Category Archives: IELTS Speaking (lessons)

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


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

Show the answer


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

Show the answer


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

Show the answer


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

Show the answer


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

Show the answer


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

Show the answer


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!




Talking about special days and celebrations

Talking about special days and celebrations

It is common in the IELTS speaking test to be asked to talk about special days or celebrations, so here are some model answers that will give you a guideline for a good result. The list below is based on special days or celebrations in New Zealand, but this is where we’d love your help – if you post a paragraph below about a special day or celebration in your country, we will read it, make any changes if required to the grammar or structure and post it on this page.

ANZAC Day (New Zealand and Australia)

Well, it’s a special day but it’s not really a celebration – it’s more of a ceremony. Anyway, it’s in late April, on the 25th. It’s the same day in both Australia and New Zealand. It starts early in the morning when all the ex-service people walk to the nearest war memorial. They often wear all their old medals and their best suits. It can look really impressive.

LABOUR DAY (New Zealand)

Talking about special days and celebrationsThis holiday was first celebrated in 1890, but wasn’t officially recognised until 1900. It marked the beginning of new conditions for employees – working hours were reduced, unions were formed and working conditions slowly improved. People don’t really do anything special to celebrate the day, but it gives you time to think about how hard life must have been then.

WAITANGI DAY (New Zealand)

It’s one of the most controversial public holidays in New Zealand. It commemorates the time when the British government signed a treaty with most of the Maori chiefs over 150 years ago. I don’t know much about it but I do know that a lot of people still argue about it. Actually, in the 1970s it became known as New Zealand Day but soon changed back to its original name.

CHRISTMAS DAY (New Zealand and many other countries)

Version 1:

In New Zealand, the most important holiday is probably Christmas. It’s the time of the year when families try to get together, or at least send cards to say hello. On Christmas Day a lot of people have barbecues, either on the beach or in their gardens. Most places are closed for the day, and most people have their longest holiday of the year around this time. Office workers, for example, often don’t go back to work until the beginning of the New Year.

Version 2 (thanks Muyiwa!):

My favorite special day is Christmas, which is on the 25th of December every year. I love this day for a whole lot of reasons. Firstly, I don’t have to go to work but I still get get paid!! Also, I live in a very busy city but by Christmas day most people have traveled out of town, thereby reducing traffic by over 90%. This in turn makes driving around town on a day like this so much more enjoyable, especially as I get to do a lot of visiting. Not only is it easy to get to where I’m going, but there is always lots of exotic food in my friends and family houses.

BIRTHDAYS (Almost everywhere on the planet!)

Well, people in New Zealand, as in most Western countries, like to celebrate birthdays, but often only for younger people. Once you start getting older you don’t want to be reminded of another passing year! Anyway, a lot of people go out to the pub, or stay at home and have a party. Sometimes a surprise party is organised. People send cards for your birthday, but normally just close friends or family give gifts. It’s common to have a birthday cake with a candle for every year – you have to blow the candles out in one breath if you want to make a wish!

Giving and justifying opinions for IELTS speaking

Giving and justifying opinions for IELTS speaking

The IELTS speaking test is like most conversations.  If you give an opinion, you should justify it, and if possible, offer a reason, solution or speculation.

For example:

I don’t think people should automatically be entitled to three holidays a year. [END]

Saying only the statement above is NOT SUITABLE FOR IELTS. You need to expand your argument by supporting your opinions like this:

“I don’t think people should automatically be entitled to three holidays a year, because companies may need their labourAs I see it, two holidays a year is acceptable, with any additional days off acting as an incentive for overtime.”

Whenever you state an opinion, either in the speaking or the writing test, ask yourself why. This will often lead you to thinking of how to justify what you have said.


Extend this candidate’s answer, justifying the opinions and giving examples where you see an asterisk (*)

Giving and justifying opinions for IELTS speakingNew Zealand is a great place to study.*1 There is so much to do.*2 There are a lot of international students, especially in the major cities like Auckland and Christchurch, which can sometimes make it difficult to practise your English.* 3 My advice would be to live in a homestay – that’s the best way to improve. *4 Some international students think that New Zealand is boring.*5 Personally, I agree with something my friend told me years ago – only boring people get bored. After all, there’s no point in travelling abroad if everything is the same as in your home country.*6 It can be quite exciting to discover some of the cultural differences between nations anyway.* 7 I don’t really think much of the food though.*8 I much prefer food from my own country. *9 Overall, though, I’ve really enjoyed the experience here.*10

Show how *1 could have been expanded New Zealand is a great place to study. As an English-speaking country with some well-known universities, you can get a good education here.


