After your 2 minute monologue in Part 2 of the Speaking test, the examiner will ask you around 4-5 more abstract questions about the same general topic you talked about in Part 2. For example, if Part 2 was about mobile phones, they might ask you deeper, more complex questions about mobiles like:
- How have mobile phones changed the types of relationships people make?
- Some people think that children should not be allowed to use mobiles, do you agree?
- How has mobile phone use changed in the last 10 years?
- How will mobile phones change in the future?
- If you could add any new feature to a smart phone, what would it be?
As you can see, these questions are trickier than questions like ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘What’s your favourite colour?’ in Part 1.
Below are some tips to help you get the best score you can possible get in Part 3. Most of these tips are about the psychology of Part 3 because I have found that students are not mentally prepared for this section and good students often get lower score because of this.
For more information on the linguistic side of Part 3, please check out my Part 3 guide.
1. Don’t try to finish quickly
Speaking for up to 15 minutes in a foreign language is tiring. You might not have slept the night before, you are stressed and you might have also done other tests that day. In short, you will be exhausted and your body will want you to take it home and tuck it into bed as quickly as possible.
Lots of students give very short answers because they simply want their test to be over as soon as possible. Know that the examiner will keep asking you questions (and the next ones will probably be more difficult), so it is much better to give a full answer and answer the question to the best of your ability, than to simply give a short answer and hope that it ends quickly.
2. Know that the examiner is trying to stretch you
Part 1 is really just a warm-up and Part 2 is a monologue, so Part 3 is the examiners chance to really test you and stretch your language abilities to the very limit. The main thing to remember is that they will ask you questions you won’t be able to answer as well as you hoped. They will often increase the difficulty until you can’t answer the question. They are not trying to be cruel, this is just the best way for them to test your knowledge of grammatical structures and vocabulary.
Think about a personal trainer or athletics coach forcing an athlete to perform more and more strenuous exercises to judge their true ability.
If you know this is going to happen you will not get stressed out and you will answer the questions more confidently and get higher scores.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
There will be words in some questions that you don’t understand. The rule is that you can ask the examiner to explain what one word means, but you can’t ask them to explain what a whole sentence means.
You can also ask them to repeat the question, if you didn’t quite get what they said.
Please don’t abuse this privilege and try to use it for every question.
4. Always give an answer
There will be at least one question that you have no idea how to answer. Don’t worry, this is normal- see point number one. The most important thing to do is to at least make an attempt. You have been speaking for 15 minutes and one question is not going to lower your mark for the whole test. However, the worst thing you can do is to simply not attempt an answer. If you have this mindset, then you won’t push yourself to the limit of your abilities.
It is also fine to admit that you have no idea. Simply say “I’m really not sure about this question, but if I had to answer, I would say…..”. The examiner will be much happier that you attempted an answer, rather that just saying “I don’t know” or blankly look at them (which happens more than you would think).
You can also give yourself time to think about the question by saying ”That a difficult question, just give me a second to think about that.” or ”I’ve never thought about that, to be honest, give me a moment.” However, don’t do this for every question, only the ones you need to actually think about.
5. Think about what structure the examiner is testing.
The examiner needs to know that you are capable of using a wide range of structures. Don’t worry about inserting as many structures as possible into your answers because they will ask you specific questions to test specific grammar structures. Let’s look at the examples above:
- How have mobile phones changed the types of relationships people make? – opinion/past/present
- Some people think that children should not be allowed to use mobiles, do you agree?- evaluating someone’s opinion
- How has mobile phone use changed in the last 10 years.- past to present (perfect tenses)
- How will mobile phones change in the future?- future/prediction
- If you could add any new feature to a smart phone, what would it be?- hypothetical
When you know what the examiner is trying to test, you can give them what they want. See our Part 3 Common Questions for more information on the common structures that are tested.
When you know all of the above you will be more mentally prepared than the vast majority of IELTS candidates and this will lead to a more confident performance and higher score.
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