IELTS Speaking Exam - Advice


Speaking is the fourth aspect of language testing and it is common across all major language tests. Speaking tests are designed to examine a candidate’s ability to verbally communicate in an English speaking environment. This is an essential skill in all aspects of social, academic and professional interaction.

Test Structure:

The test is fully recorded and consists of three parts. The total number of questions asked is subjective and is applied fairly amongst candidates.

In the first part, the examiner asks candidates to introduce themselves. This includes talking about their background through basic details such as their home and family, work and academic achievements, hobbies and interests, etc.

In the second part, candidates are required to speak on a particular topic. They can choose the topic by picking a card out of a few. Cards will contain a topic and some points expected to be included by the candidate to develop the topic. The examiner may ask a couple of questions in between to enrich the topic or to elaborate an idea.

The third part is a continuation of the second and consists of a brief question-answer session. Here, the examiner asks questions in a manner of discussion, based on the candidate’s chosen topic and response in Part 2. Here the candidate will have a chance to talk about the nuances of the topic or discuss an out-of-the box idea to add value to the same.

The maximum duration of the section is about 15 minutes.


The speaking tests are assessed by specialised IELTS examiners. Candidates are scored in whole and half bands.

Assessment Parameters for the Speaking Test

Fluency and coherence
This parameter refers to the candidate’s ability to talk with normal levels of continuity, rate and effort (fluency). It also measures the ability to link ideas to language in order to form well-structured speech (coherence).

Fluency is marked by speech rate and speech continuity.

Coherence is marked by logical arrangement of sentences, well-defined progression during the speech and appropriate use of cohesive tools such as pronouns, connectors, and conjunctions.

Lexical resource
This pertains to the depth and quality of vocabulary used in order to present the idea accurately and appropriately.

This is marked by depth of general vocabulary, appropriate application of words in their form wherever applicable and the ease with which alternatives (synonyms) are used without noticeable hesitation. Frequent circumlocution could result in penalty.

Grammatical range and accuracy
Aspects such as sentence structure, range of grammatical resources, tone, etc. are assessed under this category.

This aspect is marked by evaluating the quality of sentence structure while unfolding the topic, length and complexity of the sentences, and proper use of subordinate clauses and so on.

This refers to the candidate’s ability to communicate using comprehensible speech that includes appropriate, standard utterance of English words.

This parameter is marked on the basis of the ease or strain caused to the listener, percentage of unintelligible speech and the influence of the candidate’s native language upon their accent (L1 influence).


There are some common misconceptions regarding the speaking test. Let’s look at a few of them below:



One has to speak with a native speaker’s accent.

Completely untrue. A candidate has to speak in a clear, understandable accent with proper pronunciations.

One has to speak difficult words and expressions.

Untrue again. Candidates are expected to speak simple and clear English to convey their ideas.

Candidates are tested on difficult tasks and scripts.

Untrue. Candidates are tested for tasks that are similar to what they will face in a real-life scenario.

One has to master various subjects to be able to understand and strike a conversation.

Untrue. Even though a basic knowledge or awareness of commonplace topics helps in striking intelligent conversation anywhere, in-depth knowledge is not required in these tests.

There could be a subject specific task which is unfamiliar.

Untrue. Tasks are designed for a neutral group so that the tests remain fair.

Candidates can be interviewed by native speakers whose accent or tone will be difficult to understand.

Untrue. The examiners are experts and talk in accents that are easily understandable.

One could speak using wrong grammar or wrong pronunciation and still get away if the meaning is clear.

Untrue. Even though conveying the message correctly is one of the virtues tested, correct use of grammar, good vocabulary and pronunciation are also marked. So, candidates will be penalised for poor grammar and vocabulary.

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