IELTS Speaking Guide
This article will tell you everything you need to know about the IELTS speaking exam in 2019, including step-by-step strategies, video lessons and practice resources. Below you’ll find:
- What is the IELTS Speaking test?
- What is the examiner looking for?
- IELTS Speaking Part 1
- IELTS Speaking Part 2
- IELTS Speaking Part 3
- Marking Criteria
- IELTS Speaking Lessons
- IELTS Speaking Topics
- IELTS Speaking Tips
- IELTS Speaking Practice
- How to Assess Your Own Speaking Skills
- Next Steps
What is the IELTS Speaking test?
The speaking test is broken down into three parts:
- Part 1 is about YOU. They will ask you familiar, everyday questions about your life. This will last around 4-5 minutes.
- Part 2 is sometimes called the ‘long turn’. You will be given a cue card and you will have 1 minute to prepare your answer. You will then be asked to speak for up to 2 minutes.
- Part 3 is more abstract. This is your opportunity to really develop your answers and discuss the issues brought up by the examiner. This will last 4-5 minutes.
What is the examiner looking for?
It is extremely important that you understand what the IELTS examiner is looking for in the speaking test. However, it is equally as important to know what the examiner does NOT want you to do.
This video should give you a strong idea of what the examiner needs to see to award a Band 7 or above in the speaking test:
The examiner does NOT want to see:
- How many answers you have memorised.
- How many ‘big’/’fancy’/’high-level’ words you know.
- How many different grammar structures and tenses you know.
- How ‘British’ or ‘American’ your accent is.
The examiner DOES want to see:
- How well you can communicate through spoken English.
There is a little more to it than that, as you will see below. However, you should always remember that the examiners in the IELTS speaking exam are simply testing if you can open your mouth and communicate in English.
Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Keep it simple!
IELTS Speaking Part 1
In Part 1 you will be asked questions on familiar topics such as your hometown and your family. See the links below for tips, sample questions and answers for Part 1.
This video will show you exactly what is required to score a Band 8 in IELTS Speaking.
Simple yet effective ways to extend your answers in Part 1 of the Speaking test.
10 quick tips on what you should and shouldn’t do in Part 1.
IELTS Speaking Part 2
This part of the test allows you to speak for longer on a given topic.
You will be given a card with a particular topic on it, and this will include key points that you should talk about.
You will also be given one minute to plan and will be expected to talk for 1-2 minutes.
Below you’ll find advice that I give to all of my speaking classes and a strong sample answer for Part 2.
Learn exactly how you can score a Band 8 in IELTS Speaking Part 2.
Advice for getting the score you need in IELTS Speaking Part 2.
Click below for a strategy you can use each and every time.
IELTS Speaking Part 3
In Part 3 test the examiner will ask further questions which are linked to the topic talked about in Part 2.
This section of the test is designed to give you the opportunity to talk about things in a more abstract way.
This video will show you exactly how to score a Band 8 in the final part of IELTS Speaking.
Our detailed guide for getting your required score in IELTS Speaking Part 3.
This post contains the most common questions that examiners ask in Part 3.
This article will show you some tips about the psychology of Part 3 and how to mentally prepare for that part of the test.
How you can avoid the most common mistakes that students make in IELTS Speaking.
There are four parts to the IELTS marks scheme:
- Fluency and Coherence
- Lexical Resource
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy
Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what these are; we will look at each of them in detail in this article.
IELTS Speaking Topics
In Part 1 of the test, it is very likely that you’ll be asked about familiar topics, such as:
- Your job or studies;
- Your hometown;
- Your family;
- Your home;
- Your likes and dislikes.
That does not mean that you should prepare memorised answers for these topics. The examiner will know exactly what you’re doing and could lower your score.
In Parts 2 and 3, it is impossible to predict which topics will come up. I carried out extensive research on this and you can see the results here.
IELTS Speaking Tips
Find out how you can improve your IELTS speaking preparation by following the advice given by students who scored a Band 7+ in their IELTS speaking test.
This article will explain the reasons why your accent won’t affect your IELTS speaking score (and what you should focus your time on instead).
It’s common for people to worry about getting an unfamiliar topic on the IELTS speaking exam. However, this article will outline the reasons why this shouldn’t be your priority and what to do if you do receive a topic you know little about.
Is it OK to ask the examiner questions? There are only two that you can ask him or her. The above article shows you how.
