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IELTS Speaking: Telling the truth…

The question

In the IELTS Speaking test you will be asked questions about different aspects of your life: your hobbies, where you live, your occupation. How important is it to answer truthfully?

The answer

The first thing to understand is that the IELTS Speaking test is not a normal conversation. You are not there to exchange information socially, or to get to know the examiner. Your sole objective is to show how well you can speak English. As soon as you realise this, it becomes obvious that each question you are asked is an opportunity — and to take advantage of those opportunities, you need to plan in advance.

Part 1

To illustrate this, let’s look at possible answers to a simple question that you might get in Part 1: “Where do you live?”

  1. You could simply answer “In Dubai.” This may be true, and after all, it does answer the question. But it gives the examiner no clue to your level of English, so you will not score any points.
  2. Alternatively you could answer: “I’m currently renting an apartment here in Dubai. The district I live in is about 10 minutes from the business area. I like it there because…” This may or may not be true — who cares? The important thing is that you have taken the opportunity to display your level of English.

There are several topics for Speaking Part 1 that are quite predictable (home, family, job, hobbies, etc.). Prepare some impressive phrases and expressions like the ones above that you can use when talking about them.

Part 2

In Part 2 you will get a topic card with three prompts. For example, you might be asked to describe a close friend, and to state:

  • when you met him/her
  • what you have in common
  • why he/she is so special to you

These prompts (which always follow the same format) allow you to prepare a structure for your answer. So, for example, you can decide to make three points for each prompt: “There are three things that we have in common. First… And there’s another thing that I’d like to talk about… But most importantly of all…”

Structuring your answer in this way not only allows you to prepare useful language in advance, it also makes your answer more coherent and easier to follow.

Part 3

In part 3, you will be asked questions about the topic, following up on your short talk. Here again, there are expressions to learn which can be used in an answer to almost any question:

  • “Yes, I’ve often thought about that…
  • “That’s a big question today…”
  • “Yes, just the other day I was  reading an article about that…”

This functional language not only sounds impressive in itself, it also gives you a little extra time to work out what you are going to say. (That’s why native speakers use these expressions.)

Be careful!

Learning phrases and expressions like these is useful and legitimate, just like learning standard phrases for emails (“Thank you for your prompt reply”) or for essays (“It could be argued that…”). It does not mean preparing complete answers and learning them by heart. Examiners are trained to spot this, and if they detect you doing it, you will get no marks at all.

4 comments

  1. Vinu says:

    These speaking IELTS tips are useful. I will prepare these points before I’m going to attend my IELTS speaking test.

  2. Md. Mostafizur Rahman Ferose says:

    Hey Mr. Colm Downes the blog was written by you is really very useful. Needless to say that I’m not good enough to understand but upto which it’s very very helpful. Hopefully you will continue regarding on this. Thank you so much sir.

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