In the Speaking module of IELTS, you may be asked a question you don’t understand. In such situations, you CAN ask for help from the examiner. The kind of help you will be given depends on the part of the test:
- In Part 1, the examiner can ONLY repeat the question.
- In Part 2, the examiner can answer your questions during the preparation time.
- In Part 3, the examiner can help you to understand the question.
The following useful language will enable you to get the help you need.
When you don’t hear the question
- I’m sorry, could you repeat that please?
- I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.
- Would you mind saying that again?
When you don’t understand a particular word
- What does ( ) mean?
- Does ( ) mean ( )?
- Sorry, I’m not sure what ( ) means.
When you don’t understand the question
- I’m sorry, what do you mean exactly?
- Could you say that in other words?
- I’m afraid I’m not quite sure what you mean.
Different cultures have different attitudes to silence, but for English speakers the attitude is one of near-zero tolerance. It’s fine to hesitate for a few seconds before speaking or between ideas, but silences of longer than five seconds will go down badly. Happily, there’s a solution to this problem and that’s to learn some filler expressions such as That’s a tough question and Let me see.
2. Memorised answers
The examiner is very likely to notice if you try to recite an answer from memory, and there is a penalty for this. The telltale signs of a memorised answer include speaking in a ‘written’ style of English, unnatural intonation, and the candidate attempting to ‘rephrase’ the question to the one they want to answer. Any questions you try to memorise answers to are very unlikely to be asked, so it is much more effective to practice speaking about a wide range of topics before you take the test.
3. Overuse of transition signals
It’s helpful to use a few signposting words like first, for example or on the other hand. But if you overload your speech with these you could actually damage your score. Sounding natural, not like a signposting robot, should be your goal in IELTS Speaking. There are also many words characteristic of formal writing such as furthermore, moreover and in addition that are hardly ever used in speech and could actually make you sound less natural if you say them.
Try these IELTS Speaking practice questions with a partner first and then check below to compare the sample answers with your own. Remember, there is no correct way to answer questions in IELTS Speaking Part 1. You should, however, always do your best to avoid repeating back the question. You should also try to expand a little by giving a reason or example, or by making a comparison.
Topic: Reading and writing
1. Do you read a daily newspaper?
2. What kind of books do you like to read?
3. How often do you use a library?
4. How many hours a week do you spend reading?
5. Is there anything you find hard to read?
6. What kind of books did you read as a child?
7. What’s the last thing you read and enjoyed?
8. Have you ever kept a diary?
9. What’s the most popular newspaper in your country?
10. Would you ever write your own autobiography?
See below for sample answers and analysis