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. 


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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Preparing for IELTS Speaking Part 3

The IELTS Speaking test is a face-to-face test that lasts approximately 15 minutes. Let's have a quick overview of the timings and tasks. (Click to enlarge) Today I will be talking about the third and final part of the Speaking test. If you want more detailed information about Part 1 or Part 2, take a look at my previous blogs: Preparing for the IELTS Speaking Test Part 1  Preparing for Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Test So let’s look at Part 3 in more detail ... The final part of the IELTS Speaking test is a discussion between the candidate and the examiner. It is designed to give you a chance to speak in a more relaxed way. It lasts for 4 to 5 minutes and can be a two-way conversation. Many students feel nervous about this section of the test and worry that they won’t understand the questions. It is true that the questions will be more advanced in Part 3, but that is a positive thing. It gives you a chance to let your English language ability really shine. What is Part 3 about? Part 3 of the test will be related to the topic in Part 2. The examiner might ask you to explain the reason for something, the advantages and disadvantages, the future of something and so on. Basically, the thing to do is give an answer including your opinion and then explain why you think that. Add some real-life examples if you can too.   But what do you do if you have absolutely no idea what the examiner has asked you? Well, first, you can ask them to repeat the question, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t catch that, could you repeat the question?’. If you are still unsure and need some thinking time then say something like, ‘That’s an interesting question, let me think about that…’ or ‘ I have never really thought about that before, let me see…’ or even ‘I am not really sure but if I had to answer I would say…’ The worst thing you could do is to sit in complete silence and just not answer! In Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test you are expected to give opinions. Whether or not you have the same opinion as the examiner doesn’t matter, it is just important that you can express an opinion in clear and coherent English. Remember that you are not expected to have specialist knowledge about the subject and you are not being tested on your opinion, just your English. Well, I think/suppose/would say … I think most people would agree that … If you notice that you have made a mistake then you should definitely go back and correct it. This is what native speakers do all the time and it shows the examiner that you are able to recognize and correct your own mistakes, this is a good thing. I mean … What I meant to say was… What I want to say is … What I’m trying to say is … One way to think about the answers that you give in this part of the IELTS Speaking test is that they are more formal than an everyday conversation. The Examiner needs to hear you give a full answer. You can think of your answer fitting into this structure: Give an opinion (say what you think) Give a reason for your opinion (say why you think this) Give an example (show what you mean) Your turn… Have a go at answering some sample questions taken from the ‘The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS’. Remember to use the 3-part strategy ‘Opinion - Reason - Examples’. Do you think it’s more important to earn a large salary or to be happy in your job? Do you think some people spend too much time on their computers these days? (Why?) Pollution is a problem in many countries. What do you think governments can do about it? Remember, the examiner wants to give you the best possible mark in the test. Make sure you answer all the questions as fully as you can so that the examiner can assess your language. FREE WORKSHEET Today I am sharing some activities that will help you prepare for Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test. You will watch a video of an authentic IELTS Speaking test (Part 3) below to complete the tasks. This video is from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS which I personally think is one of the very best IELTS preparation books available today. The test taker in the video is not a native speaker, his English is not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be, when you take IELTS you are probably not aiming to get a Band Score 9 so making a few mistakes is OK. Worksheet download Good luck in the test everyone. Emma

Emma Cosgrave

3 June, 2021

Improve your band score for vocabulary and grammar (Part 2)

