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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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

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

Essential Vocabulary in IELTS Speaking

Following on from my post on fluency, I want to focus on the subskill of vocabulary. We all know that to become more proficient in a language, we need to build our vocabulary, but how should we do this with the IELTS Speaking test in mind? How is vocabulary tested in the IELTS Speaking test? Vocabulary is assessed under the criteria, Lexical Resource, which, ‘assesses the range of vocabulary you use and how accurately and appropriately you use vocabulary to express meaning’. For IELTS 6.0 - for example, the candidate ‘has a wide enough vocabulary to discuss topics at length and make meaning clear, in spite of inappropriacies’. In other words, the candidate demonstrates a good range of vocabulary, but may still make some errors. For IELTS 7.0 - ‘uses vocabulary resource effectively to discuss a variety of topics’, and ‘uses some less common and idiomatic vocabulary and shows some awareness of style and collocation, with some inappropriate choices’- the candidate should demonstrate a wider range of vocabulary, but may still make some errors. You don’t need to be error-free, but you should demonstrate to the Examiner your full range of vocabulary, and the ability to use it flexibly. What will help me boost my score for Lexical Resource? 1. Learn to use collocations correctly A collocation occurs when two or more words are used together in a way that sounds correct’. Learning to use a range of English collocations could therefore help you to boost your score for Lexical Resource and will help you to sound more natural and accurate in English. Find out how to improve your vocabulary using collocations from Liz, she shares some great hints and tips and worksheets to support your preparation. 2. Learn some idiomatic language The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ‘idiomatic’ language as ‘containing expressions that are natural and correct’. The Know Your Phrase website contains some useful examples of common idioms with example sentences, and the following idiomatic language activity by Cambridge English gives you the opportunity to practise selecting the correct idiom. Using carefully chosen idioms will make you sound more natural in English, but take care not to use too many, as this could have the opposite effect! Example and analysis Below is an excerpt from Part 1 of an IELTS speaking test: Notice that the candidate uses an appropriate idiom (that’s just not my cup of tea – meaning ‘that’s not something I enjoy doing’) although he makes a small mistake with the word order. He also uses several common English collocations (I just end up making some noodles…; I never got into cooking…) which sound natural in this context. There are; however, some examples of less natural sounding collocations, for example ‘it just does not come into me’. How can I build my vocabulary to prepare for the IELTS Speaking test? If you want your vocabulary to be well-prepared for the IELTS Speaking test, try the following: 1. Create a vocabulary notebook organised by topic This could be a traditional paper notebook or an online tool like Microsoft OneNote. Organise your notebook into different topic sections (e.g. food, films, friends and family) and make a note of vocabulary that you think will be useful for talking about these topics. Make sure you also record common collocations, different word forms, synonyms and antonyms. Try to include some less common words and idiomatic language. Aim to use them when you do your speaking practice. 2. Listen to recorded examples and note down good examples of vocabulary You will find a number of recorded IELTS Speaking tests online, for example on the Cambridge University Press YouTube channel. Watch these and try to note down examples of good vocabulary that the speaker uses, including collocations, idiomatic language, effective paraphrasing, and less common language. 3. Record yourself speaking and review your vocabulary Recording your own speaking is a really useful way to review the vocabulary you are using. As you listen, use your vocabulary notebook to check whether you have used words and phrases correctly, or whether you missed opportunities to use a better phrase. If you do this regularly, you will become more aware of the vocabulary you are using and will be able to practise building your vocabulary to get your best possible score for Lexical Resource. Hope you have found this useful and I will be sharing tips for Grammar in IELTS Speaking next! Lucy

Lucy Passmore

6 October, 2020

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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Episode 3: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 2

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test.

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