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Speaking test strategies


Length: About 13 minutes; three parts

Part 1

You will be asked about yourself, your family, whether you are working or in school, what you like to do.

Note: the asterisked* questions below are taken directly from British Council.

  1. Name
    1. Does your name have any special meaning?
    2. Is your name important to you?
    3. Why do you think many people change their names?
  2. Home town
    1. Let’s talk about your home town. What kind of place is it?*
    2. How has your home town changed since you were young?*
    3. Can you tell me about some famous landmarks in your home town?
    4. Do you still live in the town where you grew up?*
  3. Work/Study
    1. Are you a student or do you have a job?
    2. Student
      1. Would do you like most about your studies?
    3. Work
      1. Tell me about a typical day at work.
      2. How did you get your job?
      3. Do you like your job?*
      4. What is the most interesting thing about your job?*
      5. Do you hope to do this job for a long time?*
      6. What kind of job would you prefer in the future?
  4. Hobbies
    1. What do you usually do in your spare time?
    2. Do you like reading?
  5. Plans for the future
    1. Why are you taking the IELTS test?
    2. What are you planning to do in the next five years? How about in the next 10 years?

Part 2

You will be given a task card with a discussion topic including questions about what to cover in your talk. You will have one minute to prepare: list three points for each question on the task card. Also, use the questions on the task card to structure what you will say (beginning, middle, end).

You will have to speak for up to two minutes.

The examiner will then ask several follow-up questions.

Part two lasts 3 to 4 minutes.

E.g. What is an event that you have enjoyed watching? You should say

  • what the event was
  • where you were
  • who you watched it with
  • and explain why you enjoyed it

Source: British Council

Part 3

The examiner will ask more questions related to the topic in part two. These are higher-level, open-ended discussion questions that ask about your opinions and ideas related to the topic.

Part three lasts 3 to 5 minutes.

Note: the asterisked* questions below are taken directly from British Council.

  1. Do you think people will continue to read books in the future?
  2. What qualities do you think are important in a good friend?*
  3. Do you think that technology has changed the way we communicate with their friends?*
  4. Do you think animals should be kept in zoos or not?*

How speaking is assessed

Your speaking is marked on four qualities. You will receive a Band Score from 1 to 9 on each quality. The average of these four scores will be your speaking score.

  1. Fluency and coherence
  2. Lexical resource
  3. Grammatical range and accuracy
  4. Pronunciation

1. Fluency and coherence

  • Speaking without hesitation
  • Speaking at length and providing details
  • Using a variety of ways to connect your ideas
    • This includes natural sounding transitions, not just formal language like “however” or “therefore.”

2. Lexical resource

  • Using a large vocabulary
  • Using idioms

3. Grammatical range and accuracy

  • Using a range of grammar accurately. This includes different verb tenses and a variety of sentence structures, especially complex sentence structures.

4. Pronunciation

  • In general, how easily you can be understood
  • Stressing the appropriate syllable in a word and stressing the appropriate words in a sentence
  • Intonation: using falling and rising intonation appropriately
  • Chunking vocabulary appropriately (stress timing) vs choppy speech (syllable timing)

Strategies for all parts

1. Provide reasons for your answers.

“I love what I’m studying because…”

2. Form a clear mental image of what you want to talk about.

Visualizing a real experience is much easier than inventing one.

3. Incorporate the question into the start of your answer.

“A place that is important to me is…”

4. Develop your answers with details.

  • “I’m from Seoul, the capital and largest city in Korea.”
  • “I prefer reading. When I’ve finished all my work for the day, there’s nothing I like better than sitting down with a good book. It’s a great way to unwind and also learn at the same time.”
  • Don’t just answer “yes” or “no” to closed-ended questions.
    • “Yes, I like watching TV. I generally watch one or two shows every night. My favourite is CSI because I hope to one day become a police officer.

5. Don’t use memorized answers.

Memorized answers sound memorized. They are easy to detect by experienced examiners.

6. Don’t worry about accent.

Accent is not important. You don’t need to sound like a native speaker. Clarity is key: as long as people can understand you, that’s perfect.

Strategies for parts 2 and 3

1. Use your one-minute preparation time to make notes.

What would you write in terms of notes for these Task 2 task cards?*

A) Describe a wild animal that can be found in your country.

You should say:

  • what it looks like
  • where it lives
  • what you like/don’t like about it
  • and explain how people in your country generally feel about it.

B) Describe a family celebration you have been to.

You should say:

  • what the celebration was for
  • where it took place
  • who was there with you
  • and explain what you enjoyed about the event.

2. Start speaking by incorporating the question into your introduction.

A) I’d like to talk about raccoons, which are obnoxious urban pests in Canada.

B) I’ve decided to talk about Christmas, which is always a huge family gathering for us.

3. Use transitions between points on the task card.

A) In terms of what raccoons look like, they…

B) Moving on to where it took place, that Christmas we went to…

4. Use transitions before providing a reason.

A) Canadians are ambivalent about raccoons for several reasons: because they are cute, children adore them; however, because they dig up trash, homeowners abhor them.

B) The main reason I enjoyed that particular Christmas was…

5. Use transitions before your summary.

A) To summarize, I wanted to talk about raccoons because…

B) So, I decided to talk about that one Christmas because…

6. Provide reasons and examples for your answers.

Give reasons for your opinions as well as examples from your own experiences, those of friends and family, or ones you have heard about.

7. Instead of “ummm,” use these phrases when thinking about what to say.

  • Let me think about that for a moment.
  • What else can I say about…?
  • I’ve forgotten the word but it’s similar in meaning to…
  • Sorry, let me explain that again. What I mean is…