What is IELTS Speaking Part 1?
Well, it’s the first part of the IELTS speaking exam. It’s a chance for you to warm up a bit and get into the flow of the Speaking Exam, as well as make a good first impression.
How long will it last?
What will I do?
You’ll answer questions about yourself, your background, your plans, your likes and dislikes, and your daily life in general. All Part 1 topics will be quite familiar to you.
What will I be tested on?
Your ability to communicate clearly, appropriately, and accurately. Your range and accuracy of both grammar and vocabulary will be assessed, as well as your pronunciation and ability to be understood without effort by the examiner while avoiding unnaturally long pauses, hesitations, or repetition.
How many questions/topics will be covered?
Ideally, you’ll be asked sets of questions covering at least 3 topics. Usually, this will mean somewhere in the area of up to 12 questions.
How should I approach Speaking Part 1?
You should approach it as an informal conversation. Try to imagine yourself in a social setting with a stranger; if they asked you a question about yourself, how would you naturally respond? Probably very informally. You’d politely give a direct answer along with a bit more relevant information. This is the first thing to understand about Speaking Part 1: it’s NOT a formal conversation, and it’s fine for you to relax and converse naturally as you would with a friend in a cafe, or with a stranger in a social setting.
How should I respond to questions?
As mentioned above, the first thing to remember is to respond informally and naturally. Having said that, there are a few things you can do in the process of responding that will help you stay on track:
- Always give a direct answer to the question, but do NOT feel a need to repeat every word from a question, as this is rather unnatural and inappropriate.
- After your direct answer, be sure to give a bit more relevant information. If, for example, you’re asked about where you’re currently living, don’t just say the name or the country that you’re living in. Add a bit more; tell the examiner how long you’ve been living there, whom you’re living with, what you like or dislike about it. Say what comes naturally to you.
- Pay attention to the grammar and verb tenses used in questions, and remember that you can quite often borrow the grammar and tenses for use in your answers. If you’re asked a question about the past, respond in the appropriate tense. If you’re asked a question using conditional grammar, respond appropriately with conditional grammar.
- Try to show a range of vocabulary by paraphrasing key words from questions, and remember these paraphrases can be as simple as changing “like” or “dislike” from a question to “love,” “am fond of,” or “don’t enjoy.” Examiners will notice even simple paraphrasing, particularly if it’s natural, appropriate, and accurate.
How long should my responses be?
There’s no perfect rule here, but a good general rule to follow is between 2-4 sentences. This will ensure that your responses are never too short or too terribly long.
Will the examiner ever interrupt me?
Possibly, but this shouldn’t concern you, as one of the examiner’s responsibilities is to manage time during the test. The examiner needs to cover a certain number of topics and questions with you, so if you’re speaking far too long in a response, they may have no choice but to interrupt you.
Will it hurt my score if the examiner interrupts me?
Not unless you allow it to. Many students get unnecessarily bothered by being interrupted, and rather than focusing on answering the next question, worry instead about why they were interrupted. If you’ve been interrupted during a response, don’t take it personally, and don’t be concerned. Just carry on with your exam as if nothing happened, and try not to ramble on in future responses.
Is there anything I should AVOID doing in Part 1?
Absolutely. Here are a few things you should not do in Speaking Part 1:
- Do NOT take unnecessary risks with vocabulary or grammar in general. Focus entirely on speaking naturally and accurately. When students try to force unnatural or overly formal/academic language, or vocabulary or grammar that they’re not 100% confident in using, it usually results in them making unnecessary errors. Remember, you’re trying to speak clearly, naturally, and accurately.
- Do NOT force idioms into your speech. A very commonly believed myth among IELTS students is that it’s necessary to use a lot of idioms to get higher Lexical Resource (vocabulary) scores. This is NOT true at all; the band descriptors mention “idiomatic language,” but this does not mean idioms. Native speakers of English don’t actually use idioms that often. Rather, they use a lot of idiomatic language in the form of phrasal verbs, such as “be into” and “keep on VERB-ing.”
- Don’t try to put on a show. You’re trying to approach the exam naturally and appropriately. Be yourself!
Should I try to memorize responses?
Absolutely not. For one, it’s impossible to memorize responses to every single question you may potentially be asked, as there are simply far too many of them. Secondly, memorized responses sound unnatural and rehearsed, and are easily spotted by examiners. Be yourself, and communicate naturally and spontaneously.
What are the most common topics in Part 1?
Well, in truth, there are so many that it’s not really useful to mention them all. What you really need to remember is that in Part 1, you’re going to be asked about familiar topics like these:
- Your current residence
- Your job/work
- Free time
- Neighbors/ your neighborhood
- Daily routines and activities
Could you share a set of sample questions from a topic?
Sure. Here’s a set of common Part 1 questions about the topic of your work or job:
- What is your job?
- Where do you work?
- Why did you choose that job?
- Is it a popular job in your country?
- Do you like your job?
How can I practice speaking in Part 1?
Here are the best ways to practice:
- If practicing alone, record yourself responding to various Part 1 questions. When done recording, listen to your recordings, and try to analyze whether you were easy or difficult to understand, whether you responded directly and appropriately to different questions, and whether or not you used vocabulary and grammar accurately. Be sure to take notes on the things you need to improve, and then work to improve upon them.
- If practicing with someone else, say a friend or family member, have them ask you sets of Part 1 questions and ask them to help you identify weaknesses that you need to improve upon. Then, work to improve upon them.
- Engage your spoken English daily. Try to speak as often as you can, whether at home, at work, or with friends and even strangers. The more you practice, the better.