IELTS Speaking

The Speaking test consists of a face-to-face interview between the test taker and a Speaking examiner. All Speaking tests are recorded.

Below you’ll find more information about the test format and scoring, as well as top tips, free videos and blog articles, and other resources to help you understand the Speaking test and achieve a high score.

If there’s anything else you would like to see, tell us on our social channels.

The Speaking test lasts 11–14 minutes and has three parts.

Part 1 – introduction and interview (4–5 minutes)

This part includes general questions on familiar topics such as home, family, work and studies.

Part 2 – long turn (3–4 minutes)

You’ll be given a task card with a topic and points to cover. You have one minute of preparation time and then you have to talk for up to two minutes.  The examiner will ask one or two questions on the same topic.

Part 3 – discussion (4–5 minutes)

You and the examiner will discuss issues related to the topic in Part 2.

Your score is marked by a certified IELTS Speaking examiner. You will be scored based on the following criteria:

Fluency and coherence

The ability to talk with normal levels of continuity and rate, and to link language together.

Lexical resources

The range of vocabulary used and how well meaning can be expressed.

Grammatical range and accuracy    

The range and accuracy of grammar used. 

Pronunciation

The ability to produce speech which is comprehensible.

1. Practise speaking as often as you can and make sure you can talk for two minutes on a topic.

2. Study all aspects of English including pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar as this will help improve your Speaking score.

3. Use a wide range of grammar and vocabulary during the test. The examiner can only award marks for the language you produce, so show them your full potential!

4. Don’t speak too fast because it can be difficult to follow. Don’t speak too slowly as you won’t have the chance to say much.

5. In Part 3 always give an opinion! It doesn’t matter what your opinion is – you're being assessed on your language not your ideas.

 

How to avoid being stuck for words in the IELTS Speaking test

In part two of the IELTS Speaking test, you will be asked to speak for 2 minutes about a given topic.

If you’re worried about not having enough to say, find out how to use the one-minute preparation time on test day to ensure you’re not stuck for words.

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Speaking
Three ways to develop your ideas in IELTS Speaking Part 2

Are you worried about not being able to talk for 2 minutes in IELTS Speaking Part 2? Have you read my post on how to use the preparation time in IELTS Speaking Part 2 but still find it difficult to talk for long enough? If so, here are three ways to develop your ideas in Part 2 of the Speaking test so that you can talk for longer and get a higher band score. 1. Add extra information by saying what, when, where, who, why or how Your IELTS Speaking Part 2 task card will tell you what to talk about but this doesn’t mean this is all you can talk about. For the task card below, for example, you could also say: how you know the people who live in the house/apartment when you go (or went) there and who you go (or went) with why you go (or went) there what the house/apartment looks like outside (Click image to enlarge) Watch this video and you’ll see I used these techniques in my answer, e.g. I said that I walk past this house when I walk my dog in the evenings.   2. Make a connection to the present or future If the topic is about the present (like the one above), end your talk by imagining the future, e.g. I hope to live in a house/apartment like this when ... If the topic is about the past (like the one below), end your talk by talking about the present and/or future, e.g. I haven’t bought anything from this website since but I would again in the future if ... (Click image to enlarge) 3. Look at your notes, talk about another example or end your talk If you do run out of things to say and the examiner indicates you still have more time, look at your notes and add something you forgot to say or that comes to mind, e.g. I forgot to mention ... talk about another example of the topic, e.g. Another website that I bought something from is … end your talk, e.g. So that’s all I’ve got to say ... Although the last two of these are not ideal, they are better than not saying anything and leaving the examiner unsure if you’re going to continue or not. If you end your talk before the two minutes are up, the examiner may well ask you the question(s) that they were going to ask you at the end of the two minutes, and this will give you another chance to speak. So, now’s the time for you to practise: Choose one of the two task cards above. Give yourself one-minute preparation time and follow this step-by-step approach. Talk for two minutes on the topic by using one or more of the three strategies above if you need to. To make the most of your practice, record yourself speaking and, if you didn’t talk for two minutes, listen back and identify what strategies would have helped you talk for longer. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself, so that’s why I recorded my answer above! Best of luck, Pete

Pete Jones

20 December, 2021

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Speaking
How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: putting it all together

