What is the IELTS Speaking section/test?

What is IELTS Speaking section

IELTS tests a candidate on four skills: Listening, reading, writing and speaking. Out of them, a few consider IELTS Speaking to be the easiest whereas few literally fear the IELTS Speaking test. 

  • Time for IELTS Speaking test: 11 to 14 minutes interview
  • Number of parts = 3
  • Number of questions Part 1 and 3 =  approximately 6 to 10 each
  • No preparation time in the case of Part 1 and 3 in Speaking
  • Preparation time for Part 2 or cue card = 1 minute
  • Speaking time for Part 2 or cue card = 1 to 2 minutes

How is IELTS Speaking conducted?

The IELTS speaking test is divided into three parts. Part one consists of a personal interview and general discussion. Part two is termed as Cue Card while part three has some follow-up questions and questions related to your opinion. Let’s look at these parts one by one.

IELTS Speaking Part 1

The first part of the speaking test aims to make the candidate comfortable with the environment, and hence most of the questions in this part would be concerned with the student himself.

If you look at this part of the speaking test, you will find that it is divided into two subparts. The first sub-part is a personal interview, in the sense that the interviewer will ask you questions based on your life and past experiences.

Second sub-part can be considered as an extension of the previous one as it will consist of questions about your surroundings, your preferences and your pastimes.

How many questions are asked on IELTS Speaking Part 1?

In general, both sub-parts have about four questions and hence part one of the speaking tests, usually, will have about eight questions.

Tips for IELTS Speaking Part 1

Here is a detailed analysis of typical questions asked on IELTS Speaking Part 1 and tips to answer them.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

The second part is called a “cue card”.

How is IELTS Speaking Part 2 or cue card conducted?

You will be given a card printed with a situation along with related 4 questions. These four questions assist you in elaborating on the situation well and hence acting as a cue or a clue.

How much time do I get to prepare on IELTS Part 2?

You will be given 1 minute to think on the cue card, and in this 1 minute, you may make notes on the blank sheet if you wish. For writing, the examiner will provide you with a sheet of paper and pencil in advance. Since you won’t be carrying any wristwatch or mobile phone the examiner will let you know once a minute is over.

After 1 minute of preparation, you must speak on the given topic for about 1 to 2 minutes using the notes you have taken.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Learn how to crack IELTS Speaking Part 2 or cue card.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Part three is very similar to Part one in structure but quite different in terms of the topics discussed.

Like Part one, there are two subparts: First sub-part is called follow-up and the second is known as a general opinion.

How many questions are asked in IELTS Speaking Part 3?

Subpart one or follow-up has about three questions which are closely related to the topic of discussion in Part two. While in subpart two, the examiner asks your opinion about issues remotely associated with the cue card.

In total, you should expect about six questions in part 3.

In the video attached below, you will know exactly how an IELTS Speaking test is conducted.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

To learn about the tips to crack IELTS Speaking Part 3,

A sample IELTS Speaking test

When is the IELTS Speaking test conducted?

Well, the answer to this question depends on the mode of the test and Geography.

IELTS Paper-based test

In India

If you book a paper-based IELTS in India, your Speaking test will not be conducted on the same day of your rest of the section.

For example, if you book 20th August as test date, you will appear for the Listening, Reading and Writing sections on this day, but not for the speaking section. Since, the speaking test, in this case, is conducted on a day in a week prior or later, it will be conducted on any day between 14th August to 27th of August but never on 20th of August.

Now the question is when do you get to know about your final date of the speaking test? Well, you will be notified about your date of speaking test as well as your venue at least one week before the test. So, in this case, IELTS will inform you on any day between 7th of August and 14th of August.

Outside India

In most other countries, the Speaking test will be conducted strictly on the same day when your different sections are tested.

IELTS Computer-delivered test

If you have booked IELTS Computer-delivered test, irrespective of the geographical location, you will appear for all sections of the IELTS test on the same day.

Is the IELTS Speaking interview conducted in person or on a computer?

Well, the IELTS Speaking test is conducted in-person almost everywhere. Despite the COVID-19, practically everywhere, these tests are in person. If you wish to know more about COVID 19 guidelines during pandemic on IELTS exam centres, click here.

4 essential precautions to take on IELTS Speaking test

The Speaking section is conducted in the form of an interview of 11 to 14 minutes and mainly judges the articulation capabilities of the student. In other words, the examiner checks whether the applicant can put forth his ideas efficiently or not. The speaking and writing sections, expect precision and conciseness of words. It is the same for both the Academic and General training aspirants.

