IELTS Speaking Exam Overview
IELTS speaking is an area that many IELTS candidates struggle with. Especially if they live in a country where English is not the first language. It’s easy to feel lost on knowing exactly what to do and how best to prepare for your IELTS speaking tasks. This page is meant to serve as a guide to help you get started preparing for IELTS speaking tasks so that you can get a 7+ band score in IELTS speaking skills
About the IELTS Speaking Exam
For anyone who is just starting out with their IELTS speaking preparation, it’s important to understand the structure of the exam.
The IELTS speaking exam has 3 tasks and each part takes about 4 to 5 minutes. The total duration of the exam will be 14-15 minutes. See the structure below.
Task 1 The Interview
In this task you will be asked common questions about your life. You may get topics about your work, your studies, how long you have been learning English, your home, your friends and family, or your free time activities. These questions are meant to warm you up as well as serve as an opportunity to assess your ability to use general English. View some typical speaking task 1 questions below.
View an example IELTS Speaking Task 1 prompt and example response below:
Prompt: Does processed food have a negative impact on our health?
Response: Yes, I think it does.Nowadays, people eat a lot of junk food and carbohydrates which has a negative impact on our health.Let's first look at sugar.Processed foods usually have high levels of sugar which plays a key role in things like heart disease, rising rates of obesity, and diabetes.When we eat junk food, we get a rapid rise in blood sugar which can make you first feel good and then later you will have a crash.These fluctuations in mood and energy are bad for your health and demonstrate the harmful effects of sugar and processed food on our bodies.
Task 2: The Short Talk
In this task, you will need to give a short talk on a topic. You will be given a task prompt card which will have a statement and follow up questions. You will need to give a 2 minute talk about the given topic and you will need to include all of the questions on the prompt card. This card will likely be related to a specific experience you have had or object that you own.
The best thing about this task is that you will be given 1 minute to prepare. So if you are good at brainstorming, you will be able to jot down a few ideas, and some key vocabulary to help you give you something to say.
View an example IELTS Speaking Task 2 prompt below:
Prompt: Talk about something you do to stay healthy
You should say:
View an example IELTS Speaking Task 2 Response below:
Response One thing I do to stay healthy is exercise. I do three types of exercise specifically. Firstly, there is a walking path around my house and I try to go for a 30 minute walk 3 times per week. After I go walking, I always go to the gym in my building where I do muscle training like lifting weights and squats. On the weekends, I also enjoy swimming in the pool in my condo. Doing these types of exercise helps me keep fit in a variety of ways and also helps me to reduce my stress and feel a bit happier in my life.
IELTS Speaking Video Lessons
Below you will find one of my most popular masterclass sessions on preparing for IELTS speaking tasks. In it, I talk about the 3-step-framework that I recommend students use in their preparation time so that they can build their skills and their strategic response to get a 7+ band score.
The Top 4 Mistakes You Are Making in Your IELTS Speaking Preparation
The truth is that most IELTS candidates are just guessing at what they have to do when it comes to preparing for IELTS speaking. This is something that happens to the best of us, especially when we are taking on a big task about something that we don’t really know anything about. When that happens, it’s hard to see the whole picture and to find all the parts that need to go inside.
As an IELTS instructor, one thing I have really clear are the exact steps that you need to take to get a 7+ band score in IELTS speaking. For me, this is easy. This is my area of expertise, so I can see the big pictures and I can break it down into little steps for my students to make. (But, other topics, I’m not so great at, eh, so don’t think I’m perfect!)
As I spend more and more time with IELTS candidates I’m able to see exactly that they are doing wrong, so I decided to break this down for you into the 4 biggest mistakes that I see IELTS candidates making with their IELTS speaking preparation.
I have also taken time to go over these issues in a podcast episode that you can find here.
IELTS Speaking Marking Criteria
One thing that you HAVE to know is how you are being assessed. This is one of the biggest mistakes that IELTS candidates make in their IELTS speaking preparation. Candidates aren’t aware of the areas they are being assessed upon, what they need to do to get a 7+ band score or higher, or where they are at in reference to the IELTS marking criteria. If you don’t know what you will be assessed on, there is no way you will be able to accurately meet those standards.
