If you’re reading this guide, chances are you’re either preparing for IELTS yourself, or supporting someone who is going to sit the test.
You know that preparation is the key to success in IELTS and you’re ready to put the time and effort into improving your English and perfecting your test technique.
Whether your goal is to study, work or live in an English-speaking environment, this list of examiner approved test tips will help you to understand what examiners are looking for and provide helpful insights and reminders to help you do your best in the IELTS Speaking test.
Talk to a human, not a computer.
At IELTS we believe a face-to-face Speaking test is the most effective way of assessing your speaking skills and prompts a more lifelike performance. Don’t struggle to be heard over the noise and distraction of others. At IELTS, we hear you!
Speaking test format
- Introduction & Interview (4-5 minutes)
The examiner introduces him/herself. And, they ask you to introduce yourself. Then, the examiner asks you general questions on familiar topics, (e.g. family, work, studies and interests).
- Individual long turn (3-4 minutes)
After the first part, you talk about a particular topic. The examiner gives you points you can cover in your talk. You can prepare your talk for a minute, and you are given a pencil and paper to make notes. You talk for one to two minutes on the topic. The examiner then asks you one or two questions on the same topic.
- Two-way discussion (4-5 minutes)
The examiner asks further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. This gives you an opportunity to discuss more general issues and ideas.
In the lead up to the Speaking test, make sure you take the time to practise speaking English. For example, you can practise with friends, at work and on the phone. You could also consider recording yourself, so you can listen back to your responses to help you improve.
There are no right or wrong answers in the Speaking test. The examiner will assess you on how well you can express your ideas and opinions.
It will help you to feel relaxed if you imagine you are talking to a friend. Remember that you are not being assessed on your opinions, rather on your use of English. At IELTS, we’ll tell you exactly how we assess you. We give you the marking criteria for the Speaking test.
Try to avoid repeating the words used in the examiner’s question. Use your own words, to show the examiner your full ability. So, when the examiner asks: “Tell me something about the city you live in,” it’s probably best that you don’t start your answer with “Ok, let me tell you something about the city that I live in.” That makes sense, right?
Speak clearly and at a natural pace. If you speak too quickly, you may make mistakes or pronounce words incorrectly. Remember, an IELTS examiner won’t penalise you for Speaking with an accent, as long as you pronounce you words clearly and correctly.
Sometimes the examiner may have to stop you mid-sentence to ensure the test is fair for all candidates. It just means that you have spoken long enough! That doesn’t mean the examiner isn’t interested or isn’t listening to what you have to say. Remember, the Speaking examiner is there to support you to get the best demonstration of your language skills.
Answer in as much detail as you can. Don’t just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Try to develop your response to each question. For example, draw on your own experience and give examples. The examiner wants to hear whether you can talk at length on a range of topics. This is also a key tip for native English speakers.
Use the correct verb tense when answering questions in the Speaking test. So, listen carefully to the question and notice which verb tense is used. For example, if the question is ‘What kind of music do you like?’ (in the present tense) your answer should also be in the present tense (e.g. ‘I like pop music best’). You can go on to use other tenses as you extend your response, e.g. ‘I haven’t always enjoyed that kind of music…’.
Practise the pronunciation of numbers to be sure that your meaning is clear. For example, many numbers can sound very similar when spoken, so be sure to say them clearly, e.g. ‘Thirty’ and ‘Thirteen’, ‘Forty’ and ‘Fourteen’, ‘Fifty’ and ‘Fifteen’ etc. There are lots of other words that sound the same, but mean something different. We call them homophones. Check what these words are.
It is better to use simple, commonly used vocabulary and to use it correctly than to use advanced vocabulary that you are unsure about. However, to get a high score, you must show you know how to use more advanced vocabulary. We have articles that help you expand your vocabulary. Have a look at the 100 New English Words And Phrases in 2020.
In Part 2, the examiner will give you a task card and some paper. You then have one minute to prepare your answer. First think about the topic and then decide which is the most appropriate tense to use in your response. You should use the same tense(s) as the questions on the card.
- What did the IELTS Examiner say about this Speaking test?
What speaking ability does a score of IELTS Band 9 represent?
