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
Everyday English: Ordering Coffee

Preparing for your IELTS test is really important, but what about real life English? Could you order a coffee in a busy coffee shop? Sounds simple I know but even the most advanced English users can stumble when it comes to this.  There are more and more coffee shops full of people drinking amazing beverages. From ‘skinny soy lattes with an extra shot’ to ‘venti caramel macchiatos to go’… (Most of the words are not English but have been borrowed from languages like Italian.) So, where do you begin? My advice is to work out what you will order before you go and practise saying it.  Fortunately, there are some common names for different styles of coffees. Use this list to work out a basic order and avoid any stress at the counter.   Add these words to get a cold drink or a decaffeinated drink. You could even add both e.g. ‘an iced, decaf latte’ Iced (+ any of the above orders): cold, with ice  Decaf (+ any of the above orders): decaffeinated coffee Milk  When you order your coffee, you may be asked what kind of milk you’d like. Here is a list of the most common options on offer.  Whole milk / full fat milk Semi skimmed / low fat milk Skimmed / fat free milk  Soymilk (milk made from soybeans) Almond milk (milk made from almonds) Some coffee shops have coconut milk and oat milk too!  Most people use the word ‘skinny’ to show that they want a fat free milk choice. If you don’t say you want your drink to be ‘skinny’ you will get whole milk. Extras As well as choosing your milk you can choose to add flavours and other extras to your drink. Here are some of the most common options.  A shot of vanilla syrup A shot of hazelnut syrup A shot of caramel  Mocha (chocolate) Whipped cream Extra foam (more foam than the standard serving in a cappuccino) Cup Sizes Another thing that confuses everyone is the sizes. Different coffee shops use different words to describe the size of their drinks. I have included the names used by Starbucks as I find them the most confusing of all!  Be warned, in some countries the size of coffee cups is enormous, have a look around on the counter to see if you can see the size of the cups they use.  Even a small coffee may be a lot bigger than you are used to! Watch out, you get more shots of coffee and more caffeine!   Questions the barista (a person who serves in a coffee bar) might ask The barista might ask you a long list of questions to get the details of your order right. This can make even the most confident person feel nervous, it is often a noisy place and things happen fast. Think about these questions and how you would answer them for your perfect cup of coffee.  Hi, there. What can I get you? / What are you having? / What would you like? Would you like milk with that? Regular milk? What size is that? (What size cup do you want?) Any flavours or other extras? Is that for here or to go? (are you drinking in the shop or are you taking the coffee with you?) Is that all? (Do you want to order anything else, more drinks, food?) Can I have your name, please? (the barista will call you when your drink is ready Phrases to order coffee in English If you know exactly what you want, give the barista as much detail as possible, this will mean far fewer questions to answer!  I’d like a tall, decaf, Americano to go, please.   Can I get a skinny soy latte for here please?  Could I have a regular full-fat cappuccino with extra foam please? Also, I would like a blueberry muffin and a banana. Thank you.  The next time you arrange to meet a friend in a coffee shop you don’t need to worry about ordering, you should be able to work out the kind of thing that you want in advance and then order like a local! Good luck! If you would like to learn more Everyday English please do let us know on Facebook or Instagram! Emma 

Emma Cosgrave

20 November, 2020

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Speaking
Talking about your hometown

When we meet new people, especially people from other parts of the world, it's natural to be curious about where they come from. Where did you grow up? in a huge metropolitan city, a tiny farming village, a tourist spot in the mountains?  It's good to be able to tell people about where you're from!  Talking about your hometown could come up in the IELTS Speaking Test. So, let’s look at some vocabulary you can use to tackle questions about your hometown and/or neighbourhood.  Let’s start with where your hometown is. You can tell people what part of the country it’s in.  e.g. I come from a small town in the south of England. It is 45 miles from London, in the countryside. Write your own sentence in a notepad. Here are some adjectives you might find helpful. Use a dictionary to find out the meaning of any that are new to you. Add them to your vocabulary notebook and remember to write short definitions next to the words and example sentences.   Think about your hometown. Which of these adjectives could you use to describe it?  Now answer this IELTS Speaking Test Part 1 style question.  Read my answer and then do your own. You could even record yourself ?    How would you describe your hometown? My hometown is a small town in the south of England called Shorewood. It is 45 miles from London, in the countryside. There is a small industrial zone in the town but most people who live there commute to London for work. It is in the middle of a big agricultural area. It’s not polluted or noisy, just the usual smells and sounds of rural life! There is a traditional market in the centre of town twice a week but there are no large shopping malls. There is a very beautiful church in the town centre and there are some lovely parks around the town. There is also a canal that runs through the town and some people still live on houseboats on the water. It is a fairly sleepy town and most teenagers can’t wait to leave.   As well as talking about your hometown, you could be asked about the differences between urban and rural life and whether life in the city is better than life in the countryside.  It’s helpful to think about the differences between city life and country life to start with.  First, let’s make a list of some features of city and country life. I’ll start but you need to add your own ideas to the lists!   You can now go back through the lists and decide which are advantages or positive features and which are negative features or disadvantages. Now you’ve thought about the differences you can have a go at this IELTS Speaking Part 1 style question: Do you prefer country life or city life?  When you answer this kind of question it’s important to remember that it’s asking for your opinion, that means there’s no ‘right’ answer. You’re being asked to explain your ideas and give reasons for your opinion. You need to say why you prefer city/country life. It’s a chance to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the two options.  To get some more ideas, listen to two people talking about where they live. First, decide whether each speaker lives in an urban or rural area, then listen again and make a note of the advantages and disadvantages of rural life that each speaker mentions.       (You can see the answers along with the tape script at the end of this blog. There are some very interesting collocations in there ?) Now it's your turn to do some IELTS practice questions.  Record yourself and listen. It might be weird at first, but you’ll soon get used to it! How would you describe where you live now? What do you like about your neighbourhood? Do you think your hometown has changed a lot over the past 20 years? Do you prefer city life or country life? What are some of the advantages of living in the countryside? What are some of the disadvantages of urban living? I hope this has helped you to think about how you would answer questions about where you live and where you grew up.  Make a note of the new vocabulary and use it in your speaking and writing when appropriate. Bye for now! Emma   

