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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How to become more fluent for IELTS Speaking?

Welcome to the first in a series of 4 blog posts which will help you develop essential subskills for the IELTS Speaking test. Subskills can be defined as the smaller skills that make up a bigger skill, such as speaking. In this post, I will focus on the subskill of fluency.    What is fluency? According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, ‘when a person is fluent, they can speak a language easily, well and quickly’. We would, therefore, imagine a fluent speaker of a language to be somebody who is able to speak at length on a variety of different topics, without needing to stop and think very much about how to say something. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to become fluent in a language – it will always involve a lot of time, effort and motivation! Why is fluency important for the IELTS Speaking test? The IELTS Speaking assessment criteria covers four main areas of speaking. The first of these is Fluency and Coherence. According to the descriptor, ‘fluency and coherence assesses how well you can speak at a normal speed without too much hesitation. It also includes putting your sentences and ideas in a logical order and using cohesive devices appropriately so that what you say is not difficult to follow’.  Of course, how fluent you need to be depends on your target band score. If you need a 6.0, the descriptors state that you are ‘willing to speak at length, though may lose coherence at times due to occasional repetition, self-correction or hesitancy’. However, if you need a 7.0, you will need to ‘speak at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence’. If you are aiming for a 6.5, you will need to demonstrate some details from band descriptor 6.0 and some from band descriptor 7.0.  What challenges might a student face in developing fluency? As I mentioned previously, achieving fluency requires time, effort and motivation. This is worth considering before you start to prepare for the IELTS exam. If you have the time to develop a good level of spoken English first, then you are likely to feel more confident about taking IELTS and achieve a higher score. However, many students have a limited amount of time to improve their general English before taking IELTS, which can make fluency a particular challenge.  One barrier to developing fluency in English is the lack of opportunity to practise speaking outside the classroom. It can be difficult to have the discipline to practise with somebody who speaks the same language as you and it may be hard to find somebody who does not, particularly if you’re preparing for IELTS in your home country. However, doing additional speaking practice is essential to improving your fluency. A further barrier is anxiety around speaking another language. You may know the language well, but when faced with a real-life communicative task, you become nervous and struggle to say what you had planned. This happened to me when I was travelling by train to Montreal and I wanted to buy a snack from the refreshments trolley. I’d studied for a year at a French university, but I couldn’t remember the simple language I needed. My husband managed to order for us, and the woman said to me – ‘don’t worry – he can teach you French’. My husband still loves telling that story!    3 top tips for boosting fluency  1. Find your perfect speaking partner This could be a classmate, housemate or neighbour. You could also try an online language exchange via Skype. Once you’ve found your perfect speaking partner, think about typical IELTS topics and practise speaking about these. You could use IELTS preparation resources, but authentic resources such as newspaper articles can be just as effective.  2. Make sure you keep talking When you practise speaking for fluency, you should aim to keep speaking for as long as you can. It’s therefore important that the person you are practising with knows not to interrupt you to correct mistakes. Instead, ask them to give you some general feedback at the end of the conversation.  3. Use strategies to buy time  If you need some time to think of what you’re going to say, there are a number of useful phrases that you can use to give yourself some thinking time. For example, you can use phrases like ‘let’s see …that’s a difficult question’ or ‘I’ve never really thought about that, but …’. Practise using these when you are doing speaking practice and they will start to come to you more naturally in conversations. Have a look at the new podcast series ‘All you Need for IELTS Success’ on preparing for the IELTS Speaking test for further advice on how to buy time and keep talking.  Next time, I’ll share the essential vocabulary you need to help you in the IELTS Speaking test. Lucy

Lucy Passmore

18 September, 2020

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Using artificial intelligence to check and improve your spoken accuracy

