IELTS Speaking test

IELTS Speaking: Top frequently asked questions

by IDP IELTS — November 11th, 2021

Are you preparing for your IELTS Speaking test? In order for you to get answers to your question as quick as possible, we have gathered the most frequently asked questions and the corresponding answers from our IELTS Experts.

At IELTS we believe a face-to-face Speaking test is the most effective way of assessing your speaking skills. There is only one Speaking test for both Academic and General Training candidates.

If you take a computer-delivered IELTS test, the Speaking test is the same as always – face-to-face, in a quiet room, with a real, human examiner. Unlike an AI test, an IELTS expert will be able to make you feel relaxed and confident. They’re also able to understand your accent to ensure you get the best possible score.

IELTS Speaking is often a test module most test-takers would need more support on and hence they start preparing early. As the test day approaches, they begin having more and more questions as they want to perform at their best.

To address these questions, we have launched a series of free monthly IELTS Masterclass webinars, where we invite IELTS experts to dispel common myths surrounding IELTS Speaking and help you gain more confidence.

Book IELTS with face-to-face Speaking

IELTS Speaking Test Format

1. When do I book and sit for my Speaking test? Is it separate from the other sections?

If you are taking the computer-delivered test, speaking is done on the same day. You may nominate your preferred time which can either be before or after the other three modules. As for the paper-based test, it can be on the same day or on either side of the test date. Your test centre will arrange a time for you.

2. How is the Speaking test structured? What happens when I first arrive in the room?
  • At first, the examiner reads out some information and checks your ID.
  • Part 1 includes questions about personal topics and lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.
  • Part 2 is a short talk. 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.
  • Part 3 is a discussion that is based on the topic of Part 2. This part of the test lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.
3. Is there a good way to know how long I have been Speaking in my IELTS Speaking test?

The examiner is the only one who can see the timer. One way to get a good idea is to do some speaking practice and have someone time you so you get used to the length of each part of the test.

4. What does it mean if an examiner interrupts me during my Speaking test?

If an examiner interrupts you in the IELTS Speaking test, it’s perfectly fine. The examiner has to stick to a very strict schedule. For example, in part 1 of the Speaking test, it’s strictly no more than five minutes. So perhaps, they just want to move on to the next stage. Sometimes, if you’ve given a full response to a question, maybe they might want to move on and ask you something else to get some other ideas that you have.

5. Is it true that wearing a face mask may affect my IELTS Speaking score?

Wearing a mask should not affect your IELTS Speaking score. Just make sure that you can be heard clearly. If the examiner can’t hear you, they will ask you to repeat what you have said.

Learn how to start your Speaking test confidently and continue this confident performance for the whole test.

Check out the articles below for tips and advice on how to perform at your best in all three parts of the speaking test.

IELTS Speaking part 1: Introduction

IELTS Speaking part 2: Long turn

IELTS Speaking part 3: Discussion

IELTS Speaking Marking Criteria

6. I’ve heard that IELTS Speaking is the most essential section of the test. Is this correct?

We can’t really say it’s ‘the most essential’ part of the test when it comprises 25% of your actual score. The other parts of the test, IELTS Reading, Listening and Writing, are worth 25% of your overall band score.

7. Can you explain the ‘Fluency and coherence’ criteria for IELTS Speaking?

There are a few things to look out for regarding fluency and coherence in the IELTS Speaking test. First of all, this is where you need to try and develop your ideas. IELTS experts also look at your pausing and hesitation when you are searching for words. This is also the section where Experts look at connectors and cohesive devices as well.

8. How can mispronunciation or pausing during my speaking test impact my score?

In the IELTS Speaking test, mispronunciation and pausing are both essential areas. It’s important to try and use the sounds of English appropriately, but it’s okay to have an accent.

When it comes to pausing, it can affect your fluency and pronunciation in terms of your rhythm and intonation. Try to keep the pauses short and fill it in with good English like ” Hmm, that’s a really good question, let me think.” or “Interesting, I haven’t thought about that before.”


9. I’ve heard that if the topic given to me is unfamiliar in the Speaking test, I will not achieve a high score. Is this correct?

No. The IELTS Speaking test does not test your knowledge. If you are unfamiliar with the topic, you can still describe what you do know or why you are unfamiliar with it. You can also speculate – you won’t be judged on your facts and figures.

IELTS Speaking: General Advice

10. Is it okay to ask a Speaking examiner to repeat a question?

Some people are very worried about asking the examiner to repeat the question in the IELTS Speaking test. They are concerned that they might lose marks. But, in fact, it’s perfectly okay to ask for clarification on the question. It doesn’t matter what part of Speaking it is – part 1, 2 or 3. If you need them to repeat it, please ask them.

11. Is it okay to use slang in the Speaking section?

Some people are worried that using slang in the IELTS test can come across as being informal. Our IELTS Expert Rocco believes that you can use slang as long as you use it in an appropriate way. First of all, make sure that it’s polite enough to use and that it’s relevant to the context.

12. What if I don’t have an opinion on a specific topic during my Speaking test?

If you are asked a question and can’t form an opinion about the question or the topic, you are still expected to say something. Perhaps, you can speculate. If they ask you about taking a ferry as a type of public transport and you’ve never done that before, you could speculate and explain to the examiner that you’ve never been on a ferry before, but you can imagine the experience. Use your language and assume if you don’t have an opinion.

13. Can I change the topic if I don’t know much about it?

IELTS expert Rochelle says you can’t change your topic. However, there are ways to go around this. Firstly, try to be honest, tell the examiner why you don’t have any experience or knowledge about the topic. Then you can touch on the topic but relate something else to it.

For example, “You’ve asked me to talk about a book I’ve read but I can’t think of any, so I’ll tell you about a movie I’ve seen that’s been based on a book, and I would like to see it again.”

14. Am I allowed to tell the examiner that I’m feeling nervous?

Yes, of course! Sometimes IELTS experts don’t have the best listening faces and don’t look that friendly when they concentrate because they need to remember a lot of things and listen to you speaking.

IELTS experts don’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable, and if you tell them you feel nervous, they will try their best to put you at ease. It’s a part of their job, and that’s why IELTS is a very humane test. A computer can’t pick up on these things.

15. Do you have any advice for Speaking Part 1?

In part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test, one piece of advice IELTS expert Rocco offers is to try and develop our answers as fully as possible. Even though the questions are very personal ad may seem quite easy and simple. It’s still important at this stage to show the examiner your range of language, pronunciation and your fluency.

16. Do you have any advice for Speaking Part 2?

Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test can be challenging because you have to speak for two minutes by yourself. Without any help from the examiner. One thing you can do to help you is try to include some linking devices to help with the flow of your speech. Use things like ‘first of all’, ‘another thing I’d like to mention’, ‘the final thing I want to say is’. These phrases can help you connect your ideas.

17. Do you have any advice for Speaking Part 3?

In part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test, the questions can be a little more challenging because they are not so personal. They are much broader. It’s very important to try and develop your ideas as much as you can. One thing you can do is look at the question from two sides. You can also provide an example as a way to extend your ideas.

18. I scored a band 6 in IELTS Speaking. How do I score a band 7 next time?

If you’ve scored band 6 in your IELTS Speaking test, that’s a good band score. However, if you are aiming for that extra band higher, make sure that you work on your fluency and develop your ideas more easily. Make sure your vocabulary range is wider, and you are starting to use less common vocabulary. When it comes to grammar, make sure that you have a good variety of sentences that are quite complex, and your error rate is a bit lower than at a band 6.

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IELTS Speaking test
IELTS Speaking test sample - Part 3 (Alexandra, Band 7)

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