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Prepare for the IELTS speaking test

Worried about the speaking portion of your IELTS exam? Read our guide to this section of the exam, including how the speaking section is structured and the exercises you’ll have to complete, tips to prepare and more...

IELTS speaking test

The speaking portion of the IELTS exam (or any exam for that matter) can be the most intimidating because it puts the test-taker on the spot – there’s less time to think about your response and you’re in a one-on-one scenario with a stranger (who can seem a little scary).


Don’t be too concerned! Read our full guide to the speaking test so you feel more confident...




The speaking test is actually very short – it’s only about 11-14 mins long! Hopefully if you prepare properly, the time will fly by as you get into the swing of things – before you know it, you’ll be on the next part of the test. You’ll be sat alone at a table with a certified examiner in a room. The test will be recorded for the examiner's record.


Note: Usually your speaking test will be on the same day as your writing, listening and reading tests though sometimes it can be scheduled for a different day due to time commitments.



The test is split into 3 parts:

Part 1 Introduction and interview (4-5 mins)

The examiner will introduce themselves and prompt you to do the same. The examiner will ask some simple questions about yourself such as your family, home, interests and studies. Because you’re talking about yourself, this first part acts as a nice starting point to settle you in and relax any nerves.



Part 2. Individual long turn (3-4 mins)

Examiner gives you a card with a topic on it for you to discuss. This card will also have some points which you must cover in your discussion. On receiving the card, you’ll be given a minute to write down some quick notes to prepare what you are going to say. You will then have 1-2 mins to talk about the topic. The examiner will ask 1-2 short follow-up questions in response to what you have originally said.



Part 3. Two-way discussion (4-5 mins)

You’ll be asked to discuss further the same topic you discussed in part 2. Unlike the 2nd part, this 3rd part will have more back-and-forth between the examiner and yourself, rather than you speaking at length on your own. There will also be room to talk about more abstract issues and ideas.  




How you’re assessed

  • The examiner will be looking out for a number of things:
  • How you communicate your opinions and other information about everyday topics through answers to a range of questions
  • How you speak at length on a topic
  • How you organise your thoughts and express these in a coherent way
  • How you analyse, discuss and speculate about commonly-discussed issues



You’ll be marked on the following:

  • Fluency and coherence – how comprehensible you are to the examiner
  • Lexical resource – your use of appropriate, developed vocabulary
  • Grammatical range and accuracy – your use of proper grammar
  • Pronunciation – how you say words



See what you can expect from an IELTS test day. Watch our playlist of videos from our day at an IELTS test, including why you should take IELTS and tips from candidates:



Tips for the IELTS speaking test

Practise at every opportunity

Get into the habit of speaking English whenever possible. If you’re socialising with friends, ask if you can speak in English instead (this will be great if they’re also preparing for an IELTS test). You can even play a game where you have to do a forfeit each time someone speaks in your native language to make things more fun! You should also use this opportunity to socialise with more friends who speak English.



Speak to strangers

Speaking to new people in English to practise introducing yourself will help you prepare for part one of the speaking test which involves telling the examiner some basic facts about yourself. Speaking to new people will also boost your confidence which will serve you well in the exam environment.



Talk about new topics

In parts 2 and 3 of the exam, you’ll be given a topic to discuss and answer questions about. While this topic won’t be anything too complicated or advanced, expanding your basic knowledge and understanding of current issues won’t hurt either. Read popular English language news websites and blogs to sharpen your knowledge and to pick up phrases which might come in handy in your exam – a particular phrase or fact you read somewhere might pop into your head in the exam at an awkward moment, which could rescue you!



Some questions and topics to help you prepare

Have a go at talking at length about the following topics and questions to see where you could improve. Can you speak for a few minutes about these? What could you talk about or cover in relation to you? What will allow you to demonstrate your English, and even get your personality across in what you say?

General topics

  • What is the meaning of your name? 
  • Does your name affect your personality? 
  • Which is your favourite colour?
  • Do you think colours influence our life? How?



Your country/town of origin

  • Let’s talk about your home town or village.
  • What kind of place is it?
  • What’s the most interesting part of your town/village?
  • What kind of jobs do the people in your town/village do?
  • Would you say it’s a good place to live? (Why?)
  • What are the differences in accent between your hometown and (another city in your country)? 
  • What is the character of the people like in your hometown? 
  • What is people's favourite food in the region where you live?
  • Do you think that people have enough time for leisure now?
  • Are there any historic monuments in your region?
  • Tell me something about a national festival in your country.
  • What places in your home city or town should a foreigner visit? 



  • Let’s move on to talk about accommodation.
  • Tell me about the kind of accommodation you live in?
  • How long have you lived there?
  • What do you like about living there?
  • What sort of accommodation would you most like to live in?




  • Describe a traditional wedding ceremony. 
  • How have weddings changed in recent years?
  • Are there any traditions concerning the birth of a baby?
  • Are the traditional roles within the family changing?
  • Is it acceptable for couples to live together without marrying?
  • Why is the divorce rate increasing so rapidly? Is it a problem?
  • What is your opinion of the planning family policy?
  • Do women still have too heavy a burden in their day to day life? 



Work life

  • Describe a typical working day for you
  • How do you see yourself in ten years time?
  • If you had the opportunity to change your job, what would you do instead?




  • Who should bear the responsibility for payment of tuition fees?
  • What can be done to improve education in rural areas?
  •  Have recent changes affected your job in any way?
  • Will any possible future changes affect your job in any way? 
  • Do you agree with private education? Why?
  • What can be done to close the gap between urban and rural areas?
  •  If you had the power, what changes would you carry out within education?



Tip from an expert: Bryan Dowie, Road to IELTS

'Treat the Speaking test as a conversation. Be polite in your speech and be engaging. No one is asking you to be perfect, but communicate your ideas thoroughly - do not just say "yes" or "no", say why you think what you do. It is important to elaborate.'



Don’t stop there! Read our tips for the other sections of the IELTS test...

IELTS reading

IELTS listening

IELTS writing



Find out more:

For access to more information and sample tests, please visit the IELTS official website

You can also visit Road to IELTS for tips, videos, exercises and other IELTS preparation resources

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About Author

IELTS speaking test

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.