IELTS Speaking Test: Everything You Need to Know

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the most widely utilized English language proficiency test for higher education and international migration worldwide. It is designed to assist you in immigrating or pursuing higher studies to a country where English is the primary language. These countries are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

IELTS has four sections: Speaking, Reading, Listening, and Writing. It is marked on a scale of 1 to 9, 9 being the highest. The IELTS testing techniques are designed to assess a candidate’s ability to use English in real-life and practical situations. 

Those who have taken the IELTS test might say that the Speaking section is the lightest and easiest section compared to the Reading, Listening, and Writing sections. It might be because it has the shortest duration. The IELTS Speaking test lasts for only about 11to14 minutes. Some would also say it is because the examiner appears friendly and would make sure to make candidates feel at ease during the test. 

However, the IELTS Speaking test is not as simple as it seems. There is more to it that is worth noting if you are one of those who plan to take the IELTS test. The IELTS speaking section includes a brief but intense face-to-face interview. To answer the examiner’s questions quickly, you need focus, creativity, and solid and consistent English abilities.

Through this article, you will know everything there is to know about the IELTS Speaking test. While others believe it isn’t that challenging, some claim that the interview felt like an eternity simply because they were unprepared. 

What is the IELTS Speaking Section Format?

The IELTS Speaking test is similar for both the Academic and General Training modules. Like mentioned earlier, it lasts for about 11 to 14 minutes. It is designed to assess your pronunciation, fluency, grammar, and vocabulary. It is divided into three parts. 

The IELTS Speaking test is in an (informal) interview format between the examinee and the candidate and is recorded if you want a remark. The examiner controls the time and the length of your answers. They will be the ones to decide your marks after the test. 

For candidates who take the computer-based test, the IELTS Speaking test still has to be done face-to-face. Depending on local arrangements, the Speaking test is conducted either on the same day as the other three tests: Listening, Reading, and Writing, or seven days before or after. 

Part 1: Introduction and Interview (4 to 5 minutes)

In the first part, IELTS Speaking test Task 1 you will be told by the examiner to state your name and present your identification. You will be asked typical questions about yourself like where you live and working or studying. 

You will then be thrown a series of questions regarding various things, such as your favorite music, cooking, weather, or favorite movies. More often than not, you will be questioned about one or two topics. If your answer is too brief, the examiner will ask rehearsed questions and listen to your response, urging you to elaborate with a “why?” or “why not?”

This part of the test uses a question-and-answer style to assess your ability to deliver your point of view on various topics by responding to a series of questions.

Part 2: Individual Long Turn (3 to 4 minutes)

In the second part, IELTS Speaking Test Task 2, the examiner will assign you a topic and ask you to speak for one to two minutes about it. You will be handed a cue card with the topic on it, as well as a piece of paper and a pencil for you to take notes. On the card, you will find the speaking prompt and some ideas for topics to discuss.

Before you talk, you will have exactly one minute to prepare and take notes. The examiner will keep track of your time and notify you when it is up. They will advise you when to begin your discussion and warn you that you will be stopped after two minutes. 

The points on the topic card will help you come up with ideas for what to say, and you should aim to speak for the entire two minutes. Before moving on to the next portion, they may ask you a question about what you have said.

This part of the test appraises your ability to speak for an extended period about a specific topic while using proper language and organizing your thoughts logically. You can use your prior knowledge of the subject to assist you in completing the long turn.

Part 3: Two-Way Discussion (4 to 5 minutes)

Questions in the third part, the IELTS Speaking Test Task 3, will be related to the overall topic you discussed in the second part. You will explore the topic in a more general and abstract manner, demonstrating to the examiner that you can express and justify your thoughts and analyze, discuss, and hypothesize about the topic in greater depth.

If your long turn was about a lovely spot to visit in your city, this part might start with a discussion about beautiful places, with the first question being, “Do you believe it’s essential to keep cities beautiful?”

In this part, the examiner will speak with you longer and may ask you to justify your beliefs to assess how well you can convey abstract ideas compared to the personal topics you discussed in the first and second parts. 

