In some speaking exams you may have to tell a story that you make up or a true story about something that happened to you. This is sometimes called a personal anecdote.

Here are our top tips for telling a good story or anecdote.

Do:

  • Take time to think about the question and the story before you start talking. 
  • Use narrative tenses – past simple, past continuous and past perfect.
  • Use adjectives and adverbs to make the story interesting.
  • Use sequencing words: first of all, then, after that, later on, finally, in the end ...
  • Give your story an introduction. Say briefly what your story is about.
  • Give the background to your story. Say when and where it took place and what you were doing at that time.
  • Say what happened step by step. Use words like so, because and although to connect the actions until you reach the end of the story.
  • Keep the action moving!
  • Finish your story or anecdote by saying why it is important to you or why you remember it.
  • Look at your listeners.

Don’t:

  • Take too long telling the story or your listeners will get bored.
  • Use a flat or bored voice.
  • Look down or look around the room.

Examples of storytelling tasks

  • Tell me about a holiday you had.
  • Tell me about a difficult journey you had.
  • Tell me about a perfect day you’ve had.
  • Tell me about a special event in your life.
  • Tell me about a birthday you remember.
  • Tell me about a time when you lost something important.
  • Tell me about a time when you gave someone a surprise.

Discussion

We do this everyday when we talk to friends and family. What type of stories or anecdotes do you like to hear? Stories about people, holidays or something else?