How To Do IELTS Speaking

IELTS coach

Hey there! This is former IELTS examiner Tim James here, and I am going to cover how to do the IELTS speaking test to score a band 7, 8, or 9. Here's what you need to do:

In part 1 you will answer questions about your daily life remembering to expand on your answers. In part 2, you will speak on your own for 2 minutes about a given topic card. Finally, in part 3 you will have a discussion with the examiner about a related topic . This will all take between 11-14 minutes.

Obviously, each part of the test requires different strategies. So, on this page I am going to teach you the exact same strategies I have taught to thousands of students around the world and that I know work from my experience of being an IELTS examiner.

This page is going to cover:

  1. IELTS speaking part 1 format
  2. IELTS speaking part 1 strategies
  3. IELTS speaking part 1 samples
  4. IELTS speaking test part 1 video
  5. IELTS speaking part 2 format
  6. IELTS speaking part 2 strategies
  7. IELTS speaking part 2 samples
  8. IELTS speaking test part 2 video
  9. IELTS speaking part 3 format
  10. IELTS speaking part 3 strategies
  11. IELTS speaking part 3 samples
  12. IELTS speaking test part 3 video
  13. IELTS Speaking Preparation Tips
  14. IELTS speaking useful links

IELTS Speaking Test Part 1 Format

Duration: 4-5 minutes

Task types: Short questions

Number of questions: 12 (3-4 questions on 3 different topics)

Common Topics: everyday life, routine activities, free time activities

Notes: The IELTS speaking test contains 3 parts and lasts for a total of 11-14 minutes. It is a semi-formal interview and only you and the interviewer will be in the room.

The interview will, however, be recorded on a voice recording device, and you will be filmed if it is a UKVI IELTS test for added security.

The examiner will start by first reading aloud the details of the test date, location and the examiner and candidate number so they are recorded on the device.

They will then ask to see your passport and check your name, nothing to worry about here. Following this, they will then say: 'Now in this first part I am going to ask you some questions about yourself', and the questions will follow.

The examiner will have a booklet in front of them that they will read their questions from and other pieces of paper, don't be distracted by these or try to read them.

IELTS Speaking Test Part 1 Samples

Most questions in this section will be followed by the question 'why?', or 'why not?' if you do not expand on your answer.

The examiner normally starts by asking about your home/job/studies first before moving on to other questions related to your everyday life. Here are some sample questions and I've also recorded sample answers for you to listen to as well, simply, press play!

Topic: Home

• What do you like most about your home town/city?

• Is your home town/city a popular place for tourists?

• Do you think your home town/city has changed much in recent years?

Topic: Your Studies

• Where are you studying?

• How many hours do you spend there in a week?

• Tell me something about the place you study?

• What are your favourite subjects?

Topic: Your Job

• What is your job?

• How long have you been doing that job?

• Which part of your job do you enjoy the most

• Tell me about the place where you work.

Topic: Free Time

• Do you spend a lot of time with your friends?

• Do you go out much in the evenings?

• How much television do you watch?

• Do you do any sports?

Topic: Learning English

• How long have you been learning English?

• Do most children learn English in your country?

• What can you remember about your early lessons?

• Have you studied any other languages?

• What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start learning English?

Topic: Travel

• How do you get to college/school/work?

• Do you travel alone or with friends?

• What do you do during your journey?

• Do you ever have any problems with your transport?

• How could your journey be improved?

Topic: Music

• What kind of music do you like?

• What do you like about it?

• Are your friends interested in the same kind of music?

• Where do you usually listen to music?

• Do you ever go to concerts?

• Do you play or would you like to play an instrument?

Topic: Keeping Fit

• Do you try to keep fit?

• Do you think it is important for young people to keep fit?

• Is sport compulsory for young children in your country?

• Do you do any sports?

• Have you ever watched a sporting event live?

IELTS Speaking Test Part 1 Strategies

Strategy #1 - Ask-Answer-Add

This is a highly effective strategy for showing the examiner that you are a confident speaker and that you can speak using complex and compound sentences.

