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 “To speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks”. ~Ben Jonson

We continue our series of articles about IELTS by focusing on the format of Speaking, preparation and the criteria of its assessment.


Let’s start with the format. IELTS Speaking lasts for 11-14 minutes and consists of 3 parts.


In the first part of IELTS Speaking the examiner asks several personal questions about your family, education, free time, food, etc. Below you can see several examples (all of them are based on Cambridge Past Papers, Longman IELTS PLUS and Macmillan Testbuilder):


Can you tell me your name?

What shall I call you?

Which country do you come from?

Where is your home town?

Tell me about the countryside outside your town?


Now let’s talk about computers and the Internet.


How often do you use the computer? What for?

Do you like using the Internet? Why/ Why not?

How did you learn to use a computer?

Do you think it is important to know how to use a computer? Why/ Why not?


In the second part of IELTS Speaking the candidate is given a card with a topic and some prompts to cover it. The preparation time is 1 minute during which it is possible to jot down an outline of your response. Then the candidate is supposed to talk from 1 to 2 minutes.


Describe a TV or radio programme you enjoyed when you were a child.


You should say:

  • what the programme was about
  • when it was
  • where you watched or listened to it

Explain why you enjoyed this programme when you were a child.



It is essential that you talk within this strict time limit, so your long-winded response can be interrupted. In the end the examiner asks a few follow-up questions on the topic. For instance, Would you still like this programme today? Did your friends enjoy this programme too? These questions are answered briefly.


The third part of IELTS Speaking is related to the second one and expects the candidate to reflect upon a problem and/or express his or her opinion. It is not a good idea to give examples from your own experience unless you are asked.


See the examples below:


Let’s talk about TV and radio in your country.

In your country, which do people prefer: watching TV to listening to radio?

What kinds of programmes are most popular?

Do men and women tend to like the same kind of programmes? Why/ Why not?


What about developments in programming?

What kind of ‘interactive’ programmes are there in our country?

Are these a good or a bad development? Why?

What kind of programmes will there be in the future, do you think?


The preparation for Speaking, especially if you need Band 6 and higher, starts with learning the criteria of assessment.


It is essential that you should not speak off topic, need to prove your point of view and give examples within the given time limit. For example, while answering the Part 1 question 'How often do you use the computer? What for?’, you might explain why this particular function of the computer is of primary importance to you.


The second rule of thumb – avoid repetitions, try not to use ‘simple’ words (good, bad, interesting, etc) and grammatical structures (1-2 tenses, no passive sentences, clauses and -ing forms). This criterion is especially important in the second part when you need to create a monologue.


The third aspect is logic and the use of different linking words (as a result, therefore, hopefully, etc.). If your thoughts are incoherent and confusing, you risk failing to answer the question, which should not be done.


Finally, you need to pronounce words correctly and avoid making a lot of grammatical and vocabulary mistakes.


Bearing these requirements in mind, it is necessary to improve your vocabulary on the following themes:Family, Relationships, Holidays, Sport, Music, TV, Movies, Traditions in Russia, Feelings, Emotions, Transport, Travel, Environment, Books, etc. The best variant is to know chunks of words and phrasal verbs - love at first sightsplit up or get on well with sb to speak about Relationships. Then you could use these words and phrases in all the 3 parts, trying to gradually reduce the timing and number of sentences.


No doubt you are expected to produce unprepared, fluent speech at the exam. There are several ways to develop this skill depending on a student’s abilities. We can mention the most common – first, the speaking test is done without any timing, the emphasis is placed on accuracy. The student can come up with idea at home. After developing the ‘format’ skill, the candidate can answer questions within the required time limit.


Good speaking practice can be provided by the English Speaking Club whose moderator, a native speaker, creates different situations that facilitate communication. This gives yet another opportunity to develop fluency. Such discussion clubs can be either a supplementary course, which is offered along with the main online courses, or an independent community created in an English school (a linguistic centre).

What kind of teacher can help to prepare for IELTS Speaking more effectively?


In order to prepare for IELTS Speaking you had better work with a native-speaking teacher since it is a native speaker who normally marks this part.


You do not have to take an online conversational course, but this could benefit you because it is possible to improve the listening skill by using only voice calls, without a camera.

Skype-Language teachers will be happy to share other IELTS techniques and approaches with you.


To sign up for our IELTS trial, please complete our online application form.



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