The secrets to a great IELTS speaking interview
The speaking interview is designed to give the examiner plenty of opportunity to hear you speak so that they can make an accurate assessment of your speaking ability.
There is NO MARKING CRITERIA for giving the answering the question.
Why not? Because there is NO RIGHT ANSWER.
The examiner really doesn’t care what you talk about, as long as you talk.
Speaking Part 1
- The examiner has a list of ‘prompts’ or questions about a range of topics. The questions are designed for ALL levels and get gradually more difficult. So this might start with a simple:
‘What’s your favourite colour? Why?’
and then get more complex, leading up to something like
‘Is there any colour that you would NOT choose to decorate your room? Why?’
The biggest danger here is giving answers that are too SHORT.
This happens to even the most fluent and advanced speakers (especially native speakers!).
- Don’t let the examiner ask ‘Why?’. Always give a full enough answer so that the examiner doesn’t need to ask for any more information.
Train yourself to say ‘because….’ or ‘so…’. This will help you get a good score for fluency and coherence.
Show the examiner that you can easily ‘speak at length without noticeable effort’ (Band 7 in the Speaking Descriptors).
- Remember that the topics might seem a bit strange because they don’t want people to give ‘memorised’ answers – you know, talking about your hobbies and your family.
They want to see that you can ‘discuss a variety of topics’ (Band 7 in the Speaking Descriptors in the Speaking Descriptors).
- You can still prepare though. They will definitely ask you about either your job/studies or about where you live, so this is something you CAN prepare in advance.
Make sure you’ve got the right vocabulary and that you’ve practiced this part with a teacher or good speaker who can check your pronunciation too.
Get lots more advice about how to answer short questions and do the 30-Day 1-Minute Speaking Challenge here.
Speaking Part 2
Now you have 2 minutes to talk about a topic. These topics can be grouped into 5 broad categories:
A person –
e.g. a teacher you like, a polite person you know, a neighbour, someone you remember from your childhood, a person you admire, a celebrity, someone you met recently.
An object –
e.g. something you bought/took back to the shop, a gadget in your house, something you’re planning to buy, something that is special to you, a piece of technology (not a mobile phone or laptop!), a gift you gave/received, a photo/painting you like.
A place –
e.g. a museum, a sports venue, a park, a tourist attraction, a building you like, a restaurant/cafe/shop you often go to
An experience –
a party you attended, a meal you enjoyed, a sports event/concert you went to, a time when you won a prize/medal, a speech you gave, a holiday/difficult journey, a film you saw, a book you read, a day out.
An imaginary situation –
e.g. a job you’d like to have, a something you’d like to buy, a language/skill you’d like to learn, a country you’d like to visit, a small business you’d like to star.t
Something you enjoy –
e.g. a hobby, a website you use, a cafe you like going to, a song/pop group you like, a newspaper you often read.
- Use the 1 minute to plan and organise your answer.
- Keep talking for the full 2 minutes.
- Make your topic interesting.
- Make eye contact.
- Run out of things to say. It really doesn’t matter what you say or even if you go off-topic as long as you keep talking for the full 2 minutes.
- Repeat what you’ve already said because you’ve run out of things to say. Avoid repetition at all costs. It’s much better to develop the subject in a different area (see above) than to go over what you’ve already said.
- Read too much from your notes.
Get lots more advice on how to speak for 2 Minutes and do the 28-day 2-minute Speaking Challenge here.
Speaking Part 3
This is where the examiner really gets an opportunity to see what you’re capable of. This is where you could be hitting all the higher scores if you show the examiner that you can:
- speak at length and use a range of linking words (Fluency and Coherence)
- discuss a variety of topics and use some less common and idiomatic vocabulary (Lexical Resource)
- use a range of complex structures with some flexibility (Grammar)
- use a range of pronunciation features and be easy to understand (Pronunciation)
These are all Band 7 on the Speaking Descriptors.
The questions are related to the topic you discussed in Speaking Part 2. In this part, the examiner can ask you questions more freely, so they might ask you to explain more, or be more specific, or give an example. Don’t feel stressed by this – it just shows that the examiner thinks you can take on the challenge of more complex questions.
And don’t worry if the examiners seems to disagree with you – this is just a way of asking you to support your arguments with clear argumentation. These are all things that you can practise, and my advice is to keep up-to-date with typical issues that come up in IELTS. I post these regularly on my Facebook page. Make sure that you read the articles, note down the vocabulary, and keep a list of key arguments for and against. This will also help you with your reading and writing of course!
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