IELTS Speaking Paper Overview

Parts of the IELTS Speaking Test, timings and marking criteria

The speaking test is a maximum of 14 minutes and consists of three parts.

The same speaking test is used for both Academic and General Training IELTS examinations.

The examiner is focusing on your ability to communicate effectively by linking your ideas logically to express your meaning, using good vocabulary and grammar.


The purpose of this part is to record details of who you are.

After the examiner has recorded the details of when and where the test takes place and who you are they will check your identity.

This is not part of the test so just give your full name when asked. Don’t try to explain how you got your name or what it may mean.

Can you tell me your full name please?

And what shall I call you?

Can I see your identification please?

Thank you. Now in this first part I’d like to ask you some information about yourself.

Can you tell me your full name please? > Tell the examiner your full name so they can check your details

And what shall I call you? > Tell the examiner which name you would like them to use for you during the test

Can I see your identification please? > Show the examiner your ID

Part 1 – General Introductory Questions (4-5 minutes)

The purpose of this part is to give you a chance to relax and talk about familiar topics.

You will have to talk about three topics.

The first topic will always be about where you live or your job/studies and then there will be two other topics.

The usual topics may cover areas such as study, work, your home, hobbies, food, TV etc..

Do not be tempted to memorise sentences as the examiner can usually spot this as your answer is rehearsed and may not exactly fit the question. It is best to simply answer each question, giving a reason for your answer. For example:

“What’s your favourite food?”

“I really love Mexican food, especially tacos because I like my food to be spicy”

This is good because you don’t speak for too long on the question, although you give some reasoning for your response. In part one, your responses are not expected to be very long and the examiner has a lot of everyday questions to ask you.

Let’s talk about where you live.

  • What do you like about your house?
  • Is there anything you don’t like about your house?
  • Where would you like to live in the future? Why?

Let’s talk about animals now.

  • What’s your favourite animal? Why?
  • Which animals are popular in your country as pets?
  • Would you like to have a dog as a pet? Why/Why not?

Now let’s talk about exercise.

  • What physical exercise do you do?
  • Do you think you do enough exercise? Why / Why not?
  • What’s the best way to keep fit?

Listen to some Part 1 examples and think about how you would answer them.

Part 2 – Individual Long Turn (3-4 minutes)

The purpose of this part is to give you a chance to talk about a topic in some detail.

You will have to talk about one topic and there will be some questions to give you ideas about what you should talk about.

You are given a topic sheet by the examiner and blank paper and  pencil. The topics are non-academic and you should just use your general knowledge to answer them.

You will be given one minute to prepare your talk and make any notes you wish on the blank paper.

When the examiner asks you to start, try to speak for two minutes on your topic, covering the three bullet points on the task sheet if you can.

After two minutes, the examiner will stop you and normally ask one follow up question about the topic.

Now I’m going to give you a topic to talk about for 1 to 2 minutes.

Before you talk you have one minute to think about what you’re going to say. You can make some notes if you wish. Do you understand?

Here’s a paper and pencil for making notes and here’s your topic [The examiner will give you a card with your topic on it]

I’d like you to describe a holiday you enjoyed.

[After one minute the examiner will ask you to start]

OK, remember, you only have one to two minutes for this so don’t worry if I stop you. You may begin.

[Optional follow up question] Would you go back to this place for a holiday?

Thank you. May I have to task card paper and pencil back?

[Return the pen, paper and task card]

At the end of your answer the examiner may ask one question to follow up. You only need to give a short answer to this.

See more part 2 sample papers.

Part 3 – Discussion with the examiner (4-5 minutes)

The purpose of this part is to give you a chance to talk about a topic more generally.

Rather than focusing on your experience you will be expected to be able to talk about more abstract ideas. For example, you may need to compare the past and present or make predictions about the future.

Part 3 is linked to the topic you were given in Part 2, but consists of a more general discussion with the examiner.

You may disagree with the examiner and give reasons.

The most important thing is to express your opinions as clearly as you can and perhaps provide examples to strengthen your views.

We’ve been talking about a holiday you enjoyed and now I’d like to discuss one or two more general questions related to this.

  • Why do people go on holiday?
  • How important is it for families to go on holiday together?
  • Why do some people go on holiday alone?
  • What kind of holidays will be popular in the future?
  • Is it better to take a holiday in your own country or in a foreign country? Why?
  • What problems can people have on holiday in a foreign country?

Thank you. That is the end of the speaking test.

See more part 3 sample papers.

Working with an examiner

Watch this video to get more help on the IELTS speaking test:

Marking Criteria

The marking criteria will take into account the following features of your speaking ability:

Fluency and Coherence

  • Can you keep speaking without too much hesitation and repetition?
  • Can you use linking words to connect your ideas?

Lexical Resource

  • Is your vocabulary wide enough to cover most of the topics?
  • Can you use less common vocabulary?
  • If you forget a word, can you still explain your point using other words?

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

  • Can you use complex sentences or only simple sentences?
  • Are you able to produce some sentences without grammar errors?


  • Do you manage to pronounce most words so that the examiner can understand you?
  • Can you maintain rhythm and vary your intonation when you speak?

To see more information on the different bands for speaking download the full public band descriptors for the Speaking Test.

Practice IELTS speaking with a tutor

Speaking Tips

 IELTS candidate smiling in her speaking exam