Show how *2 could have been expanded There is so much to do – it’s the home of so many extreme sports, such as bungy jumping and skydiving


Show how *3 could have been expanded There are a lot of international students, especially in the major cities like Auckland and Christchurch, which can sometimes make it difficult to practise your English. I often find myself spending the evenings talking to friends in my language!


Show how *4 could have been expanded My advice would be to live in a homestay – that’s the best way to improve. That way everything has to be in English, and you find yourself learning so much more because it’s almost 24 hours a day.


Show how *5 could have been expanded Some international students think that New Zealand is boring. I think that’s probably because they are so used to cities where entertainment is laid on every night, they don’t really need to think about entertaining themselves.


Show how *6 could have been expanded Personally, I agree with something my friend told me years ago – only boring people get bored. After all, there’s no point in travelling abroad if everything is the same as in your home country. The whole point of an international education is to learn something about the world, to see how about people live.


Show how *7 could have been expanded It can be quite exciting to discover some of the cultural differences between nations anyway. For example, I’ve never heard of people cooking food under the earth before like they do with a hangi.


Show how *8 could have been expanded I don’t really think much of the food though – it’s a little too greasy for me.


Show how *9 could have been expanded I much prefer food from my own country, but I guess that’s mostly because it’s what I’ve grown up with, what I’ve become accustomed to.


Show how *10 could have been expanded Overall, though, I’ve really enjoyed the experience here. Of course, I’ve learned better English from being here, but I also feel I’ve become more mature and have a more open-minded view of the world.


Now practice!

Respond to the following statements and expand your answer as much as possible.

There are no model answers for these exercises.

  1. There is no need to settle into a career until the age of 30.
  2. Visa regulations should be relaxed for foreign students.
  3. People who cause traffic accidents should not be allowed to drive again.
  4. Single-sex classes make learning easier.
  5. Nobody should eat meat.

Tips for the day of your IELTS speaking test

Tips for the day of your IELTS speaking test

So the day has finally arrived – it’s test day! Depending on the test centre you are taking your test in, you might have the speaking on a different day to the other parts of the test or at the beginning or end of the same day. Whenever your speaking assessment is, here are some useful tips for the day of your IELTS speaking test.

Tip 1: Know the procedure on test day

You can make the whole test a lot less stressful by knowing in advance what you will be required to do. As the format will be slightly different depending on your test centre, you should always ask first, but here is a common breakdown of the speaking test section.

  • You will arrive at the test centre and be registered using your ID (passport, ID card etc).
  • The test administrator will check your identification, take a photo and scan your fingerprint.
  • You will be given a piece of paper with your candidate number on. Keep this safe as you will need it a few times throughout the day.
  • You will be escorted to a waiting area.
  • In SOME test centres, you will be given an approximate time for your speaking assessment. In other test centres, you simply need to wait until your name or candidate number is called.
  • The examiner will call you out of the waiting room. Your fingerprint will be checked again, as well as your ID.
  • Your personal belongings (bags, mobile phones – even watches!) will be locked in a separate room. You will keep only your ID and the piece of paper you were given when you first registered.
  • The examiner will take you to the testing room and conduct the test.
  • After the test, you will be escorted back to collect your belongings, and then escorted away from the other candidates (you will not be allowed to talk to other candidates until they have also finished their test)

As mentioned, there will be slight differences depending on your test centre – if you have anything to add, please post it in the comments section below!

Tip 2: Get your brain thinking in English before you start!

As soon as the day begins when you have you have your speaking test, you need to get your brain thinking and responding in English. That means avoiding conversations with people in your native language if possible – take some English music or a podcast in English with you and put headphones in when you’re waiting, unless there is an opportunity to speak English to other people.

Tip 3: Don’t study IELTS textbooks while you wait

Trying to cram as much as you can in the last few minutes before the test very rarely helps, and often leaves you more panicked and nervous. Ideally, take your own note book with some vocabulary, or even just an English novel or non-IELTS related book.

