Get prepared for your IELTS Speaking test

The Speaking part of an IELTS test takes a slightly different format to the other three sections. It is the only section that is completed face-to-face with an examiner, rather than on paper (or on a computer).

If you need to get prepared for the Speaking part of the test, we have everything you need to get ready! From information on what to expect on the day, to top study tips and how to access useful and free practice materials.

What is the IELTS Speaking test?

IELTS Speaking is one of four parts of your IELTS test (the others being Reading, Writing and Listening).

It takes place in a separate, private room with you and the examiner, and assesses a wide range of skills, including how well you are able to:

  • Talk at length on a given topic, using appropriate language.
  • Communicate opinions on everyday topics and discuss common experiences.
  • Express and justify opinions.
  • Organise your ideas coherently.
  • Analyse, discuss and speculate about issues.

Speaking test format

The IELTS Speaking section lasts 11-14 minutes in total and it aims to be like real-life conversations as closely as possible. There are three sections to your Speaking test which include:

Part 1:
Answering questions about yourself and your family. The examiner will lead the discussion with some questions. This part will last around 4 to 5 minutes.

Part 2:
Speaking about a topic, chosen by the examiner. You’ll have approximately 1 minute to prepare once you’ve been given your topic and will then be asked to talk about it for a further 2 minutes.

Part 3:
A longer, more in-depth discussion about the topic presented in Part 2. This is a two-way discussion with the examiner and lasts for around 4 to 5 minutes.

How do I prepare for my IELTS Speaking test?

We recommend finding a study partner to practice your speaking with. This will help to replicate the exam scenario as closely as possible and give you valuable practice for test day.

Once you’ve found someone to practice with, we recommend you access free practice materials online with British Council. We have lots of past tests you can use to help you prepare for your IELTS Speaking exam. These include:

Free practice tests

Practice all three sections of the IELTS Speaking test:

Practice IELTS Speaking test: Part 1

Practice IELTS Speaking test: Part 2

Practice IELTS Speaking test: Part 3

Completed round one of practice tests? Try again and compare your results.

Practice IELTS Speaking test: Part 1

Practice IELTS Speaking test: Part 2

Practice IELTS Speaking test: Part 3

*Top Tip: Practice the 3 parts of the Speaking test one straight after the other, just as you would do in your exam. This will help to replicate the exam experience as closely as possible and ensure you’re prepared for test day.

How much time do I need to put into preparation?

The more prepared you feel, the more likely you are to succeed it on the day.

It’s hard to say exactly how much time you’ll need to prepare, as this will differ based on how quickly you learn and how confident you are at speaking in English. We would recommend lots of practice as this will get you used to speaking about a wide range of different topics and ensure you are familiar with the test format on the day (so there will be no surprises!).

Top tips for doing well in your IELTS Speaking test

Record yourself when practising & review it afterwards
Once you’ve finished practicing all three sections of the Speaking test, listen back to the recording to see which parts you did well and which need improvement. Reviewing the areas which need more improvement is all part of the process, and it allows you to practice them ahead of your exam.

Use natural conversation
The Speaking test is supposed to feel conversational and natural, so ‘memorising lines’ isn’t the best approach. An examiner can usually tell when something has been pre-rehearsed. Try to imagine it is the same as the practice conversations you had with your study partner.

Your knowledge on the subject doesn’t matter – just your communication
It’s not important to the examiner what you say about a given topic, but how you speak and communicate. Try not to worry too much on the content you are providing and instead focus more on the pronunciation, sentence structure and fluency.

Try to speak clearly
Sometimes – especially in an exam scenario – our nerves can get the better of us. Remember to try and speak clearly, and not rush through your answers too quickly. Make sure to take pauses and breathe too; a natural conversation isn’t rushed. This will come across much more authentically, which is what the examiner will be looking for.

Don’t overcomplicate the vocabulary you use
Try not to overcomplicate what you say with complex language. Instead, use basic language typically used in conversation as this will come across as more authentic. Remember, it is better to use simpler language well than it is to overcomplicate what you’re saying with words you aren’t sure about.

Try to use the correct verb tense
Try to pick up on the tense that the examiner is using in their questions and answer in the same tense. For example, if the examiner asks you something in the past tense, such as: “Where did you live when you were a child?”, your answer should start in the same tense (ex: I lived in Dubai).

Still not booked your IELTS test? Register online today!

Now that you have all the preparation tips you need, if you’ve still not booked your IELTS test, you can do so online today.

Find your nearest test centre with British Council here and register online. We have over 80 test centres located across Canada, so you’re sure to find one near you.

Need more practice in the other areas of your test?

Test & practice tips for IELTS Listening

Test & practice tips for IELTS Reading

Test & practice tips for IELTS Writing