Let's go through typical questions that come up in part 1 so that you know what to expect.
What is IELTS Speaking Part 1?
- An in-person 4-5 minute interview (if you are doing the computer test, this would be a video interview)
- 12 questions based on 3 topics
- Typically, questions about yourself, your life and your country
Speaking 1 common topics
Below is the list of speaking topics that tend to come up time and time again. The strategy is to practice answering question types to these topics. Memorisation isn't the method to adopt, as the whole point of the speaking test is to be natural and fluent, not robotic and rehearsed.
- Neighbours and neighbourhood
- Daily routine
- Family and friends
- Going out
Download your Part 1 Test Questions below:
How can I prepare for the part 1 of my speaking test?
- Record yourself describing your daily routines and habits
- Record yourself describing recent memories and go as far back as some of your childhood memories
- Record yourself explaining what your home country is like, i.e. typical customs or traditions, what it looks like, what the weather is like, reasons why people come to visit, the food, etc.
Speaking Test Essential Information
- There is only one speaking test, where the AT and GT are the same
- If you are doing a computer IELTS test, you will still have a conversation with your examiner in real time
- This is an informal speaking test, which is why natural, unmemorised conversation is vital
- Your results are decided at the end of the test by your examiner
- The exam is split into parts, but your examiner decides the time and length of your responses
- The test is made up of: ID check and greeting (a common staple in all speaking exams), Part 1 questions lasting 4-5 minutes, Part 2 where you speak for a couple of minutes uninterrupted, followed by some follow up questions, Part 3 discussion of 4-5 minutes.
- Your entire speaking test will last between 11 and 14 minutes, no more and no less.
Common FAQ's about the speaking test
Should I speak fast or slow?
Neither. Speak with flow and ease. A crucial thing to remember is to extend your answers, which will help to create that flow and naturalness. Try to remember to avoid too many pauses, if you want to achieve a minimum of a band 6. And finally, have clear organisation and order. Complete the idea you are on without jumping between ideas. Linking words will help to achieve coherence. To sum up: answer at length, avoid long pauses and repetition, speak in a logical manner.
Calm and steady.
Should I ask the examiner questions?
For part 1, you can only ask the examiner to repeat the question if there is some uncertainty. The examiner can't explain words or questions. The same goes for part 2. You cannot ask any questions (outside of repetition), and must carry on even if you are unsure about the topic on the cue cards. The best way to deal with this if you come to any difficulty, is to try your best and talk about things that are closely related to the topic. For part 3, you can ask the examiner questions. You may ask them to explain words and the question if needed. The examiner can then rephrase the question to make it more accessible. To sum up: no questions in part 1, no questions in part 2, questions allowed in part 3.
What do I do if I am stuck and cannot pause?
If you are somewhat stuck and need some thinking time, this is ok. One way to do this is to ask the examiner to repeat the question, which buys you some thinking time. Or, you can say something along the lines of 'It's an interesting question and I haven't thought about it before'. This will help to act as a buffer and can be reflected in the criteria for fluency and cohesion (25%).
Will I lose marks if I ask for the question to be repeated?
No. The only marks you are scored on are:
- Fluency and cohesion- 25%
- Vocabulary- 25%
- Grammar- 25%
- Pronunciation- 25%
You can ask the examiner to repeat a question or two in part 1, and explain a question in part 3.
Can I use words from my own language?
It's best to avoid words from your own language in general. They are assessing your English speaking skills, so I would avoid your native language. If a word from your native language comes up, which it can do when referring to something, then follow this up with explaining what it is. This gives you more opportunity to show off your English skills, and uses clauses which adds to your scores for grammar.
Can I use fillers?
You can use filler words because these are actually useful for your fluency and grammatical range. Fillers are words that fill in word gaps, such as, 'Well if I think about it, to be honest, let me see, I suppose, you know'. Filler sounds are not advisable such as, 'umm, ahhh'. These represent uncertainty and a possible breakdown in communication. It may be hard to avoid them entirely, but try to avoid them as much as you can and instead, take short pauses, use filler words and connectives to build your ideas in a smooth manner.