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IELTS Speaking Test: Key Facts

Duration: Between 11 and 14 minutes.
Participants: Candidates interviewed individually. The test is recorded.
Format: The test consists of three parts.

Part 1 (Interview)

Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test lasts between 4 and 5 minutes. The examiner will ask some simple 'getting-to-know-you' questions which will help the examiner find out a little about you and help put you at ease. These will be general questions such as about your family, your studies, where you come from or what your interests are.

Example Questions

Q: Where are you from?
Q: Why are you studying English?
Q: Have you visited any English speaking countries?
Q: Do you play any sports?


Giving full, relevant answers to the examiner's questions will help get the interview off to a good start.

1) Avoid giving short, uncommunicative replies.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I'm from Hoorn in the Netherlands. (Don't stop there!) It's about 35 kilometers north of Amsterdam. It's a modern city but with a lot of history and a lovely place to live.

2) Avoid short, 'yes', 'no' answers to closed questions. (These are questions beginning 'Have you ...', 'Do you ...', 'Is it ...' etc which can be answered simply with a yes or no answer).
Q: Have you visited any English speaking countries?
A: Yes. (Don't stop there!) I went to England last year and spent two weeks seeing the sights. A couple of years ago I went to New York with my parents and had a great time.
Q: Do you play any sports?
A: No. (Don't stop there!) I'm not really interested in playing sports. I like watching sport on TV and I really enjoyed keeping up with the Olympics recently.

3) Offer examples to help you explain a statement.
Q: Why are you preparing for the IELTS exam?
A: Because I need it for my studies. (Don't stop there!) I've been offered a place at a university in England to study on an MBA but I need to show my level of English is good enough.

Part 2 (Long Turn)

Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test lasts between 3 and 4 minutes (including 1 minute preparation time). The examiner gives you a task card and you have to speak about the subject without interruption for between 1 and 2 minutes.

Example Task

Example 1) Describe a place you have visited that you have fond memories of.

You should say:

where this was
why you went there
what you did there
and what it was about the place that makes it so memorable.

Example 2) Describe your favourite personal possession.

You should say:

what this possession is
when you first got it
when you use it
and why it's so important to you.


1. Use your 1 minute preparation time wisely and make notes of the points you'd like to make.

2. The question will help you with the structure of your talk. The introduction can include the item itself and maybe a brief description. The main body of your talk could describe the situation when you acquired the object and go on to explain when you use it. You can then end with an explanation of why the object is so important.

3. Try to avoid giving a very dry, unimaginative introduction such as 'The object I'm going to describe is ....'. Get your talk off to a memorable start with something on the lines of: 'If I was about to lose everything and could only save one thing it would be my ...', or 'I've got several things that mean a lot to me but the one that really stands out is my ...'

4. If you're concerned about not having enough to talk about for 1 to 2 minutes or running out of time before you've finished, the answer is to practise as often as possible. Time yourself and ask a friend for feedback.

Part 3: (Two-Way Discussion)

In Part 3 of the test, which lasts between 3 to 4 minutes, the examiner will ask you questions linked to the topic in Part 2.

Example Questions (Based on example topics in Part 2 above)

Q: It is sometimes argued that local cultures are being destroyed by tourism. Why do think people might feel this?
Q: What benefits do people get from travelling to other countries?
Q: Do you think people are becoming too materialistic?
Q: To what extent are people's buying habits affected by advertising?


1. If you need time to collect your thoughts use expressions (sparingly) like: 'That's a good question.', 'Well, let me think ...'.

2. Don't forget to avoid short, 'yes', 'no' answers. Try to offer examples to back up a statement.

3. Help make your contributions memorable. Try explaining a point using a short, personal anecdote.

4. If the examiner asks a question that you don't understand, take control of the situation with questions such as those that appear below. Responding like this will show evidence of your communication skills.

A) If the examiner uses a word or phrase that you don't understand, say something like:
"Sorry but could you explain what you mean by ........" or
"I haven't come across that word/expression before. Could you explain what you mean?"

B) If you simply didn't hear something that was asked, respond with:
"Excuse me, I didn't quite catch that. Could you say that again?"
"I'm sorry, but would you mind repeating that?"

C) If you want to make sure you've understood what the examiner has asked you could say:
"Do you mean ........"
"When you say ........, do you mean/are you asking ........?

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These guides have been published by the Splendid Speaking team to help students and teachers who would like to know more about the IELTS Speaking test. This guide is made available for information only and should not be seen as official advice. Splendid Learning, a division of Flo-Joe, will not be held liable for any consequences arising from the use of this guide. For more information about the IELTS exam please visit the Cambridge ESOL website at www.cambridgeesol.org