisure activities - picture by

In this post, we will discuss IELTS Speaking Section part 1, 2 and 3. The questions are related to books and leisure activities. Besides giving sample answers, I would also like to to answer some of the frequently asked questions related to IELTS Speaking Section. If you have been having some of these questions in mind, I hope that the explanation will help.

IELTS Speaking Part 1 - Talking about Familiar Topics

Spare Time

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like playing games, all sort of games. Like many other people of my generation, I used to play console games, like nintendo and playstation 2. Nowadays, I often play online games on my smartphone.

How much time you spend doing it?

I only play games once or twice a week, usually on the weekends. I have a little free time after work, actually, but I always try to be productive on weekdays. For example, writing is an important part of my job as a teacher. I've been doing a lot of writings lately, writing on my personal blog, writing books.

Why do you like doing this activity?

I like playing games mostly  because it helps me relax. When I play games, I become absorbed in it and kind of forget all the problems at work, all the problems in life. It feels good to do what we like doing, especially when we have a stressful job.  Everyone needs a balance in life, and there has to be a balance between what you have to do and what you like doing.

Do you usually spend your free time alone or with other people?

I spend most of my free time alone. I hang out with friends and colleagues once in a while. Sometimes we even go on a holiday for several days when the opportunity presents itself. I think, the older we become, the fewer friends we have. As an adult, I am very busy and have a lot of work to do. My friends are getting busier as well, so we now meet only on special occasions like the new year celebration or during ramadhan. 

Is there any other activity you want to try in your free time?

Yes, of course. I have been meaning to take a course on web design. I've got to be honest though, I have learned some basic courses since I was in junior high, and I wouldn't say that I'm really good at it despite having been learning it for quite some time. This was partly because I learned it all by myself, and I happen to be a person who will never be able to learn without a proper guidance. Recently, we see the importance of online platform like webs and apps. This motivates me to learn again. I will set a much clearer goal so that the learning process will have a better result than my previous failed attempt of learning web design. I will try to find a tutor that will help me out with this.

IELTS Speaking Section Part 2 - Self Presentation

Reading Books

Describe a book that you recently read

You should say:

What is the title of the book?

What is it about?

What sort of people enjoy reading this book?

Why do you like reading it?

What is the title of the book?

I recently read a novel entitled Bumi Manusia, or The Earth of Mankind in English. This is a phenomenal work by Indonesia's best authors, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. The book itself is considered as one of the most controversial books in my country. Well, The Earth of Mankind is the first book of the Buru Quartet. The other three books are Child of All Nations, Footsteps, and House of Glass. This book was written by Pramoedya while being a political prisoner in Buru Island. This book was banned by the regime for far too long, but the ban was eventually lifted in 2000. The book was associated with Marxism-Lenninism, I don't know for what reason, and was considered as 'dangerous'. This is why I said the book is somewhat controversial. During the New Order Era, you will be in a serious trouble if you were caught possessing one of, or worse, all of the four books. The books were often confiscated and thus, had to be circulated underground. This is probably why I like the books in the first place. It is a symbol of freedom and a fight against the authoritarian regime of that era, and is still relevant to this day.

What is it about?

Well, it would be difficult to explain the whole quartet, so let me just focus on the main story of the whole series.  It tells us about a forbidden love story between a native, a Javanese male aristocrat, and the daughter of a Dutch colonial official. Well, despite his status as a nobleman, Minke, the main character, had to face a lot of challenges from the girl's family, the colonial government, and society in general. Minke himself did not really like the rigid social hierarchy in Java, and prefer a more democratic, more modern European society. He did not get along well with some members of his aristocrat family, and sympathized with the native people for all injustices that were imposed upon them.  Things became more complicated when Minke started developing a sense of nationalism. He was a talented and published author, who often spoke on behalf of his fellow countrymen and raise the people's awareness of colonial inequality. The colonial government now not only saw him as someone who challenged social norm by marrying a mixed-blood woman of a higher social status, but also a serious threat. Minke's love story now turned into a struggle for justice and a call for more unity among the natives. 

