The Speaking test involves the candidate and one examiner and lasts around 11-14 minutes. There are 3 parts to the test. First watch this video to get an overview of the test.

In the first part, the examiner will ask you to talk about EITHER where you live OR your studies (or job if working). They will then move on to 2 other topics, chosen from a range including your interests, family life, popular activities such as sport, films or shopping; or other universals such as food, festivals or public transport. You cannot choose these topics, but the examiner will ask general questions and interact with you to encourage you to speak. The tone is one of an informal, if slightly one-sided, conversation.


In the second part, the examiner will give you a booklet with a topic. After reading the topic, you will have one minute to think about what you are going to say. You may make notes on paper at this stage. The examiner will tell you when your preparation time is up, and you must talk on the subject for 1-2 minutes. They will not interrupt you unless you exceed the allotted time, or do not speak long enough. You will likely be asked a short follow-up question to the topic after you finish speaking. This is your chance to demonstrate a range of vocabulary and sentence structures. You will continue to discuss matters related to the subject in Part 3.

The third part is a discussion of issues connected to the topic in Part 2. The examiner will expand the topic in some way to guide you, and may ask you to describe, comment on, compare, speculate or theorise about related themes. They will interact with you, and may lead the discussion into more abstract or 'difficult' areas towards the end, in order to really pinpoint your language ability. (If they do this, you have already done well!)

The examiner is responsible for timekeeping and moving from one part of the test to another.

Watch this video to see a complete test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8yt50y93nQ

GRADING Criteria

The test grades general communicative ability based on 4 criteria:

  1. Fluency and coherence: your ability to keep going in a monologue or dialogue without stopping or hesitating too much and the way you put your discourse together so the meaning is clear.
  2. Lexical resource: this refers to your use of appropriate and varied vocabulary; your choice of words to express yourself.
  3. Grammatical accuracy and range: your ability to use correct tenses and appropriate structures and to demonstrate that you can use more complex language such as conditionals, phrasal verbs, subordinate clauses, etc.
  4. Pronunciation: how easily you can be understood, correct pronunciation of individual words and natural patterns of stress and intonation within sentences and discourse.

The most common problem with the speaking test is probably that candidates do not demonstrate their actual ability, because of nervousness or lack of extended speaking practice. The examiner can only grade you on what s/he hears, so if you only use common words and simple sentences, they won't know you have a great vocabulary range and can use all kinds of structures!

Here are some tips to help you maximise your speaking grade.


Here are some tips to help you maximise your speaking grade.

  • Preparation is vital for the speaking test. PRACTISE speaking, with your friends, family, people in social gatherings, anyone you can! Practise talking about general topics, practise talking for a minute or two on any topic you know about, 'rehearse' dialogues in your head while travelling around.
  • Also practise LISTENING to people: you need to understand what the examiner says to be able to hold a conversation. Listening to English conversations on T.V, video, radio, public transport etc. gives you a variety of native speaker models for pronunciation and intonation and increases your exposure to a wider vocabulary range.
  • Actively gather vocabulary on a variety of topics (check out the vocabulary web pages on this site). Assimilate them into your own vocabulary range and practise using them in conversations until you are comfortable with them.
  • Record yourself speaking and play it back. Practise until you sound fluent, confident and relaxed and your pronunciation and intonation is clear and natural. You can do this in the Centre for Independent Language Learning (CILL), in Room A305. You can then take the recording to a CILL teacher for feedback and comment. Alternatively, you can practise speaking on general topics with a CILL teacher. Make the most of these excellent resources!
  • If you have areas of grammar that you are unsure of, take the time to check them out. Again, you can do this with the CILL resources or online at sites like these: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/5/
  • Eliminate any mistakes you know you make. Don't overuse certain structures (e.g. 'Actually' at the start of many sentences). Listening to yourself or asking a CILL teacher to listen will help you to pinpoint these.

This ELC website can help you to practise the 3 speaking task types and expand your vocabulary range in relevant topics. Tips in how to maximise preparation effectiveness and in exam techniques are also given. In addition, there are specific supplementary materials and practice tests in the CILL library.

OFFLINE CILL IELTS materials for speaking practice

  • Cambridge University's Practice Exam Papers books 1, 2, 3 etc. These provide complete mock exams for self testing.
  • Cambridge University's Specimen materials folders.
  • Cambridge University's IELTS preparation course, "Insight into IELTS" by V. Jakeman & C. McDowell.
  • Preparation course "Focus on IELTS" by S. O'Connell, Longman press.
  • The British Council's "How to prepare for IELTS".

*CILL – The Centre for Independent Language Learning, A305 and Z213, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University https://elc.polyu.edu.hk/cill/

ONLINE IELTS materials for speaking practice

https://ielts.org/about-the-test/test-format The last section on this link leads you to more information about the Speaking test.

https://ielts.org/about-the-test/sample-test-questions This part the Cambridge IELTS website has sample Speaking test questions.

http://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/prepare-your-test/free-practice-tests/speaking-practice-test-1 This site has practice tests for Speaking.