Tip 4: Talk to the examiner when you are first called for your test

Don’t wait until you are in the exam room to break the ice with the examiner (break the ice means to get the conversation started between two people when they first meet). The examiner might not say much to – they have to think of the administration steps to get you ready for the test – but saying a quick hello and asking the examiner how they’re day is going is a great way to help you start building a relationship with the examiner, and helping you when it comes to starting the test.

Tip 5: Dress comfortably

You will get no extra points for wearing a suit or formal dress and you certainly don’t lose points for wearing your favourite old jeans, so dress in clothes that you feel comfortable in. Keep in mind that test day can be quite long, and you don’t know the temperature of each of the rooms you will be in (the waiting room, the test room, the queue to register) so make sure you have something to keep you warm that’s easy to hold or put in a bag if it’s too warm.

Tip 6: Take a snack

From the time you queue up to register to the time you have finished the speaking test, you could have been on the go for up to 5 hours, so although you might not be hungry as you head to the test centre, it’s important to take a snack with you keep you going. Ideally this should be something healthy (some fruit, for example) and plenty of water to keep your brain hydrated. Although there may be a vending machine of something similar at the test centre, you can’t rely on it!

Tip 7: Remember why you are there

It is common to get nervous and stressed on test day, but just remember why you are taking the test. You are NOT there to make the examiner like you or to pass a job interview. You are just there to demonstrate your level of English, so be prepared to talk and be realistic about making mistakes (even in your native language, you are likely to hesitate or express yourself a little poorly at times during a 14 minute conversation with a stranger in a formal situation!).

Tip 8: Remember why the examiner is there

Let’s be honest – if the examiner wasn’t being paid, they wouldn’t be in the exam room asking you questions. For examiners, it is a paid job and absolutely nothing personal. And where does the examiner get paid from? Your test fees, which makes you the employer! Also keep in mind that within 10 minutes of your test, once you have left the room and the examiner has decided on your level, he or she will likely never think about you again. So don’t worry about ‘making a fool of yourself’ or making ’embarrassing mistakes’ – the examiner will talk to at least half a dozen candidates that day.

We hope these tips help, but if you have any other tips that have worked well for you, please post them in the comment section below!

6 tips for making notes in Part 2 speaking

6 tips for making notes in Part 2 speaking

Here’s an example of a topic card used in Part Two of the IELTS speaking test:

Describe your favourite leisure activity. You should say:

  • what it is
  • how often you do it
  • when you first started doing it.

You should also say why it is important to you.

Using the preparation time

When the examiner hands you the topic card, you will also be given a piece of paper and a pen or pencil to make some notes before you begin talking. You have one minute to prepare what you are going to say. There are a number of common errors that candidates make in this preparation time, as shown below.

Common error #1 – telling the examiner you are ready to begin

The examiner will tell you when your 1 minute preparation time is up – you should NEVER tell the examiner you are ready before that time. You are wasting valuable time that you could use thinking of relevant points or vocabulary, and most people that start early do not finish the full two minutes of speaking.

Common error #2 – writing sentences

The one minute preparation time should be used to get ideas and make notes, not write complete sentences. With only 60 seconds to prepare, you do not have time to write complete sentences.

Common error #3 – making no notes

Some candidates spend the whole 60 seconds simply reading the topic card and thinking about what they are going to say, not making any notes at all. The problem here is that as soon as you begin to start talking or if you become a little nervous, the good ideas that you had seem to disappear, leaving you with no backup.

Common error #4 – not pacing the notes

As you can see from the topic card above, there are four sections – three bullet points and one final sentence. You are required to speak for two minutes, so divide that by the number of ‘sections’ on the topic card and you have 30 seconds per part. When making notes, try to add something for each of the 4 parts and do not move on to the next part until you think you have spoken for 30 seconds or you truly have nothing left to say.

Common error #5 – reading from your notes

Don’t be be tempted to ‘read’ your answer directly from the note paper, and this will have an impact on your pronunciation (most people read differently to how they naturally speak). Keep your head up, looking at the examiner for the majority of the time, and only glance down to scan your notes.

Common error #6 – not being flexible with your notes

Do not worry if you decide to change a little of what you have planned. It is much better to keep the conversation natural than stick rigidly to something that you are not so comfortable with. In addition, remember that the IELTS test is a communication test – it is not a memory test. If there is a fact you cannot remember, then tell the interviewer. You can show your English ability just as well by explaining that you do not know something. For example: ‘I’m not really sure when I began doing this, but I’m sure I was very young’ is just as good an answer as giving a date.