1: Speaking test is not a “job interview”.

In the actual test, an examiner sits across a table and asks a few questions which the candidate must answer. Many students are tense the moment they hear the word ‘interview’. They perceive this interaction like a job interview where they should try their best to impress the interviewer. However, it is worth revising the purpose of the test. It is a test of how well you use the English language, and hence, you need not try too hard to impress with the examiner.

IELTS Speaking test is not your job interview.

For example, imagine that you work long hours and you don’t get any time to watch TV daily. As a result, you don’t like watching TV in general.

Now, in the test, the examiner asks you, “Do you like to watch TV?” Now, just not to upset the examiner and instead to influence him or her, you answer, “Yes, I do watch TV regularly.” The next question could be, “So, can you name the most popular programme on TV in your country?”

Since you don’t watch any programme, you may not be able to offer even one example. So, instead, at the beginning, itself, if you admit that you don’t get much time to watch TV and hence lately you are not updated on the kinds of TV shows that aired, you need not face the question about the popular TV programmes.

Overall, don’t consider the speaking test on IELTS as a job interview. Instead, consider that it is just a conversation with a person.

2: Don’t use jargons.

In addition to this, you must restrict the use of profession related jargons. Many of the students use words that only the specialist in a particular trade or field will understand.

For example, when talking about what work you do, several students mention their job responsibilities that consist of their industry-related terminology. The software engineer may say new technologies or a doctor may talk in specific medical terms that a typical person may not understand at all.

You must realise that the IELTS Speaking test examiner need not be an expert in your field. Our advice is to avoid such terms. Simplify them in such a way that even an average Joe understands them.

3: Don’t worry about accents on IELTS Speaking?

Many students unnecessarily feel that they must have a British accent or an American accent to excel on the IELTS Speaking test. Well, IELTS Evaluation criteria never state anything about that.

All that the IELTS examiner wants to check is that your pronunciation is understandable and acceptable. Your pronunciations should not have an influence of your mother tongue on your speech.

IELTS Speaking Dont worry about British accent

4: Don’t use local terms or words from the local language

Many times students, especially in countries where English is a second or third language, find it difficult to remember an English word for a local language word.

For example, if asked, What is your favourite festival, many Indians say it’s Diwali. And while explaining it many unfortunately say, we light diyas on this day.

Now, a native speaker would not know what do you mean by diyas. I understand that there are few words in everyone’s language that may not have any similar words in English. In such cases explain those terms assuming that the examiner doesn’t know anything about your culture or language. You must say, “We light diyas, that is earthen lamps on this occasion.”

Frequently asked questions on IELTS Speaking section.

Do IELTS Speaking questions repeat on the same day?

Hardly. No two students get the same questions on the same day. IELTS examiners may repeat the general subject on which questions are asked, but they will always rephrase them or twist them in such a way that no student gets an undue advantage.

If I don’t understand a question, can I ask the examiner to repeat it?

Well, when I asked this question to the Cambridge examiner, he gave me an interesting answer.

He said students should not ask the examiner to repeat the question as it is.

You want the examiner to repeat the question for either of the two reasons. Either you did not understand the question, or you did not pay attention.

Now, if you did not understand the question, repeating it is not going to help anyway. And, if you were not paying attention, it’s your loss. So, there is no point in asking to repeat the question.

Also, if you haven’t understood the question, it means you may have found a word or phrase in that question difficult. If that is the case, you may ask for an explanation of the word or phrase.

For example, you are asked, do you often procrastinate your homework? And if you don’t know the word procrastinate, then you may ask for its meaning rather than asking the examiner to repeat the whole question.

Can I retake the IELTS Speaking test only?

Unfortunately, you may not retake the speaking test on IELTS exclusively. Each time you will have to appear for all four sections on IELTS: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

What are the common topics on the IELTS Speaking test?

Well, there is a list of topics that are asked usually asked on the IELTS Speaking test. However, nobody can guarantee that you may get questions exactly from these questions.

Also, we have created not only the list of the common topics but also some list of some commonly asked questions and answers. You may click on a topic to read them.

