Category Archives: IELTS Speaking (lessons)

Difficult Part 2 topic cards in IELTS


Difficult Part 2 topic cards in IELTS

Difficult Part 2 topic cards in IELTSIn Part 2 of the IELTS speaking test the examiner will give you a topic card that you will need to talk about for 2 minutes, after you have had 1 minute preparation time. But what happens if the examiner gives you a topic card that you have no ideas about and will not be able to talk about?


For example, if you have no interest in art or art galleries and really have no opinion on the subject, what would you do if this was your topic?

 Describe a piece of art that you likeYou should say:
  • what it is
  • where you saw it
  • why you like it

You should also say whether you would recommend it to someone else.


Here are some tips that will help!

Tip 1: Don’t panic!

It’s hard to do when you’re in the middle of your test, but it’s important to remain calm. Remember you have 60 seconds to prepare an answer, so take a few seconds to read the topic card again to see if there’s anything there that can you feel you could talk about.

Tip 2: Be honest

Although you cannot ask the examiner to give you another card and you cannot simply say ‘I don’t have anything to say about this’, you can tell the examiner that this is not really your kind if subject. For example:

‘Well, the topic card is asking about a piece of art that I like, but to be completely honest, I’m really not that interested in art in any form. However, I can tell you about…..’


Tip 3: Focus on anything in the subject or the prompts that you can talk about

In the example topic card above, you may have nothing to say about a piece of art you like, but can you talk about anything related? The second prompt on the card asks ‘where you saw it’ – can you say anything about local art galleries in your area or your hometown? Have you ever been to an art gallery? If so, did you like it? If you have never been to an art gallery, why not? You can talk about the lack of local facilities, or a general disinterest in art because no-one in your family is interested and you never went to galleries as a child. Even if you are only talking tangentially (not exactly or directly) about the topic, you will not lose points.

Tip 4: Be someone else

Personally, I have no real interest in art, so if I had to speak for two minutes on the topic card above, I would have trouble – and I’m a native English speaker and IELTS instructor! However, I do have a friend who is interested in art, so for the two minutes I was talking, I would pretend to be him. Why does my friend like going to galleries? What does he get out of his visits? How does he feel about art? Has he ever said anything to you about traditional versus modern art? By thinking about a question from the perspective of someone with an interest in the subject, it becomes easier to talk about.

Tip 5: Redefine the question

If you really feel that you will not be able to talk for the full two minutes of the subject, make sure that the examiner knows that you are modifying the question slightly. For example:

‘To tell the truth, I can’t talk much about art, but I am quite interested in museums. I think they are more important than art as they are a reflection of our past, and our history tells us more about who we are than art does – at least in my opinion.’

You have now told the examiner that you are moving the question away from the topic and on to something else. NOTE: try to make what you are going to talk about related to the topic in some way. For example, don’t start talking about a holiday you had or your favourite type of food!

Tip 6: Remember the focus of the speaking test

Keep in mind that is a speaking test – you are being assessed not on how accurate your response is compared to the question, but on how well you can communicate your point of view. You are NOT penalised for an indirect or unrelated answer so long as what you are saying is clear and logical. To illustrate, did you know that there is NO penalty for not covering all of the prompts on the topic card?


Take a look at some of the more unusual topic cards below – how would you respond?

Talk about something you used to collect.

You should say:

  • what you collected
  • whether your collection grew over time
  • why you collected them

You should also say whether you normally collect things.


Talk about a board game you have played.

You should say:

  • what type of game it is
  • how the game is played
  • when you started playing it

You should also say whether you still play this game.


Describe a sporting event you took part in recently.

You should say:

  • why you were involved
  • what you did
  • how many people were with you

You should also say whether you would do this again


Speaking fluently in the IELTS test

Speaking fluently in the IELTS test

Six tips for better fluency

For many people preparing for the IELTS speaking test, it can be difficult to improve your fluency unless you have an opportunity to speak with people in English regularly. However, here are 6 tips that will help you speak more fluently in the IELTS speaking test:

Tip 1: Don’t be afraid of mistakes

speaking-fluentlyThe first rule of fluency is that you are able to communicate the main message of what you are trying to say. Don’t overly worry about whether you have chosen the best grammar or vocabulary to express yourself – so long as the person you are talking to understands what you mean! If you feel that you have made a mistake, then stop, go back and repair the sentence, then continue. For example,

“My brother are a doctor, so he has always recommended eating well. Sorry, I mean by brother IS a doctor. Anyway, he suggests eating fruit and vegetables every day…”

Tip 2: Don’t focus too much on studying grammar

We all know that good grammar is important in order to accurately express yourself. However, make sure that you don’t become so preoccupied with the grammatical structure of your sentence that your speaking becomes irregular, too slow or disjointed. As mentioned in Tip 1 – don’t be afraid of mistakes! If you find that when speaking fluently you tend to make repeated errors with a particular grammar area (for example, using the present continuous when it should be the present simple) then spend some time alone reading and taking practice exercises – there are lots on this site!

