IELTS Speaking Topics: How to Master the Test


The International Language Testing System is a standardized test of English Language designed specifically for non-native speakers. Designed and managed by various British organizations it is accepted by most Commonwealth Countries as well as by over 3000 institutions in the United States. The IELTS can be used to attend academic institutions or solely to gain a better non-academic understanding of English. Unlike other Non-native English tests there is no minimum score required to pass. However bear in mind that institutions are advised not to consider an IELTS report older than two years old. If you are planning on taking the IELTS Exams then you should check out Udemy’s IELTS Express Prep Course. It is the perfect booster to help you get the skills needed under you belt and ace the test.

The Speaking Section of the IELTS

The speaking section lasts 11 – 15 minutes and is composed of four sections related to speaking. The other three focus on listening, reading, and writing. The speaking section comes at the end of the exam and has three sections. The first section is conducted as an interview, during which the exam taker may be asked about their hobbies and interests. Often, questions about the reasons behind taking the exam come up. Other general topics can include talking about clothing, what the exam taker does in their free time, computer and Internet use, and family information.

In the second section of the speaking exam candidates are given a card with a specific topic on it and are give one minute to prepare. They then must speak on that topic for one minute. The final section involves an open-ended discussion between the examiner and the candidate. Most often questions in the conversation revolve around topics already discussed during the second part of the exam.

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Section 1: Speaking About You

In the first section you will be asked basic questions about yourself. Remember these questions are not a trick. The examiner doesn’t want to confuse you. This is information you already know, so you don’t have to do much more than relax and answer honestly.

Often the examiner will ask about your hometown or village. They will ask questions such as “What kind of place is it?” or “Where in the country is it located?” These are simple questions and don’t need to be answered in any complicated manner. Often answering the question succinctly and calmly without talking too much is the best way to approach this part of the examination. It also shows a stronger grasp of language because you will be searching much less for the right words.

Usually these questions are followed by more subjective questions such as: “What is the most interesting thing about your town or village,” or “Would you say it’s a good place to live, and why?” Take your time before answering these questions. It’s always a good idea to take a small breath before responding. It will help you settle any nerves that you may have. Do not be shy to tell the examiner how you truly feel. Part of speaking English with a strong comprehension is the ability to communicate truthful opinions.

Though it is important to be succinct, it is also important that you include details. For example, when asked what is your favorite part about where you are from do not just reply “The main street.” Instead, try and describe what exactly it is about the main street that you enjoy so much. An example response might be: “The sidewalks on the main street are very large and it is easy to walk along them. Also, there is lots of room, so that in the summer time cafes put out tables.” Do you see the difference between the first response and the second? Description and specifics are valuable in every part of the speaking exam.

In the second part of section one the questions will be similar, but will most likely focus on information about where you live now. The reason for following a section about your hometown or village with a section about your current accommodation is a way for the examiner to understand your ability to convey descriptive emotions indirectly. These questions might be similar to “Tell me about where you live now,” or “How long have you lived there,” or “What do you like about living there?” With these question attempt to answer them in the same manner you answered the first ones: with specifics, details, and honesty.

Section 2: Topic Cards

In the second section you will be given a topic card by the examiner and you will have one minute to prepare and given 1 to 2 minutes to speak on the topic. You are allowed to make notes if you would like. The format of the card will always be the same. The topic statement or question will be at the top. A list of categorical prompts will be in the middle. And a conclusion request (in the form of a suggested focus) will be at the bottom.

For example, the topic card might ask you to describe something that you have or own that is very important to you. It will ask you to speak about where it came from, how long you have had it, and what you use it for. Lastly, it might ask you to explain why it is so important to you. Even though the topic may be less personal for higher levels of the speaking test, there will always be clearly divided sections on the topic card. Often there will be questions that are not on the card that the examiner might ask you. Again, this is not to trick your or make you slip up. However, if you exhibit a strong sense of the language, the examiner will want to further gauge your aptitude.

Section 3: Two Way Discussions

The final speaking section will be a conversation between yourself and the examiner. Generally, this will be around a 5-minute conversation, though if it goes well it could last longer. A very common topic for this section revolves around the differences in people. This can be focused on your country of origin, or even on generational differences. A sample discussion prompt might be to consider “How people’s values have become different.” The examiner will then engage you with some questions to star the conversation. For example, they might ask “In your country, what gives people a higher or lower level of status?” Or, “How have things changed since your parent’s times?” These are questions that can be applied to any culture, even that of the examiner, so remember not to become defensive. Once the questions have been posed you can start talking. As always, being confident and direct is as much a part of your success as using English correctly.

The main difference in this section is that it is, obviously, a conversation. Though the examiner has given you a set of topical prompts on which the two of you will be speaking, they will not sit silently and listen. If a point you make intrigues them they may ask you to expand upon it. If they are confused by something you have said, they may ask for clarification. Regardless of the topic presented, remember to stay calm. Listen and then respond.

A final prompt will be offered during this section. Most often this will be a completely different topic, so don’t be thrown off when the examiner changes the course of the conversation. Examples of secondary topics could be on advertising, historical information, pop culture, or more. And remember, if you do not know enough about a subject, you can say something. There will be any number of replacement topics available.

General Rules for Speaking

When practicing almost any of the questions, topical prompts, or engaging in conversations it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with answering the “5 W’s.” They are: who, what, where, when, why. Sometimes “how” is thrown in their as well. By mastering the ability to touch on those categories while practicing, you will be more comfortable during so while speaking in the moment.

If you are taking the Speaking section of the test that means you will also be taking the writing section as well. It can be a good idea to also take Udemy’s IELTS Writing Prep Course. This way you can succeed in all sections of the exam. Check out Udemy’s Blog article if you are not sure which style of test is right for you. It can help you make the decision that best fits your ability. If you are looking to get into academic institutions in your new home, or just want a better understanding of the English language, there are great courses available at Udemy that will help you ace your upcoming IELTS exam.