It is kind of difficult to describe the book, since it can be considered as a historical novel as much as a romance. I mean, the book depicts the Dutch colonial era quite vividly and accurately, be it the discrimination, the oppression, and the depression endured by natives, or as the book call them, the inlanders. The book is said to tell the story of a real person named Tirto Adhi Soerjo, so it is also a little bit biographical.

What sort of people enjoy reading this book?

Many college students, activists, intellectuals and the like definitely like reading this book. As I said, some books often become the symbol of struggle against a repressive regime, this book is no exception. Pramoedya was imprisoned without trial, his house was confiscated and his library was burnt. He was a victim of coercion and censorship, but at the end of the day, it just makes him a martyr. The books are now re-published and are even adapted into a movie, which means that the books are now even admired by many. If I'm not mistaken, Pramoedya'd Buru Quartet is internationally renowned and has been translated into several languages. If you are a literary enthusiast, you might be amazed by this.

Why do you like reading it?

This book has a good story line, characters are well-developed, and the conflicts make you want to know what's going to happen next. This book is so compelling that I literally finished reading it in one day, something that I rarely do. The end of one book will make you feel the urge to read the next book, and the next, until you finish all the four books. Reading these books also give me the thrill, knowing that they were written when the author became a political prisoner. Just imagine you read this book a few years back, what would happen if you were caught reading a forbidden book written by an ex-political prisoner? For many people, this book is like a forbidden treasure.

IELTS Speaking Section Part 3 - Discussion

Talking about Extreme Sport

Why do you think some people like extreme sport?

Some people like adrenaline, and like doing extreme sport such as parkour or wall climbing. I don't know exactly why people prefer to do this kind of sport, but it seems that once someone manages to overcome their fear, it will be more likely that they will try something more challenging, or even more dangerous. For example, a friend of mine who is an avid fan martial arts recently does parkour too. Martial arts are dangerous enough, there is always a possibility of getting a minor, or even serious injury. When I asked my friend why she likes doing these sports, she just told me that she has abundant energy as a young person, and it's always better to use that energy to do positive activities, and sport is just one of them.

Is it more important for us to avoid risk or to try something new?

Personally, I'm the kind of person who likes trying something new, knowing that risk is not something that you can't calculate. I do martial arts, which are risky enough. I always have bruises, something is always bleeding, nose, lips, eyes. I've had broken nose several times. But it is a fun activity and is definitely worth the risk. It's important to note though, that such activity always has safety procedure. You don't want to hurt yourself. However, sometimes we see people who pull a dangerous stunt in public places, doing a wheelie or playing skateboard in the street. Not only is it dangerous to themselves, it is also dangerous to others. I can't help but thinking that there is just a slight difference between bravery and stupidity. Extreme sports are supposed to be done more responsibly.

Why is it important for people to have an adventure?

Adventure makes it possible for us to see this world from different perspectives. Hiking a mountain is a case on point. When you live your entire life in the city, it is important to take an adventure in the nature and appreciate the beauty. It's not good to always live in our comfort zone. We may lose our ability to adapt to change and may not learn anything new at all. We may also lose the fun in life because life becomes extremely boring when you do the same thing over and over again.

What do people learn about themselves from having an adventure?

People who have an adventure can learn new culture, new language, and even some basic survival skills. They can make friends and get interesting experiences. 

For example, a friend of mine wanted to join a student exchange program in Czech Republic, and was asking for some advice. I told her to go for it, because it may be a once in a life time opportunity for college student like her. But then she told me that she was kind of worried about going abroad all by herself. What if I get lost? What if I can't adapt to the harsh weather? What if I run out of money before the program is over? Those concerns are quite reasonable, actually. But if we only focus on the risks and see the whole experience only from the negative point of view, then we aint going nowhere. We will not achieve something in life until we have to courage to take risks and overcome our own fears. Besides, risks are manageable. We only need to be well-prepared. 