Practice your note taking skills

Now practice making notes on the topic cards below.

Describe a friend who is very important to you.


You should say:

  • who they are
  • how you met
  • what they are like

You should also say why they are important to you.


Describe a hotel you have stayed in.

You should say:

  • where it is
  • what facilities there are
  • when you stayed there

and say whether you would recommend it to a friend

Giving longer answers in IELTS speaking

Giving longer answers in IELTS speaking

Giving longer answers in IELTS speakingThis post focuses on a formula you can use to help you keep speaking fluently during the IELTS speaking test, especially in Part 2 (the topic card), and follows on from this post about longer answers in the speaking test.

Consider the following question. How could you expand your answer?

Do you think traditions are important?

Now read the candidate’s response below, and answer the questions that follow.

Yes, I do because they give us a sense of connection with the past. This is important because it can bring people together and remind us of the history we share. However, I believe traditions should also be flexible. They should reflect not only the past but also the present. Only by doing this can any tradition continue to have relevance today.

  1. Why does the speaker think traditions are important?
  2. Why is it important to have this connection?
  3. What qualification does the speaker make?
  4. Why is this qualification important?

Read the next section for the answers.

The answers for the four questions above give examples of the formula you can use to expand your topic.

FORMULA + Why + So + But + Then

In the exercise above, this is:

Why? connection with the past
So? brings people together
But? should be flexible
Then? continue to be relevant

Looking at this formula in more detail, you can break your answer down into these sections:

Why? Why do you feel that way about the question? Why is this your opinion?

So? This can also be thought of as So what? Maybe the opinion presented in the first step (why?) is true, but what impact does it have? What’s the positive result of your opinion that makes you believe it?

But? Are there any parts of your opinion that could be considered wrong by other people, or anything that needs to be taken into account?

Then? If the point you raised in the previous section happened, what would be the effect?

Now let’s apply the formula to another question

Example 1:

Do you think smoking should be banned?

Yes I do (WHY? why do you think that?) because of the significant health risks cigarettes present (SO? so what if they have health risks?) This can have an effect on not only the smoker, but also those people in the nearby area who then suffer from passive smoking, as well as on tax payers in general when smokers require additional medical treatment. (BUT? is there anything that needs to be considered from another point of view?) Of course there is the issue of having the freedom to act how you wish, and banning cigarettes could create an illegal trade (THEN? What would happen if the ‘but’ section occurred?) This could then potentially lead to rising crime and more pressure on the police.

Example 2:

Because we are now in a digital age, do you think we should therefore stop following traditional customs?

It can be argued that traditional customs can co-exist alongside more modern culture (WHY? why do you think that?) Both traditional and modern cultures are important as a reflection of history and society (SO? so what if they are important?) We should find ways that the two forms can support each other. (BUT? is there anything that needs to be considered from another point of view?) There are times when modern and traditional cultures are in conflict. (THEN? What would happen if there was conflict?) Digital culture must be considered paramount as traditional culture should not be a handicap to development.

Talking about your hometown in IELTS speaking

Talking about your hometown in IELTS speaking

Once of the more common questions in Part One of the IELTS test is to talk about your hometown. A common student error is to give short answers which do not show the examiner your real abilities, especially with regards fluency.

Talking about your hometown in IELTS speakingHere are three examples of points you could make about your hometown. All of the places below are describing areas in New Zealand!

Talking about your hometown #1

I’m from Henderson, a suburb to the west of Auckland. Although it can be a little quiet, it’s only 20 minutes from the city centre. There are a couple of interesting things about Henderson. UNITEC College has a building there, although it’s not their main campus. It is also one of the places in the North Island where a lot of movies are shot – in fact, some sections of the Lord of the Rings were filmed only a few minutes away from my house!

Talking about your hometown #2

I’m from Invercargill, the southernmost city of New Zealand. It’s an interesting place because there’s so much history there. The area was first settled by sheep farmers driving sheep from Dunedin. It was actually named after William Cargill, a Scotsman involved in the administration and settlement of the local region. When it was first constructed, the city was famous for wide streets and beautiful buildings such as the railway hotel and the water tower.

