Overview of IELTS speaking

IELTS speaking part 1

The whole IELTS speaking test is around 13 to 14 minutes long. In part 1 there are 3 different topics and around 9 to 12 questions in total. Part 1 lasts for 5 minutes and these tend to be topics such as hometown, work, studies, family, hobbies, daily routine, and so on (see the picture below). It nearly always starts with questions about your studies or your job.

The main point here is to speak freely without hesitation. It is not a formal test, just speak naturally without memorising answers to specific topics. It is not necessary to give long detailed answers, just keep it simple with around 1 or 2 sentence replies.

Click here for a lesson on speaking part 1 and a model test.

ielts speaking part 1

However, you might get a slightly unusual topic here,  such as jeans, hair, perfume, shoes, smiling, boats, pens and pencils and so on. There are so many unusual topics but the questions are not difficult. Take a look at the link below for ideas in case you get unusual topics in IELTS speaking part 1.

Click here for unusual or strange topics in IELTS speaking part 1

IELTS speaking part 1 unusual topics

IELTS speaking part 2

This part of the test involves a specific topic on a card or prompt that is given by the examiner. In this case, there are no questions but you will ‘Describe’ and ‘Explain’ something and talk about the points on the card in a little more detail. You will be assessed on your fluency as well as grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. You have 1 minute to take notes and prepare then you must speak for 2 minutes. The examiner will tell you when to stop speaking. Here is an example task.

Click here for 9 difficult topics and ideas for IELTS Speaking part 2

Click here for IELTS speaking part 2: useful technique for difficult topics

Click here for a useful structure in IELTS speaking Part 2

IELTS speaking part 3

Here you are asked around 4 or 5 questions by the examiner with various types of questions such as giving an opinion, comparing, predicting the future, talking about the past and talking about people in general. You will need to state an opinion, explain your opinion and give an example. The answers will be more detailed than in part 1 of the test.

This part of the speaking test tends to be the most difficult for students, also the topics in part 3 are connected to the topics in Part 2 of the speaking test.

Video lesson: different question types in Speaking part 3 with example responses.

Techniques for part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test.

Video with tips for part 2 and 3 of the speaking test

IELTS Speaking part 3:  6 Common question types

The key to getting a good score in part 3 is to give longer more detailed answers, the main focus of this is to expand your answer with detail and an example. This part of the test needs a lot of practice to reach a good band level. Part 3 of the speaking test lasts about 5 minutes.

Do you need further practice with speaking? Click here for the IELTS speaking service

Example topics for IELTS speaking part 3

Technology in the workplace

  • What kinds of equipment do most workers use in offices these days?
  • How have developments in technology affected the workplace?
  • Some people think technology has brought more stress than benefits to people in the workplace nowadays, Would you agree or disagree with this?

Influence of television

  • What are some of the reasons why people like watching television?
  • Do you think cable TV or state TV is better?
  • What negative effects can watching television have on children?
  • What kinds of TV programmes are popular in your country.

Leisure activities

  • What types of leisure activities are popular in your country?
  • Why is it important for people to have time for leisure activities?
  • What types of leisure activities may become more popular in the future?
  • Are the types of leisure activities that are popular today the same as those that were popular when your parents were young


  • What kinds of food are popular in your country?
  • Do people go out to restaurants a lot in your country?
  • What in your opinion is a balanced diet?
  • What are some of the health benefits of vegetarianism?


  • How can people maintain good health?
  • What is the health care system like in your country?
  • What are some of the qualities that make a good Doctor?
  • What kinds of illnesses will be an issue in the future?
  • What is the life expectancy in your country?


  • What are some of the reasons for poverty in the developed world?
  • What is the future for overpopulated societies?
  • What do you think is the best punishment for criminals?
  • Is crime on the increase in your country?
  • What are some solutions to ease overcrowding in cities?
  • Why do so many people move to cities?


  • What kinds of improvements have there been in transport in your country in recent years?
  • How do most people get around in your country?
  • What modes of transport will be popular in the future?
  • Is the cost of public transport expensive in your country?


  • Why do some people prefer to travel abroad rather than their own country?
  • Do you think it is good for children to live in a foreign country?
  • Do you think it is safer to travel now than in the past?
  • How have holidays changed over the past few decades?


  • How has Art changed in the last few decades in your country?
  • What constitutes a good painting?
  • Do you think children should study art at school?
  • What is your favourite work of art?


  • Is higher education very expensive in your country?
  • Should all students pay for their university education?
  • What advantages do universities bring to society?
  • Which is more important, research or teaching?
  • How should students spend their summer vacations?

The internet and social media

  • Which websites are popular among your generation?
  • Is using the internet a social or solitary activity?
  • How has the internet changed social behaviour?
  • Should companies check job applicants’ online profiles?
  • What will be the next big development online?

Sporting competitions

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of intensive training for young sportspeople?
  • Do you think it is possible to become too competitive in sports?
  • What is your opinion on top sports stars getting very high salaries?
  • Some people think that competition leads to better performance from sports stars, while others think it makes players feel insecure, what is your view?

Marking criteria

There are four marking criteria in the IELTS speaking test. Each part is 25% of the marks for the test.

1. Fluency and Coherence
2. Lexical Resource
3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy
4. Pronunciation

Fluency and coherence will be assessed on how well your speaking flows, if you are often self-correcting and pausing or hesitating then fluency is marked down. Coherence is marked by how well the examiner can understand you.

Lexical resource is marked on how good your vocabulary usage is, such as the use of collocations, paraphrasing, synonyms, phrasal verbs, and a wide range of vocabulary.

Grammatical range and accuracy are marked on how well you use your tenses, the correct use of sentence structures, and avoiding errors. A few small mistakes are ok but if these interfere with the talk then you will lose marks. Although a wide range of grammar is important, grammatical accuracy is key here.

Pronunciation will be assessed on how clearly you speak so that you are well understood, your accent is not a problem here as long the examiner can understand you clearly. The use of clear intonation, linked sounds, and word stress is also a marking factor here.

Here is a PDF that shows how the speaking test is marked.

Here is a 5 step system to practice for free.

  1. Get your smartphone with a recording app.

  2. Ask a friend to play the role of examiner asking the questions.

  3. Record yourself answering the questions as if in the exam.

  4. Playback the recording, make notes on weak areas that need to be improved

  5. Do this regularly and you will see improvements.


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