Almost everyone has access to at least one item with this, they use it a lot of the time and it makes their lives much easier. I’m thinking about Artificial Intelligence, or AI, particularly something which has speech recognition software or a speech generation function. These products that only respond once their name is said – Alexa, Siri, Hello Google, etc. – aren't just good for requesting music, they can be a useful tool in spoken English development. Can AI help you with your IELTS speaking skills? I think so.    Judgment free feedback I’m going to focus on Alexa just because that’s the one I use most. However, much of what I suggest is true for other similar tools. This form of AI can help language learners particularly with pronunciation development by being a non-judgmental checker of the sounds in English you use. If what you say is not understood, then it will say so or it will answer according to what it thought it heard. There’s no shame in either of those and it can be sometimes the fault of the machine. Consider this as a learning opportunity. Remember to change the language to English on your device before following the suggestions below.  Pronounce words better: We know there are a number of difficult words to pronounce. For IELTS Speaking, your pronunciation will be assessed along with other key parts of your speech. You don't get marks for having a British or American accent, but for being intelligible (able to understand what you're saying). Create a list of words you’d like to use especially when in the Speaking test.  So, you’ve seen them written down and you’re now familiar with the meaning and when to use the word – this is important here. Start by asking your AI for a definition of the word. Did it understand what you said? Was that the meaning you thought it was? If so, great. If not, don’t worry – try again and listen to the word in an online dictionary. Perhaps your word stress was slightly wrong, or a vowel sound wasn’t quite right. No need to be upset – no one is judging you. That’s the beauty of this system.  Go further and ask how many syllables your chosen word has – again, this will check you’ve pronounced it well enough. Try to find words with more than 3 or 4 syllables. Again, allow any misunderstandings to be an opportunity for learning. Of course, with many of these devices, you need to ask questions – something you don’t often do in the IELTS Speaking test. Carefully think about how you will put these words (or phrases) into simple questions that will check your pronunciation and probably your grammar – rephrase or repeat your question until you feel you’ve been understood. Conversation practice: You can take this approach further by using phrases and sentences. How long can you maintain the conversation? This is a new thing from Alexa called ‘Let’s chat’ – it’s actually a competition that developers are taking part in to see if they can create a ‘socialbot’. Keep an eye out for this as it’s in the early stages but apparently you can talk about a topic with an AI device for up to 20 minutes on many everyday topics.  Remember, breakdowns in communication and misunderstandings are opportunities for you to improve, and you can always blame the technology! Interestingly, you can hear and read your questions and conversations again by accessing the app – this will give you a transcript to check and delete later if you’re concerned about privacy.    Part 2 speaking development  Moving on from individual words and phrases and short questions and answers, let’s now consider IELTS Speaking Part 2. You’ll receive a card and you’ll have to speak about a topic for up to two minutes. There are many examples of possible topic cards online – select a few for the activity I’m about to explain. Without a teacher or even a fellow student, it may seem impossible to get feedback but you can record your answer and then listen again and identify places where you know you’ve made a mistake. Perhaps you didn’t talk about one of the key points or you spoke for too long. Perhaps you made a number of grammar mistakes you can now see. AI can help you go further here.  (Click to enlarge) Remember though that with AI, it’s a computer so it’s not perfect. But it does give you non-judgmental feedback for you to use to improve your speaking and better prepare for the exam. Jishan

Jishan Uddin

19 August, 2020

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Speaking
Top 5 ways to improve your IELTS Speaking skills every day

Being able to speak English fluently is the goal of most language learners. Speaking English when you're travelling or living abroad can make the experience easier. But if you don’t live in an English-speaking country, then having the opportunity to practice speaking in English is quite difficult.  Here are the top 5 ways to improve your speaking skills every single day.  1. Read! That’s right, you read that correctly! Much like writing (see 5 Ways to Improve your IELTS Writing Skills Every Day blog), reading widely will introduce you to a wide range of words and phrases. You’ll also be reading a wide range of grammar structures without actually having to focus on grammar. By being exposed (presented with) words and grammar used correctly and in context, you too will pick up new words and start using new grammatical structures. When you learn new words or structures, copy and paste them into a document or make a note of them on your phone, to help you remember them.  There are loads of freely available reading resources online. The most important thing is that you read about any topic you’re interested in, but it must be in English for this to help you with your speaking skill.   2. Listen!  Listen to music, the news, podcasts, the radio, anything and everything you can. Do this every day – while you’re having breakfast, sitting on the bus or at the gym. In the evenings, watch English speaking movies, TV and Netflix programmes with English subtitles on. You can find more tips for Listening here. The more English you listen to, the more vocabulary and grammar you’ll learn (without having to do any real work) and the better your pronunciation will be.  3. Talk to yourself in English!  A good way to practise speaking English is to talk to yourself when you’re alone. It can be quite embarrassing to try and speak English with others especially if you feel that your vocabulary isn’t very good but speaking to yourself isn’t embarrassing, is it?  Start by watching your favourite English-speaking programme with English subtitles. Watch for five minutes – listen and read the subtitles. Rewind and start again. The follow these instructions:   Watch the first few minutes again and listen to your recording. How did you sound? Can you do it better the next time? Focus on the pronunciation of the words, the rhythm of the sentence, the way the speakers link sounds between words, etc. You can repeat the same sequence as many times as you like.   4. Think in English!  It will also really help if you can think in English. It might sound a little strange but it really does help. Give yourself instructions in English for example; ‘I’m thirsty. Go to the kitchen, get a glass, turn on the tap…’. You could also keep a thoughts and feelings diary in English. Write down what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.  Try changing the default language on your mobile phones so that all the apps and information is in English. Do the same on any of your devices.  Play online games in English. Join online English chat forums. Respond to our Facebook and Instagram posts and stories in English. You may not be speaking but you will be thinking and responding in English! 5. Use technology! If you don’t want to talk to yourself why not talk to Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant? Don’t type a question into Google or whichever search engine you use; ask your personal assistant instead.  Going somewhere new? Ask your personal assistant to find the location and tell you the directions instead.  There are also apps which help connect you with native English speakers around the world. Here are a some of them:  HelloTalk Tandem Bilingua  HiNative In this new world that we live in we have to find new ways of speaking to people, technology has made that easier to do than ever before.  Start speaking English today! Every day! We hope this blog has been useful. Let us know which tip or tips you’re going to start using on our Facebook page. Liz

Liz Marqueiro

5 August, 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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