Tip 3: Don’t translate your sentence in your head first

This is a difficult skill to master, but when you have a basic understanding of English (or any other foreign language) you need to start thinking in that language when constructing sentences. Not only will there be a loss of fluency as you delay the conversation to translate, but you will also find that words, phrases and sentence constructions become less easier to directly translate into your own language.

Tip 4: Take every opportunity to speak

Although it is convenient to break English into different skills such as reading, writing, grammar and speaking, it is important that you make whatever you are studying into an opportunity to speak. If you are reading an article – or even this page! – then read it aloud. If you read the same 100 or so words a few times, you will find that you have a much better chance of improving your fluency as you are training your tongue, mouth and vocal chords to move in a particular pattern, and that pattern will help when you are later in conversation. If you are listening to something and have the chance to pause whatever is playing, then listen to a sentence or two, stop it, you say it, then you play the recording again. This will help with your intonation (the sound of your voice) making you better able to pronounce words clearly and thus improving your fluency.

Tip 5: When learning new vocabulary, learn it as part of a useful phrase or sentence

Studying word lists might help you improve your understanding of individual words, but learning a few relevant phrases or sentences including the new word will make it a lot easier for your to fluently use the word in conversation. For example, if you learn the word ‘optimistic’ (meaning that you focus on the positive things, not the negative), then think of and learn a few phrases or sentences. E.g. My uncle always has hopes for the future because he’s a very optimistic person or The weather forecast said it wouldn’t rain, but judging by those clouds I’m not so optimistic.

Tip 6: Use appropriate resources

For many people learning English, the BBC is considered to be the best form of ‘pure’ English, with clear pronunciation and intonation. However, it is also important to spend some time with more ‘common’ English, such as listening and copying the patterns of speech you might hear on a TV show, movie or radio or radio programme. For some people the only way of practicing your speaking and fluency is by talking to another person who is also learning English. Although this can be effective, make sure that you do not pick up each others bad habits!

We hope these 6 tips help!


Talking about likes & dislikes in IELTS

Talking about likes & dislikes in IELTS

Talking about likes & dislikes in IELTSIn Part One of the IELTS speaking test, it is common to be asked questions about what you like or don’t like, and you may have to talk about your preferences. Here are some possible questions you may be asked:

Likes –

  • Do you enjoy travelling?
  • Do you like playing computer games?
  • What hobbies do you enjoy doing?
  • What’s your favourite food?
  • What do you do to relax?

Dislikes –


  • Is there anything you dislike about mobile phones?
  • Is there any food you don’t like eating?

Preferences –

  • Do you prefer to go out with friends or spend time at home?
  • Would you rather a home cooked meal or a meal in a restaurant?
  • Is it better to spend time in a hot or cold place?


It is important (as with any question in the IELTS test) that you give a full, extended answer to the question using a range of vocabulary, so here is some vocabulary that you can use when talking about likes, dislikes and preferences.


  • I’m fond of (X)
  • I’m into (X)
  • I’m keen on (X)
  • I adore (X)
  • (X) is stunning
  • (X) is excellent



  • I’m not keen on (X)
  • I detest (X)
  • I can’t bear (X)
  • I loathe (X)
  • I can’t stand (X)
  • I hate (X)



  • (X) is better
  • I like (X) more
  • I’d rather (X)
  • (X) is far superior
  • I’d sooner (X)


Tip 1: Concession words

When expressing preferences it is common to use concession words. A concession word allows the speaker or writer to express another point of view that is opposite to their first point. For example:

Do you prefer to study with other people or in a private class?

I much prefer a group class. Admittedly, you do get more personal attention in a one to one class, but you can also learn from other students when you study together.
Do you enjoy trying new foods?

Yes, I’m keen on experiencing anything new and I love going to restaurants where you can try a little of lots of different things. Having said that, though, I do have some favourite meals that I really enjoy no matter how many times I’ve had them.


Tip 2: Change of focus with +ing or to…

You can use like, love, hate and prefer with an –ing form or with a to-infinitive. However, there is a slight difference in meaning.

For example:

I like to study every day – this is something that is a habit for the speaker, something they think is a good idea

I like studying in the morning – this is something that the speaker actively enjoys studying.


Unexpected questions in the speaking test

Unexpected questions in the speaking test

The interviewer has just asked you about a subject you have never thought about and you have no real ideas. What can you say?

If this situation occurs during your speaking test, the most important first step is not to panic. Avoid responding with ‘I don’t know’ by using an alternative expression. There are a number of phrases you can learn that will give you some time to think of an idea.
Unexpected questions in the speaking test1 Well, it’s difficult to say, but …
2 I don’t have any personal opinions, but I suppose …
3 That’s an interesting point and I think I would have to say that …
4 Mmm … I’m not really sure, but …
5 Actually, that’s not something I’ve really thought about, but …
6 I don’t really know much about that, but …

For example, imagine the interviewer asks the following question (don’t panic – it’s an unlikely question!):

What impact do you think power steering has had in reducing traffic accidents?