Emma Cosgrave

16 November, 2020

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Speaking
Essential Grammar in IELTS Speaking

In this post, I will focus on grammar as a speaking subskill. It's common to feel anxious about using the correct grammar when speaking, but your grammar doesn't need to be 100% accurate to get a good mark in the IELTS Speaking test. It's equally important to attempt a range of grammatical structures.  How is grammar tested in the IELTS Speaking test? The descriptor Grammatical Range and Accuracy in IELTS assesses the range of grammar you use and how accurately and appropriately you use it. If you look at the band descriptors, you‘ll see that the following areas of grammar are assessed: Range of structures used: This ranges from being able to use a very basic range of simple grammatical structures at band 4, to a full range of complex structures at band 9.  Flexibility of use: This means that you’re able to select from a range of appropriate structures for the response that you wish to give. Structures are used ‘naturally and appropriately’ at band 9 and ‘with limited flexibility’ at band 6. Frequency of errors: This ranges from having mostly error-free sentences at band 9 to having frequent errors that may lead to misunderstanding at band 5. When it comes to errors, many candidates fear that they’ll lose marks for making mistakes. However, it’s worth remembering that even a band 9 student may make some very small errors. To be scored in band 7 or 6 for grammatical range and accuracy, you may still make some errors, especially when using more complex structures, but these are unlikely to result in the examiner misunderstanding you. Therefore, whilst accuracy is important, you should equally try to focus on being able to use a range of structures. What different grammatical structures should I use The descriptors refer specifically to the ability to use complex grammatical structures. These generally refer to subordinating structures, which include a combination of dependent and independent clauses. Below is a brief summary and some examples of the three main types of sentence structure: Simple sentences: consist of only one independent clause – e.g. I drink coffee in the morning. Compound sentences: consist of two independent clauses joined together – e.g. I drink coffee in the morning, but I don’t drink it at night. Complex sentences: consist of a combination of dependent and independent clauses joined together – e.g. Although I drink coffee in the morning, I don’t drink it at night because it keeps me awake.  Some specific grammatical structures that you may demonstrate include the following: A range of different tenses Comparative forms Relative clauses Conditionals The passive voice Using a wide range of these structures is likely to lead to getting a higher mark for grammatical range and accuracy, even if you don’t always use them completely accurately.  How can I increase my grammatical range for the IELTS Speaking Test? 1. Learn different grammatical structures and practise using them If you’re following a course book, you may find it useful to go through the different grammatical structures being taught. Although understanding the rules is important, what you really need to do is practise using the structures in conversation. A good way to do this would be to do the speaking practice tasks with a friend and to give each other feedback.  2. Listen to other people speaking and note which grammatical structures they use You may find it useful to do this with videos of IELTS speaking tests, which are available on our podcast, but you could also do this with a news report or a TED talk. Doing this will help you become familiar with a range of grammatical structures and understand some of the contexts in which they are used.  3. Record yourself and note the structures you use Once you have become more familiar with a range of grammatical structures, record yourself responding to a Part 2 question and then play back the recording and note down the different structures that you used.  And how about accuracy? 1. Record yourself speaking, listen and correct As well as checking the range of structures you use, you can also listen and check for grammatical errors. Make a note of the errors you make and practise saying them correctly. 2. Do corrections with a friend It can be difficult to spot your own errors, so try doing corrections with somebody else. 3. Practise speaking… a lot! Whether you are doing IELTS Speaking practice or not, take every opportunity to speak in English with whoever will listen! If you’re lucky, you might get some useful feedback on your grammar! And finally… Try not to become preoccupied with being accurate. Remember that you’re likely to gain marks for attempting to use complex structures even if you don’t get them quite right.  Remember you don’t always need to speak in full sentences. Features such as false starts are very common in natural sounding spoken English.  I hope you're enjoying this series on Speaking! I'll be sharing my tips on pronunciation next. If you have any questions or comments please do share these with us on Facebook or Instagram. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for how I can help you. Lucy

Lucy Passmore

4 November, 2020

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IELTS Focus: Speaking Test Part 3 questions

In this recording IELTS teachers, Emma and Liz focus on Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking Test.

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IELTS Focus: Speaking Test Part 3

In this recording, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz focus on Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking Test.

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Episode 4: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 3

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test.


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