Category Archives: IELTS Speaking (all)

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

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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:

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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:

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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
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

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!

IELTS speaking model answer – Enjoyed doing as a child

IELTS speaking model answer Enjoyed doing as a child

Describe something you enjoyed doing as a child

This section of the site is for model answers on Part Two topic cards. If you have a topic card that you would like a model answer too, just send it to us through the contact page.

It is good practice to read the model answer aloud, ideally while recording yourself. Then play back the recording, listening closely to your pronunciation (particularly your intonation) and the speed at which you are speaking.

Describe something you enjoyed doing as a child.

You should say:

  • what you did
  • when you did it
  • if you still do it.

You should also say why you enjoyed doing it.

Click the play button below to listen to the topic card answer.

Model answer:

Well the thing I probably enjoyed doing more than anything else as a child, or at least from when I was about 6, was riding bikes. I had a new or secondhand bike every year or so and they always got faster and bigger as I grew. I remember my first bike had training wheels on the side so I didn’t fall over while I was learning!

As I got a little older – about 10 or so – I used to go out on my bike with some friends most weekends and evenings. I used to get to school on my bike as well, and we would call in at each others houses and ride in a group to school. The most exciting time was when I was 14, when three of my closest friends and I all went away overnight cycling with a tent on the back of the bicycles. It seemed like such an adventure, and we must have cycled over 60 kilometres that weekend! We had a great time just cycling around and then we set up the tent in the field and spent the night. The only problem was my friend had an accident and destroyed his bike, so his parents had to come and pick him up.

For my 15th birthday I had a bike with 15 gears, which, at the time, was very unusual. It was much faster than any of my friends’ bikes so I started to go out a lot on my own and later on I got a job delivering newspapers where again I used my bike a lot.

I stopped cycling when I was about 18 and I haven’t really gone back to it although I probably should. It’s very good for health and fitness. The only problem is the other road users don’t always watch out for bikes and it can be a little dangerous especially on busy roads. I’m not sure it would be so easy to have fun with a bicycle now as it was when I was a child because of the traffic on the roads these days.

Mostly I enjoyed it because it was a chance for me to get out of the house and be a little bit independent. It was a lot of fun playing with friends who also had bikes, so there was a very social side to it as well.

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.


Practice

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.