24. March 2020.

IELTS Speaking Tips & Tricks

It’s only 11 to 14 minutes long, but for many students the IELTS Speaking Test is the most stressful part of the exam. Keep calm and keep scrolling, because our tips & tricks will help.

What will you find on this page?

  • The secret Part X of the test nobody told you about
  • A simple trick that will make you seem more confident – and you don’t have to say a word!
  • What is dead air and why it is a big no-no
  • The most common mistakes students make
  • Magic words to help you get out of a jam
  • and much, much more

How does IELTS Speaking look like?

It is conducted face to face with an examiner in a room, whether you take the computer delivered test or the good old pen and paper version. It also the same for IELTS Academic and General Training.

There are parts where you talk to the examiner and parts where you should produce a monologue. It lasts between 11 and 14 minutes and it’s recorded. At the end of the test, your examiner will decide your band score. They mark you on these four criteria: fluency and cohesion 25%, vocabulary 25%, grammar 25% and the last 25% of your score depends on your pronunciation. 

Officially IELTS Speaking has three parts; however, before Part 1 commences the examiner will greet and ID you. We dubbed it Part X, during which you will be asked 4 questions and hopefully make a favourable first impression. What these questions are and how you should answer them find in our video lesson here.

Let’s look at all the parts in more detail:

Part X: Greeting and ID check

Part 1: Informal interview questions about yourself, family, work, study or hobbies 4 to 5 minutes

These are fairly simple questions, so how can you show off your advanced English here? Another main concern students have is how many sentences they should produce to each of the examiner’s question.

So, let’s jump straight in with three possible scenarios:

1. TOO SHORT

Q – Do you like your job?

A – Yes.

Hey, come on! You can do better than this.

2. A BIT BETTER

Q – Do you like your job?

A – Yes, it is good. Having a job is good and my job is good.

Okayyyy… How about three sentences and use some advanced vocabulary?

3. THE RIGHT LENGTH

Q – Do you like your job?

A – Yes and no! I mean, it’s a challenge and the work is varied. But sometimes the workload is overwhelming and my work-life balance suffers.

This is a good length and the vocabulary literally shines. Well done!

We discuss this and many other topics in a video tutorial here. The video give answers to the questions we often get from students, such as what to do if I make a mistake, should I use formal or informal language, speak slow of fast, ask the examiner questions, use ummm/hmmm/fillers of any kind and many more.

Part 2: You will be given a topic card with three points to talk about. You will have 1 minute to prepare speaking points, and 1-2 minutes to speak continuously, addressing all parts of the task. Part 2 finishes with questions relating to the topic from two.

Here the absolute number 1 most important lesson to learn about the speaking test is never leave dead air. If you forget a word, keep talking. If you realise you just made a big grammar mistake, keep talking. If no-one is smiling at you and you think you are doing badly – KEEP TALKING!

Start by paraphrasing the three points on your topic card and make sure you use advanced and topic specific vocabulary. Most students spend a few months preparing/ vocabulary building for this exam so don’t be shy, show off your broad and glossy word-stock.

Find out in our video tutorial here which are the common mistakes and how to avoid them, what is the best way to start off, templates how to do the paraphrasing, whether you’ll be penalised if you don’t talk for full two minutes, what to do if the topic is totally uninspiring or you get stuck and much more.

Part 3: You have a longer discussion on the topic lasting 4 to 5 minutes. The examiner will ask you further questions connected to the topic in Part 2.

There will be questions in the exam where you don’t have anything to say right away. Your mind goes blank and you need time to think, but you want to avoid dead air. Here are useful phrases which will buy you time so make sure you memorise them:

  • Well, now, let me see

  • That’s an interesting question, I’ve never really thought about it, but now you brought it up…

  • Oh, what a great question!

  • Well that’s something I’ve never really thought about but, on reflection, I’d say that…

Another great tip is how to instantly seem more confident without saying a single word. Crazy? Not at all!

Look at the examiner and make eye contact. Even if you don’t feel confident and the questions raised do not inspire your passionate answers – fake it! It will earn you points. Nod, smile, be interested – the examiner will see this and feel more warmly towards you and more positively about your English.

In our IELTS Speaking Part 3 video tutorial we look into the common mistakes to avoid, share useful templates for expressing opinions to impress the examiner and teach you our tried and tested 3-step technique to effortlessly develop your ideas.