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IELTS Speaking: What is the examiner looking for?

IELTS Speaking: What is the examiner looking for?

The issue

In IELTS Speaking Part II, you have to talk for two minutes on a topic given to you by the examiner. Do you understand how you will be graded?

According to the IELTS Speaking assessment criteria, your speaking will be marked on the following five points:

  • Fluency and coherence: how well your response flows and how well connected your ideas are
  • Lexical resource: how well you use vocabulary to express what you mean
  • Grammatical range and accuracy: how well you use English grammar, the variety of grammatical structures you use and how you use grammar to aid understanding
  • Pronunciation: how easy it is for the examiner to understand what you are saying
  • Relevance: you must, of course, stick to the topic on the card

This is not difficult to understand in theory, but are you confident you know what it means in practice?

Assess a candidate

First look at this topic:

Candidate Task Card

You are now going to listen to a candidate giving a short talk on this topic. As you listen, make notes on the candidate’s performance under the five headings above: fluency, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, relevance. you might want to listen to the recording more than once.

Compare your findings with an examiner’s

We asked an IELTS examiner to comment on the candidate’s performance. Read on to see what he said.

The candidate keeps going. He never has to search for a word and always has a replacement word as good as the word he needs. He gets a good mark for fluency.

In some areas he displays a high degree of grammatical competence, for example his use of the past perfect and ‘had to’ as the simple past of ‘must’. Tenses generally good. Problems with relative clauses, ‘the fax machine is something that it would be soon forgotten’.

Reasonably accurate, but some problems, ‘put into commerce’ for ‘became available’, ‘fun’ for ‘funny’, ‘came over’ for ‘took over’, ‘hard paper’ for ‘hard copy’. But some nice idiomatic language, ‘the dear old fax machine’. Generally scores well on vocabulary.

I had no problems understanding him. I can hear an accent, but it doesn’t interfere with comprehension. There was not one word that I didn’t understand, or which made me pause to think.


Why is this useful?

Listening to and grading another candidate helps you to understand what the examiner is looking for. Now try it yourself. This will help you to identify the areas where you need to improve.


  1. IELTS says:


    this is my last year of high school. Next year i want to go and study in Germany. Which ielts is the best one for me?

    Thanks in advance

  2. Chandu says:

    The speaker was very fluent, his rate of speech was perfect. Native language was influenced, in his speech. It was difficult to understand few words.
    Vocabulary was good, words like accomplished and obsolete was an attractive part in the narration.
    Grammatically, he was continuously speaking, without giving a pause, where it has to be, that created a confusion.
    Pronunciation was also difficult to understand, as told earlier may be the person who is speaking might be a non English speaking guy.
    Relevance to the topic, was 100 percent satisfactory.

    Few errors which I observed, where the candidate could have avoided is: I think the fax machine was invented..ahh…ahhha…some while….at least (07 second of the audio)

    whether the speaker is pronouncing drones or drawings, it was not so clear, as per the topic, it has been extracted, that the word should be drawing but not drone, if I am correct.

  3. Shweta says:

    Hello, I want to study MDS from the UK, which are the universities that offer MDS with scholarships programs for students? Where should I look? Please reply.

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