1. About the IELTS Speaking Exam Part One
First, let’s review what happens in part one of the IELTS speaking test.
After you introduce yourself, the examiner will ask you some simple questions about one or two topics.
Some common topics are: where you live, your job, your family, your free time, food, sports, and others like this.
Section one of the IELTS speaking test lasts four-five minutes. The examiner reads questions from a script, so it’s not a discussion—just question and answer.
In this video, we’ll look at some sample IELTS speaking test questions and answers, and see what makes a good answer. You can learn some simple ways to make your answers better.
2. The First Questions in IELTS Speaking Exam Part One
At the beginning of the exam, the examiner will ask you some basic questions:
- What’s your name?
- Where are you from?
- Can I see some identification, please?
These are easy questions, and they are the same in every IELTS exam.
Use the start of the exam to get comfortable. You might be nervous at the beginning of your IELTS speaking test.
This is normal, but you need to try to relax. If you’re more relaxed, you’ll speak better.
So what can you do?
Answer the examiner in full sentences. Don’t say, “Berlin,” say,
Don’t say, “Andrew,” say,
Speak in a clear, confident voice. Make eye contact with the examiner. Making a strong start will help you to feel more in control.
This will help you to feel more confident speaking English in the exam.
3. Speaking Fluently and Clearly
After the opening questions, the examiner will ask you questions about one of the simple topics we saw earlier.
Let’s start with a simple question:
We’re going to look at three different answers. In this section, we’re going to look at how you can speak more fluently and clearly.
Answer number one:
- I come from Moscow. It’s a big city.
What do you think? Is this a good answer?
No, it isn’t. It’s too short, and there aren’t any details.
To get a score of 6 or 7 in IELTS, you need to speak at length. You also need to use a wide range of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation features.
If you give a very short answer, you can’t do any of these things.
Remember: every question is a chance to show the examiner what you can do in English!
Let’s try again! Answer number two:
- I’m from Moscow. As you may know, Moscow is the capital of Russia. I’m really proud of my city and I miss it when I’m not there. In my neighbourhood, there are many cafes and parks where I like to hang out with friends in the evening.
What about this one? It’s better, right? It’s longer and it has lots of details.
However, this answer isn’t really answering the question. The answer talks about how you feel about your hometown, and what you like doing there.
The question asks you to describe your hometown, not say how you feel about it.
This is a common problem. Many IELTS students know that they need to give longer answers, but it’s also important to stay on topic.
You do need to develop your ideas. You do need to add details to your answers, but you also need to answer the question which the examiner asked.
You can’t just talk about whatever comes into your head!
OK, let’s look at answer number three:
- I come from Moscow. It’s a very large city, and also the capital, so it’s very busy and crowded. It’s the kind of place where people always seem to be in a hurry. The centre has a lot of historical buildings and monuments, while out of the centre there are mostly just residential areas.
This is the best answer. It’s clear, detailed, and on-topic.
Get more practice with this Oxford Online English lesson on speaking English fluently.
Remember that you can pause the video and review the answers if you want.
4. Using Vocabulary Effectively in Your Answers
Let’s look at another question:
This time, we’ll look at two sample answers. Think about how the candidates use vocabulary, and which candidate does a better job.
Remember that you can pause the video to read the answers if you need to.
Answer number one:
- I live in an apartment in a big building. My apartment has four rooms. There is a bedroom, a living room, and a kitchen. The fourth room is a… Um… I forgot the word in English.
Answer number two:
- I live in a mid-sized apartment in a tower block. It has four rooms in total, with a tiny bedroom, an open-plan living room with a dining area, and a kitchen. Then there’s a… What’s the word? Like an office, where I do some work or studying sometimes.
Which answer do you think is better?
I hope it was obvious: the second answer is much better.
What makes this answer better?
The use of vocabulary is much better in the second answer.
The first candidate lives in a big building. The second lives in a tower block. This is much more specific.
The second candidate also uses a lot of adjectives, like mid-sized, tiny or open-plan, while the first candidate doesn’t add any description.
