The speaking section of the IELTS exam is an intimidating one for many students. Our resources are designed to improve your confidence by giving practical tips to improve understanding and confidence. This is a section of the website that we’re adding to, so check back for more soon. 

IELTS Speaking Test Format

There are three sections to the IELTS speaking test. Part one is an interview and introduction. Part two

IELTS Speaking Part one

This section contains a few impromptu personal questions. This means you aren’t given any time to prepare your answer. The examiner might ask you about your life, your interests, your likes and dislikes, your family and so on. This section lasts 4-5 minutes.

IELTS Speaking Part Two

The second section is the only prepared section of the IELTS speaking exam. You will have one minute to think about your answer and make a few short notes if you would like. The question will be fairly personal to you. They might ask you about an experience, something you own, things you like or your view on something. You will have one minute to prepare your answer and will be expected to speak for two minutes.

IELTS Speaking Part Three

This is another impromptu section where you won’t have any preparation time. This section differs from part one because you the questions are more general. Part one questions are about you, while part three questions will be about society or your country.

Common topics in the IELTS Speaking Exam

While the examiners are always looking for new topics, there are certain topics that will frequently come up in the test. You shouldn’t try and memorise answers to questions around these topics, but it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the topics so you aren’t surprised in the test. 

We have a growing list of sample essays and vocabulary guides. Click on any of the links below to see the guide. Anything without a link will have a topic guide soon. 

  • Art
  • Animals
  • Buildings and architecture
  • Celebrations
  • Clothing and fashion
  • Education
  • Film and television
  • Friends
  • Hobbies
  • Hometowns
  • Homes
  • Holidays
  • Jobs and work
  • Mobile phones
  • Music
  • Nature
  • Shopping
  • Study
  • Public transportation
  • Weather

How is the IELTS Speaking test graded?

IELTS speaking is graded over four criteria. For each one, you will receive a grade from 1-9. The average of these grades will determine your speaking score.. The four IELTS speaking grading criteria are: 

  • Fluency and Coherence
  • Lexical Resource 
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Pronunciation 

 You can find the full grading descriptors on the offical IELTS website.  

IELTS Speaking FAQs

What should I do if I don’t understand the question in the IELTS Test?

One common fear in the IELTs exam is not understanding the question. First thing to say is this is far less likely than you’d think. The questions are pretty general. It’s an English test, not a general knowledge test so they’re not going to try and trick you with weird questions.

When you don’t understand the question, there are two ways this can happen. Either you didn’t hear what they said, or one word wasn’t clear to you. In both situations, you just need to ask the examiner. This is a completely normal thing for people to do in any language, so don’t worry about doing this as long as it’s not too often.

If you didn’t hear, you should ask the examiner to repeat the question. You can say

‘Sorry I missed that. Can you repeat the question?’


‘I’m afraid I didn’t quite hear that. Can you say it again please?’

The other situation is that you understand everything except one word. In this situation you should also ask the examiner to clarify. If the word was ‘defenestrate’ you might say

‘Sorry can you explain what ‘defenestrate’ means please.

How can I make sure I speak for two minutes in the IELTS speaking exam?

The IELTS part two is a section where you are given a question and expected to speak about it for two minutes. Here is an example question:

Describe a website you have bought something from:

You should say:

  • What the website is.
  • How satisfied you were with what you bought.

And explain what you liked and disliked about using this website

The problem students have with these questions is they rush through and answer each question and then wonder why they have nothing to talk about. A much better mindset is to try and think of this as answering four 30-second questions. This will stop you rushing through these questions and then not knowing what to say. As long as you remember to spend 30 seconds on each question, you’ll be fine making up two minutes. In fact, when I give students this tip, they often find themselves talking for far more than 30 seconds about each thing.

The other reason this is good is just that ‘talking for 2 minutes’ sounds like a lot but ‘talking for 30 seconds four times’ seems much easier.

In our example question above, we have four things we could talk about

  • What the website is.
  • What we bought.
  • How satisfied you were
  • What was good and bad about using the website.

In fact, there is far more than 30 second worth of things to talk about for each of these points. As long as you approach the question as four small questions that you’ll spend around 30 seconds on each, you don’t need to worry too much about making it to two minutes in IELTS part two speaking.