What's tested on the IELTS Speaking Section

The Speaking module is conducted by an IELTS examiner who will meet with you for a one-to-one session. The total time required for the Speaking module is 11–14 minutes, and consists of three parts. The examiner is responsible for timing all parts of the test.
In Part 1 and Part 2, the examiner follows a script with instructions and questions. During Part 3, the examiner will paraphrase question prompts to match them to your proficiency level. Each test is recorded for security and monitoring purposes.

Part 1: Introduction and Interview

Part 1 will take 4-5 minutes. The examiner introduces himself or herself and verifies your identity by checking your valid ID or passport. The examiner asks you questions covering up to 3 familiar topics. The first topic, for example, may be about your work or studies. The second could be about activities that you like doing in your free time. The third topic could be about your views on public transport in the area where you live.
None of the topics will require any prepared answers. The main aim in Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking is to get you warmed up and ready to talk.

  • Be prepared to make a good impression from the moment you enter the room.
  • Maintain eye contact with the examiner and be mindful of your body language.
  • Practice answering questions about familiar topics (people, places, things, activities).

Part 2: Individual Long Turn

This part of the test will last for 3–4 minutes. The examiner will give you a card containing a topic and some bullet point prompts. Before speaking you will have 1 minute to prepare and make notes on a sheet of paper. You will then be required to speak for 1–2 minutes. When you are finished speaking, the examiner will ask 1 or 2 follow-up questions.
You will not be allowed to bring any pens, pencils or paper into the examination room – these will be provided by the examiner. The notes are not marked and will be collected and destroyed after the test. You cannot take them out of the room. While you are making notes, the examiner will not talk to you.

  • Read the task card carefully.
  • Make brief notes about each point on the card.
  • Practice brainstorming and taking notes, to ensure you will have enough ideas to speak for 1–2 minutes

Part 3: Two-Way Discussion

This part lasts 4–5 minutes. The examiner will ask you to discuss some abstract, non-personal questions. Depending on your level of English and performance, you might be asked up to 7 questions on a variety of themes related to the same topic that you discussed in Part 2. You are not required or expected to ask the examiner any questions.

  • Use key phrases to introduce your opinion and connecting words to link ideas.
  • Express your opinions with confidence and justify them with relevant examples.
  • Speak at length, but stay on topic.

Assessment Criteria

You are assessed according to the following criteria:

Fluency and Coherence

  • Your ability to express ideas clearly and coherently without long hesitations.

Lexical Resources

  • Your range of vocabulary and how appropriate your use of vocabulary is.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

  • The range of structures you use and
  • The number of errors you make.


  • How easy it is to understand what you are saying.
  • Your ability to use features of English pronunciation (intonation, stress and connected speech) naturally.
  • Note that accents are not taken into consideration.

Speaking Strategies

Strategy 1: Don’t memorize long answers. Anything the examiner thinks has been memorized will not be assessed.
Strategy 2: Use your imagination in your answers. Remember that the examiner is testing your ability to speak English, not your views or general knowledge.
Strategy 3: Use varied and advanced vocabulary. You must show that you have enough vocabulary to discuss non-personal topics.
Strategy 4: You can stall, but not for long. If you cannot think of an answer to the examiner’s question right away, you can say some ‘filler’ phrases to acknowledge the question and to show the examiner that you are thinking about your answer However, avoid waiting for too long before you speak. Some examples:

  • ‘That’s a good question!’
  • ‘OK, well, let me see…’
  • ‘I’ve never thought about this before…’
  • ‘Hmm, let me think…’

Strategy 5: Make your voice heard. You should speak loudly enough for the examiner to hear you and for the tape recorder to capture what you are saying.

Need some help prepping for the IELTS? Check out Kaplan’s resources.