How To Organise Your Notes

Using the allocated time of 1 minute to make some notes before your talk can help you to organise your ideas.

The examiner will not look at your notes, they will only mark you on your spoken answer. You should practice making notes that will help you during your talk. This will allow you to;

  • Think in-depth about the topic.
  • Organise your ideas and improve coherence.
  • Give you more to talk about – improving fluency.

Don’t write too much when you are making notes, use the time you have to think and write down ideas and words. You need to be able to look at your notes and think of your next idea quickly so that your talk flows naturally.

You can use arrows to lead your eye to the next keywords, or group words together for each bullet point, or you can create a mind map around the topic.

You can also circle key words from the cue card questions – like where, when, what, how etc. Make sure you answer them in your notes, using the key words as headings.

Fluency And Coherence

The examiner will be assessing your fluency and coherence during the test, seeing how easy it is to follow what you are saying and being able to understand your ideas. Your notes can help you to organise and link your ideas together in a logical way. 

One way of linking your ideas together is by using linking words and phrases, for example; after that, however, although, even though, because, also, but, firstly, secondly, etc. You can also connect your ideas by using pronouns. It is also really important to use a variety of language when you are speaking and don’t repeat the words on the cue card. To gain a high score in the speaking test you should also use collocations

A collocation is made up of two or more words that are commonly used together in English. Think of collocations as words that usually go together. There are different kinds of collocations in English. Strong collocations are word pairings that are expected to come together, for instance;

  • To save time
  • To be prepared
  • To make progress
  • To do the cleaning
  • Take a risk
  • Do the homework

Organising Your Notes – Example 1

Read the cue card question below and give yourself one minute to make some notes >>

Making notes will help you to plan your ideas and give them some logical thought, for example;


  • What – Swimming/walking
  • When – Started when I was younger / now I live close to the sea/pools
  • How – In the summer months every day/winter indoor pools
  • How – Swimming is good exercise for all of the body – working all muscles/salt water is good

Model Answer

I think it’s important to exercise every day or at least three times per week, so I like to walk every morning and swim as often as I can. I learned to swim when I was at school and since then regularly visited the indoor pool, then when I moved to Greece I was going swimming nearly every day in the summer months. In the winter I like to go to an indoor pool, as it is heated and of course protects you from the elements outside. 

There are many beaches close to my house, with crystal clear waters, surrounded by beautiful landscapes and hotels with large swimming pools, so I have a good choice of places to visit for a swim. I like to go to the pool when it is quiet, or the sea when it is calm. The clear salt waters are good for your health and it’s great to swim alongside the fish. 

I used to go to a lot of classes in the UK, including Zumba and body combat. I had an accident during a body combat class and broke a bone in my foot, which meant that swimming and cycling were the only options open to me for a while. My doctor encouraged me to go swimming regularly, as he said the salt water would help my foot to heal and obviously to keep up my exercise routine. I really enjoyed swimming, so just kept doing it even after my foot had healed. Swimming keeps me fit and healthy as it is an all over body workout, using all of the muscles it is a great way to do cardiovascular exercise.


This is a strong answer, as there is background given and the topic has been fully discussed. There are various tenses and structures used, for the past and present. The notes have prompts and keywords so that the topic could flow and include all of the given points from the cue card. 

Organising Your Notes – Example 2

Read the cue card question below and give yourself one minute to make some notes >>

Another way to make notes is to underline, highlight or circle keywords that can be used as headings in your notes, for example;


  • Where – The Lake District
  • When – When I was around 10 years old /in 1990 
  • What – Visited different lakes, national trust sites, Beatrix Potters House, Wordsworth’s house. 
  • Would – Visit again – a good place in the summer, beautiful scenery.

Model Answer

I’d like to talk about a place I visited with my parents when I was about 10 years old in 1990. We went to the Lake District in Cumbria one summer. This is a lovely place, full of green fields, hills and of course lakes. It was about a 2-hour drive from our house and one into the countryside, the surrounding areas just became more and more beautiful to see. 

In the summer, it is the perfect weather for exploring the lakes, from Lake Windermere to Grasmere, we explored the surrounding areas, with a visit to Beatrix Potters house, which is a National Trust owned property and also to the poet William Wordsworth’s house. I was very interested in reading when I was younger and enjoyed visiting the former homes of these well-known writers.  

There are also many hiking trails in the Lake District, over the fells and beyond. We walked a great deal, with a map and a compass to guide us and even stopped for a picnic on the top of a hill. I enjoyed walking in the hills, learning about each area and how to read a map. 

I would definitely visit the Lakes again and would like to see how the areas have changed since I was last there. I would also like to visit Beatrix Potters house again, now that I am older, I think I would appreciate it more. She is a very inspiring author and illustrator and I love that she was inspired by the nature and animals around her.  I would also like to stay in a hotel near to Lake Windermere and if the weather is good, hire a boat and sail around to enjoy the surrounding nature.


You can clearly see that the structure of the notes has been used to clearly lead the talk through the main points. The notes have been used as a prompt, with information being added, from the memories of visiting the places mentioned. 

Your Turn

Now it is your turn! Try making some notes for the cue cards above and time yourself – no longer than 1 minute. Practice giving a talk for 1-2 minutes to your speaking partner and include all of the main points, using your notes as a prompt.

I hope this post has been helpful to you, let me know how your practice is going in the comments below >>

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