Frequently Asked Questions IELTS Speaking

IELTS Speaking: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The questions below are among those most frequently asked about the Speaking module of IELTS. If you are looking for basic information about the structure of the Speaking module, you should probably read IELTS Speaking: Introduction first.

How many questions will I be asked?

In Parts 1 and 3, the examiner will have a set of questions but you will not be asked all of them. The number of questions will depend on the length of your answers. The longer your answers, the fewer questions you will be asked. In Part 2, the question is given to you on a card. You will also be asked one or two simple questions at the end of Part 2.

How long should I speak for in Part 1?

There is no limit, but the question usually asks for only one piece of information. It is therefore best to give this information and add an extra sentence or two.

In Part 2, do I need to keep talking for two minutes?

No. It may be better to finish within two minutes for several reasons. First, you do not really want to be interrupted by the examiner. Second, your response will be more coherent if you end with a firm concluding sentence such as So, that’s why (restate question topic). Third, you are more likely to make mistakes if you keep talking beyond what you planned to say. A candidate who answers the question fully in 90 seconds can easily receive a higher score than one who speaks for the full two minutes and has to be stopped.

What should I do if I don’t understand the question?

It depends which part you are answering. In Part 1, the examiner is able to repeat the question but will not offer you much help beyond that. In Part 2, you can ask for clarification during your one minute of preparation time if you need to. It’s not a good idea to ask questions during the two minutes of speaking time as this will disturb the fluency of your response. In Part 3, the examiner is able to offer much more help and can paraphrase the question for you. You should try to ask checking questions such as Do you mean…? rather than simply say Sorry, I don’t understand.

Why does the examiner ask questions at the end of Part 2?

These follow-up questions are just a way for the examiner to show interest in what you have said and to move the discussion on to Part 3. You do not need to give lengthy answers to these questions. Just a few words should be sufficient.

How much thinking time do I have in Part 3?

None! You should begin speaking immediately. Since you will not be able to come up with ideas right away, it’s important to be able to use filler expressions such as That’s an interesting question. Well, I suppose…. ‘Playing for time’ is not cheating – native speakers do it all the time!

How long should I speak for in Part 3?

There is no limit, but you should certainly give longer answers than in Part 1. If possible, try to give more than one reason to support your opinion. Even better, compare and contrast different ideas to expand your answer further. However, be careful! The longer you speak, the less coherent your response may become. That’s why it’s so important to return to your original idea at the end.

What should I do if I can’t come up with any ideas in Part 3?

The important thing to remember is that you are being tested on your ability to communicate ideas, not the quality of those ideas. Even if your ideas sound basic or predictable, you will still get a high score if the language you use to express them is appropriate to academic discussion. Another thing to remember is that it is possible to use other people’s ideas as well as your own. If you don’t have any views on a topic, try imagining what other people would say on this issue and talk about that instead. Finally, it is always a good idea to learn a few useful expressions to use when you just can’t come up with anything to say. Even if you aren’t able to give a satisfactory answer to the question, the examiner may still judge that you have spoken fluently and accurately. A good example is: I’m afraid I’ve never really thought about this issue before.¬†

Will the examiner give his or her own opinion in Part 3?

No. The examiner wants to hear your opinions, so there’s nothing to be gained by asking What do you think?!

How are IELTS Speaking scores calculated?

The examiner will pay attention to four main areas: (1) How fluent and understandable your answer is; (2) The range and accuracy of vocabulary you use; (3) The range and accuracy of grammatical forms you use; (4) Your pronunciation.

What IELTS Speaking score is required for university entry?

It varies by university and many do not specify a requirement for each module. However, you should be aiming to achieve a score of at least 6 in IELTS Speaking if you intend to study at an English-speaking university. A band score of 5 may be sufficient for some foundation and presessional English courses.

How can I raise my IELTS Speaking score?

Check out other speaking posts on IELTS Academic for advice on speaking techniques, useful language and understanding the scoring criteria.

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