Welcome back to this series focusing on improving your band score for vocabulary and grammar. I will be sharing an example Part 2 task, asking a Part 3 question and giving you useful language to complete the task. For those of you aiming for a band score of 7 and above, there are examples of language at this level too. IELTS Speaking Part 2 Here’s a recap if you missed the first blog. If you don’t know or don’t remember what you need to do in this part, here’s a quick summary with an example task. You’re given a task card with a topic and some prompts. You have one minute to prepare (use the time to actually make notes and prepare). You then speak for one to two minutes. How is the Speaking test marked? You are awarded a band score from 1 to 9 based on certain criteria. In this blog, we’ll look only at Lexical Resource (vocabulary) and Grammatical Range and Accuracy. Here’s the criteria you will be assessed on: (Click to enlarge) As you can see for a band score of 7 you must be able to use vocabulary flexibly to discuss a variety of topics. You must also be able to use less common and idiomatic vocabulary. For grammar you must be able to use a range of complex structures flexibly. Band 5 always refers to limited flexibility.   If you want greater flexibility you need to be able to use more sophisticated vocabulary and grammar structures. Here’s that example task card: The first prompt asks you to say what the website is. Let’s look at two responses:   As you can see, the response on the right uses less common vocabulary and a range of more complex structures: ‘I use various ...’, ‘the one that stands out for me ...’, ‘I tend to access on a weekly basis.’ Top tip The Speaking test is only 11 to 14 minutes long. You only have this window of time to show the examiner what language you can produce. Make sure that every sentence you produce takes you closer towards a higher band score. Here are the other prompts in the Part 2 task above. Compare the response in the Band 5 column with the response in the Band 7+ column. Remember the vocabulary and grammar criteria we looked at earlier.   As you can see the Band 5 response answers the question well and communicates the message. However, when you compare it to a band 7+ response it is easy to see why one is better than the other. They are both communicating exactly the same message but the language and structures in Band 7+ are far more sophisticated and advanced. Why not download and print off the above responses and highlight the different vocabulary, collocations and grammar structures to see the difference? Compare your highlights to the ones here. IELTS Speaking Part 3 Here’s a quick summary again. In this part, you and the examiner have a conversation about more abstract issues but still linked to the topic in Part 2. The discussion takes about four or five minutes. Here’s an example question that relates to the task above: “What are some possible disadvantages of buying things from online shops?” Let’s have a look at some of the vocabulary you could use to answer this question. Disadvantages Can’t see the quality Can’t see the size Have to give personal details Not safe Don’t get the product immediately Don’t know who you’re buying from Here are the above points using more advanced vocabulary and structures: Can’t verify the quality of the product Unclear dimensions or sizing charts Have to divulge personal data Not secure – open to your personal data being used fraudulently Delayed enjoyment of the product Difficult to determine the seller’s identity Listen to an audio of the above being used in response to the original question: “What are some possible disadvantages of buying things from online shops?”   Notice how the above language is used in context. Use the audio to practice your pronunciation of the above language. Listen and pause and repeat as many times as necessary! My Top tips: try completing the Part 2 task and answering the Part 3 question above use some of the language highlighted as Band 7+ record yourself listen back and give yourself feedback on the vocabulary and structures used    repeat the exercise and this time really focus on using the highlighted Band 7+ language... record yourself once more notice how many new words and expressions you’ve used Happy practising! Liz

Liz Marqueiro

6 April, 2021

Developing cohesion and coherence for the IELTS Speaking test

In this post, we will focus on cohesion and coherence in speaking and how improving these can help you to improve your score in the IELTS Speaking test. What do we mean by ‘cohesion’ and ‘coherence’ in speaking? Both are related to how you organise your ideas when speaking. ‘Cohesion’ describes the methods used to link words and ideas together. You often do this by using specific words and phrases called ‘cohesive devices’. ‘Coherence’ describes the quality of being easy to understand. Even if a text or presentation is ‘cohesive’, it will only be ‘coherent’, if the ideas make sense and are clearly linked to one another. What are some common features of cohesion in speaking? One cohesive device that is probably familiar to you is linking words or ‘linkers’. These can be used to link ideas together in either spoken or written English and have a range of different functions. For example:   Linkers used in speaking are usually simpler and more informal than those used in writing. Furthermore, there are some cohesive devices that we would use when speaking, but that would be too informal for writing. These are often called ‘discourse markers’. If you can learn to use these correctly, they can make you sound more natural in English. For example:   It is important to understand how to use these discourse markers. Keeping a list of example sentences for when to use new discourse markers can help you to learn to use them correctly. For example: (Click to enlarge) Why are cohesion and coherence important for my IELTS Speaking score? Cohesion and coherence are assessed under ‘Fluency and Coherence’ in the IELTS Speaking descriptors. A Band 9 candidate ‘speaks coherently with fully appropriate cohesive features’, while a Band 7 candidate ‘uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility’. A Band 6 candidate ‘uses a range of connective and discourse markers, but not always appropriately’, while a Band 5 candidate ‘may overuse certain connectives and discourse markers.’ What can I do to practise using features of cohesion in speaking? 1. Learn a range of discourse markers and practise using them Starting a list of useful discourse markers with example sentences will help you speak more cohesively and naturally. Listen for discourse markers that people use when they are speaking. You could listen to sample IELTS speaking test tasks (and look at the transcripts). Make a note of how they used it and then write down your own example. Then practise using them, both when you are doing IELTS speaking practice and when you are speaking to anyone in English. 2. Reflect on which discourse markers you feel more or less confident about using Using familiar discourse markers when speaking will help you to feel more confident, but you want to avoid overusing them. Think about the ones you use often and then ones you would like to use more. Record yourself giving a task 2 speaking presentation if you don't know which connectives you use. Check your understanding of the meaning and write down an example of when you would use it. You may find it helpful at first to record yourself saying these example sentences so you can get used to them. 3. Record, listen and play back Once you are feeling more confident about using a range of discourse markers, record yourself responding to an IELTS Speaking question. You could do this with a friend, so that one of you asks the question and the other responds. Then play back the recording and pay attention to the linkers and discourse markers you have used. Did you use them appropriately? Do you overuse certain discourse markers? Make a note of any points that you need to improve and continue to practice. Hope you found this useful! You can find the rest of my series here. Lucy

Lucy Passmore

31 March, 2021

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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