Category Archives: IELTS Speaking (lessons)

Tips for the IELTS speaking test

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

Tips for the IELTS speaking testWhen 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.

Self correction

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.

Talking about places in the IELTS speaking test

Talking about places in the IELTS speaking test

talking-about-placesA topic that has recently been used a few times in Part 2 of the speaking test asks you to describe a place, so this short exercise will give you some practice in extending a description of a place using adjectives.

Complete the text using words from the list:

tropical | peaceful | amazing | breathtaking | humid | serene | rugged | lively | packed | mountainous | friendly | clear | spectacular | hilly | green | sun-drenched

“Well, one place I love in New Zealand is Tongariro National Park. You can do the Tongariro circuit – you walk right around the mountains, staying in huts. It takes about three days. The views are absolutely (a)___________ – on a (b)___________day you can see all the way to Mount Taranaki in the west. It can be extremely hot, yet as with any (c)___________ environment, the temperature can drop incredibly quickly, so you have to be prepared. At weekends or holidays, it can get a little crowded, and some nights the huts are (d)___________, but everyone is so (e)___________. I must have said ‘Hello’ a hundred times a day when I was there! ”

Scroll down to see the answers:

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Well, one place I love in New Zealand is Tongariro National Park. You can do the Tongariro circuit – you walk right around the mountains, staying in huts. It takes about three days. The views are absolutely (a) breathtaking – on a (b) clear day you can see all the way to Mount Taranaki in the west. It can be extremely hot, yet as with any (c) tropical environment, the temperature can drop incredibly quickly, so you have to be prepared. At weekends or holidays, it can get a little crowded, and some nights the huts are (d) packed, but everyone is so (e) friendly. I must have said ‘Hello’ a hundred times a day when I was there!

Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 2

Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 2

Before starting this lesson, make sure you have completed Lesson 1 here.

When talking about people, you will almost certainly need adjectives describing personality. Are the following adjectives positive, neutral or negative?

  • indecisive
  • open-minded
  • impatient
  • careful
  • trustworthy
  • selfish
  • optimistic
  • sociable
  • attentive
  • cheerful
  • ambitious
  • spontaneous
  • sensitive
  • hardworking
  • reserved
  • aggressive
  • impolite
  • moody
  • lazy
  • generous
  • caring

Be careful though! Some words can be positive, negative or neutral depending on context.

Now practice – use the words above to complete the sentences below:

He’s so (1)___________ – it can take him ages to make up his mind, but he loves parties and meeting people. He’s much more (2)___________ than me.

Show answers
(1) indecisive (2) sociable

He has good qualities, but sometimes he can be a little boring. He always has to consider things carefully before doing them. I’m a lot more (3)___________ – I just go ahead and do things and think about the consequences later.

Show answer
(3) spontaneous

I think we first became friends because he’s so (4)___________. You know, one of those people that always smiles no matter what. I can’t stand (5)___________ people – you never know what they are going to be like from one day to the next.

Show answers
(4) optimistic (5) moody

If I was talking about someone who had a great impact on me, it would probably be my father. He doesn’t like to be the centre of attention – it’s not that he’s shy, just a little (6)___________, but he’s so (7)_________. I can’t remember the last time he took a long holiday.

Show answers
(6) reserved (7) hardworking

I liked the job, but I didn’t like my boss. He would never listen to any new ideas or consider new ways of doing things, and I think someone in his position should have been a lot more (8)___________.

Show answer
(8) open-minded

Since moving to another country, my character has changed quite a lot. I am an only child, so I suppose I was a little bit (9)___________, but since living in a flat with others, I’ve learned to share and think a little more about other people. That’s something I’ve learned from one of my flatmates – she’s a really (10)___________ person who always asks if I’ve had a good day and has time to talk if I’m feeling down.

Show answers
(9) selfish (10) caring

I recently met an old friend of mine, someone I had known at school, and we decided to go for lunch. Well, he spent the whole time telling me about his business plans, and how he was going to become more successful than anyone else. I suppose he’s just (11)___________ but he seemed really (12)___________, talking about how he was going to dominate the market and there was no room for anyone with a conscience. I don’t think I’ll meet up with him again.

(11) ambitious (12) aggressive

Here’s a complete answer from a Part Two topic card about someone the speaker has known for a long time:

Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 2“Well, I’d like to talk about someone I’ve known for a long time. He actually used to be my next-door neighbour, but I didn’t really get to know him until we went to school together.

We used to study in the same English class when I was at high school, so I guess I’ve know him for about…it must be seven years now. He was always a much better student than me – he let me copy his homework quite a few times, but that’s not really how we became friends.

