IELTS Speaking FAQ

Speaking FAQs:

Q. What the IELTS Speaking Test consists of?
Answer: IELTS Speaking test is an interview session between a designated and certified IELTS examiner and an IELTS candidate, and it takes around 11 to 14 minutes. There are three sub-sections in this test – a) Introduction & Interview b) Candidate Task Card/Cue Card & c) Details Discussion/Two-way discussion. Speaking test assesses a test taker’s ability to speak on various topics.

Q. Is the IELTS speaking a face-to-face interview with an examiner or by a computer?
Answer: The IELTS speaking test will be conducted on a face-to-face basis with an expert human examiner since there is no option for a computer to conduct such a test in IELTS.

Q. If I take a computer-delivered IELTS, will I still need to talk to a human examiner?
Answer: Yes, even if you register for a computer-delivered IELTS test, you still need to take a face-to-face speaking test with a certified IELTS examiner.

Q. How many parts are there to the IELTS speaking test?
Answer: There are 3 parts in the IELTS speaking test. Part 1 is the “introduction and a general interview” section; Part 2 is a “1-2 minutes talk based on a given topic”, and Part 3 is a “details discussion” on a few issues which are based on the topic given in part 2.

Q. How long does the IELTS speaking test take?
Answer: It takes around 11 to 14 minutes to finish the speaking test. In part 1, one would be allowed to take 4-5 minutes to answer the questions. Part 2 would take about 3-4 minutes including one-minute preparation time while part 3 would need to be finished within 4-5 minutes.

Q. What kinds of topics will I be asked in my IELTS speaking test?
Answer: You will be asked about many different topics in the IELTS speaking exam to test your speaking abilities. For example, in part 1, a face-to-face interview, which may last for about 4-5 minutes, will take place where questions about yourself, your life and your country may be asked. Topics in this face-to-face interview may include work, study, hobby, childhood, hometown, family and clothing, among many other things. In part 2, you will be given a topic card to think about it first for 1 minute and then actually talk about it for another 1-2 minutes. In part 3, a conversation on a broader range of questions between the examiner and the test taker will take place, which may last for about 4-5 minutes. Part three questions are based on the Part 2 topic/cue card.

To get an idea about what type of questions you will be asked, you should look at some speaking sample questions and their answers which are taken from real IELTS tests.

Q. How will the speaking test be marked?
Answer: Speaking test is marked based on four criteria, each one accounts for 25% of the total marks in the speaking test. The criteria are as follows:

A) Fluency and Coherence, which include speaking at length, organising ideas logically, and appropriately signposting to clearly indicate the direction of an applicant’s thoughts.
B) Lexical or vocabulary Resources.
C) Grammatical Range & Accuracy.
D) Pronunciation.

Q. How many questions will I be asked in my Speaking test?
Answer: Well, it is hard to tell the exact number of questions you might be asked in the IELTS speaking test. But generally speaking, you can expect 6-12 questions in part 1. As far as part 2 is concerned, you will be provided with one cue card topic, and you have to speak about the topic for a couple of minutes. By the way, you won’t be allowed to choose or change the topic in part 2. Finally, in part 3, there will be 5 or more questions, depending on the length of the answers. However, it is better to go for a long and detailed answer in part 3. The whole test will last 11-14 minutes.

Look at this IELTS Speaking Model Test and have an idea about the questions you will be asked when you take the test.

Q. Do I need to expand my answers in my speaking test?
Answer: One should try to expand his or her answers in the IELTS speaking test because it would allow the examiner to test the level of fluency of the candidate. The longer is the answer in the speaking test, the better is the chance to get a band score 7 or above in the criterion of “fluency”. And remember, never just say “Yes” or “No”, to answer a question which will eventually cost you marks.

Visit and read this Speaking Sample and get an idea about the length of answers you should follow while taking the Speaking test.

Q. What happens if my answer includes the answer to the next question on the examiner’s list?
Answer: If an answer includes the answer to the next question on the examiner’s list of questions, then he or she may naturally skip that question and move on the next question after that. So, there is nothing really to worry about adding any extra information to your answer. In other words, it won’t affect the answer to the next question in any manner.

