IELTS Speaking Test

Many people find this section nerve wracking. The IELTS Speaking test is conducted as a one-on-one interaction between the test taker and the examiner. Even though the speaking test only takes 11-14 minutes, the fact that you are being interviewed by a native speaker and it is timed, it can make you nervous.

The scoring is pretty simple; there are four sections in the IELTS speaking test that carry equal weight in grading: Pronunciation, Fluency and Coherence, Grammar, Vocabulary. The Band Descriptor can be found here.

There are 3 parts of IELTS Speaking Test:

  • Part 1 Interview
    The interview will last 4-5 minutes. This is supposed to be a relatively easy, introductory section. The examiner will likely ask your name, where you’re from, how you like to spend your free time, why you’re studying English, etc. It will be easy to give “yes” and “no” answers in this section, but do your best to give longer responses. Example: “Do you enjoy learning English?” “Yes, I think English is an interesting and enjoyable language to learn.”

  • Part 2 Long Answer
    In part 2 you will be given a topic which you must speak about for 2 minutes. This might be challenging for some students. The best way to be prepared for this part is to practice using a timer to make sure your response is effective and efficient. You will have 1 minute of preparation time. Don’t try to write out complete answers, just make bullet points and improvise from them. You will sound more natural this way and you’ll be able to map out your entire response.

  • Part 3 Discussion
    In this part of the test you will discuss a topic with the examiner for 3-4 minutes. If you have the chance to make a point through a personal experience, this will show you are comfortable and make your answers more convincing.


First Impression

Make a good first impression by showing up presentable. It is basically an interview, so act, dress and prepare accordingly. Make sure you are dressed appropriately and have brushed your teeth (breath mint). You should also sit up straight (but not uncomfortably straight), make eye contact with the examiner, engage causally but energetically in conversation and speak at a natural pace. This alone won’t give you a high score, but a strong first impression is a good way to start.

Fluency Over Vocabulary

 While fluency and vocabulary technically carry the same weight in grading, it’s better to be fluent than to pause for a long time trying to find the best word. Your overall impression will be much stronger if you speak fluidly and only think of a great word once or twice.

How To Buy Yourself Time

It would be rare for someone to go through an exam and understand everything. Even if you do understand everything, you may need some extra time to formulate your responses. In part 2, this is not applicable because you have time to take notes and, since you’re required to talk without pause, you will have no excuses to buy yourself more time.

However, in parts 1 and 3 there are some strategies you can try: The examiner might ask, “What was your favorite part of growing up in Jakarta?” You can either repeat the question before you answer or you can make a compliment about the nature of the question and achieve the same time-buying effect: “I’ve never considered that before, but it’s an interesting question.”

Express your Opinion

Your opinion is very important in the speaking section, so learn words and phrases that allow you to express yourself. You don’t want to say “I think” in the exact same way every time. Learn things like, “I feel,” “I like,” “I prefer,” etc.

What if You Don’t Know the Meaning of Something

In IELTS Speaking, remember that you are not being tested on your general knowledge but on your ability to communicate effectively. You may not understand something. If the examiner uses a word or phrase you don’t understand, don’t panic. Be honest and demonstrate your ability to respond naturally: “I’m not really familiar with that expression, could you please elaborate?” or even “I’m sorry, but could you please explain what you mean?”

Use the Same Grammar Rule as the Question

This is a simple trick that can help you stay on track during your response. Pay attention to the grammar the examiner uses when he or she asks you a question. This is particularly applicable for verb tenses. To re-use our question above, the examiner might ask, “What was your favorite part of growing up in Jakarta?” This is in the past tense (“was”), so you would not answer, “My favorite part is . . . ” Matching the grammar will help you avoid simple mistakes.

Speaking is the shortest section in IELTS; everything happens quickly and your first response needs to be your best effort. Practicing is, again, a major key to succeed in IELTS Speaking.

More articles written by our IELTS expert Sally Dewi

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