To be honest, it’s hard to say exactly why we are friends – we don’t share the same interests, apart from basketball. He’s happy to spend his evenings in front of a computer playing games while I’d rather watch a movie. Sometimes I think I’m a television addict! Anyway, despite our differences, he’s a very genuine person. I mean, he’s honest and direct, and that means we can have some very interesting conversations on all types of subjects.

As I mentioned, he was always a better student than me and he seems to know a lot about the world, so we can spend hours just chatting. I think that’s important in a friend, but to add another reason, I would have to say that he is very generous.

I don’t necessarily mean with money, I mean that he’s a very giving person who goes out of his way to make people feel comfortable. I think that’s mainly why I feel he is important to me.

Either way, I imagine we’ll be friends for a long time.”

 

Now take a look at lesson 3 for describing people in the IELTS test

If you don’t understand the examiner in the speaking test

If you don’t understand the examiner in the speaking test

If you don't understand the examiner in the speaking testWhat do you do if you don’t understand what the examiner has just said in the IELTS speaking test? Saying ‘Errr…what?’ is a sure shortcut to getting a low mark, so here are some alternatives:

The examiner says:

Can you suggest ways we could be more ******* of the environment?

The problem:

You don’t know what ******* means.

The solution:

Sorry, I’m not too sure what you mean by (******* )

Why?

It is common in any language when speaking on any topic to occasionally need clarification of something somone has said. You will NOT lose points for this, and could actually be awarded positive points for responding calmly and accurately.

The examiner says:

Do you think there are any ways the older generation can educate people about environmental issues?

The problem:

You’ve no idea what to say about this topic.

The solution:

Well, that’s not something I’ve ever really thought about, but I suppose…

Why?

It gives you time to think about a response, even if what you say is not a direct answer to the question. You could refer to education or the environment in general, or simply talk about what older people can offer in the way of education generally.

The examiner says:

Do you think environmental protection groups should be ******* by the government

The problem:

You think ******* means ‘supported’ but you’re not 100% sure.

The solution:

If by ********* you mean supported, then…

Why?

If you tell the examiner what you think the word means before starting to reply, even if you are wrong about the word the examiner will still be able to follow the logic of what you are talking about.

The examiner says:

Tell me about your family.

The problem:

You’ve just made a mistake. You said ‘my family has four people’.

The solution:

Sorry, I mean there are four people in my family.

Why?

Being able to self-correct is considered as a positive aspect of your speaking, so don’t ignore mistakes you’ve made – go back, fix them, then move on.

The examiner says:

Whatdyouthinkabout **************?

The problem:

That was so fast you didn’t understand any of it!

The solution:

I’m sorry, could you say that again?

Why?

The speaking test is only assessing your speaking, not your listening – you will not lose marks for asking the examiner to speak more clearly or to repeat something you didn’t follow.

Expanding your answers in the IELTS speaking test

Expanding your answers in the IELTS speaking test

Expanding your answers in the IELTS speaking testOne of the common errors in the speaking test is giving answers that are too short. For example:

‘Do you enjoy travelling?’

‘Yes, I do’.

It is essential that you give a full, extended answer when you reply. One way you can do this is to consider what follow-up question you could be asked, and answering it. For example:

‘Do you enjoy travelling?’

‘Yes, I do… (why?)…because I love to see new places and experience different cultures…(where have you been?)…I have visited a number of different countries in my life, and I have enjoyed at least some part of everywhere I have been…(what’s your favourite place?)…My favourite place would have to be New Zealand though – it’s such a beautiful country, and even though it is quite small there are some significant differences in the geography and weather depending on where you go.

Ideally, you should be aiming to speak for a minimum of 30 seconds on every question in Part One, and double that for Part Three.

Now check out this post – a formula that will help you speak longer on any topic!

Better pronunciation for IELTS speaking

Better pronunciation for IELTS speaking

Connected speech

When you first hear an unfamiliar language, you don’t really hear individual words but rather a flow of sound.

Apronunciations you learn and become more familiar with the language, you begin to hear individual words, partly because your teacher and your learning materials are often slower than natural speech.

The problem is when you get better at speaking, you need to learn how to connect the words the way you hear native speakers doing so.

This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to ‘neutralise’ an accent as it can help you build the same speech patterns as native speakers.

Here are some tips to help you!

Rule #1 for better pronunciation for IELTS speaking

If a word ends on a consonant and the next word begins on a vowel, the consonant moves on to the vowel of the 2nd word.

Example:

word ends sounds like wor dends
green apples gree nappples

Listen to this sentence in different forms:

“If a word ends on a consonant and the next word begins on a vowel, the consonant moves on to the vowel of the 2nd word.”