Overall, IELTS speaking marking criteria looks at 4 different areas:
IELTS Speaking Fluency and Coherence
According to IELTS.org, in order to get a 7 in IELTS speaking in the area of fluency and coherence you must:
IELTS Speaking Lexical Resource
According to IELTS.org, in order to get a 7 in IELTS speaking in the area of lexical resource you must:
IELTS Speaking Grammatical Range & Accuracy
According to IELTS.org, in order to get a 7 in IELTS speaking in the area of grammatical range and accuracy you must:
IELTS Speaking Pronunciation
According to IELTS.org, in order to get a 7 in IELTS speaking in the area of pronunciation you must:
The marking criteria isn’t very descriptive here, but I recommend identifying common pronunciation errors in your first language and working on them. Look at individual sounds, as well as things like word stress, sentence stress, and intonation.
If you want to know more about the IELTS marking criteria and how you are being assessed, I recommend viewing the marking criteria with the link below.
Enroll in A Pronunciation Course
IELTS Speaking Exam Common Questions
I get a lot of questions about IELTS speaking and so I wanted to compile some of the most common ones that I receive.
Watch this video to learn about some of the most common questions that I receive.
Common Areas of Difficulty
One thing important to note is that each person has their own particular path to take when it comes to IELTS speaking preparation. If you have a teacher you trust, get them to identify the areas that you need to work and help create a personal path for you. If you want me to help you with this, you can work with me here.
Below you can find the common areas that I see students struggling with in terms of IELTS speaking skills.
IELTS Speaking Pronunciation
Pronunciation is a common area to make mistakes in. You shouldn’t worry about this too much unless your mistakes are affecting comprehension of the listener, which in your case is the IELTS speaking examiner. If you are making the types of mistakes that cause confusion, you should definitely check on the most common areas of errors for speakers of your first language.
I also recommend reviewing word stress and sentence stress and intonation. Remember that English uses rising and falling intonation in English and you need to use appropriate intonation if you want to sound natural in English.
For help with pronunciation I recommend the free lessons at www.speakmoreclearly.com
IELTS Speaking Pauses, Fluency and Hesitations
Many students struggle with pauses, fluency and hesitations. This means that you have a lot of pauses, a lot of hesitations or you say things like, “ehh…” or “umm..” so much that it is distracting.
You can do this a little bit, especially if you are thinking of just the right word. But if you do it a lot, it will be distracting for the listener, will keep the listener from being able to follow your ideas and understand what you are saying, and can lead to you getting confused in your own ideas and losing track of what you are saying.
There are a few tips to help you out with this. Firstly, you should get an idea of what you sound like, how many pauses and hesitations that you are making. So I recommend recording yourself. Then listen back (I know it’s terrifying!) and count how many pauses and hesitations you are making.
Then in order to improve you need to do a couple of things. First, you need to get really good at brainstorming and adding structure to your responses. Use a clear structure and practice it on many different speaking tasks. The structure will improve your fluency, the practice will help you feel more comfortable and natural, and the variety of topics will prepare you for any topic you may encounter on exam day.
To learn more, listen to my podcast episode on this topic here.
IELTS Speaking Grammar
Grammar is an area that is really important to address as well. For grammar you should look at two things, the errors you are making with simple grammatical forms and the need to use higher-level grammatical forms.
The Most Common Grammatical Errors that I See
Below you can find a list of the most common errors that I see and the ones I recommend you begin reviewing.
Here is a list of resources for building your English grammar skills in these common areas of error.
The Best Higher-Level Grammatical Structures to Study
In order to boost your grammar skills, I recommend studying the following structures.
You can review these links to start working on your higher-level grammar skills.
IELTS Speaking Structure
Finally, I recommend using a clear structure to support your ideas. Think that you need to introduce your topic, explain it and support it. Remember to use discourse markers, or informal transition words to help you through it. Practice this structure several times so that you feel comfortable and natural using it.
More IELTS Speaking Tips
If you aren’t a follower of my podcast, the Activate Your IELTS Podcast, check out some of my best podcast episodes related to building your IELTS speaking skills below.
More IELTS Speaking Tips