Now read the candidates response below:

Well, it’s difficult to say but … umm … in my opinion the most effective factor in the reduction of traffic accidents is a result of stiffer punishments for poor driving. Although speeding is still a serious issue, other traffic offences such as drink driving have fallen because of the risk of heavy fines and even imprisonment. This has been reinforced by hard-hitting television advertisements highlighting driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Useful tip:

If you still cannot think of anything to say after a few seconds, you should focus on an aspect of the question you do know and move your answer onto related but more familiar topics. This is not ideal, but better than saying nothing at all!


Here are some other topics to practice with – they are NOT questions you would be asked in the IELTS test, but they will hep you practice the skills from this lesson!

See what you could say about….

  • the British Royal Family
  • Postage stamps
  • Woodland insects
  • Donating blood
  • Learning via video conferences
  • Aeroplane safety checks
  • Video piracy in the 1990s

Better pronunciation for IELTS speaking Part 2

Before looking through this page, we recommend you take a look at Better pronunciation for IELTS speaking.

NOTE: Thanks to Adel for the idea behind this page. It is not complete and in the future we will be adding more exercises.

The correct pronunciation of vowels in English can be complicated, but there are some rules that can help. Let’s start this lesson by looking at 3 important points you need to know:

1. Vowels and consonants

You probably already know this, but just to be sure, the 26 letters of the English alphabet are made up of 21 consonants and 5 vowels. The vowels are the letters A, E I, O and U.

2. Short and long vowels

In English, vowels can be both short and long. Here are some examples

A  E  I  O  U

3. Open and closed syllables

Every word in English is built up of syllables. For example, football is 2 syllables – foot and ball. On open syllable is a syllable that ends with a vowel, and a closed syllable ends in a consonant.

Examples of open syllables: me, he, babies (ba+bies)

Examples of closed syllables: cat, sat, spelling (spell+ing)

So how does this information help with pronunciation?

If you can take a longer, more difficult word and break it into syllables, this will help with spelling and pronunciation. Here are some example:

Word: Motivation

Syllables: MO + TIV + A + TION

Short or long vowel sound: we can see that the first syllable is open (it ends with a vowel), so should be a long vowel sound


Word: Operation

Syllables: OP+ ER + A + TION

Short or long vowel sound: we can see that the first syllable is closed (it ends with a consonant), so should be a short vowel sound

So how does this information help with spelling?

You can also use these techniques to help you with spelling. Here’s a simple example:


If you were having problems trying to spell the word, just think to yourself “Is the vowel sound short or long?” In this case, it is a short vowel sound (kitten, not kiiiitten). That tells you that is a closed syllable ending with a consonant, so must have T at the end of the syllable. That should then lead you to know that it should be spelled KIT – TEN

Facts about the IELTS speaking test

Facts about the IELTS speaking test

There are lots of websites, forums, blogs and postings on the internet giving advice about the speaking test, but so much of the information available is either incomplete or incorrect! To help, we have assembled some of the most common points below and listed them as true or false.

Facts about the IELTS speaking testIf you have a question or concern about the IELTS speaking test, then just put it in the comments area at the bottom of the page and we’ll answer it and add it to our list!


1. The speaking test takes between 11 and 14 minutes.

This is true. The test is tightly regulated between these times, so don’t be surprised if the examiner stops you suddenly in your final answer!

2. There are three parts to the speaking test.

This is also true. In Part 1, the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself. In Part 2 you need to speak for 2 minutes on a topic the examiner will give you. In Part 3, the examiner will ask you more in-depth questions relating to the topic card.

3. In Part 2, it’s OK to stop speaking after one minute.

No! This is false. Part of the speaking test is assessing your ability to be fluent and coherent, so you need to speak for the full two minutes. If you do run out of things to say and finish early, you can expect it to impact negatively on your results.

4. In Part 2, the topic card will have 4 points that you MUST talk about.

This is also NOT TRUE – the points on the topic card are there to help you, but you are not required to cover everything on the card. So long as what you are talking about is on the same topic as the card, that’s OK.

5. The examiner will take the topic card back after about a minute, while you are still talking.

Absolutely NOT TRUE – the examiner will ask for the topic card back after you have completed Part 2, but not during your speaking.

6. You should give short answers for Part 1.

NOT TRUE! You should extend your answers throughout the speaking test. If the examiner has heard enough, they will stop you and move to the next question, but you shouldn’t intentionally make your answers short!

Want to check if something you’ve heard about IELTS speaking is true? Simply post it below!

Time to think in the speaking test

NOTE: this page will be developed with further information over time, but if you have any additional suggestions please write them in the comments area below – thanks!

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts (and is probably obvious!), when you are asked a question in the speaking test but cannot think of a response straight away, you should avoid just using words like ‘Umm….errr…..’.

Here are some expressions that you can use to delay your answer to give you time to think.

NOTE: These expressions are for Part Three of the speaking test – they are too formal for Part 1!

  • That’s a very provocative question
  • It’s a contentious issue, but I think
  • There are certainly different schools of thought regarding this
  • Well, I don’t personally have any strong views on this, but…
  • That’s not something I have ever really considered before, but..
  • This is actually an issue / question that has been discussed for some time now

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:









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