Q. What should I wear for my IELTS speaking test?
Answer: An IELTS test taker may wear anything he or she likes, depending on his/her mood and weather since it is an informal interview between the test taker and the examiner. However, some people suggest that a candidate should wear something comfortable and a type of dress that does not easily offend others.

Q. How should I greet the examiner?
Answer: When a candidate walks into the examination room, the first thing an examiner will do is to greet him or her. Then, of course, the candidate also can greet the examiner by having eye contact with him or her with a gentle and smiling gesture. While greeting the examiner, the candidate should tell his/her name to the examiner as well as where he/she is coming from. After that greeting part, the examiner asks the candidate to show his/her ID to make sure that he/she is the same person who is supposed to take the IELTS test.

Q. Can I greet the examiner in my own language?
Answer: While there is no harm in greeting the examiner in your native language, it is recommended that you do not use your native language (considering that it is not English) more than that. Some candidates simply gree the examiner by saying “Good morning”, “Good afternoon” and so on.

Q. Can I use body language in my IELTS speaking test?
Answer: The use of body language of a candidate doesn’t really make any difference in the IELTS speaking test because most people find it natural to move their different body parts when trying to express themselves. However, while there is nothing wrong with using body language, it is important that a test taker remains relaxed so that he or she can talk naturally in front of the examiner.

Q. Does it matter if I have an accent when I talk?
Answer: No, it doesn’t matter whether a test taker has an accent or not as long as the examiner can understand him/her clearly. But, if, on the other hands, the examiner is not able to understand what a candidate is talking about, then the chances are that a test taker would end up getting a lower score. So speak naturally, clearly and confidently even though you know that you do have an accent.

Q. What types of questions I will be asked in part 1 of the test?
Answer: As soon as you enter the exam room, the examiner will greet you and ask you to show your identification while asking your name, candidate number and so on to verify your identity. Afterwards, he or she will ask you a few questions (usually 4) about yourself, your study, job, family, interests, activity, hometown, country and so on. All these questions are familiar to you and you should be able to answer those without any hesitation.

Q. Can I choose my topic to talk about in part 2?
Answer: No, you are not allowed to choose a topic on your own in part 2 and you have to talk about the topic picked up by the examiner.

Q. Well, then! can I ask the examiner to change the topic is part 2 if I can’t talk about it?
Answer: No, there is no scope for asking the examiner to change the topic in part 2 if someone feels that he or she is not able to talk about the topic, chosen by the examiner.

Q. Do I have to talk for 2 minutes about the topic given by the examiner in part 2?
Answer: Yes, it is always better to talk for the maximum amount of time (which is 2 minutes) because it would give the examiner an impression that you are happy to give a long answer. However, if you feel that you don’t really have much to talk about on the topic, please just try to stick to your main points or idea without trying to push it too hard to give a long answer. In other words, if you think that you can talk only for a minute on that particular subject, then it is not necessary to prolong the answer just for the sake of using the full quota of time.

Q. Should I continue talking past 2 minutes in speaking cue card part?
Answer: If anyone continues to talk past 2 minutes in speaking part 2 or the cue card, the examiner will stop him or her as there is a very strict rule for not allowing students to speak for more than 2 minutes. So try to finish your talk in 2 minutes timeframe.

Q. Do I have to follow the “prompts”/”4 questions” on the cue card in speaking part 2?
Answer: Generally yes, but not absolutely necessary. It is not always required to follow the prompts on the cue card while answering the questions in IELTS speaking part 2. These prompts or questions on the cue card are some guidelines which are designed to support and help a candidate to construct his or her thoughts and talks. If you have something else to say, which is relevant to the topic, you can just say that.

Q. If I take notes in part 2, will the examiner look at those notes?
Answer: No, the examiner will not look at your notes or mark them because they are for you to plan your thoughts and then guide you through to build your talks.