Using a variety of vocabulary can make your answer clearer and more descriptive. This helps your score.
Both candidates forget a word, but the second candidate deals with it much better. The first candidate just gives up—“I don’t know the word”—while the second candidate finds a way to explain the meaning.
You don’t need a perfect vocabulary to get a good score in the IELTS Speaking exam. If you don’t know a word, don’t panic, and don’t give up. Try to find other words or phrases which have a similar meaning.
When preparing for your IELTS exam, think about the topics which can appear in part one of the IELTS speaking test. Learn some more advanced or interesting vocabulary you could use for each topic.
For example, learn and practice ten words to describe your home, ten words to describe your hometown, ten words to talk about your hobbies, and so on.
5. Improving Your Grammar Score in Part One of the IELTS Speaking Exam
Let’s look at our third question:
We’ll look at three sample answers. This time, we’re going to focus on grammar. Think about how these candidates use grammar.
Answer number one:
- I have a lot of different hobbies. What I do depends on my mood. For example, if I’m feeling energetic, I like to play basketball or go jogging. If I want to relax, I read a book or cook something. I find cooking very relaxing.
What do you think? Good answer?
Yes, it is. It’s clear, and the candidate has mixed shorter and longer sentences. There aren’t any grammar mistakes. It’s a very good answer.
However, most IELTS candidates (at least the ones I meet), can’t use grammar perfectly, and make mistakes when they speak.
Let’s look at two more answers which might be more realistic for you if you’re planning to take IELTS in the near future.
Answer number two:
- I have lot of hobbies. I’m doing different things depending on what’s my mood. For example, if I am very energy, I will play basketball or go to jogging. If I want to relaxation, I read some books or cook something. Cooking is relaxing to me.
Answer number three:
- I have many hobbies. Sometimes I play basketball or go jogging. Sometimes I read or cook. Cooking is relaxing.
Remember, we’re focusing on grammar. Which answer do you think is better?
It might surprise you that answer number two is better than number three, even though there are many, many grammar mistakes in the second answer.
In the third answer, there are no grammar mistakes.
What’s going on? How can an answer with lots of mistakes be better than an answer with no mistakes?
First of all, the second candidate at least tries to use more complex sentences. The third candidate uses very short, simple sentences.
This is an interesting point: in IELTS, trying and failing to do something is often better than not trying at all.
The third candidate is trying to stay safe, by only using grammar which he/she knows, but this is not the best idea.
Secondly, the second candidate’s answer is clear. There are lots of grammar mistakes, but the mistakes don’t make it difficult to understand.
This is another important point: in the IELTS exam, mistakes which don’t affect your meaning are not a big problem.
Of course, this is only true if you are aiming for a score of 6.0 to 7.0. If you need to get 7.5 or higher, you need to speak accurately, without grammar mistakes, like the first candidate. However, this is not the case for many IELTS students.
If you need a score in the 6.0-7.0 range, you don’t need to have perfect grammar, just like you don’t need to have perfect vocabulary. You do need to use what you know to communicate clearly. That’s much more important.
So, if you know that your grammar is not perfect, it’s better to try to speak fluently and express yourself clearly. You can still get a good score in the IELTS speaking test.
Let’s review what we’ve talked about today. To get a higher score in part one of the IELTS speaking test, you need to:
- Give longer, more detailed answers without going off-topic.
- Use a range of vocabulary to make your answers more descriptive.
- Find a way to express yourself even if you don’t know a word.
- Try to use some longer, more grammatically complex sentences even if you make some mistakes.
Think about the questions we looked at today:
- Describe your hometown.
- Describe your home.
- What do you do in your free time?
Think about how you could answer these questions in the IELTS speaking exam. What details could you add? What vocabulary could you use?
If you want, you can leave your answers in the video comments (on YouTube), and we’ll give you feedback.
Good luck on your exam! For more practice, watch this other Oxford Online English video to get our top 10 tips for the IELTS Speaking exam.