IELTS Speaking is going to be the last part of your IELTS exam. It is 12 to 15 minutes long and consists of three parts. In each part you will be asked questions related to your personal experiences, opinions, and views on various topics. This part of 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.
1. Part 1 – General questions and answers
— 1.1 Part 1 sample questions with answers
2. Part 2 – Task card
— 2.1 Part 2 cards with answers
— 2.2 Part 2 tips and useful phrases
3. Part 3 – Questions related to topic from Part 2
— 3.1 Part 3 sample questions with answers
4. IELTS Speaking assessment criteria
5. Afterword. IELTS Speaking tips
Part 1 – introductions and general questions (4-5 minutes)
About IELTS Speaking Part 1
In this part the examiner asks for your name as well as your ID card. The examiner then proceeds with asking a number of general questions on familiar topics. The questions can be about your hometown, your interests, your family and so on. Make sure to familiarise yourself with the list of IELTS Speaking topics.
The purpose of this part is to assess your ability to talk about topics of general interest: common experiences, regular situations and everyday life.
Tips for Part 1
- Keep your answers fairly short – two or three sentences are just enough. Make sure your answer addresses the question.
- If you mishear or don’t understand the question – ask the examiner to either repeat or rephrase it. This is better than giving an answer unrelated to the question (see previous point)
- Think of this part as a warm-up. This should take some of the stress and nervousness away
IELTS Speaking Part 1 sample questions and answers
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 (4-5 minutes)
About IELTS Speaking Part 2
This part of IELTS Speaking involves a question card that you get from your examiner. The card has a task question with a number of points you should address in your answer. You will have one minute to 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 might ask you a few questions related to the topic.
Tips for Part 2
- Make notes! This is the most important point I can’t stress enough. Learn how to make efficient notes. This will allow you to structure your answer well and not miss any parts of it.
- Normally there are four points that you have to cover – three main ones and the conclusion at the bottom. It is highly recommended to include all of them in your answer – even if you don’t have much to say about one of them. This holds especially true about the conclusive point which you absolutely have to include in your response.
- Use the two minutes you are given to the fullest – use this time to show your good command of English. However, just like in the previous task, make sure to stay on topic.
IELTS Speaking Part 2 sample card and answers
More IELTS Speaking sample questions with answers and useful phrases
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 (4-5 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. Despite its similarity to IELTS Speaking Part 1, there are two key differences. First, in this part you will be talking about things in general rather than your own experience. Second, your answers will have to be longer – think of them as mini essays with introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions.
Tips for Part 3
- Give examples. There is no better way to illustrate your point of view than providing examples. However, you should keep in mind that in this part the question (and the answer) are more abstract so avoid basing your examples on personal experience.
- Expand on your points. Don’t give isolated arguments – develop them, provide more details. Think of your Part 3 answer as a small essay with an introduction, key points and a conclusion.
- Think about the vocabulary. By the time you finish IELTS Speaking Part 2, you will have a general idea of what topic you are going to get in Part 3. Use this knowledge to recall useful words and collocations of that topic.
IELTS Speaking Part 3 sample questions and answers
More IELTS Speaking sample questions with answers and useful phrases
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 people: their family or their friends? Why?
Well, it really depends on the person now, right? I mean, for most people family should come first. But it might not be true for every person in existence. Some families just do not get on well, they have frequent arguments, others don’t even live together. We don’t get to choose our family, but we can choose who to be friends with. The latter usually have certain common interests with us, and it makes much more sense to value them. After all the saying ‘blood is thicker than water’ exists for a reason.
Do you agree that childhood friends are best? Why/Why not?
To be frank I can’t say I fully agree with this statement. Yes, friendship that has withstood the test of time is something one should respect. But as we age our character and interests develop, they change with time. This all happens at different pace for people, so eventually we might grow apart in terms what we like and what we don’t – that where childhood friendship might not work. You just become too different, you eventually have no common interests and therefore no real grounds for friendship. While not always the case, it seems to be very likely. That’s why I feel childhood friends are not always the best.
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. Aiming high? Check this article on how to get Band 7+ in Speaking.
There are four criteria in IELTS Speaking, each makes up 25% of your final Speaking Band.
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 – see Coherence and cohesion. Repetition and self-correction should be rare, ideally avoided altogether.
2. Lexical resource
Your should demonstrate your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition by using synonyms or paraphrasing. The words that you use should collocate well with each other. Your speech should be idiomatic.
3. Grammatical range and accuracy
You are expected to show good command of various grammatical structures. Those structures have to be used appropriately. Your speech should not have grammar mistakes, especially those that make it more difficult to understand you. Flexibility in usage of various grammar has to be shown.
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). You shouldn’t be mispronouncing the words – that is, using wrong sounds or stresses.
How to improve your IELTS Speaking score
In order to understand how to get higher mark for your IELTS Speaking performance, we have look into how the examiner mark your answer. The assessment is done by checking against a list of requirements the candidate is supposed to fulfil for each level. There, we will be looking at each criteria and what is expected of you. As we have stated previously, there are four criteria and each has its own Band 0 to Band 9 list of requirements. Let’s take a closer look at each of the four.