All you need to do is answer the question that the examiner asks you and then add some extra information. For example:

Examiner: What types of books do you like to read?

Candidate: Horror books, I like horror books because they make me feel alert and excited although they sometimes give me bad dreams.

So, you can see that the candidate, instead of just answering with 'horror books', they then went on to say why they like them and a problem they have with them. This will help them to score more highly in all of the band marking criteria as you are taking the opportunity to show off your language skills.

If you do not add extra information then the examiner will always ask you a follow up question, normally 'why?' anyway. This can be annoying for the examiner to do after every question so all the examiners I know prefer the candidates to add the information before they are asked!

Strategy #2 - Tense Matching

Often candidates worry about what tense to speak in so here is what to do. Simply, answer the examiner's questions in the same tense that they asked the question. This will make sure you are always speaking in the correct tense. For example:

Examiner: Can you tell me about where you live please?

Candidate: Yes, of course, I live in a small apartment near the river in the downtown area of Manly beach.

In this example the examiner ask in present tense so it is easy to respond in present tense. Notice that it is the main verb 'live' that tells you what the tense is.

Example 2:

Examiner: Did you enjoy Maths lessons when you were a child?

Candidate: Yes, I enjoyed them a lot because the teacher always turned the lessons into competitive games which made it quite lively.

In this example the candidate noticed the question was in past tense form the words 'did' and 'were' and replied in pas tense also. They also added the extra information too.

The IELTS Speaking Test Part 1 Video

Just so you know what it will all look like, here is a video of part 1 of the speaking test. Notice in this video the topics covered are: hometown, learning English and family.

The speaker is quite hesitant at times and does not give full answers. She also struggles to find the right vocabulary and uses a limited range of grammar, for these reasons she scores only a band 6.

For a full article describing How To Do IELTS Speaking Part 1 click the link.


IELTS Speaking Test Part 2 Format

Duration: 3-4 minutes

Task types: Long turn (often describing tasks)

Number of questions: 1 topic card with 3/4 bullet points to talk about

Common Topics: people, places, experiences, feelings, habits, preferences, objects

Notes: The examiner will pass you a blank piece of paper, a pencil and the topic card which usually provides a topic and three related bullet points.

You then have one minute to prepare what you want to say, you may make notes on the paper if you wish. After one minute you will be asked to start speaking.

Do not stop speaking until the examiner tells you to. After they have stopped you they will ask you a 'rounding off' question, i.e. a question closely related to what you have just talked about, this is just to try and make the ending of the task feel more natural and you do not need to give an extended answer to this.

IELTS Speaking Test Part 2 Samples

Describe an important choice you had to make in your life.

You should say:

    • When you had this choice
    • What you had to choose between
    • Whether you made a good choice
    • And explain how you felt when you were making this choice

Describe something you bought that you had to save money for.

You should say:

• What it was
• How long you saved money for it
• How you saved the money and explain how you felt after you bought it.

Describe an object you particularly like.

You should say:

  • What it is and what it looks like
  • What it is made of
  • What it is for
  • And explain why it is special for you

Describe something you own which is very important to you. 

You should say:

  • Where you got it from
  • How long you have had it
  • What you use it for; and
  • Explain why it is important to you.

Describe a plant, flower or tree that you like.

You should say

• What type of plant, flower or tree it is
• What it looks like
• Where it grows or is usually seen and explain why you like it.

Describe an environmental problem in your country.

You should say:

• What the problem is

• What has caused the problem

• What effect it has had on your country

• Explain what is being done to solve it.

Describe an interest or hobby that you enjoy.

You should say:

• How you became interested in it
• How long you have been doing it
• Why you enjoy it
• Explain what benefits you get from this interest or hobby

Describe a place that you have happy memories of.

You should say:

• Where this place is
• When the first time you went there was
• When you will go there next
• Explain why this place has happy memories for you.