Watch this Speaking test sample, where Anuradha from Malaysia talks about ‘Famous people’. Here’s why this performance was given a Band 9:
This test taker speaks fluently, with only rare repetition or self-correction. Any hesitation is not to search for language but to think of ideas. Her speech is coherent, with fully appropriate cohesive features (if you’re talking about; other than that; I think it’s more; as you can see).
She uses vocabulary with full flexibility and precision in all topics with a wide range of idiomatic language (have a tendency; be exposed to; the world is becoming more globalised; the norm; strikes a chord; communication tool; actors that sponsor; materialistically; cool gadgets; grasp of people’s mindset).
Her grammatical structures are precise and accurate at all times. She uses a full and natural range of structures and sentence types and makes no noticeable errors.
She uses a full range of phonological features with precision and subtlety. The rhythm of her language is sustained throughout and stress and intonation are invariably used to good effect. This and her very clear production of individual words and sounds result in her being effortless to understand.
What are the different parts of the IELTS Speaking test?
The examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.
You will be given a task card and the examiner will ask you to talk about a topic. You will have 1 minute to prepare before speaking for up to 2 minutes. The examiner will then ask one or two questions on the same topic to finish this part of the test.
You will be asked further questions connected to the topic in Part 2. These questions will allow you to discuss more abstract ideas and issues. This part of the test lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.
Introduction and questions on familiar topics (4 to 5 minutes)
Part 1 of the test will start with the examiner asking you to state your name and show your identification.
Next, you will be asked general questions about yourself such as where you live or what you are currently doing (working or studying).
You will then be asked some questions about a range of familiar topics, for example, about the music you like, cooking, the weather, or movies you prefer. You will generally be asked about one or two topics.
The examiner will ask scripted questions and will listen to your answer, prompting you to extend your response with a “why?” or “why not?” if your answer is too short.
This part of the test follows a question-answer format focusing on your ability to communicate opinions and information on everyday topics by answering a range of questions.
Sample Speaking test
Have a go at this sample task for IELTS Speaking, Part 1:
Individual long turn (3 to 4 minutes)
After Part 1, the examiner will give you a topic and will ask you to talk about it for one to two minutes.
The topic will be handed to you on a card and you will also be given a piece of paper and a pencil for making notes. On the card, you will see the speaking prompt and some points you can cover in your talk relating to this.
You will have exactly one minute to prepare and make notes before you speak. The examiner will use a timer and will tell you when your time is up.
The examiner will tell you when to start your talk and will remind you that they will stop you after 2 minutes. The points on the task card will help you to think of what to say and you should try to keep talking for the full 2 minutes. They may ask you a question about what you have said before going on to the next section.
This part of the test assesses your ability to speak at length on a particular topic, using appropriate language and organising your ideas in a logical way. You can use your own experience on the topic to help complete the long turn.
Sample Speaking test
Have a go at this sample task for IELTS Speaking, Part 2:
Two-way discussion (4 to 5 minutes)
The questions in part three will be connected to the general topic that you spoke about in Part 2. You will discuss the topic in a more general and abstract way showing the examiner that you are able to express and justify your opinions, analyse, discuss and speculate on the topic in more depth.
If your long turn was about a beautiful place to visit in your city, this section might begin by talking about beautiful places and the first question might be, “Do you think it’s important to maintain beautiful places in cities?”
The examiner will speak more with you in this section and may ask you to justify your opinions to see how well you are able to communicate about abstract ideas compared to the personal topics you spoke about in Parts 1 and 2.
In Part 3, you are assessed on your ability to express and justify opinions and to analyse, discuss and speculate about a range of issues connected to the general topic you spoke about in Part 2.
Sample Speaking test
Have a go at this sample task for IELTS Speaking, Part 3:
If you’ve done IELTS before, you might know the paper test. For this test, the Listening, Reading and Writing sections will be paper-based and the Speaking test will be conducted face-to-face with a trained IELTS Examiner. So, what about the computer test? IELTS on computer is exactly the same test as paper-based IELTS, but instead of writing your answers on paper, you will type them on a computer. However, there are some benefits of doing IELTS on a computer.