How to Prepare for IELTS - Speaking Section?

    Updated on: 22 May 2022

    The International English Language Testing System or IELTS measures the English reading, listening, writing, and speaking abilities of an individual. The test is essential for all those who wish to study further abroad, particularly in English-speaking countries such as the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada.

    Universities in English-speaking countries necessitate IELTS for international students to be eligible for admissions. However, just taking the test is not enough. Scoring a minimum qualifying overall band score and sectional band scores in each of its four components - Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking is necessary since it proves that the student is capable of keeping up with the course’s medium of instruction, that is, English.

    This article helps you crack the IELTS Speaking Section by offering tips and preparation strategies.

    How to Study for the IELTS Speaking Section?

    All four sections of the IELTS are at par, i.e., the score of each component has equal weightage. It implies that a test-taker cannot ignore any IELTS Speaking topic while preparing. The speaking section appears to be simpler than the rest because the examiners are friendly, and the questions don’t require subject knowledge. That said, the section evaluates the test-taker on the basis of stringent parameters to measure how well they communicate in English. 

    If you aim for more than a qualifying score in the IELTS speaking test, then invest in a systematic preparation following the steps mentioned below.

    Step 1: Understand the Speaking Section Pattern 

    IELTS speaking test is 11 to 14 minutes long and divided into three parts.

    Part 1 - It is 4 to 5 minutes long where the examiner asks IELTS speaking questions related to you and your family. It is the easiest segment of the test as it is made to relax the test-taker. The types of IELTS Speaking part 1 questions put forward are associated with your work, studies, hometown, family, or hobbies.

    Part 2 - It is 3 to 4 minutes long. You are given a cue card with a topic and pointers on it. You use a minute or two to read the card, think up answers, and make notes. In the next minute or two, you talk on the topic using the notes made. The type of IELTS Speaking part 2 questions asked is descriptive and connected to personal experience.

    Part 3 - It is 4 to 5 minutes long. The examiner asks questions connected to the topic introduced in part 2. Since this is the most abstract segment of the test, it is often the hardest. The type of  IELTS Speaking part 3 questions asked can be one of the following:

    • Hypothetical 
    • Your opinion
    • Cause and effect 
    • Compare and contrast 
    • The past, present or future
    • What you think about someone else’s opinion

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    How is the IELTS Speaking Section Scored?

    Throughout the three parts of the speaking IELTS test, you are evaluated on 4 criteria:

    • Vocabulary
    • Pronunciation
    • Fluency and cohesion
    • Grammar

    Each criterion carries 25% of the total marks. At the end of the test, you get a score in each criterion with 1 as the lowest and 9 as the highest score. Your band score for the speaking test is the total of all criteria divided by 4.
    For instance, you get 7,7,6 and 6 in the four sub-parts. Your speaking section band score would be 7+7+6+6= 26/4= 6.5. For further clarity on IELTS marking, read here.

    Step 2: Prepare for the IELTS Speaking Test

    Now that you have a clear picture of the pattern, start off with your preparations by making a study plan and then sticking to it. 

    • Dedicate half an hour each day to either listening or reading something in English. When you read, do it aloud. It helps in pronunciation.
    • Commit another half an hour every day to speaking English, preferably with another person who is fluent in the language. 
    • Learn the correct grammar and functional language use specific to topics the test asks.
    • Since the speaking test is a representation of real life, it is better to imitate this aspect while preparing. Instead of writing down the answers to questions, find a study partner. Talk to them and practice by answering their questions. 
    • If you cannot find a partner, speak to a mirror or, better yet, record your answers. Listening to the audio will help you improve pronunciation, modulation and fix grammar errors.
    • A common reason why candidates get low scores in the speaking test is brief answers. Therefore, while preparing, try to explain your answers. E.g., for the question ‘Do you often wear makeup?’ The answer ‘No, I don’t prefer to wear makeup frequently because I feel it damages the skin and masks my identity’ is likely to get more marks than the answer ‘No, I don’t wear makeup often.’ 
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    Where To Study for the IELTS Speaking Section From?

    • This is one section of the IELTS that can’t be learned from a book, but the official IELTS practice materials are an excellent place to start for sample questions.
    • English news channels and podcasts are another resources to study for the speaking test. 
    • To get your pronunciation correct, use online dictionaries that let you listen to how a word is articulated.
    • The is a website that has a lot of useful material for the IELTS speaking test practice.
    • The British Council site is also a sound resource.

    But the best resource to get a solid grasp of spoken English is a teacher. Find one as soon as possible.

    Step 3: Go Through Sample Questions

    Studying for the IELTS speaking test is only half the preparation. It is when you know what question to expect from the examiner that are you completely ready. Given below are some IELTS speaking sample questions from each part which you can have a look at and get a fair idea of the questions to expect.

    Speaking Part 1

    • Let’s talk about your home town.
    • Are you a student or do you have a job? 
    • What do you usually do in your spare time?
    • What are you planning to do in the next five years?
    • Do you like traveling?

    After each IELTS speaking part 1 question, the invigilator will ask you follow-up questions. For instance, for the first sample question, the follow-ups can be:

    • What kind of place is your hometown?
    • What’s the most interesting part of it?
    • Would you say it’s a good place to live in? 

    Speaking Part 2

    • Describe something you own, which is very important to you.
    • Describe a piece of advice you received for your subjects or work.
    • Describe a plant grown in your country.
    • Describe a party.
    • Describe a newspaper or magazine you enjoy reading.

    The topic card in IELTS speaking part 2 has prompts for it. For instance, the first sample question will have these cues:

    • Where did you get it from?
    • How long have you had it?
    • What did you use it for?
    • Explain why it is important to you?

    Speaking Part 3

    All the IELTS speaking part 3 questions will be based on a topic which you had in part 2. The range of questions can be broad. The following examples are connected to the sample question ‘describe a party’ given in IELTS speaking part 2.

    • What’s the difference between a serious party and a friendly party?
    • Do people spend too much money on their birthday parties and weddings?
    • Why are some people late for parties intentionally?
    • How much should people spend on their birthday parties and weddings?
    • Why do some people like parties while others hate it?

    Step 4: Give the IELTS Exam 

    The D-day is here, and you should keep these points in mind during the test:
    For the Speaking Section:

    • The speaking section of IELTS lies somewhere in the middle of a chat and formal interview so keep your mind open and attitude friendly.
    • Do not take long pauses or use fillers like ‘umm’ and ‘aah.’ If you don’t understand a question, ask the examiner to clarify.
    • Talk only in English on the exam day. It will boost your confidence and give your language a smooth flow.
    • Use the pen and paper you get during speaking part 2 to jot your thoughts and present them coherently. To do so, divide your answer into the following parts:
    • Introduction
    • Past
    • Description
    • Opinion
    • Future
    • If the examiner interrupts your answer mid-way, don’t panic. It is standard. It is better to speak as much as you can than to sit quietly.

    For the Full IELTS Exam:

    • Take adequate rest the night before and have a proper meal beforehand.
    • Leave home with sufficient time buffer, so you reach the test centre before time.
    • Carry the required ID (documents you received upon registration will tell you which) along with a pen, pencil, and eraser. 
    • Visit the facilities before you start the test. There are no bathroom breaks. If you take one, you lose time. 
    • Cheating is a firm no. Absolutely avoid the temptation.

    Your Key Takeaways

    Every component of the IELTS is equally important; therefore, don’t just skim through the speaking section preparation. Watch, read and listen to English and converse in it, preferably with a study partner. The more you talk in the language and the better you speak it,  the better your IELTS band score will be. 

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