In the first blog post of this series, we began with two questions:  What does it mean to have ‘good’ pronunciation?  Why is ‘good’ pronunciation important? We saw that ‘good’ pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test means both pronouncing words and sounds correctly, and using a range of pronunciation features effectively. We then suggested that rather than worrying about ‘good’ pronunciation and making your pronunciation ‘better’, you should instead focus on: Pronouncing the words and sounds of English correctly so that they are easy to understand. Using a range of pronunciation features effectively to make your message clear. Further blog posts focused on how you can achieve these two goals: The second blog post in the series looked at how you can use syllable stress and the correct pronunciation of individual sounds to ensure that the words that you say are clear. The blog posts that came after looked at how you can use a range of pronunciation features – words stress, intonation, and rhythm and chunking – to make your message clear and your speech more natural. Clear and effective pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test Putting all this together, we can summarise the meaning of clear and effective pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test as follows: (Click image to enlarge) It’s important to note that it hasn’t been possible to cover all aspects of clear and effective pronunciation in this series. For example, stress and intonation can be used in many different ways to change the message we are communicating. We hope to cover these other uses of pronunciation features in future. Closing thoughts By now, you hopefully have a much better understanding of what ‘good’ pronunciation means, and why it is important. You hopefully also have an idea of how clear and effective your pronunciation is, and the steps you can take to improve it. However, I want to finish this series with perhaps the most important advice of all for improving your pronunciation:   In the past, it was simply impossible for many IELTS candidates to do this because they didn't live in a country where English is widely used, and they didn't know anyone else who spoke English well. However, thanks to the internet, social media, and language exchange platforms like Speaky, it’s now possible for anyone with an internet connection to use English for real communication, wherever they are in the world. Doing this as often as possible, and using English because you have a real message that you want to communicate – not just because you have some IELTS Speaking test questions you need to answer – is the single best way to make your pronunciation clearer, more effective and more natural. (Click image to enlarge)  

Paul Dixon

15 December, 2021

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Speaking
How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: rhythm and chunking

