IELTS Speaking test format and sample questions

In this article, we outline the IELTS Speaking test format and sample questions. Here you will find everything you need to know about how to prepare for the IELTS Speaking Test. We offer free tutorials, tips, model questions and answers to help you do well in the IELTS Speaking exam.


How is the Speaking test assessed?

How to respond quickly in the IELTS speaking

The format of the IELTS Speaking Test

Sample Speaking Test Questions and Model Answers

How to improve your IELTS Speaking

Vocabulary for the IELTS Speaking Test

IELTS Speaking Tutorials

Speaking Feedback Service

The academic and general IELTS speaking test is the same. It’s an informal face-to-face interview with the IELTS examiner, even if you're doing a computer-delivered test.

The speaking test comprises 3 parts and the objective is to test your fluency, pronunciation, fluency and grammar.

How is the IELTS Speaking test assessed?

Your test will be marked according to the following speaking band descriptors criteria:

  • Fluency and coherence (25%)
Your fluency is assessed by your ability to speak smoothly with little effort and little to no hesitation. To increase your score for fluency and cohesion, make sure that you're able to connect your sentences by using connectives in your sentences. Speak smoothly and continuously, while using pauses correctly and extending your answers with as many relevant details as possible.
  • Lexical resource (25%)
This refers to the speaking vocabulary that you have learnt to be able to communicate your ideas and opinions clearly. To achieve a high band score, it is important to use a wide range of vocabulary. You need to show that you're able to communicate freely, using appropriate vocabulary. Using idiomatic language correctly in your speaking exam will increase your score.
    • Take a look at our comprehensive list of IELTS vocabulary to help you with your IELTS speaking and writing exam.
  • Grammatical range and accuracy (25%)
This criteria refers to how good your grammar is. It is important to avoid making grammatical mistakes and to use more advanced grammatical structures in your responses.
  • Pronunciation (25%)
In the IELTS exam, pronunciation is a very important criteria to focus on. You need to be sure that the examiner can understand what you are saying so that they are able to assess you.

How to Respond Quickly and Automatically in IELTS Speaking

The format of the IELTS speaking test:

  • IELTS Speaking Part One (4-5 minutes)

In this section of the IELTS speaking test, the examiner will introduce him/herself and check your identity for the IELTS exam. Examiners are required to follow a script throughout the interview to help ensure consistency across all IELTS speaking tests.

Being nervous about this part of the exam is entirely normal, here is a podcast we made all about greeting the examiner.

The examiner will ask you everyday questions about your life like where you live and what work you do. He/She will also touch on questions about your family and what you do in your free time.

The goal of part 1 of the exam is to make you feel comfortable and relaxed. Being assessed in this state is fairer than being judged when you are nervous and worried.

Sample Part 1 Speaking Questions To Expect: – What is your full name? – Can I see your ID? – Where are you from? – Do you work or study? – What do you do? – Where do you live now? – What is the most interesting place to visit in your hometown? – Do many tourists visit your country? – Do you like long or short holidays? – Where do you like to go on holiday? – Do you prefer beach holidays or city holidays? – Do you have close friends? – What do you value the most in your friends? – Do you meet often with your friends?

IELTS Speaking Part Two (3-4 minutes)

In this section of the test, you will be asked to give a short talk using a cue card. You will have one minute to prepare what you’re going to say and then you’re expected to speak for 1-2 minutes. When the time is up, the examiner will ask another question or two to wrap up this stage of the test.

Sample Cue Card Questions for Part 2

1.Cue Card:

Describe a new public building you want to visit. Please say – What building it is – Where and when was it built? – Why do you want to visit it? Possible Follow up questions – What types of buildings are there in your hometown? – Is it a good trend to have skyscrapers in the city? – Do you think buildings’ shapes and structures will change in the future? – Would you like to live in a different-shaped building, round or triangular? – Why is that?

2. Cue Card:

Talk about advice you received from someone that was very helpful.

Please say – What was the advice? – Who gave it to you? – Why was it helpful? Possible Follow-up Questions – Do you often get advice from older people? – Do you like to give advice to others? – Why don’t many people follow good advice?

IELTS Speaking Part Three ( Duration: 4-5 minutes)

Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking exam involves a discussion where you will have the opportunity to really develop your answers. You will be asked open-ended questions relating to part 2 of your exam. There is no set number of questions that you can be asked to answer. The questions are usually quite abstract and will most likely seem they are asking the same thing over and over again. When this happens the examiner is assessing whether you can say the same thing in a different way than before.

Take a look at our tips for giving your opinion in speaking part 3.

Sample Speaking Test Questions and Model Answers

    • Take a look at recent IELTS Speaking Topics to help you prepare for your speaking exam here.

How to Improve your IELTS Speaking

  • When starting your IELTS Speaking practice, you need to understand the marking criteria. This will help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Find a speaking partner online. Being able to talk to a partner will help build your confidence and speaking fluency.
  • Enrol in a speaking course. The quickest way to progress is when you receive feedback on what to improve from a professional.
  • Read up on recent IELTS Speaking questions that have been reported by students, this will give you an idea of what to expect.
  • Enrol in a mock speaking exam online. Doing a mock IELTS speaking exam will give you an idea of exactly what to expect on your test. You will also be able to receive feedback on which areas you need to improve.

Practice using real questions from official sources:

    • Here are a few IELTS Speaking Practice tests from British Council so that you can use these real questions to practice from home:

Detailed information about the band descriptors can be found in this tutorial.

Vocabulary for the IELTS Speaking test

Vocabulary is very important for your IELTS Speaking, it is important to be able to communicate your English skills. Take a look these vocabulary resources when preparing for your IELTS Speaking:

In order to achieve a Band 6 score in the speaking test for the IELTS test, you will need to show that you:

  • are willing to speak at length
  • have a wide enough vocabulary to discuss topics at length
  • use a mix of simple and complex structures
  • use a range of pronunciation features

If it’s a Band 8 score you’re after, you will need to:

  • speak fluently with only occasional repetition or self-correction
  • use a wide vocabulary resource readily and flexibly
  • use a wide range of structures flexibly
  • use a wide range of pronunciation features

IELTS Speaking Tutorials:

Speaking Feedback Service

A fast and effective way to improve is to find out where you are making your biggest mistakes. Find out by enrolling in our IELTS speaking feedback service.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How to score band 7 in IELTS Speaking?

You can score band 7 in IELTS Speaking by following these tips:
  • Speak at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence
  • Show some language-related hesitation, repetition or self-correction
  • Use a range of connectors and discourse markers with some flexibility
  • Use appropriate vocabulary to the topic flexibly to discuss a variety of topics
  • Use some less common and idiomatic vocabulary and show some awareness of style and collocation
  • Paraphrase effectively
  • Use a range of complex structures with some flexibility
  • Produce error-free sentences
  • Use a range of phonological features without being misunderstood
  • Your intonation and rhythm are used in a way that makes you easy to understand
  • Don't speak too slowly or too quickly
Learn more here.