INCORRECT:

CORRECT:

Now listen to sections of the sentence flowing into one another, as they should in good pronunciation:

If a word > I fa word

Ends on a consonant > End-so-na consonant

Begins on a vowel > Begin-so-na vowel

Rule #2 for better pronunciation for IELTS speaking

If a word ends on an ‘ee’ sound and is followed by a word beginning with a vowel sound, we put both words together and add the letter ‘y’ in the middle.

three eggs sounds like threeyeggs
He asked Heeyasked

Now listen to this good and bad example:

INCORRECT: The exam was very difficult

CORRECT: TheYexam was very difficult

Rule #3 for better pronunciation for IELTS speaking

If a word ends on an ‘oo’ sound and is followed by a word beginning with a vowel sound, we put both words together and add the letter ‘w’ in the middle.

blue eyes sounds like blooweyes
Two onions Toowonions

Now listen to this good and bad example:

INCORRECT: Did you ask what his name was?

CORRECT: Did youWask what his name was?

 

Want to know more about pronunciation? Take a look at this page: Better pronunciation for IELTS speaking Part 2

IELTS speaking

About the IELTS speaking test

IELTS speaking test format

Timing and requirements

IELTS-speaking*Note that the listening test is the same for the General Training and Academic Module test

There are three parts to the IELTS speaking test, with the whole test taking between 11 and 14 minutes. The test is recorded. At the beginning of the test (before the official test has begun) the examiner will read some details into the recorder (date, name of test centre, candidates name etc). Then the real test begins. Note, however, that 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.

Part 1 of the IELTS speaking test

In Part 1 of the test, your examiner will ask you questions about yourself. Topics include your hometown, newspaper, music, shopping etc. Within part three, the examiner will ask you questions related to three random topics – for example, the first topic could be about where you work, the second could be about holidays and the third could be about relaxing. Within each of the three categories, the examiner will ask you up to four questions.

In Part 1 of the speaking test, you can speak quite informally, but remember that if you are feeling nervous it can often help to say things that aren’t true for you. For example, if you are asked ‘Do you often read newspapers?‘ but in fact you never do, then think of someone you know who does read a newspaper and answer as though you that person.

Part 2 of the IELTS speaking test

In Part 2 of the test, you will be given a topic card and will be expected to talk about it for two minutes. Note that the examiner will say ‘one to two minutes’, but higher scores are awarded if you can keep going. In an ideal part 2, the examiner will interrupt you and change the subject, which means you have reached the two minutes. Before you talk you will have one minute to prepare what you are going to say. The examiner will give you a paper and pencil to make notes during your preparation time. Remember that when you do start the two minute speech, you can refer to your notes, but don’t keep your head down and simply ‘read’.

Here’s an example speaking topic card:

Describe a childhood friend

You should say:

  • how you first met
  • how long you were friends
  • what you used to do together

and explain why you liked this person.


Part 3 of the IELTS speaking test

In Part 3 of the test, the examiner will ask you to respond on a number of different topics that will be related to the topic card you spoken about in part 2. At this stage, it is important tat your level of vocabulary is raised so you are speaking more formally.

During the test, the examiner is marking your performance based on four scales:

  1. Fluency and coherence
  2. Lexical resource
  3. Grammatical range and accuracy
  4. Pronunciation
Previous comments:

    Hi again. I have a question again, but now is about part 2 of speaking. I was looking some examples about part 2, and i found this: “Decribe a piece of art that you like… etc.”… But, i am in shock now, because i really don’t know what piece of art describe due to i don’t like art. So, my question is, if at the moment of the speaking test i don’t know the answer, may i, in this case, tell the examiner the situation and talking about other issue, like music,sports, or something like that?… Thanks again.

    From what ive read you do nt need to like art to talk about art. you could say you really dont like art-works like paiting but you do like music as art , then talk about the genre of music you like

IELTS speaking practice test

Speaking more formally in Part 3

Speaking more formally in Part 3

As you probably know, there are three parts in the IELTS speaking test. In Part One, the examiner will ask you questions about yourself. In Part Two, you will have one minute to prepare and then need to talk for two minutes based on a topic card (also called a ‘cue card’). In Part Three, the examiner will ask you extended questions related to topic in Part Two.

Speaking more formally in Part 3

It is very important to keep in mind that the examiner is looking for you to adjust the level of formality as you progress through the test. Here’s a brief summary:

Part One: informal, friendly – consider this to be like two friends chatting over lunch.

Part Two: semi formal, informational – consider this to be like you making a presentation to colleagues you work with.

Part Three: formal, academic – consider this to be like a job interview, where you are using your most formal language, sentence construction and grammar.