IELTS Speaking Section TestDurationTest Tasks
Part 1

‘The Interview’
4 to 5 minutesYou will be asked basic questions about your:
  • work
  • studies
  • hometown
  • hobbies
  • interests
Part 2

‘Long Turn’
3 to 4 minutesYou will be handed a topic cue card, and you have to talk for two minutes about the topic given.

You will have one minute to prepare and take down notes before you talk. 
Part 3

‘Two-Way Discussion’
4 to 5 minutesYou will be asked questions related to the topic discussed in Part 2 but on a deeper level.

You will need to:
  • express your opinions and justify your judgments
  • explain the causes and effects of a certain idea
  • compare and contrast ideas
  • analyze a certain topic and predict possible outcomes

The IELTS Speaking test evaluates your English communication skills. For your spoken English language skills, the examiner assigns band scores that range from 1 to 9. 

The IELTS Speaking test is evaluated by certified and qualified examiners and is graded on four categories. All IELTS test examiners will have some teaching experience and be hired by test centers after being approved by the British Council and IDP IELTS Australia

You will find the complete details on how the IELTS Speaking test is marked, check our comprehensive guide on the IELTS Band Scoring System.


What are the Types of IELTS Speaking Questions?

While preparing for the IELTS speaking test, you must familiarize yourself with all the possible topics and types of questions that will be used in the test. 

Here are the topics and types of questions in the IELTS speaking test in the past few years. 

IELTS Speaking Section Part 1 

The most common topics asked in this part of the test are:

  • People you know – your family, friends, neighbors, workmates
  • Places you know – your country, school, company 
  • Things you like – your tastes in food, music, movies, and art
  • Things you do – your profession, studies, interests, and routines 

Many of the questions in Part 1 can be divided into three categories:

  • Do-You’ questions
  • Have-You’ questions
  • Would-You’ questions

You must employ different verb tenses and grammatical structures in these three forms.

‘Do you’ Questions 

Your first question will almost always be broad, and it will be about your interests, habits, or preferences:

Examples of ‘Do you’ questions:

  • Do you go to concerts?
  • How do you get to work? 
  • What do you do on weekends?
  • Do you watch movies regularly? 

Simple present tense verbs can answer questions like these but simply does not imply short. Expand your responses with justifications, examples, and comparisons:

"I do go to concerts from time to time. I love music, and I listen to them all the time. However, the pandemic has limited the concerts being held these days, and now, I just watch videos posted on YouTube." 

"I live with my brother, and our work is in the same area, so he drops me off every morning before going to his office. However, he doesn’t work on weekends, but I do, so I take the bus on those days."  

"I am a sports buff; I love physical activities. Every Friday afternoon, I meet my friends, and we play basketball. We usually play for 2-3 hours. But that doesn’t stop there. If we are not that busy at work, we also hang out every Saturday afternoon to kickbox. It’s one of my hobbies."  

"I love movies, and I watch them all the time. May it be action, thriller, comedy, and drama. I like them all. I don’t watch them at the cinemas like I used to, because of the pandemic. I now watch movies online via different platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime."

‘Have you’ Questions 

The examiner will frequently ask a question that redirects the focus of the conversation to the past and changes that have taken place over time:

Examples of ‘Have you’ questions:

  • Have you always loved art?
  • Have you ever traveled alone? 
  • Have you read a book without finishing it? 
  • Has your taste in clothes changed over time?

When you add time-related phrases like ‘always’, ‘ever’, or ‘over the years’, verbs move from the simple to the present perfect. This type of question determines your ability to switch between past and present tenses and use time-related phrases. 

"I used to feel indifferent about art. But a friend introduced me to different kinds of arts, and I have been collecting pieces of art ever since. One time, she brought me to this exhibit, and would you believe I went home with two antique paintings. Those paintings have been hanging in my living room for three years now." 

"I have always loved traveling. I do it whenever I get the chance. Nevertheless, traveling alone is something I rarely do. Three years ago, I was supposed to go with my sister to Bali, in Indonesia, and she had sudden work to do, so I went alone. I had a blast, and I have traveled alone to three other cities after that." 

"As far as I recall, only once. It was a book given by my brother. He gave it to me and asked me to read it because everyone I know has read it. It was a good book; however, the plot didn’t appeal to me, so I had to stop reading it." 