I don’t believe in quick fixes and tips are just that. These tips are useful if you just need a quick guide but do realise that you need more than just tips.
The above article will help you take a strategic approach to your preparation for your speaking test.
Many students think that they should speak in a very formal way. You don’t want to speak very informally, but you don’t want to sound like a robot either.
I believe that pronunciation is the most important skill to master in the IELTS speaking test.
Quite simply, without clear pronunciation, it doesn’t matter how good your fluency, grammar or vocabulary are. If the examiner can’t understand what you’re actually saying, you will struggle in all areas.
The articles below will help you work on your pronunciation skills.
- IELTS Pronunciation Guide
- 10 English Words Even Native Speakers Find Difficult to Pronounce
- Practice Pronunciation at Home for Free
- Is Accent Important?
Vocabulary is probably the most misunderstood area of the whole test. Most students think that learning lists of ‘high-level’ words or idioms will get them the score they need. In fact, it’s probably the best way to LOWER your score.
You should use vocabulary as a tool to help you communicate clearly, NOT to show off.
Fluency is a really tricky area because it is so connected to grammar, vocabulary, and confidence. Luckily, I believe that it is the area that can be ‘fixed’ quite easily.
You can learn how to improve your IELTS Speaking grammar skills in the following video:
IELTS Speaking Practice
There are many ways that you can practice your speaking. The most important things to remember are:
- It is better to practice on your own than not practice at all. Don’t let the lack of a partner stop you practising.
- There are thousands of ways to practice with a partner online. You’ll find some in the articles below.
- Focus on the 4 marking criteria. Everything else is irrelevant.
- Be a reflective learner. Record your practice sessions and honestly appraise your performance.
- Practising for the sake of it will not help. You need to identify your weaknesses and take action on improving those shortcomings.
This article will show you how to practice on your own, find other people to practice with and find an IELTS expert to help you with your speaking.
There are lots of real practice questions out there. It’s important that you use these before your test to give you an idea of what to expect on test day. This article will show you how to use these effectively.
The following links are from the British Council and will give you real questions to practice at home:
Assessing Your Own Speaking Skills
Step 1– Get some real IELTS questions. You’ll find information on where to find those above.
Step 2– You can either get someone else to play the role of the examiner or you can read the questions yourself.
Step 3– Record your whole test using a recording device, such as your phone.
Step 4– Listen to your performance and critically evaluate your answers. You should focus on pronunciation, fluency, coherence, grammar, and vocabulary.
Step 5– Take action on any weak areas.
Step 6– Repeat and compare to analyse progress.
See the interactive tool below for the most commonly asked questions we receive about IELTS speaking:
How can I improve my speaking?
Head over to our Speaking page where you'll find all of the free materials you’ll need to improve your speaking skills and get a higher score.
Click the link below:
How can I practice my speaking?
Most people think that it's difficult to practice speaking at home, but there are lots of options - all you have to do is look.
First of all, you can practice past exam questions at home by yourself and record your answers. Listening back to these will really help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Click this link to watch my video lesson on practising speaking from home.
Should I use lots of idioms and phrasal verbs to get a high score?
Idioms and phrasal verbs will help boost your score for vocabulary, which is 25% of your total mark, but only if you use them correctly.
If you use them incorrectly, it will lower your score.
Below is a full guide on this:
Do I need a British or American accent?
Absolutely not! You’ll probably sound a bit silly. There are no extra marks for having a ‘British’ accent. The key is to sound clear and for the examiner to be able to understand what you’re saying.
How do I improve my pronunciation?
Click the link below for more help with pronunciation:
How can I improve my fluency?
Fluency is your ability to speak smoothly (not quickly) without noticeable effort or loss of coherence. You’ll find a guide to improving your fluency here:
Can I send you a recording of my speaking?
No, we don’t have the capacity to provide feedback on everyone’s speaking recordings. If you’d like a one-to-one session with an IELTS expert you can check out our mock speaking sessions:
If you need serious help improving your speaking skills, you can join the waiting list for our VIP Course:
Can I use contractions?
Yes, it is good to use contractions when you speak as this is how most native English speakers talk.
We cover absolutely everything you need to know about this test on our VIP Course. It also includes one-on-one mock tests and feedback from IELTS experts. You can check out the VIP Course here.
If you need some personalised advice on your IELTS preparation, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org