Stay Calm and Speak On

March 6, 2017 by Lyla Hage

The speaking section of the IELTS test is when you sit down and talk face–to–face with a trained IELTS examiner. The speaking test is an opportunity to show the examiner what you're made of – it’s a chance to show your stuff!

As an IELTS examiner, I am often asked, “How can I do better on my speaking test?”

Below are my TOP 7 tips for candidates to help ensure they keep talking and improve their performance on the IELTS Speaking test:


Before you take your IELTS exam, it's very important that you be aware of the criteria the examiner will use (and what each one means). This will help you work on the areas that you need to improve before your exam and know where to focus during the exam.

The speaking exam is marked on the following four criteria:

  1. Fluency and coherenceyour ability to speak naturally and smoothly, and how easily the examiner can understand you;
  2. Lexical resourceyour ability to use a range of vocabulary appropriately;
  3. Grammatical range and accuracy your ability to use correct grammar and grammar structures;
  4. Pronunciationyour ability to pronounce clearly, including intonation, stress and sounds.


One of the most important things to remember for your speaking exam is you must TALK! What I mean is you must talk as much as you can in the time you are given. Remember:

  • Don’t worry about talking too much – there really is no such thing!
  • Don’t worry about going over your allotted time – the examiner will stop you when you reach the time limit.


If you don’t understand the question you have been asked, ask the examiner to repeat it, clarify, or explain it in more detail.

Why is this so important?

  • It is important so that you can plan and prepare (quickly) for what you want to say.


  • If you don’t understand the question, you are less likely to speak fluently, and more likely to stumble on the answer and/or run out of things to say.

TIP #4 – PAUSE, THINK, PLAN (quickly)

The speaking exam is divided into 3 parts, each part with different kinds of questions:

  • Part 1 & Part 3

In Part 1 and 3, it is a good idea to pause for a moment before you answer to think about what you want to say, and how you want to develop your answer.

To give yourself a moment to think you can repeat or restate part of the question:

“Why do I like parks? That’s an interesting question. I like parks because…”

Once you start speaking, focus on answering the question and developing your answer.

  • Part 2

For the longer question in Part 2, you are given one minute to prepare your answer. In that one minute prep time, be sure to:

  • Take some notes on your paper based on the questions on the question card;
  • Write down examples, details, words, phrases to help you answer the question;
  • Use these notes to further develop your ideas.

Make sure you refer to your notes when you are giving your timed answer to the examiner.


I can’t stress the importance of this tip enough. You can never have too much practice!

Some ideas to help you practice:

  • Take an online or in–class IELTS prep course;
  • Practice on your own, record yourself, and play it back so you can hear how you sound;
  • Practice with friends, family, instructors – have them read you practice questions, time you, and record you;
  • Repeat above items again, and again, and again.


The IELTS speaking test usually has questions about everyday ideas and topics, so there is a good chance you will know something about the topic already. By following tip #5 above, you will get a sense of the types of questions and topics you may have on your exam.

During the exam, think about what you know about the topic, and use examples from your own life. When we talk about something that's familiar to us, and something we have experience with, we are more likely to be fluent and we will have more to say.


Throughout your speaking test be sure to add details and extend your answers. In Part 1, you may be asked a question like this:

Do you prefer indoor sports or outdoor sports?

A good answer would include an example of a sport you like, with some detailed reasons:

I prefer outdoor sports such as baseball. I enjoy being outside in the fresh air; there are more sports that can be played outside rather than inside, and there’s usually plenty of space for moving around, and for being with a large number of people.

These TOP 7 tips will help you prepare for your speaking exam, and help to ensure you keep talking throughout your allotted time. Don’t forget there are excellent (and FREE) preparation courses available online and in the classroom. Check out for more details.

Good luck with your IELTS practice, preparations and exams.

Lyla is an English language instructor working with international students and immigrants in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Lyla loves everything about her work, especially helping people reach their language and learning goals.

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