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 ideas in your speech.
The second way is easier. Speak a little bit slower than you normally would. That’s it. By slowing the pace down 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 might want to try increasing the pace. Either way, keep in mind that multiple pauses negatively affect your score.
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. It is very common for candidates to misunderstand the question which results in a completely irrelevant response. Do not hesitate to ask to rephrase the question if you feel you do not understand it.
- Discourse markers – words or phrases that signal relationships between different parts of a text or conversation. They are used to connect ideas, organize information, and show the speaker or writer’s attitude towards the content. While not essential to the meaning of a sentence, they play an important role in making a well-flowing, easy to understand answer. Examples of discourse markers include ‘however’, ‘in addition’, ‘nevertheless’, ‘fortunately/unfortunately’ and many others.
Cohesion is how logically and naturally the ideas are connected. How well you connect your closes with various cohesive devices. Some examples include:
- Conjunctions, or words that link clauses or sentences together, such as ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘or’, and ‘so’.
- Pronouns. These are words that replace nouns in a sentence, such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, and ‘they’. It also helps avoid word repetition.
- Adverbs. They modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, such as ‘however’, ‘therefore’, and ‘meanwhile’.
- Reference. This is when a word or phrase is used to refer to something previously mentioned or to establish a connection, such as ‘The dog, which was barking earlier, ran into the yard’.
Expanding and developing your vocabulary is a long and tedious process that lasts for as long as you study the language. Our IELTS Speaking sample questions with answers page has highlighted words and phrases with explanations. These will be of big help in enlarging your vocabulary. To help you score even 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.
There are particular lexical elements that examiners want you to use to get certain score. For instance, to get Band 8 and higher for this criteria, you have to use less common words and structures without hesitation. At higher bands examiners expect you to effortlessly produce more complex phrases which indicates wider lexical range and overall better command of English. Collocations, idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs are all needed to get Band 7 and higher. Attempting to paraphrase a word or idea you don’t remember is needed to get Band 6.
Grammatical range and accuracy
Similarly 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. Simpler structures that are used accurately and appropriately are much better than a sloppy complex clause with several mistakes that is almost impossible to understand. 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 – that is a very common mistakes. Show that you can express sequencing of events by using past simple, present perfect, past perfect. Know your articles! You may want to use this short guide to English tenses for more info.
An important part of assessment is presence of so-called ‘systematic errors’. These are mistakes that occur more than one time over the course of candidate’s entire response (Part 1, 2 and 3). If this is the case, then the highest they can get for this criteria is Band 7. This is worth noting because occasional inaccuracies that happen only once and do not prevent communication can take you all the way to Band 9. In other words, examiners tolerate occasional ‘slips’ and they do not affect the mark if they are not persistent.
Two basic mistakes that frequently occur among candidates are use of articles and poor subject-verb agreement. These are tolerated all the way to Band 7. Make sure to brush up on both, especially the articles.
First of all, don’t worry too much about 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 exclude words with that sound. 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 applies to spelling and vocabulary in writing.
- Use intonation to your advantage: by raising and lowering your pitch you can emphasize certain parts of your answer. This helps the examiner follow your response better and makes you sound more natural and engaging.
- Don’t rush, speak clearly: Take your time to form each word carefully, and enunciate each syllable with precision. Avoid running your words together, and respect silent letters and stressed syllables.
- Pay attention to stress and rhythm: Ensure that you stress the right parts of words and maintain a smooth and regular rhythm. This contributes to a more natural flow and makes it easier for the listener.
- Practice regularly: Practice speaking regularly with others, and use audio or video recordings to assess your progress. This helps you build confidence and improve your fluency over time.
Afterword. IELTS Speaking tips
- The best advice I can give you is to practice more. The more you practice speaking, the better your communication skills will be. Practice with your friends, try online services like Chatroulette, join your local conversation clubs.
- Work on your vocabulary. Expand your vocabulary by reading English books, newspapers and magazines. Watch Youtube videos on relevant topics. Write the new words out and try to use them in your conversations.
- Improve your pronunciation. Record yourself speaking and pay attention to the way you pronounce words and sounds. Note how the intonation and pace of your speech. Try to mimic native English speakers and practice pronouncing words correctly.
- Coherence and cohesion are important. Ensure that your ideas are well-organized and logically connected. Isolated ideas with no real development are a great way to ruin your Part 3 performance.
- Confidence is key in speaking. Try to speak confidently and clearly, even if you make mistakes. Remember that non-systematic mistakes are not punishable.
- Consider paying for a tutor. They can give educated, well-informed feedback on your speaking performance and help you work on your weaker points.
- Remember about time limitations in Part 2. Make sure you are aware of how much time you have to answer each question. Keep your answers concise and avoid rambling.
- Listen carefully to the questions. If you miss some part of the question or fail to understand it, ask to repeat or even rephrase it. Answering the wrong question is heavily penalised.
- Avoid memorizing answers or sounding robotic. It’s important to be natural and spontaneous in your speaking.