How to Answer IELTS Speaking

How to Answer IELTS Speaking


IELTS Speaking Test Overview

The speaking test of IELTS is generally held a day or two before or after the actual written exam. It takes the form of a one-on-one interview. It has three parts and lasts for 11-14 minutes. The first part is the introduction and the personal interview. It is followed by the individual long answer question or the cue card question. The third part is a two-way discussion section.

How is the IELTS Speaking test evaluated?

The speaking section of the IELTS is conducted by an examiner and is recorded to be assessed. The test is designed to test your ability to perform the following functions in English:

  • provide personal and non-personal information
  • express & justify opinions
  • make suggestions
  • speculate
  • express a preference
  • make comparisons & discuss contrasts
  • summarize
  • relate personal experiences
  • analyze
  • repair conversation & paraphrase

The following parameters help in assessing the IELTS Speaking test.

  • Fluency & Coherence

You must be able to talk at a natural speed without unnatural pauses and hesitations continuously. You should also be able to link ideas and language together clearly.

  • Lexical Resource

You must have adequate vocabulary to express yourself on topics that are both familiar and unfamiliar. You must be capable to deal with alien and challenging vocabulary.

  • Grammatical Range & Accuracy

You must be able to use a variety of grammatical structures appropriately.

You should avoid committing grammatical errors. The listener must be able to understand you despite grammatical mistakes.

  • Pronunciation

You must be able to use features of English pronunciation like stress and intonation naturally. Your speech should be easy to comprehend.

Your answers in the IELTS speaking test will be scored between bands of 1 and 9 for each of the above parameters. These scores are then converted into one final band score between 1 and 9.


  1. Introduction and Personal Interview


The Introduction and the Personal Interview test is conducted for 4-5 minutes. In this part, the examiner will first introduce themselves and confirm your identity. You will then be asked a number of general questions about yourself to try and make you feel relaxed. The enquiries might be related to topics regarding your home or studies. These question will then be followed by one or two more sets of questions on familiar topics such as your interests and hobbies, your country, your family, food, clothes, holidays etc. The questions are generally pre-determined. Your expression, opinion or justification on any topic is not necessary in this part of the speaking test.


Some very common questions that can be asked are

  • Where are you from?
  • Tell me about your family.
  • Tell me about your job/studies.
  • What kind of transport do you use most?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What programs do you watch on television?
  • Do you have a pet?
  • What kind of food do you like?
  • Do you like shopping?
  • What’s your favorite festival? Why? How do people celebrate this festival?

How to answer the questions in the introduction part of the speaking test:

You must first listen to the questions carefully. You are required to give full answers to the questions if possible. One or two word answers are not accepted.

Do not be shy. Be confident to show the examiner that you are well versed in the English language. Make sure your answer is related to the question that is asked.

How to prepare for the introduction test:

Keep an account of the possible topics that could be asked in this part of the test.Practice speaking with a friend to assess your answers. You may also record your answers for the questions and listen to see how you can improve your responses. Prepare a list of words necessary to talk about these topics. Practice the pronunciation of any new vocabulary. Practice using linkers like ‘even though’ and ‘unless’ etc.

  1. The individual long answer question or the cue card question


In this section, you will be asked to speak for 1-2 minutes by the examiner on a given topic which will be presented to you in a cue card.  The card will give you an outline of what you need to talk about. 1 minute is given to prepare and make notes before you start speaking. You will then be invited to speak. These 2 minutes is allotted exclusively to the candidate to speak and hence the examiner will not talk in between the speech. You might then be asked one or two short follow-up questions. The topics are quite general in nature. You will be asked to describe things such as cities that you have lived in or tourist places that you have been to. You will also be asked to relate what you are talking about, to yourself – e.g. ‘say why you choose to live in that city’ or ‘which are the places you have visited in that town’.


This section gives you the opportunity to show that you can speak at length without hesitation. It is also important to show that you can organize your ideas coherently and speak with unity in your ideas.


How to answer the cue card questions


You must first read the topic card carefully. Here use the preparation time wisely to make sure that you have understood what you need to talk about. Then write down a few points and key words. Make sure your points cover all parts of the topic card along with the description and explanation. Organize your ideas to talk by following the exact order on the card. You may refer to your notes as you speak to develop each point. You should use examples from your own life. It’s much easier to talk more fluently about your own experiences instead of referring to an alien issue. Expand your sentences using linking words. Don’t give a long pause while talking. Talk about anything related to the question rather than nothing at all. The examiner will stop you when time is up. Do not worry if the examiner stops you before you have finished. You will not be penalized for not concluding your talk.


How to prepare for the cue card questions


Time your answers while preparing for one minute and talking about them for one to two minutes. Then record your answer. Play the recording to check your mistakes. Check if your answer is easy to understand and how you must improve your answers.


  • Two-way discussion


This section is conducted for 4-5 minutes. You will be invited by the examiner to participate in a discussion of more abstract issues connected to the topic in Part 2. For example,you could be asked to talk about cities that people generally choose to live in, most popular cities in the world or how tourism represents a country or how it generates income for the country. The examiner may start the discussion in several ways e.g. ‘Tell me what you think about …’; ‘What in your opinion is …’ or ‘How would you compare…’ etc. You may be asked to relate the topic to your own country/culture. You will be expected to be able to express your opinions and give reasons. You must use this opportunity to exhibit your fluency and the range of your vocabulary and grammar. The level of difficulty of the questions will increase in this part of the speaking test.


How to answer questions in the two- way discussion section


Don’t be afraid to start talking since there is no wrong answer for a question. Don’t give one-word answers. Show your ability to talk about a wide range of ideas and concerns. Try to repair any breakdowns in communication by using alternate words to express your opinion.


How to prepare for the two-way discussion section


Think about abstract issues related to the topics you have for Part I&II and prepare yourself to answer them. Read English language newspapers & magazines to keep yourself updated on current issues. Listen to or watch current affairs programs. Prepare a list of vocabularyyou would require to talk about your opinionsand opposing views. Practice by disc

April 16, 2018

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