Q. What are the differences between part 1 and part 3 in the speaking exam?
Answer: Part 1 of the Speaking test involves the introduction and an interview where the examiner would ask a candidate some questions on common topics like your country, hometown, school, hobby, family, and clothing. For part 1 questions, usually, short answers will be expected from a test taker.

On the other hand, in part 3, the examiner may ask a candidate more complex questions on a broader issue. So naturally, the answers in this part will have to be given in more details, which would be longer than the answers in part 1. Part 3 questions are usually based on the cue card topic that the candidate has talked about a while ago.

Q. What can I do if I don’t understand the question?
Answer: If someone doesn’t understand a question in the IELTS speaking test, he or she may ask the examiner either to repeat the questions or explain the questions, as far as the questions in part 1 and part 3 are concerned. But, as for the question in part 2 is concerned, the examiner will provide the candidate with a topic, and he or she may not be able to change it whether he or she understands the questions or not.

Q. Will I get a lower score if I ask the examiner to repeat the question?
Answer: No, asking the examiner to repeat the questions a few times wouldn’t lower anybody’s test score. But, it is certainly not recommended to ask to repeat the question more than a few times.

Q. Should I give examples in my answers?
Answer: Yes, it is always helpful to provide examples, especially, when providing the answers in part 3 questions.

Q. Should I maintain eye contact while taking?
Answer: Yes, it is always a good idea to maintain eye contact while you speak to the examiner. It will prove your fluency and confidence.

Q. What should I do if I don’t have any ideas for the answer of questions in part 3 of the Speaking test?
Answer: It is very much possible for a candidate to get a question in part 3 of the IELTS speaking test, about which he or she may not have any idea whatsoever. Should this be the case, the candidate can simply be honest and tell the examiner that he doesn’t know how to answer that particular question since he/she hasn’t learnt or read about it before. A candidate may also say that he or she would like to find out the answer to this question once he/she finishes the test. If the candidate answers the question in such an honest fashion by telling something thought-provoking, the chances are that the examiner will be happy with the answer of the candidate. Keep in mind that your English speaking skills and not your knowledge is tested in the IELTS speaking test.

Q. Should I correct my mistakes during the speaking test?
Answer: While it is ok to correct a few mistakes when you are taking the speaking test, it is actually not recommended to do a lot. Since every time you stop to correct a mistake, it would most likely affect the “fluency”. So, it is better that you keep ignoring most of the mistakes and keep talking as clearly as you can and not make many mistakes.

Q. The examiner interrupted my answer. Was it because my answer was not good enough?
Answer: An examiner may interrupt the answer of an IELTS candidate primarily for three reasons. The first reason is being that the examiner may think that the candidate has gone off the topic and talking about something else instead of the actual topic in question. Secondly, the examiner is simply satisfied with the answer of a candidate and as such, he/she wants to move to the next question. Thirdly, the candidate is probably taking more time to answer the question than the stipulated time limit, and also that the examiner needs to move to the next question immediately to help the students answer other questions within the time limit. So, it is hard to tell what was the exact reason in your case, probably one of the three explained above.

Q. Can I ask the examiner for his or her opinion?
Answer: No, you should not ask an examiner for his or her opinions because it is a language test and the examiner is the person who wants to learn about the opinions and answer of the test taker. By asking the examiner’s opinion, you won’t be benefitted in any way.

Q. Will my conversation with the examiner be recorded?
Answer: Yes, your conversation with the examiner will be recorded for later evaluation. But don’t worry about it when you take the test.

Q. Where can I get a practice speaking test from?
Answer: There are several numbers of resources online as well as practice videos on YouTube which would help you to practice speaking test either with a partner or alone. But before starting to practice, you must understand the IELTS speaking test formats.

You can read many Speaking Mock Tests/ Speaking Samples and learn how to answer simple as well as complex questions from our IELTS Speaking Sample section.

Q. Where can I get a full mock test of an IELTS Speaking Test.
Answer: Here is a full IELTS Speaking Mock Test. More resources and several speaking mock tests could be found at IETLS Speaking Samples.

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