‘Would you’ Questions 

The examiner might also ask you at least one question about hypothetical or future scenarios.

Examples of ‘Would you’ questions:

  • Are there any countries that you could see yourself visiting soon?
  • Would you like to learn how to play a musical instrument?
  • Which famous personality would you like to meet in the future? 

These questions aim to see how well you can construct conditional statements, which can be as basic as using ‘I’d like to’

On the other hand, this type of question provides an opportunity to improve your score by using a well-crafted ‘if/then’ conditional.

"If I had the resources, I would like to go to India. I would love to try the food and visit the Taj Mahal. I have been planning to go there with friends, but we had to put it off because of the pandemic."  

"I would most likely choose to learn how to play the violin. I have always looked up to and admired people who know how to play it. If I ever have the time, it would be something I would be interested in."  

"Meeting Elon Musk would be huge for me. He is one of those people I admire, from his humble beginnings and now being one of the wealthiest people in the world. I would ask him how he was able to accomplish so much." 

IELTS Speaking Section Part 2

The most common topics asked in this part of the test are:

  • People
  • Places
  • Things
  • Activities
  • Past occurrences

People

  • Describe a well-known figure you admire or respect.
  • Describe a friend or acquaintance who has launched a business.
  • Describe someone who has had a significant impact on your life.
  • Describe a person you know who excels at something.
  • Describe a well-known actor from your country’s film industry.

Places

  • Describe a shop in your neighborhood that you frequent.
  • Describe a fascinating location you have visited.
  • Describe a future destination you would like to visit.
  • Give an example of a well-known tourist location in your country.
  • Describe the home of your dreams.

Things

  • Describe a unique present or gift you gave to someone.
  • Describe something you own that is extremely valuable to you.
  • Describe a future technological device you would like to have.
  • Describe a website that helps you with your career or education.
  • Describe a favorite song or piece of music.

Activities

  • Describe a pastime or activity that you enjoy.
  • Describe a task or activity that you do not enjoy.
  • Cite an example of a sport that you enjoy playing.
  • Describe what you do on a typical day.
  • Describe a significant celebration in your nation.

Past Occurrences 

  • Give an instance when you aided someone.
  • Describe a recent event that you went to.
  • Describe a critical life decision you had to make.
  • Describe a particularly challenging task that you completed with flying colors.
  • Describe a fascinating dialogue you had about your profession or study.

You will have four questions to answer in addition to the topic. These questions are not optional, and if you don’t answer them altogether, the examiner may deduct points from your score.

However, you have to take note that there are no requirements for how much time or information you must provide for each one. So it is OK to answer three of the questions in 15 seconds (or less) and then the rest of your time on the fourth question.

Example Question:

Describe a well-known figure you admire or respect.

You should say:

  • Who this figure is
  • What this figure has done
  • Why this figure is famous

Provide an explanation

Why do you admire this person?


Example Question:

Describe the home of your dreams

You should say:

  • How it looks like
  • Where it will be
  • Where you got the idea from

Provide an explanation

Why do you love to have that kind of home?


Example Question

Describe something that you own that is extremely valuable to you

You should say: 

  • What it is
  • What it looks like
  • Where and whom you got it from

Provide an explanation

Why it is valuable to you


Example Question

Describe a past time activity that you enjoy

You should say:

  • What it is
  • How it is done
  • Where you do it and who usually do it with

Provide an explanation

What you like most about it


Example Question

Describe a significant life decision that you had to make 

You should say:

  • What it is
  • When you made that decision
  • Whom you asked and consulted for advice in making this decision

Provide an explanation

Why it is significant and life-changing  


IELTS Speaking Section Part 3

The most common question types in the third part of the IELTS speaking test are:

  • Opinion
  • Evaluate
  • Hypothetical
  • Future
  • Past
  • Cause and effect
  • Compare and contrast

1. Opinion Questions

You will be asked to express your point of view about a given topic. Remember to say why you think that way and provide examples. 

Examples of opinion questions: 

Internet

  • Do you think people notice advertisements on the internet?
  • How do you think the internet has changed the way people shop?
  • Do you think there are disadvantages to shopping on the internet?