  1. Accommodation and Housing
  2. Behaviour, Patience and Politeness
  3. Computers, Internet and Technology
  4. Friends
  5. Family
  6. Festivals, Celebrations and Gifts
  7. Food
  8. Hometown
  9. Lifestyle, Activities and holidays
  10. Movies and Celebrities
  11. Music
  12. Newspapers and Magazines
  13. Reading
  14. School and Education
  15. Sports
  16. Travel
  17. TV and Advertisements
  18. Weather
  19. Work, Office, companies and businesses
  20. Noise
  21. Colours
  22. Clothes
  23. Photos
  24. Arts
  25. Money
  26. Writing
  27. Communication
  28. Health and Exercise

What is a good score on IELTS Speaking?

What one may call a good score on IELTS Speaking may depend on the purpose of the IELTS test. You may consider the following scenarios.

IELTS Speaking good score on speaking test

IELTS Academic

IELTS Speaking score for USA and Canada

If you wish to apply to average American or Candian colleges, your Speaking test scores should be at least 6 bands. However, if you are applying to prestigious universities such as the University of Toronto or MIT, then you must score 7 bands or more on IELTS.

IELTS Speaking score for the UK, Europe and Australia

If you want to apply to universities in the UK, Europe and Australia, you must secure 6.5 bands at the least on IELTS Speaking interview.

IELTS General Training

Now, if you are planning to immigrate to Canada or Australia, you must aim for at least 7 bands on IELTS Speaking.

What do they check on IELTS Speaking?

According to the IELTS evaluation criteria on Speaking, IELTS examiner tests you on four essential skills.

Fluency and Coherence

Fluency is your ability to put your ideas into words without any hesitation. Also, coherence is the ability to put thoughts in a logical order.
In simple words, if you can answer the given questions satisfactorily without stumbling, you may score well on the criterion.

Lexical Resource

It merely means that you can use a variety of words and phrases precisely. So, in a way, if you can express yourself in words that otherwise native speakers may use, you can excel on this criterion.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

It is evident that your sentence structures must be flawless. At the same time, you must use a variety of sentence structures accurately just like the native speaker.


You must have understandable and acceptable pronunciations. They should not be influenced by your mother tongue. Also, don’t worry about your native accent.

Evaluation criteria on IELTS Speaking test

Learn the four evaluation criteria on which your performance on IELTS Speaking is tested.

Do they check for body language or eye contact on the IELTS Speaking test?

According to IELTS Evaluation Criteria for the public, Cambridge doesn’t mention anything about body language or eye contact. So, it is reasonable to assume that these two things don’t matter much.

However, from experience, I can say that candidates with awkward body language or lack of eye contact may lose some bands. Now, I know many of you may object. But, it is possible that if the student doesn’t look at the examiner at all, they may think that the test-taker lacks confidence. And, may indirectly allot slightly lesser bands.

In conclusion, as long as you don’t come out as awkward, you are good.

IELTS Speaking

Can I use my hands while speaking on IELTS Speaking interview?

Absolutely. Hand gestures are part of body language. Many students can not communicate effectively if they stop them. So, if you use them often, employ them on IELTS Speaking interviews as well. Just ensure that your hand gestures are not awkward or distracting.

Can I recheck or re-evaluate the scores on IELTS Speaking?

You can request a remark within 6 weeks of the IELTS test date on your Test Report Form. You can ask for rechecking for the whole IELTS test or for one or more parts (Reading, Writing, Listening or Speaking). Your reviewed results will be available within 2 to 21 days of applying for a remark.

What if I miss my IELTS Speaking test?

If you miss the speaking test on your IELTS or for that matter any other section on IELTS, you will score 0 (zero) bands on that section. Effectively, that particular attempt is considered invalid and you will have to reappear for the test.

Why is the IELTS Speaking test recorded?

Well, the IELTS speaking test is recorded to maintain the quality of the testing standards. IELTS doesn’t want to be biased to any student, and so they do keep these recordings. They are accessed in the following circumstances.

  1. Suppose the difference between your scores in any two sections is greater than 2 bands, Cambridge by default rechecks your scores. For example, if you score 9 bands on reading but only 6 bands on Speaking, all your sections are re-evaluated. In such cases, the recording of your IELTS Speaking test comes handy.
  2. If you request the IELTS to re-evaluate your scores, Cambridge by default refers to your performance in this recorded test.

Can I use idioms on IELTS Speaking?

Yes and no.

Yes, you can use them if you already use them in daily life. Also, you must know which idioms are too informal, and you should avoid using them.

No, don’t use them if you don’t know many idioms. Don’t plan to learn them a night before the exam. You may misuse them and lose marks unnecessarily.

Evaluation Criteria on IELTS Speaking

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One Response

  1. This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). Great stuff, just great

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