Describe a popular person that you know.

You should say:

  • What your relationship is with this person
  • How regularly you see them
  • What other people think about this person
  • Explain why you like them

Describe a happy childhood occasion. 

You should say:

  • When it took place
  • Who was there
  • How you felt at the time
  • Explain the reason why you remember this event.

IELTS Speaking Test Part 2 Strategies

Strategy #1 - The BEST technique. Here is a great strategy for making sure you have something to say for the whole 2 minutes you are required to speak for.

Firstly, when your one minute preparation time begins make write the letters B, E, S, T down the side of the note paper the examiner gives you.

The 'B' stands for bullets, so you should make notes about anything related to the bullet points you think might be relevant to say. Remember though, you do not actually need to talk about all the bullet points. Just jot down ideas for the bullet points that immediately come to mind.

The 'E' stands for examples, so note down any examples you can think of related to the points. Yu can provide examples based on anything you have read in the news or you, a friend, or family member have experienced.

The 'S' stands for story. Stories are a great way of speaking for an extended period of time. So, if you can think of a story that happened to you or a friend and its elated to the topic then note that down to!

Real stories are the best because you can really describe the situation in detail which usually helps you to demonstrate your depth of vocabulary better. For instance, you can easily describe a place/experience with all four senses if you were actually there.

T is for tenses. Can you think about anything from the past, present, or future related to the bullets. If so, note this down. In this way, you will be forcing yourself to speak using a variety of different tenses which of course is good thing for your band score.

I have written a full example of this strategy in more detail here.

The IELTS Speaking Test Part 2 Video

Notice how the examiner asks the candidate to keep speaking until they are asked to stop, do not just stop on your own, keep going!

For a full article describing How To Do IELTS Speaking Part 2 click the link.


IELTS Speaking Test Part 3 Format

Duration: 4-5 minutes

Task types: Discussion questions

Number of questions: 3-6 questions often with follow up questions

Common Topics: topics are related to task 2 topics but become more abstract in nature

Notes: The examiner will guide the candidate to talk about topics related to task 2 but in a general way. This means they will use phrases like 'how are people's values now different to people 20 years ago'. After each question they may well ask a follow up question. The idea being that this part should be more like a real world conversation.

IELTS Speaking Test Part 3 Samples

Normally, the examiner will link the end of speaking part 2 to part 3 by saying the following sentences:

Examiner: We’ve been talking about ______ (insert the topic you have talked about in part 2). I’d like to discuss with you one or two more general questions relating to this topic. First, let’s consider _________ (examiner inserts new topic).

Let’s consider holidays nowadays.

• Why do people go on holiday?
• What are the most popular types of holiday today?
• How important is it for families to go on holiday together?
• Do you think it is good for children to experience life in a foreign country?
• In your opinion, what kind of holidays will be popular in the future?
• Do you think it is safer to travel abroad now than in the past?

Let’s consider families nowadays.

• In what ways have families in your country changed in the past 20 years?
• Should husbands and wives have different roles within the family?
• What conflicts can arise within a family?
• What role do grandparents play in the family in your country?
• In what ways might the lives of elderly people be different in the future?
• Who do you think should be responsible for the care of the elderly, the family or the government?

Let’s consider decision making.

• Do you think it's harder to make decisions nowadays because we have so many choices?
• What are the disadvantages of asking for other people's advice when making a decision?
• Why do you think some people are better at making decisions than others?
• Do you think children should be given the opportunity to make their own decisions?
• Some people say we only learn by making mistakes. Do you agree?

Let’s consider spending habits nowadays.

• Do you think that some people spend too much money on things they do not need?
• Is it worth trying to repair things which break rather than throwing them away? Why?
• Many people feel that they must have lots of high tech gadgets these days, what do you think of this trend?
• Do you think technology has made our lives easier or more stressful? Why?
• Some people aren't interested in keeping up to date with new technology. Do you think that matters?

Let’s consider teenagers nowadays.

