IELTS Speaking

IELTS Speaking is the last of four parts. It is 12 to 15 minutes long and consists of three parts. This aspect of IELTS can take place on the same or a different day from the written part. Below are sample questions with answers given in italics.

Part 1 – introductions and general questions (4-6 minutes)

In this part you will be asked your name and your ID card. The examiner will then ask a number of general questions about you. The aim of this part is to make you feel easy and relaxed before having to deal with more complex tasks. Your answer shouldn’t be longer than two or three sentences.

Where are you from?
I am from a small town in Spain, just outside of Barcelona. I have been living there for as long as I can remember.

What is your town (or city) famous for?
It is really small, so we are fairly unknown. A famous Olympic cyclist was born here, Isaac Gálvez. Other than that, we are not really famous for many things.

How long have you been studying English?
I have been studying English for as long as I can remember, probably since I was six or seven. Recently, I have been putting more hours into it so hopefully it has improved.

Do you have any hobbies?
I do not have much free time nowadays, so hobbies are not something I can comfortably have. However, when I was at school, I used to attend swimming classes and play a lot of table tennis!

Part 2 – Answering the task card questions (2-3 minutes)

This part of IELTS Speaking involves a task card that is given to you by examiner. The card has a task question with a number of points you should address in your answer. You will have one minute read and prepare for your answer, and you are free to make any notes during that time. After the minute of preparation is over, you will have to speak for 1-2 minutes. If your answer takes longer, the examiner will let you know. After the answer, the examiner will ask you a few questions related to the topic.

Describe the person in your family you admire the most
You should say:

  • How you are related
  • What they have achieved in their life
  • What do they do now

and explain why you admire them so much.

I’d like to tell you about my uncle from the father’s side. His name is Ignacio, he’s in his late fifties now. He comes from a rather poor background, we all do, so he had to make his own way in life. When he was twenty, he decided to get into the construction business. He started off as a manual labourer and eventually he worked his way up all the way to the top of the company he worked for. Later in his life he decided to start a company of his own, which exists and prospers to this day.

He is now happily retired, while several members of our extended family are employed in said company. We like to call it a family business.

I admire uncle Ignacio for his perseverance, resilience and his well-spirited nature. He is very friendly and approachable, the kind of person that one enjoys working with.

Part 3 – Discussion (3-5 minutes)

The examiner will ask you questions related to the topic from Part 2 of your exam. As more abstract concepts and ideas are discussed, so you have opportunity to use a wider scope of vocabulary.

Importance of family

How important are family ties in your country?
I would say that family ties are very strong here. In our culture, extended families are as close as nuclear ones. It is customarily to have frequent get-togethers with your relatives. We also have great respect for the elderly, we tend to visit them as often as we can. So yes, I believe family ties are one of the crucial social aspects.

Do you believe that people should keep in touch with their families? Why/Why not?
Of course they should! I mean, your family are the closest people you’ll ever have in your life. You should do your best to get along with them, and even if you don’t, they are still your flesh and blood. Getting on well with your dear ones really pays off, it is a very rewarding feeling!

Family and friends

Who are more important to you: your family or your friends? Why?
Do you agree that childhood friends are best? Why/Why not?

Family traditions

Do you have any traditions in your family?
How important is it to follow family traditions?

Speaking Assessment criteria in IELTS

To help you meet the examiner’s expectations and to address any weaknesses you might have, know the speaking assessment criteria.

1. Fluency and coherence

Your speech should be fluent and without long pauses. It should also be easy to follow — your sentences have to be logically connected so that the listeners don’t get confused (Coherent and cohesive)

2. Lexical resource

Your should demonstrate your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition and using synonyms instead. The words that you use should collocate well with each other. Your speech should be idiomatic.

3. Grammatical range and accuracy

You should display various grammatical structures. They have to be used appropriately. Your speech should not have grammar mistakes.

4. Pronunciation

You should be easy to understand — which doesn’t mean having perfect British or American accent. It only means that your accent shouldn’t prevent the examiner from getting the meaning of what you’re saying. Your pronunciation has to be consistent (for example, you should stick either to American or British pronunciation).

How to improve your IELTS Speaking score

Fluency and coherence

To be fluent in you speech means to sound natural. Many students find it difficult to keep the natural pace. As students try to speak more fluently they find themselves making more mistakes. There are two ways of dealing with this situation.

The first one is long and laborious — to keep practising. This involves a lot of reading to remember speech patterns, learning new words, memorising various cohesive devices to help you join clauses in your speech.

The second way is easier. Speak a little bit slower than you usually would. That’s it. By slowing your pace you get yourself more time to think your sentence over. This also eliminates the pauses or at least makes them less noticeable. By making your speech hesitation-free you will certainly make a good impression on your examiners. As you practice more and grow confident of your skills you should try increasing the pace.

Coherence is how much sense your speech makes. That includes:

  • Relevance of your answer. You have to address the question, not something you much prefer talking about right now
  • Text sequencing. How naturally your ideas go from one to another
  • Cohesion. How well you connect your closes with various cohesive devices
Lexical resource

Expanding and developing your vocabulary is a long and tedious process that lasts for as long as you study the language. However, to help you score more points for lexical resource use this list of synonyms for words that students overuse in their speech. Repeating words as “like”, “good” or “very” over and over again will not get you a good mark, so getting to know a couple of synonyms is an easy way to get a higher Speaking band.

Grammatical range and accuracy

Similar to vocabulary, English grammar can’t be learned overnight. You will have to make do with what you have at the moment. Do not use more complex aspects of grammar if you don’t know how they work. More simple structures that are used accurately and appropriately are much better than a sloppy complex clause with several mistakes. Simple doesn’t mean bad, but simple also shouldn’t slip into primitive.

Pay attention to your tenses — for example use simple tenses for things that are universally true. Don’t use continuous tenses if you don’t know why you’re using them. Show that you can express sequencing of events by using past simple, present perfect, past perfect.

You may want to use this short guide to English tenses for more info.


Don’t be afraid of your accent. As long as your pronunciation is clear and easy to understand you will not have points deducted for that part of the aspect. If you have difficulties pronouncing certain sounds (“th” is a common example), don’t try to avoid it in your speech. It will be extremely difficult for your to speak your way around it. Either find a pronunciation tutor or make sure that the way your pronounce the problematic sound is at least understandable and does not cause confusion (thinking-sinking).

Consistency with AmE, BrE pronunciation like “schedule”, “either”. Same to spelling and vocabulary in writing.

Have a look at this list of mispronounced words to make sure you pronounce these tricky words correctly.

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