Helping Neighbors

  • Can you tell me some of the activities that individuals do to aid their neighbors from time to time?
  • Is it vital for neighbors to help each other, in your opinion? Why?
  • Do you believe that people in small towns support one another more than people in major cities? Why?

2. Evaluate Questions

You will be asked what you think about other people’s opinions. Analyze your thoughts deeper and provide reasons why you feel that way. Use phrases that allow you to agree or disagree. 

Examples of evaluate questions:

Famous People

  • Advertisements frequently include celebrities. Could you give me some examples of this?
  • Do you believe celebrity marketing might have a detrimental impact on young people?
  • In what ways could celebrities be used to sway public opinion?

Society & Business

  • When it comes to business, in what instances might people provide gifts?
  • Is gift-giving a significant element of your country’s economy?
  • Some point out that it would be more beneficial for society if the money spent on gifts were instead allocated to the impoverished. What are your thoughts on this?

3. Hypothetical Questions

You will be asked a hypothetical question or situations that are far from reality. Practice formulating conditional sentences. 

Examples of hypothetical questions:

Hometown

  • What is the best thing about the town you grew up in? 
  • How is it different from other towns?
  • If you were the city mayor, what changes would you implement in your town?

History

  • What historical events are celebrated and commemorated in your country?
  • How do people in your country feel about these celebrations?
  • If there is something in the past that you could change to make everything in your country different, what would it be? Why? 

4. Questions About the Future

You will be asked to predict how a specific topic will change in the future. Make sure to provide feasible and possible responses and justify why you think that way. 

Examples of future-based questions: 

Famous People

  • What types of people are renowned in your country?
  • What was it like in the past? Were folks like this well-known in the past?
  • What will happen in the future? Do you believe these individuals will continue to gain fame in your country in the future?

Time to Relax

  • How much time do people spend on work versus leisure activities in your country?
  • Do you think people in your country used to work the same amount as they do now, or did they work more in the past?
  • What will happen in the future? Do you believe that people in your country will have more or less leisure time in the future?

5. Questions About the Past

You will be asked how things were different in the past and how they have changed over time. Learn and understand the use of the different tenses of verbs to ensure your responses are grammatically correct. 

Examples of past-based questions:

Lifestyle

  • What kind of things give status to people in your country?
  • Why do you think people consider these things when giving status to others? 
  • Have things evolved in the recent decades? How and why do you think so? 

Technology 

  • How has technology affected the way people live in your country?
  • Do you think technology has disadvantages?
  • How has technology evolved in the past? Do you think we still have a lot to see when it comes to technology? 

6. Cause and Effect Questions

You will be asked to explain what has caused a certain situation and what effects it has had. Formulate and structure your responses carefully as most candidates get confused about which are the causes and which are the effects

Examples of cause-and-effect questions: 

Social Interactions

  • What role does having a pastime have in a person’s social life?
  • Do you believe these pastimes can have a positive impact on a person’s social life?
  • Are there any unfavorable consequences? Do you believe that devoting too much time to a pastime can have dire consequences?

Businesses in the Community

  • What kinds of local businesses (restaurants, shops, dentist offices) do you have in your neighborhood?
  • Do you believe that small enterprises like these are crucial for a community? 
  • What impact do major retail malls and shopping centers have on small companies in their communities? What makes you think that?

7. Compare and Contrast Questions

You will be asked to explain the similarities and differences of a given topic. Familiarize yourself with the use of comparative and superlative adjectives. 

Examples of compare and contrast questions:

Transport

  • Which do you prefer, public or private transport?
  • When did you last use public transport?
  • What kind of transport would you recommend to a tourist in your country to use? Why? 

Lifestyle

  • Describe the city where you live in.
  • Do you think people who live in the city enjoy city life? 
  • Why do you think some people prefer to live in the country, rather than in the city? 

These topics are similar to those in Task 2 of the IELTS Writing Test. Therefore, you can use the same vocabulary and grammar constructions to add reasons, examples, and comparisons to your answers. Use words and phrases like ‘because’, ‘because’, ‘for example, ‘such as’, ‘by contrast’, ‘on the other hand’, and so on.


How to Improve Your Overall English Speaking Skills?