She finally decided to go, despite the anxieties. The exchange program went really well. When she came home, she told me what she had learnt a lot from her adventure. It's true that she had to face challenges at times and found it quite difficult to adapt. But she also said that she got a lot of help from friends. For instance, other international students showed her some of the most affordable places to eat, when her budget was running low. Some other friends showed her some interesting places to visit, making it possible for her to go on a vacation on weekends. The locals are very nice and helpful, she said. From her adventure, she learns that people are generally nice and willing to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use the same words over and over again?

I never say you can't, but in speaking section, you are given the chance to demonstrate your vocabulary range and accuracy (this is one of many criteria used for marking) and I personally think that you better use this opportunity to maximize your score. Do you realize that I just paraphrased the word 'chance' with 'opportunity'? How difficult could it be?

Sometimes, you have to avoid using technical terms because it will be more difficult for you to explain. But it doesn't mean that you can't paraphrase words and maximize your vocabulary score. This is also true for words that are difficult to pronounce. For example, I'd rather use the word 'ear doctor' (like most people do) instead of 'otorhinolaryngologist'.

Do I have to use formal language all the time?

I don't think so. When I took IELTS test for the first time, I used formal language mostly on part 3. In part 1 and 2, we have to talk about familiar topics and personal experience so i think it's okay to sound less formal and academic. It's just like casual conversation. I got 7.5 in speaking, so I don't think we have to use formal English all the time.

What will happen if I'm running out of time?

There are various ways of dealing with this situation. To avoid this, I usually give maximum two reasons and examples for each question, and just move on to the next one. In part 1 and 3, the interviewer may ask you to explain further. It means that your previous explanation is not comprehensive enough. 

In speaking part 2, it also depends on whether you have one question left or more. Just remember that you have to answer all the questions in the cue card no matter what. When you give too many details in the first two questions and run out of time, there is no other option but to give fewer details in the last two questions.

To be able to manage your time, you'll need a lot of exercise. You may have a vast vocabulary, a profound understanding of English grammar, and perfect pronunciation. But in IELTS Speaking Section, other factors like time management, difficulty of certain topic, and nervousness may also come into play.

Why is it so difficult for me to develop ideas?

The easiest way to develop ideas for yes/no questions is to give reason. For example, when the interviewer asks you whether you like extreme sport, you have to explain why you like doing it (or not). Do not just say: Yes, I do or no, I don't.

Is giving a personal opinion allowed in IELTS Speaking Section?

Of course, it is. However, it is better support your opinion with facts and evidence. In an example given above, there is a mixture of facts and personal opinions.

That the book is very compelling and accurately depicts life in colonial era is my personal opinion, but:

That the author was a political prisoner is a fact

That the book is internationally renowned and has been translated into several languages is a fact

That the book was initially banned is also a fact.

What if I digress? Will the interviewer give a hint?

I'm not really sure about this, but they will probably just interrupt you with a new question, or directly ask you to get to the point. I have watched some sample videos on youtube and yes, the interviewer will interrupt if they deem it necessary. Sometimes, you digress because your answers have to be elaborated. Take a look at my last sample answer. I answered:

People who have an adventure can learn new culture, new language, and even some basic survival skills. They can make friends and get interesting experiences.

These answers will have to be elaborated with examples, and I probably had no choice but to tell the interviewer the whole story of a friend of mine having an adventure.


During the covid19 pandemic, we will keep posting free educational content so you can study at home. Life is getting difficult for many of us, but this too shall pass.

If you like reading this article, you may like reading these as well:

IELTS Speaking Part 1, 2, and 3 - Talking about Internet, Media and Celebrity Culture

IELTS Speaking Part 1, 2, and 3 - Talking about Food and Health

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