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Getting Started with the IELTS Speaking Test

The speaking test is probably one of the most daunting parts of the exam, especially because the examiner will be listening to you and writing down notes about what you say.

It's scary! And stressful!

Tip 1: Practice Speaking in front of others

It's important to get used to practicing for this part of the test in front of other people (teachers, colleagues, family, friends). Practicing giving speeches and long answers in front of others will help your test day feel less scary. It is also important to try remain calm and relaxed during the test because when we are stressed we begin to make mistakes, and we don't want mistakes!

Tip 2: Do some lazy studying

On Youtube, there are thousands of sample answers for the speaking section of the exam. Watch these.

You'd be surprised at how much you learn through watching others speak. It helps you get a better idea of how the best answers are structured and some of the types of questions that are asked in the speaking test.

Also, this is an opportunity to learn new vocabulary and become inspired to do better, which restores your energy to get to the real studying. See! So many benefits to lazy studying!

Tip 3: Study synonyms

To prepare for the exam, you need to boost your vocabulary and one way of doing that is looking for better words to use, always!

The examiner doesn't want to hear that the weather was nice, the food that you cooked last night was bad or that your city is good.

Nice, bad and good are such simple words and there are definitely better words to choose.

Look at how different these sentences look now:

The weather was pleasant.

The food that I cooked was awful.

My city is spectacular.

Not only will it help improve your speaking score but it will also improve your writing.

Here is a great list of synonyms that you can check out to help improve your vocabulary.

Just remember, sometimes a big fancy word can be odd in the wrong sentence. It is important to practice using these words with a teacher so that they can help you understand if you are using the words correctly or not.

If you haven't done so yet, I would suggest to sign up to my IELTS Vocabulary Booster Course, a 6-8 week course that is designed to make you familiar with 20 different topics, with over 1200 new words and tons of practice questions and sample answers. This is a self study course, but with great online tools that make learning fun, quick and easy.

How the speaking test is structured:

Knowing how you are going to answer the exam will take a lot of the stress away.

There are 3 parts:


This part is a casual conversation with the examiner where they ask you a few short personal questions to 'get to know you'. The topics in this part of the exam will always be something familiar to you.

Here are some typical topics:

  • work or studies

  • hometown

  • family

  • hobbies

  • your culture and country

  • food

This part of the test usually only lasts a few minutes.

Your answers can be short in this section, but remember to still give an answer with substance.

Don't answer with just yes or no. How would the examiner be able to understand your English level if you only give them one word answers?


Probably the most important section of the IELTS Speaking Exam. In this section, you can really show the examiner what you are capable of. It is your time to shine!

You are given a cue card with a topic. You are given 1 minute to prepare and about 1 to 2 minutes to speak.

The cue card usually has 3 to 4 sub questions and they usually ask the same type of questions. WHEN, HOW, WHERE, WHY and YOUR OPINION.

Here is an example question:

Describe a memorable journey you have made.

You should say:

  • where you were going

  • how you were travelling

  • why you were making the journey

and explain what made the journey so memorable.

I have some great lessons on how to prepare for this section, what to write down and how to structure your answers with my HIPPO method so that you feel calm, ready and prepared for this section. My HIPPO method also helps you answer the question in such a way that you make use of a lot more grammar structures, vocabulary and natural flow of speech which is guaranteed to increase your score.

Contact me if you would like to make that happen!

And lastly,


If part 2 is your time to shine, part 3 is your opportunity to really stand out and bring your desired score home.

In this section of the exam you need to answer some more difficult questions.

Most IELTS websites would tell you that you don't need to have an opinion on these topics because the examiner is testing you on your language abilities and not your ideas.

This is true, but you need to be able to articulate your thoughts on a topic even if you do not know much about it. Remember, you can use your language to explain to the examiner that you don't know much about the topic and still give a small opinion.

Your answers to these questions should be longer than your part 1 answers but shorter than your part 2 answer.

Here are some example questions on the topic of Education:

  • How has education changed in your country in the last ten years?

  • Is a good education more important to a boy or a girl? Why?

  • How well do you think schools prepare young people for working life?

  • Do you think schools should teach subjects like art, music and dancing? Why (not)?

In our daily life we tend to forget about these type of things and therefore don't really have an opinion on them. It is a good idea to practice answering these type of questions as much as possible to get used to the idea of giving your opinion on a range of topics.

If you would like to practice with a teacher, here is a 30% off link to your first lesson on Preply. There are plenty of teachers, both qualified and conversational that you can speak to and practice with.

Don't forget about Tips 1, 2 and 3 when preparing for your exam. Lazy studying, practicing in front of others and synonyms can all help you improve your confidence, vocabulary and exam skills to help you get the score that you need.

Happy Studying,

Ciske & the Effective IELTS Team


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