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 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 — to take advantage of those opportunities, you need to plan in advance.
To illustrate this, let’s look at possible answers to a simple question that you might get in Part 1: ‘Where do you live?’
- 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 about your level of English, so you will not score any points.
- 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.
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 them
- what you have in common
- why they are 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 2 is one section you can really practise and improve your fluency with.
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 and they can help develop your speaking style.)
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…’). However, it does not mean you should be preparing complete answers and learning them by heart. Speaking is not like writing — we speak with shorter, less complex vocabulary and sentences. Most importantly, we make mistakes and are able to quickly fix them. Examiners are trained to spot scripted answers, and if they detect you doing it, you will get no marks at all.