• In what way is the relationship between parents and teenagers different to the relationship between parents and younger children?
• What causes the most arguments between parents and teenagers?
• Do parents have more independence in your country than they used to?
• Who are the role models for teenagers in your country?
• Do you think they are good ones?

Let’s consider travel and transport now.

• Do you think too many people are dependent on cars as a means of transport?
• Why do people prefer to travel by car?
• Is there a way of changing this attitude?
• How could public transport systems be improved?
• How can the amount of air travel be reduced throughout the world?
• How will people travel in the future, do you think?

Let’s consider the influence of movies nowadays.

• Is it going to the cinema more or less popular than it used to be? Why?
• What are the most popular types of movies among people that you know?
• Do you think there's too much violence in films?
• Should there be more films made for children?
• Do films influence other things - fashion, for example?
• Do you think films will continue to be an important form of entertainment?

Let’s consider children and toys nowadays.

• Do children nowadays have too many toys, electronic games and so on?
• Do parents give their children toys instead of paying attention to them?
• Is it the responsibility of parents or schools to teach children how to behave well?
• Do children learn better if they have fun at school, or if the teachers are strict?
• Do you think attitudes to bringing up children differ in different parts of the world?
• What about respect for older people, does that vary in different countries?

Let’s consider how people’s shopping habit.

• How have people's shopping habits changed over the past 5 years?
• Do you think that most shopping will be done online in the future?
• Will smaller shops survive in the current retail system?
• What can shops do to make shopping more pleasant for their customers?
• Do you think that brand name is very important for sales?
• Do the young and the old have different priorities when they look for products to buy?

Let’s consider how people’s values have changed.

• What kind of things give status to people in your country?
• Have things changed since your parents’ time
• Do you think advertising influences what people buy?

IELTS Speaking Test Part 3 Strategies

The main thing you need to do in part 3 is to maintain a sensible focused discussion with the examiner. You can do this by following the acronym: AREA.

When the examiner ask you a question you are going to:

A - Answer the question directly.

R - Reason, you are going to explain why you think what you do.

E - Example, you are going to offer an example to back up your point.

A - Alternative, you can then provide an alternative to your original opinion.

Let's take a look at how this might look with an example question.

Examiner: First, let’s consider values and the way they can change. In Switzerland, what kind of possessions do you think give status to people?

Candidate: Well, it's definitely all about your house. Having a house is one of the main ways Swiss people will judge you (direct answer). I guess this is because it is probably the most expensive item that an individual is likely to buy in their entire lives, this means it is likely to be an accurate statement about the type of person somebody is. For instance, how many wealthy people do you know who live in a small bungalow in an unpopular part of town? None, because they have enough money to avoid that type of life. Another way to judge status is through finding out about someone's career, or job. Again, for most people this is going to say a lot about them as people. 

I hope you can how this is a really simple, yet powerful strategy to use to structure your response. You might find that is the topic is interesting then you have a lot to say anyway, but if you do get stuck then this is a great strategy to use.

The IELTS Speaking Test Part 3 Video

Notice how the examiner links the topic from part 2 to the topic in part 3.

Read a full guide to this part of the test here: How To Do IELTS Speaking Part 3

How The IELTS Speaking Test Is Marked

For my full article on this then you should go here for all the details: How do IELTS examiners mark speaking. Basically though, the examiners are marking you based on 4 main things, explained below:

1. Fluency and Coherence – Can you speak on your own for an extended period of time and be understood?

2. Vocabulary (Lexical Resource) – Can you show that you know a variety of different and less well known vocabulary so that you do no need to keep repeating the same words and phrases?

3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy – Can you use a range of different tenses and create simple and complex sentences with few mistakes?

4. Pronunciation – Can you be understood clearly and easily? Do you sound natural or native like?

You can actually view the band marking criteria that examiners use here if you so wish. It is really important that you are giving the examiners what they want so it is good idea to do a mock online speaking test with feedback from real examiners before you do the test to check your level and that you are doing the right things.