The IELTS Speaking test indeed could be stressful. You will be examined thoroughly not just on the kind of answers you give, ut also on your ability to speak English, which isn’t your primary language.

Answering the questions alone could bring you anxiety, how much more speaking it in another language you are not familiar with. 

With that, we have gathered the possible ways and means to improve your English-speaking skills while preparing for the IELTS speaking test. 

DOs:

  • Join public speaking events. It will be of great help not just for your English but for your confidence as well. 
  • Watch English movies and imitate their expressions. Observe their intonations when they talk. 
  • Record yourself and listen to how confident you sound. Check if your pronunciation needs improvement. 
  • Find an English-speaking conversation partner or a tutor to boost your confidence. Apply what you will learn from them in your daily conversations. 
  • Converse in English with your friends, family members, and workmates before you take the test. Practice as often as you can, with all the people you can. 
  • Use technology. Some various apps and programs are just a click away. 

DON’Ts:

  • Don’t force yourself to learn everything at once. English-speaking is a skill that needs to be developed gradually. 
  • Don’t use words and phrases you are not comfortable and confident with. This will affect the coherence of your sentences. 
  • Don’t utilize everything you find on the internet. Learn how to filter them and select only those from reliable sources. 
  • Don’t worry about your IELTS speaking test. The examiner is grading you on how well you can express your point of view rather than on the answers you supply.

How Can You Improve Your Speaking In IELTS?

The best thing about the IELTS test is that you can take it when you feel ready. You will have enough time to practice and prepare yourself. And with all the possible resources to utilize, there are lots of ways on how you can improve your IELTS Speaking skills.

To help you get a great band score, we have listed the most effective and proven strategies you can employ in preparation for the IELTS speaking test. Focus on all four areas as these are the criteria on how you will be marked. 

Fluency

  • Read out loud: Reading in the head doesn’t exercise your vocal organs. Reading out loud does. It exercises the same vocal organs that you exert when speaking to someone. Fundamentally, that’s the main reason reading out loud improves your fluency. You have to talk to be better at communicating. 
  • Think in English: It takes less time to produce or answer in regular discussions if you already think in English. There is no need to translate. Keeping a notebook in which you describe your daily ideas in English is an excellent method to begin rethinking. It does not have to be perfect; the goal is to get your thoughts out in English with as little effort as possible.

Grammar

  • Proofread out loud: Our brain completes the gaps of missing information when we re-read pieces we have written. When we proofread, we do not always spot our errors. Reading what you have written out loud, preferably to someone else, is an excellent approach to check whether you have used proper grammar. When you read the information aloud rather than silently to yourself, you are more likely to discover your mistakes.
  • Get a grammar manual: While practicing, it is helpful to have a comprehensive reference book nearby. This way, if you have a grammar question, you can quickly look up the answer in the manual. There are numerous high-quality grammar reference books available. 

Vocabulary 

  • Learn new words daily: This is an excellent method to expand your vocabulary. Set a reasonable goal for yourself, whether it is three or six words per day. It is worth trying even one new word per day. After a year, you will have learned 365 new English words by learning one new word every day. Depending on your daily routine, news, songs, and TV shows are excellent sources for learning new terms. If you want to listen to music, take note of the lyrics and jot down any unfamiliar words.
  • Learn words in phrases: Advantageously, you learn words in groupings. ‘A glass of wine’, ‘a pint of beer’, ‘a cup of tea’, ‘a pot of coffee’, are examples of beverage terms. It is preferable to master those terms than only ‘wine’, ‘beer’, ‘tea’, and other beverages. Learning words that are related can also be beneficial. During a lunar month, the moon goes through four phases: crescent, gibbon, waxing, and waning. Learning all four terms at the same time is more efficient.

Pronunciation

  • Use online dictionaries: Use the little speaker symbol in online dictionaries to check the pronunciation of any term you are unsure about. This will ensure that you are pronouncing the words like native speakers will. 
  • Watch English videos and listen to podcasts: May it be movies, television series, or YouTube videos, watch them as frequently as you can. We tend to imitate what we hear if we listen to them all the time. 
  • Try tongue-twisters : Although it is not the usual sample of your daily conversation, it demonstrates the richness of spoken English. Aside from that, you will have a good laugh.

