IELTS Speaking test format and assessment criteria
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What to expect at the IELTS Speaking test

IELTS Speaking test format

Test-takers and students often find IELTS Speaking to be difficult because they are not aware of what to expect in this section of the exam. In this article, we will tell you about the IELTS Speaking test, the parts it consists of and the types of questions to expect at the test. You will also learn what the examiner will be listening for during the test, and what your band will depend on.

Basic facts

Regardless the version of the test you choose, paper or computer-based, IELTS Speaking is always conducted face-to-face. You will take this part of the test in a private Speaking test room, free from noise and distraction with the examiner only. According to IELTS, it is the most effective way of assessing your speaking skills and it prompts a more lifelike performance. This is also an advantage because the examiner can repeat and rephrase questions for you.

You will take the Speaking test before or after other sections of IELTS. Some centers offer to take IELTS Speaking a day before Listening, Reading and Writing which is less stressful for candidates. Others conduct the Speaking test on the same day after the main session. It is up to you what option to choose. However, people tend to demonstrate better results when they are less tired and more relaxed.

IELTS Speaking is the shortest section of the test. It lasts only from 11 to 15 minutes. However, it may seem like you have spent forever and a day in the room with the examiner. The main reason for this is that candidates forget to relax and lose their confidence. The examiner knows you worry a lot, so he or she may also ask you how you feel to help you relax.

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3 parts of the IELTS Speaking test

There are 3 parts in the speaking test:

  • Introductions and general questions;
  • Individual long turn;
  • Two-way discussion.

Part 1 will last for only 4 – 5 minutes, and you will have to answer questions about your everyday life, for example, about your family, work or studies, hobbies, weather etc. These are the questions people often ask each other when they meet for the first time. This part of the test is a kind of warm-up before the next two parts.

In Part 2 the examiner gives the candidate a card with the task. You will have 1 minute to prepare and then talk for 1 – 2 minutes, with some questions from the examiner. The tasks in this part are usually about your experience. For example, you can be asked to speak about things you have or want to have, places you visited or would like to visit, situations and experiences you’ve had or would like to have. Use the preparation time to plan your answer and make some notes. You can look at your notes while answering.

READ ABOUT: How not to pass IELTS Speaking: common mistakes made by candidates

Below, there is an example of the prompt card you might get from the examiner:

In Part 3 the examiner asks further questions on the topic from Part 2, and gives the candidate the opportunity to discuss more abstract issues or ideas. This means that you will have to speak about other people, tendencies and social issues. For example, if you were to talk about the adventure in Part 2, now you may have to answer the following questions:

  • How important is it to have adventure in our lives?
  • What do people learn about themselves from having adventures?
  • Should people always avoid danger, or is it a good idea sometimes to take risks?
  • What risks should people try to avoid?
  • Do you think people take fewer risks as they grow older? Why (not)?

The examiner will ask you questions, and you will have to give a response with as much detail as you can. Your answers should be clear and extended. It’s a good idea to support them with an example or two.

What do examiners look for in your response?

In IELTS Speaking you will be assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Fluency and coherence. The examiner will listen if you can speak fluently without preparation, if you can organize your speech so that the listener could follow your ideas, if you make long pauses or not.
  • Lexical resource. You should avoid repetition and show that you have a wide range of vocabulary. They also check if you can use less common and idiomatic vocabulary, or if you are good at paraphrasing.
  • Grammatical range and accuracy. They will listen for simple and complex structures , and if you can use them appropriately. Try to avoid making mistakes as well.
  • Pronunciation. Your pronunciation should be easy to understand, and you should speak clearly.

The better your work on these aspects the higher score you will get for your speaking test.

If you want to find out more about the format of the test, strategies you can use to increase your score and get feedback on your speaking, register for IELTS Grade course. Moreover, you will have the chance to practise all four skills, watch video tutorials, get your writing evaluated and checked by the automated checking system that uses artificial intelligence to give you the IELTS band score instantly.

We have also written about helpful idioms you can use at the IELTS Speaking test.

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