Talking about your hometown #3

Wellington, where I’m from, is the capital city of New Zealand, although a lot of people think it is Auckland. It is set between a magnificent harbour and rolling green hills – the city itself is very hilly. There four different areas within then city, but my favourite is the Lambton quarter, which has the most concentrated shopping area in New Zealand. There are lots of things to do and see when you visit, but it can sometimes depend on the weather. In fact, the area is famous for being very windy and is often called ‘Windy Wellington’.

Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 3


Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 3

Before starting this lesson, make sure you have completed Lesson 1 and Lesson 2.

Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 3

Learning synonyms is a good way to enrich your English vocabulary, and this will help you achieve a higher IELTS band score. The two columns below contain two lists of adjectives.

Try to match up a word from column one with a synonym in column two, in ten minutes or less.


Column One

1   amusing

2   diligent

3   easy-going

4   fearless

5   generous

6   intelligent

7   loyal

8   optimistic

9   passionate

10 creative

11 rational

12 utopian

Column Two

a dedicated

b idealistic

c funny

d kind

e enthusiastic

f inventive

g faithful

h relaxed

i logical

j intrepid

k positive

l clever

Show answers
  1. amusing = funny
  2. diligent = dedicated
  3. easy-going = relaxed
  4. fearless = intrepid
  5. generous = kind
  6. intelligent = clever
  7. loyal = faithful
  8. optimistic = positive
  9. passionate = enthusiastic
  10. creative = inventive
  11. rational = logical
  12. utopian = idealistic

Now practice in a complete sentence.

Finish the sentences below with an appropriate adjective from Part One.

1. In order to be a successful artist you need to be __________.

Show answers

2. John is such a _________ student, he studies for four or five hours every night.

Show answers

3. Dogs are man’s best friend because they are so _________.

Show answers

4. Sandra’s grandfather is really __________ , he bought her a car for her birthday.

Show answers

5. In an ___________ world there wouldn’t be any suffering or unhappiness.

Show answers

6. Sharks are naturally ___________ , they have no predators and killing is instinctive.

Show answers

7. Maxine is so __________ about Italian movies, she’s decided to study Italian.

Show answers

8. Mathematics requires a ___________ process of thinking.

Show answers

9. In New Zealand you can enjoy an __________ lifestyle.

Show answers

10. It is better to be an ___________ person – it is a much happier outlook on life.

Show answers

11. We watched a very _____________ comedian on TV last night.

Show answers

12. Albert Einstein was an extremely ___________ scientist and mathematician.

Show answers



Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 1


Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 1

Talking about people in the IELTS speaking test lesson 1Before you start this exercise, check that you know the meaning of the following words:

  • naughty
  • anxious
  • greedy
  • disappointed
  • polite
  • diligent
  • cheerful
  • depressed
  • messy
  • adventurous

Once you have checked the meaning of the words in the list above, complete each sentence using one of the words.

1. My friend Tom loves activities like mountain climbing, abseiling, white water rafting, bungee jumping and sky diving. In fact, it seems like dangerous situations excite him! Sometimes I wish I could have no fear like him. He is a veryperson.

Show the answer

2. My friend has a very important job interview today. He is really worried about it. He keeps biting his nails and seems so nervous. I told him to calm down and try to relax but he said he feels too.

Show the answer

3. My friend just lost his job and his girlfriend broke up with him. He is feeling very down and. I’m not sure how to cheer him up.

Show the answer

4. My friend’s dog never does what it’s told. It always runs in the house and breaks things. It is very. They need to learn how to discipline it better.

Show the answer

5. My friend’s niece always smiles and laughs. She seems so happy. In fact, I don’t’ think I have ever seen her in a bad mood. She’s a veryperson.

Show the answer

6. My friend is so untidy. He almost never cleans his room. You should see it! It’s so! I told him he will never get a girlfriend if he doesn’t become a cleaner person.

Show the answer

7. My friend didn’t like what his girlfriend got him for his birthday. He looked so! But I told him he should stop being so picky and just appreciate the gift. I think he really hurt her feelings.

Show the answer

8. My friend studies so hard. She always gets her assignments done on time and gets great results. She’s so. I think I should try and be more like her.

Show the answer

9. Ever since my friend got his new job, all he has cared about is money-money-money!! In the past he was so generous and money and possessions didn’t seem important to him. Now he is a very selfish andperson.

Show the answer

10. My friend is a waitress. The job is perfect for her personality because she is always so kind and. Even when the customers are rude to her she keeps smiling and acts very professional.

Show the answer


Now take a look at lesson 2 for describing people in the IELTS test