The Speaking Module
Speaking is the 4th skill tested on the exam day or a few days before or after in the form of a one-to-one interview. There are three sections to the test:
- 4-5 minutes
- 3-4 minutes
- Individual long run
- 4-5 minutes
- Two-way discussion
Nature of interaction
- Part 1
- Introductions & identity check
- Examiner asks questions
- Questions are based on familiar topics
- Part 2
- Candidate receives a task card
- S/He has 1 min to make notes
- S/He speaks about the topic for 1 to 2 min
- Part 3
- Discussion thematically linked to part 2 topic
- More abstract questions
- More general discussion
- Part 1
- Be able to give personal information
- Talk about familiar issues and habits
- Express opinions
- Answer as fully as possible
- Part 2
- Talk about a random topic
- Manage language
- Organize and express the ideas
- Be able to speak for 2 min without any help or interlocutor support
- Part 3
- Be able to express and justify opinions
- Analyze, discuss and speculate about issues
- Be able to interact fully
Basic Questions for IELTS Speaking
1HOW MANY QUESTIONS WILL I BE ASKED?
In Parts 1 and 3, the examiner will have a set of questions but you will not be asked all of them. The number of questions will depend on the length of your answers. The longer your answers, the fewer questions you will be asked. In Part 2, the question is given to you on a card. You will also be asked one or two simple questions at the end of Part 2.
2WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION?
It depends on which part you are answering. In Part 1, the examiner is able to repeat the question but will not offer you much help beyond that. In Part 2, you can ask for clarification during your one minute of preparation time if you need to. It’s not a good idea to ask questions during the two minutes of speaking time as this will disturb the fluency of your response. In Part 3, the examiner is able to offer much more help and can paraphrase the question for you. You should try to ask checking questions such as Do you mean…? Rather than simply say Sorry, I don’t understand.
3WHY DOES THE EXAMINER ASK QUESTIONS AT THE END OF PART 2?
These follow-up questions are just a way for the examiner to show interest in what you have said and to move the discussion on to Part 3. You do not need to give lengthy answers to these questions. Just a few words should be sufficient.
4HOW MUCH THINKING TIME DO I HAVE IN PART 3?
None! You should begin speaking immediately. Since you will not be able to come up with ideas right away, it’s important to be able to use filler expressions.
5HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEAK FOR IN PART 1?
There is no limit, but the question usually asks for only one piece of information. It is therefore best to give this information and add an extra sentence or two.
6IN PART 2, DO I NEED TO KEEP TALKING FOR TWO MINUTES?
No. It may be better to finish within two minutes for several reasons. First, you do not really want to be interrupted by the examiner. Second, your response will be more coherent if you end with a firm concluding sentence such as So, that’s why (restate question topic). Third, you are more likely to make mistakes if you keep talking beyond what you planned to say. A candidate who answers the question fully in 90 seconds can easily receive a higher score than one who speaks for the full two minutes and has to be stopped.
7IN PART 2, CAN A CANDIDATE START SPEAKING BEFORE THE 1 MINUTE PREPARATION TIME IS OVER?
Yes. If a candidate doesn’t need the whole minute, s/he can begin speaking when s/he is ready. It is advisable, though, for candidates to make full use of the preparation time.
8WHAT IF A CANDIDATE DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE TOPIC IN PART 2?
The topics are carefully chosen to reflect common experiences, so candidates don’t need special knowledge to talk about them. It is extremely unlikely that a candidate would be unable to talk about the topic given.
9DOES THE CANDIDATE HAVE TO WRITE NOTES IN PART 2?
No, making notes is an option available to the candidate. Some candidates prefer just to think about what to say whereas others find making notes helpful to organize their ideas and to keep talking.
10HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEAK FOR IN PART 3?
There is no limit, but you should certainly give longer answers than in Part 1. If possible, try to give more than one reason to support your opinion. Even better, compare and contrast different ideas to expand your answer further. However, be careful! The longer you speak, the less coherent your response may become. That’s why it’s so important to return to your original idea at the end.
11WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I CAN’T COME UP WITH ANY IDEAS IN PART 3?
The important thing to remember is that you are being tested on your ability to communicate ideas, not the quality of those ideas. Even if your ideas sound basic or predictable, you will still get a high score if the language you use to express them is appropriate to academic discussion. Another thing to remember is that it is possible to use other people’s ideas as well as your own. If you don’t have any views on a topic, try imagining what other people would say on this issue and talk about that instead. Finally, it is always a good idea to learn a few useful expressions to use when you just can’t come up with anything to say. Even if you aren’t able to give a satisfactory answer to the question, the examiner may still judge that you have spoken fluently and accurately. A good example is: I’m afraid I’ve never really thought about this issue before.