Tricky or strange IELTS part 1 speaking topics.
Updated: September 2023
Part 1 of the IELTS speaking test is actually the easiest. The topics are always about you and your experiences. Usually, the topics are pretty easy everyday topics such as job, studies, hobbies, accommodation, travel, hometown, music, daily routine, pets and so on. The examiner asks between 9 to 12 questions based around 3 topics and this part of the test lasts around 5 minutes.
However, the examiner will often ask you questions around an unusual topic. This is quite normal as the examiner wants to check whether you have memorised answers to the most common topics and needs to evaluate your true ability. Do not memorise stock answers as the examiner is trained to spot these and you could lose marks.
What’s the best approach?
Well quite simply just answer the question in a clear direct manner and don’t panic. There is no need to give complex answers or go into too much detail either. For each topic, you will be asked around 4 questions and there are 3 topics in IELTS part 1 speaking.
Here I have chosen some questions and answers from random topics as an example.
Q: Do you like wearing jeans
A: Yes I do, I wear jeans everyday as they are very comfortable and are still quite fashionable.
Q: Do people in your country often wear jeans?
A: It depends on the person but these days jeans are quite popular with youngsters and even adults. In the old days in my country, such as the 1950s, people rarely wore them.
Q: Do you have a good memory?
A: Yes I think so, especially when remembering dates and people from a long time ago, however, my short term memory is not so good recently. I tend to forget where I left my keys.
Q: What is your earliest memory?
A: I think it was when i was around 4 years old, I was going to the park with my dad on a small tricycle and I remember it was a very hot day.
Q: How often do you buy shoes?
A: I purchase new footwear every year…because I tend to wear trainers / sneakers and after 9 or 10 months they usually start to tear and let water in when it rains.
Q: Have you ever bought a pair of expensive shoes?
A: Yes I have. I was invited to a wedding a few years ago and I didn’t have any decent shoes, so I bought a pair of good quality shoes that cost me around $250.
Q: How many hours do you sleep at night?
A: Usually I get around 6 hours sleep but sometimes I can’t sleep due anxiety with my job, so I might wake up at 3 or 4am suddenly.
Q: What do you do if you find it difficult to sleep?
A: In that situation I tend to do breathing exercises to really get relaxed, or sometimes I count to 1000, it works actually.
From these examples it’s quite clear how simple it can be to answer the question directly. Don’t try to impress the examiner with some kind of ‘high-level’ answer. Keep it concise as there is no need for a very long response.
Answer the question directly
Remember to answer the questions according to the grammar. So if you are asked yes-no questions such as ‘Do you….?’ then answer with ‘Yes I do’ or ‘No I don’t’ or a hypothetical question with ‘Would you…?’ then answer with ‘Yes I would….’ or ‘No I wouldn’t... ‘ and then you can go on to explain in a little more detail.
Important: Make sure you directly answer the question, don’t mis-answer like in the example below.
Q: Do you like to travel?
A: When I was younger I travelled all over Europe and had a great time, so I want to go back to Spain and Italy again one day.
How long should your answers be in this section?
In part 1 of the speaking test, the examiner has only 5 minutes to get through about 9 to 12 questions. So you should not go into long convoluted answers. Answer the question directly in 1 or 2 sentences. However, some questions might require you to go into a bit more detail, and that is fine too. See these examples below.
Example response 1:
Q: Do you work or do you study?
A: I work at the moment, I’m a nurse at the local hospital here.
Example response 2:
Q: If you could change your job or profession what would you like to do?
A: Well, I’ve been thinking about moving to the UK to do a degree in psychology, as I have a keen interest in this subject. I’ve been a Nurse for around 6 years now and I would like to make a career change and work in psychotherapy actually. Nursing for me is not really an option in the future.
The first question is pretty simple so a short clear answer would be perfectly ok here, but you can see that the answer to the second question is much longer. This is because the student had more to say about this topic, and that is acceptable.
Don’t restrict yourself if you feel you can give a longer answer. But also be aware that the examiner is keeping time and needs to get through the questions in 5 minutes, so not every answer can be very long.
In some cases the examiner will adjust it and ask only 9 questions if time is running out. This is normal so don’t worry about that.
Part 3 of the speaking test is where you are expected go into more detail in your answers.