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The IELTS Speaking Test

The IELTS speaking test is the only face-to-face test. You will take this test with an examiner. There is no option for this test to be taken online.

The test generally lasts for between 11 and 14 minutes and consists of three parts. The three parts of the test are an interview (that lasts 4-5 minutes), a talk (that lasts 3-4 minutes) and a discussion (that lasts 4-5 minutes).

All of these are completed with the examiner. This test is the same for both the ‘Academic’ and the ‘General’ path.

There are four areas in the marking criteria – fluency, grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary – which are each worth 25% of the overall score.

In part 1, the examiner will ask you 12 questions linked to three different topic areas. In part 3, you could be asked up to 5 questions, but this will depend on the length and depth of the answers you provide.

Top Tips for Succeeding in the IELTS Speaking Test

To help you to prepare well and achieve well in the IELTS speaking test, we have developed a list of recommended strategies.

  • Don’t say too little! To achieve high marks for fluency in the speaking test, you need to demonstrate to the examiner that you can sustain long periods of speech and provide longer responses.
  • Don’t say too much! Even though you need to provide longer answers, don’t fall into the trap of waffling or losing focus. Make sure you say enough, but not too much!
  • Practise speaking for at least 1 minute without stopping. For part 2 of the speaking test, you must talk continuously for 1-2 minutes about a topic the examiner gives you. This is not always easy, and so you need to spend lots of time gradually extending the length of time you can sustain speech for. Ideally, aim for 1.5 minutes by the time you take the test.
  • Practise talking about lots of different topics. You can’t know which topic the examiner will give you on the test day so be sure to have practised speaking around many different topics. There are often overlaps between topics, so even if the topic you are given isn’t exactly the same as those you practised, you can probably adapt some ideas.
  • Use the prompts on the topic card to help to structure your answer. The fluency criteria awards point for structure, so these prompts may help you to secure more marks.
  • Give more to get less. In part 3, the examiner is looking for depth in the answers you provide. If you answer the examiner’s questions with short responses, the examiner will need to ask you more questions, and you are likely going to be awarded a lower grade. Instead, try to give more detailed, in-depth responses. You can also use examples to ‘pad out’ your answers.
  • Take some thinking time. Once you have been asked a question, instead of jumping into the answer straight away, take a breath and think about what you want to say to answer the question, then start responding. Taking a short time to think will help you to be more focused in your response.
  • If you’re not sure, ask. In part 1, the examiner can repeat the question to you if you misheard or forgot what was asked. In part 3, the examiner can explain the question to you if you are unsure of what they mean. This won’t affect your score, so it is much better to ask the examiner to repeat or explain, instead of risking answering the wrong question or panicking with your response.
  • Don’t think you have to have all the answers. In part 3, you may be asked a question for which you have no understanding or response to give. In that case, make a detailed answer out of it – explain why you don’t have any thoughts/opinions about that topic. For instance, if you were asked a question linked to ‘green energy’ but didn’t know anything about it, you could explain “I haven’t had any experience of green energy, so I am not sure how to answer that question. In my country, we mostly use non-renewable energy sources such as coal.” You’ve still answered the question really well!
  • Make sure the examiner understands you. It is fine to have an accent, as long as that accent is not so strong that the examiner cannot understand you. As you prepare for the speaking test, be sure to work on your clear pronunciation of words.
  • It’s not really a conversation. As much as part 3 is a discussion, it is actually very one-sided. The examiner only wants to hear your thoughts and knowledge about the subject, so there is no need to ask the examiner what he/she thinks or feels.
  • If you make a mistake, carry on. As mentioned above, fluency is essential in the speaking test. If you keep stopping to correct yourself, this will have a significant impact on your fluency so try to keep going if you can.
  • Relax! This test often causes more anxiety as it is a face-to-face test. Try to think of it like any other test and remain calm. Wear comfortable clothes to help you relax and try to act as naturally as possible.

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