IELTS preparation tips and tricks for the Speaking Test

A young man in a pink hoody pictured on a darker pink background. He's smiling and waving in a way that suggests he's trying to attract your attention. This is to represent communication in English and we're thinking about the IELTS speaking test.

In the IELTS speaking test you will need to talk about yourself, the things you do and like and experiences you have had. Here's how to do it.

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How to achieve the best score you can in the IELTS speaking test

IELTS – International English Language Testing System – tests your English language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking. There are 2 types of IELTS test – IELTS Academic and IELTS General training. Normally students who wish to study at a university in the UK at undergraduate or post-graduate level need IELTS Academic. Because of this most language schools in the UK offer academic IELTS training.

In this post an experienced IELTS teacher at ELC Brighton gives some personal advice on how to approach the speaking paper.

ELC English language class

Pre-Test IELTS Speaking Test Practice

In the IELTS speaking test you will need to talk about yourself, the things you do and like and experiences you have had. You will also be asked to talk more generally about the world and other people.

While it is quite easy for most people to talk about themselves, you should remember that you might get asked things you don’t often think about. Remember, this is not a “natural” situation and it is not like talking to your friend in a coffee shop! It might be useful to think of what you might say if asked about books, films, TV, technology, nature, travel, etc.

In the last part of the test you will be asked general questions and you will need to give opinions and be able to back these ideas up with examples. The examiner may challenge you to justify what you say or talk further about something. The more you know about the world in the 21st century the easier this becomes. Read articles in magazines and newspapers (paper or online) about the environment, modern technology, the media, education and modern life in general. (This will also help you with task 2 writing.)

Also, before taking the test you might find it useful to check the public version of the examiners’ marking criteria for the IELTS speaking test.

IELTS English language class

Be Nice!

We are all human and your examiner may be in the middle of a very long afternoon’s work so a bright, friendly, positive attitude from a candidate can make him/her feel good about the upcoming conversation. This might also lead to better scores for fluency and pronunciation because your enthusiasm can increase your ability to keep going and improve your intonation. Remember, correct intonation can add precise/subtle meaning to your speech.

Whole Test

You will be assessed over the whole test so try not to worry if one question gives you problems, focus on the next one. However, the test becomes more demanding as it goes on so you will need to concentrate hard for the whole 12-14 minutes.

You don’t have to tell the truth!

Nobody is going to phone your friend to check what you say is true! So, you can make some things up or mix separate events into one narrative during the long turn in part two (2-minute talk). However, you should be careful not to sound too crazy or go too far off topic.

Also, do not talk about anything that might upset you – you don’t want to burst into tears half way through or find yourself overcome with emotion!


Make sure you listen carefully to each question and answer the question the examiner asks, not the one you wished he/she had asked! If you don’t have a clear answer, say so and explain why this topic area doesn’t interest you or why you have never thought about it before but still be prepared to speculate if the examiner asks you to. However, you cannot continue to do this throughout the test – one time only!

Long turn

Use the whole of the one minute thinking time before the long turn in part two – it is a valuable opportunity to think of some good vocabulary and grammar as well as the content of what you are going to say. Make notes but do not write sentences – just a list of single words and phrases to remind you of what you are going to say. Again, MAKE NOTES!

Try to talk for the whole two minutes and cover each of the points on the topic card. It is much better to have too much to say than not enough – you can’t lose marks for having a lot to say!


After your two minute talk the examiner will ask you general questions connected with that topic. These questions are designed to see if you can talk not about yourself or your country but about the world in general so try not to talk about yourself. Say clearly what you think without being afraid of the examiner disagreeing with you – he/she might challenge you on what you say but feel free to say exactly what you think!

Tips for the other IELTS papers

If you want tips on the reading, writing and listening parts of the examination, look at our other blog posts from Simon.

Simon Cummings MA, DELTA Teacher

Simon Cummings is Assistant Academic Director at The English Language Centre, an English school in Brighton, Sussex, on the south-coast of England. ELC offers intensive 4-week IELTS exam preparation courses that help students prepare for Academic IELTS. Simon has helped students learn English for more than 25 years and has around 20 years’ experience helping students successfully prepare for IELTS. He was an IELTS examiner for 15 years and regularly teaches on the IELTS Examination Preparation Course at ELC.