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IELTS: Preparing for the Speaking Test

The speaking section of the IELTS test can be one of the hardest parts of the exam. It isn’t surprising that even native speakers are unlikely to get a good score without preparing. However, that doesn’t mean a good score is unachievable. Follow the tips below to prepare for the speaking section.

Know the test

It is important to remember the specific content and criteria of the test. The IELTS speaking test is 11 to 14 minutes long and consists of three parts:

Part 1 – Lasting 4-5 minutes, the examiner will ask you about yourself. They will discuss familiar topics such as your home life, family, studies or personal interests.

Part 2 – You will be asked about a particular topic. You will be given a topic card with prompts and 1 minute to prepare your response. Then, you must speak for up to 2 minutes about the topic.

Part 3 – Following on from part 2, you will have a longer discussion on the part 2 topic with more detail. This section lasts 4-5 minutes.

You will be marked equally on these four criteria: fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation. Make sure you know what these mean or get the help of a tutor to understand them.

It’s a conversation

The speaking test is a two-way discussion with an examiner. You need to respond naturally, as you would in a conversation. When speaking, you should speak with the intonation and stress appropriate for what you are conveying and expect follow-up questions or even interruptions. Don’t recite memorised answers as you will come across as unnatural. Instead, smile and make gestures with your hand as you speak. Not only will this make you sound more natural, but it will also help ease any nerves you have.

Practise discussing the topics

You should practise discussing the range of common topics with a tutor, friend or family member to familiarise yourself with key vocabulary. For example, if the topic is sports, you may want to use vocabulary such as racquet and shuttlecock, making sure you’re confident in the pronunciation of these complex words.

Observe and practise 

YouTube has a range of videos demonstrating different grades. Watching examples will help you understand what is required so you can mimic these in your own speaking. You can also record yourself speaking and review the videos for ways to improve. For example, you might observe that you pause a lot, and realise that you should practise paraphrasing and replacing ‘um’s with filler phrases.


With more practice and the right support, you can perform well in the speaking test. Join our IELTS classes for dedicated support or visit websites such as IELTS Liz and the British Council for helpful resources.