Here are some expressions that would fit in each of the three sections:

Part One:

Yeah, I love travelling – don’t get much time for it though, what with having to work all week and then take the kids out at the weekend.
I don’t take a lot of photos, but I do check out what my friends put on Facebook. Most of them are pretty bad though – none of us are very good at it!
Part Two (the topic card was about a friend you know well):

I’ve known him for about 5 years now, and although I didn’t imagine we’d become friends at the time, we’ve actually become quite close. I enjoy his company because we have very similar tastes in movies and music, so it can be a lot of fun going out at the weekend with him.
Part Three:

Many companies are interested in promoting their products, and with the increasing use of technology and social media, this means that the audience has in many respects become much wider than traditional forms such as television or radio. Having said that, a significant percentage of advertising budgets are still directed at these areas.


You should be able to see from the examples above that the language has become more formal at each step of the speaking test.

Meaning and intonation

Meaning and intonation

Meaning and intonationIn the speaking test, you are being assessed on four different criteria, one of which is pronunciation. Pronunciation refers to how clear you are when you speak, and can be broken into different sub-categories:

  • enunciation (how clearly do you say each word; not mumbling or slurring)
  • intonation (is the sound of your voice suitable for what you are saying)

This post will focus on the second aspect of pronunciation – intonation. Here are some examples of intonation in specific circumstances.

Your friend has just invited you to a party they are having, and you are accepting.

Your intonation should be positive, with a rising sound a lot of movement and stress on some words.

Your friend has just invited you to a party they are having, but you can’t come.

Your intonation should have a falling sound, with less movement.

In the speaking test, the examiner will ask you questions about things you like or enjoy, as well as things you dislike or find annoying. You have an opportunity here to show your intonation as your tone of voice should change depending on the context of what you are saying.

Here are some example questions that you could expect in the IELTS speaking test. Practice by responding using a suitable intonation.

  1. Is there anything you dislike about using mobile phones?
  2. Tell me about a country you would like to visit.
  3. What’s your favourite part of the day?
  4. How do you feel about people being impolite?

Intonation in the listening test

Intonation is very important in the speaking test, but can also be a useful skill for the listening test. Practice your understanding of intonation by matching the correct statement to the audio recording. Type ‘A’ or ‘B’ into the box below each stratement.

Click the play button below to begin.

Question 1:
A: Lyn likes the shirt
B: Lyn does not like the shirt

Show the answer

B

Question 2:
A: The speaker should have booked
B: There is plenty of seating available

Show the answer

A

Question 3:
A: Steve agrees with the first speaker
B: Steve doesn’t agrees with the first speaker

Show the answer

A

Question 4:
A: He is happy with their travel arrangements
B: He is not happy with their travel arrangements

Show the answer

B

Question 5:
A: He feels the advertising was misleading
B: He is satisfied with the product

Show the answer

A

Question 6:
A: The speaker is annoyed
B: The speaker was misheard the first time she spoke

Show the answer

A

Question 7:
A: The food was good
B: The food wasn’t very good

Show the answer

B
Previous comments:

    Hello guys, I enjoy reading every post of yours; still, could you look at the definition of ‘enunciation’ (how clearly do you saw each word, not mumbling or slurring) you provide. Something is wrong here.

    Ieltsforfree says:

    Hi Sergei – thanks for pointing that out! All fixed 🙂

Talking about hobbies (speaking)

Talking about hobbies

In the IELTS speaking test, the examiner could ask you to talk about your hobbies. Here’s a bad example of a response to a question about hobbies:

Examiner: What sports do you like?
Candidate: Football.

The main problem with the example above is that it is too short. In order to extend your answer, you could begin by describing how you feel about the sport by using adjectives. Here’s a slightly improved answer:

Examiner: What sports do you like?
Candidate: I think football is really exciting, both to watch and to play.

Here are some other adjectives that you can use:

  • breathtaking
  • physical
  • slow
  • aggressive
  • uneventful
  • terrifying
  • boring

You can then further extend your answer by giving reasons why you feel the way you do about certain hobbies:

Talking about hobbiesExaminer: What sports do you like?
Candidate: I think football is really exciting, both to watch and to play, because there’s often a lot of action – players run up and down the pitch and there’s much more to get involved in compared to a sport like golf, which I find quite boring.

Practice by considering how you would answer the following questions:

  • Do you have a favourite pastime?
  • What do you do most in your free time?
  • Do you prefer watching or playing sports?
  • What hobbies are popular for people in your country?
  • Are there any hobbies you wouldn’t be interested in trying?

Remember that when you are practising for your IELTS speaking test, get into the habit of recording yourself as you speak – most mobile phones or computers have a voice recording option, and recording then listening to yourself speak can give you the opportunity to identify your own errors. Don’t worry – most people don’t like the sound of their own recorded voice, but after a few tries, you’ll get more comfortable hearing yourself speak!