How to Preparate for the IELTS Speaking Test Section?

Before taking the IELTS speaking test, here are some tips and tricks that will make you feel more confident to help you ace it and get the band score that you desire. 

Before the Test

  • Sleep and eat well a day before your IELTS test: Ensure that you are well-rested and have eaten well. This is to keep your focus during the test.
  • Get everything you need ready: You will need your ID on the day of the test. This ID should be the same ID that you used when you registered. 
  • Know the location: Before taking the test, make it a point that you know where the testing center is. Have an idea of the flow of traffic in that area. Do not be late. 

Note that the IELTS Speaking test is held at a different date and location than the other three tests. Double-check these details.

During the Test

  • Be the one to greet the examiner first: Introduce and greet the examiner the moment you arrive at the testing room. Extend a warm smile and let the examiner know you are ready and prepared. 
  • Speak naturally: Some candidates make the mistake of imitating the accent of native English speakers. While there is simply nothing wrong with that, it is pretty noting that not speaking the way you naturally do on the day of your IELTS speaking test might make it difficult for you to express and convey your responses better. 
  • Ask questions to the examiner: There is nothing wrong with requesting the examiner to repeat the question if you do not understand it. If you have any doubts about the question, you can ask the examiner to repeat it. You will not be deducted marks for asking questions.
  • Use emotions’: While taking the IELTS speaking test, select your words carefully. Bring in emotions wherever necessary. Try to be like a native English speaker.
  • Expand your responses: If the examiner asks you to speak about a subject, do not answer in a single sentence. Make an effort to cover the entire topic and elaborate your responses. 
  • Think before you answer: Formulate your thoughts first before answering the questions of the examiner. It is okay not to answer them right away. It is better to think first rather than respond too quickly and realize you are giving the wrong responses. 
  • Don’t freak out if mistakes happen: Do not be alarmed if you make a mistake while speaking. Instead, make an effort to fix the error. You will not be deducted marks if your thought process is good.
  • Stay on topic: It is indeed essential to be informative without diverting from the topic. Stick to the subject and speak for it. Not staying on the topic will give the examiner a negative impression.

After the Test

  • Relax: At this point, we know you have worked so hard. It is now time to give yourself a break. Relax and unwind. Treat yourself. Watch a movie, eat at your favorite restaurant, or go shopping. 
  • Accept the result positively: Wait patiently for the result, and whatever it will be, take it with a good attitude. Prepare and plan for what comes next if you achieve your goal band score. If not, it is okay. You can retake it whenever you feel like you are ready. Some candidates have taken it twice, and even thrice too. 

For a thorough and comprehensive guide on how to prepare for the entire IELTS test, check out our comprehensive IELTS preparation guide.


Additional FAQs on IELTS Speaking Test

Is IELTS Speaking Difficult?

No, the IELTS speaking test is not difficult. Like the other three sections, it may be a little challenging, but if you prepared well and enough before the test, you would achieve a high band score in this section of the IELTS test. Preparing and practicing as often as you can make it less challenging. Give yourself enough time to prepare so you are ready by the time you take the test, and your chance of acing it is high. 

How Can I Practice IELTS Speaking by myself?

There are various ways on how you can practice for the IELTS speaking test on your own. Being resourceful is the key. Utilize all the available resources you have. Explore and visit websites that offer online IELTS speaking practices. Additionally, you can also enroll in online classes and courses specially tailored for the IELTS speaking test. Recording yourself while practicing will also be of great help. It will make you aware of the areas that you need to improve. 

How Can I Get 8.5 in IELTS Speaking?

Getting a band score of 8.5 on the IELTS speaking test is achievable if you prepare and study enough. Utilize all the resources you have. The television, smartphone, dictionary, and everything you have will help you prepare for the IELTS Speaking test. Understand the test format and learn about all the topics that might be discussed during the interview. Focus on improving your grammar, vocabulary, fluency, and pronunciation. These are the criteria for how you will be marked during the test. Moreover, do a lot of mock tests. You can do this with a friend or a private tutor. 


Additional Resources for the IELT Speaking Section

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