IELTS Speaking

Part 1 Guide

You will answer some short questions about yourself and your experiences

Part 2 Guide

You will have 1 minute to take notes on a topic before speaking.

Part 3 Guide

You will answer some academic questions about general topics.

I. What is IELTS speaking?

In IELTS speaking you will have an in-person interview with an examiner.  The interview will last 11 - 14 minutes and will have three parts. IELTS speaking is exactly the same for general and academic IELTS.

The examiner will ask the questions and control the length of the test.  You do not need to know about any specific topics to score well on IELTS speaking.  You will only be graded on your ability to communicate clearly in English.

II. How are you graded?

You will be graded on:

  • Fluency and cohesion (25%)
    • Fluency and cohesion is about giving an answer that makes sense.  To get a high score, you should stay on topic.  That means only answer the question and don't talk about anything unrelated.  To improve your fluency, think about these questions:
    • Do you speak smoothly, without long pauses?  Does what you say make sense? Do you answer the question that the examiner asks?
  • Pronunciation (25%)
    • Pronunciation is NOT about your accent.  It doesn't matter if you have an American, British, Australian, Indian, or Chinese accent.  All the examiner cares about is being able to easily understand your English.  This is the key question for pronunciation:
    • Can the examiner understand your English?
  • Vocabulary (25%)
    • To get a high score on vocabulary, you need to use varied and advanced vocabulary.  That means you shouldn't repeat the same word many times.  For example, say "That meal was really tasty.  I haven't had such a delicious meal in a long time." Here, you show off your vocabulary by using two words that mean the same thing: tasty = delicious.  Think about these question to get a high score:
    • Do you make correct word choices and show a wide range of vocabulary? 
  • Grammar (25%)
    • Grammar is something that is never perfect even for native English speakers. You don't need to talk like you are reading from a book.  The key to a high score in grammar is to get the basics right.  Ask yourself these questions to improve your score:
    • Do you use correct subject-verb agreement?  Are your sentences different lengths?

III. IELTS speaking parts

There are three parts to IELTS speaking.  Each one is a little bit different.

Part 1: The examiner will ask you some questions.  The questions are about yourself and your experiences.

Part 2: The examiner will give you a card with a topic and 3-4 questions.  You will have 1 minute to think about the questions and take notes.  Then, you talk for 1-2 minutes about the topic and answer the questions

Part 3:  In speaking part 3, the examiner will ask you questions just like part 1.  However, the questions will NOT be about yourself and your experiences.  Instead, the questions will be about your opinions/ideas about world issues and problems.

In general, your answers need to be longer than in part 1.

Look at this chart to quickly see the different parts in IELTS speaking.

Speaking Overview (1)

IV. How can you improve your score quickly?

To improve your score efficiently, it is important to understand that the purpose of IELTS speaking is to show that you can speak and understand English.  For this reason, IELTS speaking is NOT:

  • a test of how many academic words you have memorized
  • a test of how 'native' your accent is
  • a test of your knowledge about certain topics

Instead, IELTS speaking is simply a test of your ability to clearly communicate in English when you speak.  For this reason, it is important to show the examiner that you can communicate clearly.  You should:

  • always give a complete answer.  A complete answer means that you should give a direct answer and an explanation for each question.  Never give a 1 or 2 word answer.
  • speak slowly and clearly so the examiner can understand you.  Use vocabulary that you are familiar with and have practiced using in conversation.
  • If you don't know or don't have an answer to a question, explain to the examiner why you don't have a direct answer.  As long as you show that you understand the question and that you can give a clear answer in English, you will get a good score.

Overall, the best way to improve your confidence and ability to speak in English is to practice.  One of the best ways to do this is to take a class with an IELTS instructor who does a lot of conversation practice in class.  If you can't find a good IELTS class, find someone who is also working to improve their English and schedule a time to practice together.

If nothing else, record yourself speaking on your phone and watch it.  When you are finished watching, make a list of things to improve and record it again.  Above all, keep practicing.