Tips for the IELTS speaking test
On this page are tips and hints for speaking in the IELTS test. If you have a question or a tip that you think would benefit others, let us know using the message form at the bottom of the page.
*Note that the speaking test is the same for the General Training and Academic Module test
Start the assessment straight away
When the examiner collects you from the waiting room and takes you to the test room, the test hasn’t officially started. However, it is human nature for the examiner to begin the assessment from the time you meet, so a brief ‘Hello’ or ‘Are you having a busy day?’ as you are walking to the test room will give a good first impression.
If you realise you have made a mistake with something you have said, don’t ignore it – stop, correct yourself and move on. For example: ‘My friend have visited…sorry, I mean my friend has visited…this place a number of times, and he….’. You don’t lose points for errors that you self correct.
Changing levels of formality
One of the areas that the examiner will be assessing you on is your ability to change the level of formal language you use from Part One to Part Three. To help, think of the sections of the test in this way and use vocabulary and structures appropriate to the situation:
- Part One: a conversation between two old friends – informal, relaxed, friendly
- Part Two: a presentation to work colleagues you know – semi formal, relaxed but also professional
- Part Three: a job interview – present yourself very formally, avoiding informal structures and use a wide range of academic grammar.
Finding opportunities to speak English
One of the hardest sections of IELTS to practice is the speaking, often because you may have limited or no opportunities to speak. The other problem is that you may work or live in an English speaking environment but end up having the same conversations that don’t really help for the more formal sections of the test.
- Speak to yourself: One of the best methods to practice speaking is – surprise surprise! – to speak aloud. It doesn’t matter if there is anyone listening, and ideally you can record yourself and play it back, listening to the pronunciation and intonation and improving where you can.
- Call freephone numbers: In many countries, there are companies that have freephone numbers. Give them a call and ask questions about their product. The advantage of this method is that you cannot really predict what you may be asked, so it helps you to think on your feet. Of course, if it all starts going wrong you can always hang up the phone!
- Join online groups: There are lots of online groups where people arrange to speak together (generally via Skype). It’s a good idea to join in, but make sure you have set rules. Here are some pointers if you are arranging a Skype conversation with someone to practice your English:
- have fixed times to start and finish – 10 minutes is a good length, at least at first.
- have a set topic to talk about before you start the conversation (use an IELTS style topic – Task II writing topics make for good discussion!)
- share the speaking time – don’t dominate the speaking and don’t let anyone else do so either. Agree on a set number of seconds or minutes that someone will speak for before you start the conversation.
- Don’t share any overly personal details – it’s good to meet people online especially if there is a good purpose, but there’s no reason why someone you have just spoken to would need a phone number or email address.