In the previous post in this series on pronunciation, we looked at how you can use intonation to guide the listener when you connect several ideas to make your message easier to follow. However, there are two more pronunciation features – rhythm and chunking – which are important if you want to sound more relaxed and natural in the IELTS Speaking test. These features are the focus of this blog post.   Three examples To understand how rhythm and chunking make someone sound relaxed and natural, I’d like you to watch three videos. First, watch the start of the videos and answer these questions: What hobbies has Tina chosen? What kinds of people does Xin say become famous in China? What kinds of people does Kenn say become famous in Singapore? Tina likes shopping, picnics and volunteering; Xin says actors, sports stars and rich business people become famous in China; Kenn says politicians, prominent businessmen and television celebrities become famous in Singapore.   Now, you probably found Xin and Kenn easier to understand than Tina. You may also have thought that Kenn sounded more natural and relaxed than Xin. But why is this? Why do you think Xin and Kenn are easier to understand than Tina? Why does Kenn sound the most relaxed and natural?   Chunking One of the major differences between Tina and the other two candidates is that Xin and Kenn divide their speech into meaningful groups of words – ‘chunks’ - while Tina does not. For example, early in her answer Tina says: For shopping, I think when I feel stressed out [breath] I can shopping, I can relax with… er… [breath] to buy a new clothes [pause] …te… for me …er… in the special days [breath]…uh… and in picnic [breath] I think …er… [pause] picnic and travel I think I can …er… [breath] widen my knowledge…’ In contrast, Xin starts his answer as follows: You know, those actors [pause] especially the movie actors [breath] and the sports ac …..sorry, the movie actors and sports stars…um…. [pause] They are very famous now in China [pause] because [breath] they can be seen by the people every day… Kenn starts his answer with: Mainly politicians [short pause] prominent businessmen [longer pause] and a growing number of television celebrities. In several places, Tina hesitates and breathes in the middle of her ideas. As a result, we have to put separate parts of her speech together in order to understand her message. In contrast, every ‘chunk’ of Xin’s and Kenn’s answers has a clear meaning. As a result, it is easy for us to understand their message. These differences between Tina and Xin are part of the reason that Tina scored a Band 5.0 for pronunciation, while Xin scored a 6.0. Rhythm Xin and Kenn both ‘chunk’ their speech, but Kenn sounds more natural and relaxed than Xin? Why is this? One of the most important differences between Xin and Kenn is the rhythm of their speech.   Watch the first part of the videos again, and focus on the phrases highlighted below. What differences do you notice in the way that they are pronounced? Xin: ‘Those actors, especially the movie actors and the sports stars, they are very famous now in China because they can be seen by the people every day.’  Kenn: ‘Mainly politicians, prominent businessmen, and a growing number of television celebrities.’  You probably noticed that every word Xin says is pronounced clearly. This is because all Xin’s syllables are a similar length. As a result, all the words in the highlighted phrase have a similar amount of stress. In contrast, in Kenn’s phrase highlighted above, some words – growing, number, television, celebrities – are long and slow, while other words – a, of – are said extremely quickly. Kenn stresses the important information, words that communicate his message, and he ‘unstresses’ the less important grammar words that join the information words together. This contrast between the stressed information words and ‘unstressed’ connecting words helps to highlight the information that Kenn thinks is most important, and this makes his message very easy to follow. It also makes him seem more relaxed and natural: it is natural to stress the words that we think are the most important, and English speakers only tend to stress other words – the connecting words – when they are not relaxed (for example, if they are nervous or annoyed). Xin’s more regular stress means the important information words are less clearly highlighted, and we have to concentrate harder to identify the words that Xin thinks are the most important. His message is therefore slightly more difficult to follow. Additionally, because he stresses both his information words and his connecting words, he sounds less relaxed and natural than Kenn. These differences are part of the reason why Xin scored a Band 6.0 for pronunciation, while Kenn scored a 9.0, with the examiner commenting that Kenn ‘sustains… use of features’ and is ‘effortless to understand’. Xin’s examiner commented that his speech is ‘mainly syllable-timed, so his rhythm is rather mechanical’.   Syllable-timed and stress-timed rhythm Xin’s speech is mostly syllable-timed - the syllables are all roughly the same length. Conversely, Kenn’s speech is stress-timed – there is a significant contrast between the length of stressed and unstressed syllables. In a stress-timed rhythm, the contrast between stressed and unstressed syllables is achieved partly by making stressed syllables longer, but also by making unstressed syllables shorter. When English speakers do this, the vowel sounds in the unstressed syllables also change – they are ‘reduced’. For example, in the example above, the word ‘a’ is reduced to an extremely short /ə/, and the ‘o’ sound in ‘of’ is also reduced to a /ə/. This ‘reduction’ of unstressed vowel sounds is a key part of stress-timed rhythm. In fact, it happens so often that the /ə/ sound – known as the schwa – is the most common sound in English. Interestingly, whether you are from Europe or Asia or Latin America, it is quite likely that your first language is syllable-timed, and the rhythm of your speech in English is more syllable-timed than stress-timed. The only exceptions to this are Arabic and Russian speakers, whose rhythms are closer to that of English. If your first language is French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Korean, or Japanese (or many others), you probably need to develop a more stress-timed rhythm if you want your English to sound more relaxed and natural. Developing stress-timed rhythm and chunking:   1. Pause, breathe, plan The key to chunking is to pause between ideas, and not to hesitate in the middle. For many IELTS candidates – like Tina – this means you need to slow down and give yourself time to plan before you start speaking. Then, when you finish your first phrase or idea, pause, breathe and plan what you’re going to say next. If you continue like this, your speech will be divided into meaningful groups of words – ‘chunks’. 2. Slow down to improve your word stress A stress-timed rhythm is partly the result of stressing important words. You may think you do this already, but compare your word stress to Kenn’s. Do you give important information words as much time and space as Kenn gives ‘politicians’, ‘businessmen’ and ‘television celebrities’? Stressed words are louder and longer, and making them longer means you need to slow down when you say them. For more guidance on developing word stress, look at the third blog post in this series. 3. Learn to ‘unstress’ As we have seen, a stress-timed rhythm is partly the result of stressing important words; however, it is also the result of ‘unstressing’ less important words. To learn how to do this, listen to recordings or watch videos of native speakers – www.elllo.org is a great resource for this. First, make sure you understand what the speaker is saying and check any vocabulary you don’t know in a dictionary. Next, choose a short section – just a single phrase or sentence. Write it down, then listen again and mark the words the speaker stresses. Next, focus on the pronunciation of the unstressed words. How many of the vowels are reduced to a /ə/ sound? When you think you have identified all the unstressed sounds, try saying the whole phrase yourself. You may need to divide it into chunks at first, and build up. You can also use this method with your own speech. Record yourself answering some IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions, write down a short section, mark the words that should be stressed and unstressed, then listen again to check if you did this successfully. If not, practise, then record yourself again.   4. Learn how to produce the schwa Like many learners of English, you may find the /ə/ sound difficult to pronounce because it doesn’t exist in your language. The key to producing the /ə/ sound is to mostly close your mouth and relax your jaw. In contrast, the stressed vowel sounds - /æ/ /e/ /ɒ/ /u:/, and so on – are pronounced with an open mouth and tensed jaw. For example, to pronounce the word ‘politicians’ with the correct stress and unstress (like Kenn): (Click image to enlarge) When you do this, place the back of your hand under your chin. When your jaw is tensed on stressed syllables, it should be impossible to close your mouth with your hand. However, when your jaw is relaxed on unstressed syllables, it should be possible to push your mouth shut with your hand. Developing stress-timed rhythm is therefore partly about training yourself to relax between stressed words and syllables. To do this, you need to stop trying to pronounce every sound clearly. You can use this same approach to stress and unstress words in chunks of language. Here’s Xin’s phrase we looked at earlier, which was very syllable-timed: (Click image to enlarge) Can you follow the instructions to give this chunk a stress-timed rhythm? What’s next? Rhythm and chunking are the final pronunciation features we are focusing on in this series. In the final blog post in this series, we will review all the features we have covered so far, and look again at what this means for ‘good’ pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test.

Paul Dixon

1 December, 2021

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How to use 'the thing is' in the IELTS Speaking test

'The thing is' is a really useful phrase to use in the IELTS Speaking test if you want to add an explanation to a point you have already made. It sounds natural in English and will help you to speak for longer on the same topic. Find out more about how to use it in Lucy's video.

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How to use 'let me see' in the IELTS Speaking test

Find out how to use the common phrase 'Let me see ...' in your IELTS Speaking test to give yourself time to think or decide about what to say next.

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How to use 'I have to say' in IELTS the Speaking test

In Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test, you will need to give your opinions and explanations in response to the examiner's questions. One way of giving your opinion is to use the phrase 'I have to say ...' or 'I must say ...'. Find out how to use this phrase in Lucy's video.

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