IELTS Speaking Preparation Tips

Okay people, time to get down to business. Let’s take a look at the things that will actually make you speak better in the IELTS test and get you a higher band score.

I’ve got to warn you though, I’m not messing about here, there’s zero point reading this, if you are not prepared to take action on these recommendations. That means you actually have to do these things!

Don’t be one of those people who spend most of their time ‘googling’ and youtube watching thinking that will help them prep for IELTS speaking.

All the information you need to prep for IELTS instead of spending time searching for stuff, instead do these things below they will help prepare you for your IELTS speaking test properly. Here we go:

Tip #1 Speak English everyday

You need to be able to answer the examiner's question spontaneously, which means without thinking. You cannot do this if you are not used to speaking English as you will be searching ro your words and you may even be thinking in your own first language and translating. So, to get over this speak English daily for at least half an hour, out aloud.

If you can’t get anyone to speak with, then speak out aloud which brings me to my next tip…

Tip #2 Copy native speakers

Find a video on Youtube and repeat what the speaker says in the same way. That includes copying the speed they speak at, the way they pronounce words and the intonation they use. Particularly pay attention to the way they link words together. 

It is best to do this sentence by sentence. So just keep replaying the same sentence over and over again until you get it just right. You can even record yourself doing this and play your recording back to yourself to see how close you are getting to sounding like the native speaker. 

The final test for this is to start speaking at the same time as the original video, turn the sound down as you are speaking and then turn the volume back up again at the end of the sentence to see if you are speaking at the same speed and style as the video still.

Do this for longer more complex sentences and even short paragraphs. Repeating this daily wil absolutely have you sounding more native like. You might want to focus on one particular accent though so that you to start to speak in one particular style and tone.

Tip #3: Fill Up Your Facebook with useful English

One of the biggest problems that candidates report having in the speaking test is that they won’t have any ideas about what to say or even write about in their essays. So, to combat that problem fill up your Facebook feed with useful English articles by subscribing to news feeds from The BBC, CNN, National Geographic and so on.

That way, whenever you log onto your social media accounts you will automatically have an opportunity to practise your English and get ideas about different topics to speak about rather than just scrolling through ‘mindless’ photos of food from your friends 😉

Tip #4 Get used to the style of questions

The test is so much easier if you know what is coming and you have developed some simple techniques to use in each part of the test. 

On this page I have given you enough sample questions for you to prepare with. You already have what you need to succeed. Get a friend, tutor, or speaking partner to run through the test with you. In this way you will feel more confident on test day and are likely to speak better as a result. 

As a former examiner myself, it was always very obvious which students had prepared properly for the test or not and it is no surprise that they are the ones who generally scored higher bands! 

Tip #5 Get feedback

As a native speaker, teacher or friend to listen to you completing a long turn speaking task and ask them to tell you what you could improve. Of course, your friends might be too kind to you and not tell you exactly what mistakes you are making, so you may want to get a professional opinion and do a mock test with real IELTS examiners.

This is the place I go to get mock speaking tests done for my students, fantastic feedback every time.

Tip #6 Act on the feedback!

Push yourself to improve by really listening to the feedback you get and by doing something about improving those areas that are weaker. So many times this is where people go wrong. People practise hard but few attempt to get feedback and then even fewer push themselves to improve by working on their feedback. 

If you have already done the test once or twice and not got the score you need. You are probably going to get the same band score again if you do not do something to improve!

So, stop kidding yourself that you will ‘get luckier’ next time or that the questions will somehow ‘be easier’, they won’t be! You need to do some of the things I have suggested above to improve.

Sorry to be so forceful with my advice, but I have put thousands of people through the IELTS test. I have done everything from driving students to the test centre on test day, watching students receive their results and bursting into tears from both happiness, and sadness.

I hate seeing people not get the result they want so please follow my advice carefully to give yourself the best possible chance of success! Now go get it done!