IELTS Speaking Key Facts

Duration: Between 11 and 14 minutes.

Participants: Candidates interviewed individually. The test (audio) is recorded.

Format: The test consists of three parts.

Purpose of the test

The IELTS Speaking test is designed to assess a wide range of skills.
The examiner will want to see how well you can:

▣ communicate opinions and information on everyday topics and common experiences; to do this you will need to answer a range of questions
▣ speak at length on a given topic using appropriate language
▣ organise your ideas coherently
▣ express and justify your opinions
▣ analyse, discuss and speculate about issues

Make sure that you relax and talk fluently. You will need to speak naturally.


Part 1 (Interview)

Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test lasts between 4 and 5 minutes. The examiner will ask some simple ‘getting-to-know-you’ questions which will help the examiner find out a little about you and help put you at ease. These will be general questions such as about your family, your studies, where you come from or what your interests are.


Part 1 – Tips

Giving full, relevant answers to the examiner’s questions will help get the interview off to a good start.

▣ Avoid giving short, uncommunicative replies.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I’m from Hoorn in the Netherlands. (Don’t stop there!) It’s about 35 kilometers north of Amsterdam. It’s a modern city but with a lot of history and a lovely place to live.

▣ Avoid short, ‘yes’, ‘no’ answers to closed questions. (These are questions beginning ‘Have you …’, ‘Do you …’, ‘Is it …’ etc which can be answered simply with a yes or no answer).
Q: Have you visited any English speaking countries?
A: Yes. (Don’t stop there!) I went to England last year and spent two weeks seeing the sights. A couple of years ago I went to New York with my parents and had a great time.
Q: Do you play any sports?
A: No. (Don’t stop there!) I’m not really interested in playing sports. I like watching sport on TV and I really enjoyed keeping up with the Olympics recently.

▣ Offer examples to help you explain a statement.
Q: Why are you preparing for the IELTS exam?
A: Because I need it for my studies. (Don’t stop there!) I’ve been offered a place at a university in England to study on an MBA but I need to show my level of English is good enough.


Part 2 (Long Turn)

Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test lasts between 3 and 4 minutes (including 1 minute preparation time). The examiner gives you a task card and you have to speak about the subject without interruption for between 1 and 2 minutes. Each Part 2 card has three basic features that you should know well:

Feature 1: Topic Introduction
Feature 2: 3 Detailed Points
Feature 3: Discussion


Part 2 – Tips

▣ Use your 1 minute preparation time wisely and make notes of the points you’d like to make.

▣ The question will help you with the structure of your talk. The introduction can include the item itself and maybe a brief description. The main body of your talk could describe the situation when you acquired the object and go on to explain when you use it. You can then end with an explanation of why the object is so important.

▣ Try to avoid giving a very dry, unimaginative introduction such as ‘The object I’m going to describe is ….’. Get your talk off to a memorable start with something on the lines of: ‘If I was about to lose everything and could only save one thing it would be my …’, or ‘I’ve got several things that mean a lot to me but the one that really stands out is my …’

▣ If you’re concerned about not having enough to talk about for 1 to 2 minutes or running out of time before you’ve finished, the answer is to practice as often as possible. Time yourself and ask a friend for feedback.


Part 3 (Two-Way Discussion)

In Part 3 of the test, which lasts between 3 to 4 minutes, the examiner will ask you questions linked to the topic in Part 2.


Part 3 – Tips

▣ If you need time to collect your thoughts use expressions (sparingly) like: ‘That’s a good question.’, ‘Well, let me think …’.

▣ Don’t forget to avoid short, ‘yes’, ‘no’ answers. Try to offer examples to back up a statement.

▣ Help make your contributions memorable. Try explaining a point using a short, personal anecdote.

▣ If the examiner asks a question that you don’t understand, take control of the situation with questions such as those that appear below. Responding like this will show evidence of your communication skills.

A) If the examiner uses a word or phrase that you don’t understand, say something like:
“Sorry but could you explain what you mean by ……..” or
“I haven’t come across that word/expression before. Could you explain what you mean?”

B) If you simply didn’t hear something that was asked, respond with:
“Excuse me, I didn’t quite catch that. Could you say that again?”
“I’m sorry, but would you mind repeating that?”

C) If you want to make sure you’ve understood what the examiner has asked you could say:
“Do you mean ……..”
“When you say …….., do you mean/are you asking ……..?


Be fluent and liberated

Speak fluently and spontaneously. You will gain more points. Don’t worry too much about using clever vocabulary, it’s more important to be fluent. But also don’t speak too quick and mind your grammar. You should find a “healthy balance” between speaking too quickly and making long pauses.


Practice answering sample questions

Typically, you will be asked about everyday topics, such as work, studies, sport, family and so on. So you should try answering IELTS Speaking questions before the exam. You will be surprised how simple they are! You just need to learn appropriate vocabulary and understand what answers you will give.


Ask the question again if you need to

Don’t be shy, if you want to clarify something. You will not lose points for asking the examiner.


Be emotional!

Speak with emotions. Nothing separates the experienced speaker from beginners as tone of the speech. Express your feelings like you would do using your native language.


Extend your speech

Try to speak at least more than the examiner. If you are asked a question using one sentence, respond with two or more. And never give short, uncommunicative replies:

Examiner: Do you do any sport?
You: No, I don’t like sports… [Don’t stop there!] I’m not a very active person and I’ve never liked P.E. in school. But I like playing intellectual games instead. For example, I find chess very interesting.


Be coherent

Use linking words and structures. Words and phrases like however, nevertheless, all in all, moreover will enrich your speech.


Give yourself time to think

If you are unsure how to answer the question, you can give yourself a bit more time to think by using this tip. First of all, you can say: “That’s a tricky question…”, “I’ve never thought about that before…” or “That’s an interesting question…”. This way you’ll have some extra time to plan your answer.

You can also reformulate the question:

Examiner: What was your favorite book in the childhood?
You: What book did I like as a child? Let me see…


Made a mistake? Don’t panic!

If you made a mistake – don’t panic! Try to correct yourself as smoothly as possible. And if you can’t – just continue speaking, you won’t lose many points for a few mistakes.


Make a good first impression

Look good, smell good and feel good. Be confident. Although it may not seem very important, a strong first impression will go a long way.


Don’t learn answers by heart

Examiners are able to determine whether you speak freely or you memorized the answer before your interview. Learning full scripts is a bad idea. Instead, it is much better to learn separate words and collocations and adopt them in your speech.