Mangkunegaran – recounting an experience

I already know the theory – give me the gapfill!

In IELTS speaking part 2 you are required to speak for between 1 and 2 minutes about a topic given by the examiner. Although it is difficult to predict the topic, the generic features of your spoken text are likely to follow one of two types. Here I demonstrate one of these types – recount.

First I’ll talk you through the predictable features of recount and then we’ll look at an example.

Recount has a predictable structure:

  1. Orientation (Background information explaining when, where, with whom, etc.)
  2. Events (A string of action verbs)
  3. (Optional) Re-orientation (Relating the events to the present somehow)

1. Orientation

In the orientation you are likely to use a lot of past continuous tense to ‘set the scene’ – “I was wearing warm clothes..”; “I was driving very fast..”; etc. The exception to this is state verbs, which of course cannot be continuous: “It was summer.”; “I was in my third semester at university.”; etc.

2. Events

The events are all likely to feature past simple verbs, unless there are interrupted actions, in which case the first verb will be continuous and the second simple:

I was driving very fast when suddenly a cat ran in front of the car!

Notice that there is likely to be predictable vocabulary: suddenly, As.., While.., etc

3. Re-orientation

Again, this third section is optional. Here you’re likely to use present tenses and present time expressions, or will:

These days I‘m careful not to drive so fast.
I’ll never do anything so stupid again!


So, now that you know something about the predictable structure and language of recount try to complete the text below with correct forms of the verbs shown in brackets. Then click ‘Check your answers’ for feedback.


Enter items into the gaps, then click 'Check your answers!'
[view possible answers]
attended, was attending, was, was teaching, were visiting, recognised, have, had not seen, haven’t seen, hadn’t seen, met, wanted, had not been, hadn’t been, ’s, is, was taking, know, were

It (1. be) a few months ago. I (2. be) in Solo on holiday with my wife. We (3. visit) Mangkunegaran because once a week they (4. have) a gamelan rehearsal and I (5. want) to see it. While I (6. take) photographs of the gongs, suddenly I (7. recognise) in the audience somebody I (8. know) from England. I first (9. meet) Claudia about 10 years ago when she (10. attend) a course in Balinese gamelan that I (11. teach) at a music summer school. I (12. not see) her since that time in England. It (13. be) an amazing coincidence that we (14. meet) in Solo! We (15. be) both on holiday. It (16. be) my first ever visit to Mangkunegaran and only my third visit to Solo. Claudia, meanwhile, (17. not go) to Solo for 22 years.

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