Understanding the Speaking Test

The Speaking test is an oral interview between you and the examiner. The purpose of the test is to determine how effectively you can communicate in English.

How long is the test?

how long is the speaking test
how long is the speaking test

The test is 11 to 14 minutes long.

There are three main parts. Each part is clearly divided into specific time units.

PartSuggested time & title
1Introduction and interview4-5 minutes
2Individual long run3-4 minutes
3Two-way discussion4-5 minutes

Note that you do not have to worry about how long each section is as the examiner will manage the time for you. The examiner will move you from one part to the next with such phrases as ‘Now let’s talk about …’. He or she can interrupt you if you have spoken long enough on a topic.

Lets Compare 1Lets Compare 1
I remember having a great childhood. I grew up in a very loving and caring family. I spent most of my days playing with my friends on a playground. I had only a few friends, but I was very close to them. We enjoyed building sand castles or playing hide and seek.
Actually, I had a rough childhood compared to others My parents used to own a small business, but it didn’t go well, so they had to file for bankruptcy. Every time we moved, I had to transfer to a different school, and it was really hard to make friends and feel attached to my school. I was left out on special occasions such as my classmates’ birthday parties because I was a transfer student. However, when we finally stopped moving. I got to make some great friends with whom I still keep a close relationship.
Standard AnswerAdvanced Answer
What was your childhood like?

What is the structure of the test?

The test is divided into three main parts.

Each part is different in terms of:

  • the type of task you are given
  • the type of language you need to use
  • how you and the examiner interact.
PartInteractionTask and language
1 (4-5) minutesIntroduction  InterviewThe examiner greets you and then introduces themself to you. The examiner checks your identification.  The examiner asks you some questions about topics that are familiar to you.
2 (3-4) minutesIndividual long runThe examiner gives you a card with a topic written on it and some prompts to help you with your answer. You are also given a pencil and a piece of paper to make notes if you wish. You have one minute to think about the topic and prepare your answer.  Then, you must speak about the topic for one to two minutes. The examiner may stop you if you speak longer than this. After you finish talking, the examiner may ask you one or two follow-up questions.
3 (4-5) minutesTwo-way discussionThe examiner asks you some questions to involve you in a discussion. The questions the examiner asks have the same theme as Part 2. The language required in the discussion is generally more abstract than in the other sections.

What style of speaking should you use?

Your style of speaking should be:

  • relaxed
  • natural – never memorise an answer beforehand
  • appropriate for an interview.

It should also show that:

  • you are confident
  • you are interested in the topic
  • and that you are enjoying speaking to the examiner.

How is your interview assessed?

A Walk Through Experience
Many years ago I interviewed a young lady who was arrogant, impolite, impatient, and quite rude but I awarded this lady a score of 8 only because her spoken English matched the descriptions in the marking system for band score 8.

Your IELTS Speaking test is assessed by a qualified examiner using four specific categories:

  1. fluency and coherence
  2. lexical resource (vocabulary)
  3. grammatical range and accuracy
  4. pronunciation.

In this step, we will briefly introduce what each of these categories means. In the following steps, we will examine each category in detail. In the ‘Practice Tests‘ section of the module, we will assess two complete interviews using these four categories.

1. Fluency and coherence

scoring ielts scoring by fluency and coherence
scoring ielts scoring by fluency and coherence

Fluency is determined by:

  • your rate of speech
  • the smoothness and continuity of your speech.

Coherence is determined by:

  • sequencing your sentences logically
  • using signposts (first, next, on the other hand, similarly etc.) to mark each stage of your discussion, narration or argument
  • using cohesive devices (and, or, but, so, because) within and between sentences.

2. Lexical resource

scoring ielts speaking by lexical resource
scoring ielts speaking by lexical resource

Lexical resource refers to your use of vocabulary.

This is determined by:

  • the variety of words you use
  • how accurate and appropriate your vocabulary is
  • your ability to paraphrase, that is, to find another way of saying what you mean when you do not know the word in English

3. Grammatical range and accuracy

scoring ielts speaking by grammatical range
scoring ielts speaking by grammatical range

Grammatical range is determined by:

  • the length and complexity of your sentences
  • how appropriately you use complex sentences
  • the variety of sentence structures you use.

Grammatical accuracy is determined by:

  • how many grammatical errors you make
  • how much your errors interfere with communicating your ideas.

4. Pronunciation

scoring ielts speaking by pronunciation
scoring ielts speaking by pronunciation

This is the ability to produce speech (sounds) that can be understood.

This is determined by:

  • how easy it is for the examiner to understand what you are saying
  • how much of your speech is not understood
  • how much your own language influences your speech

How is your score calculated?

The examiner gives you a score for each of the criteria based on your performance throughout the test, in particular Parts 2 and 3. There are no individual scores for each part of the speaking test.

The criteria are equally weighted so that each is worth 25% of your IELTS Speaking score. The scores for each criterion are added together and divided by four to give an average, which becomes your overall score. Scores of .25 and .75 are rounded up. For example, 7+7+7+6 = 6.75 is rounded up to 7.0 overall.

Lets Compare 2Lets Compare 2
I come from Can Tho Province. It’s in the southern part of Vietnam. I moved to Ho Chi Minh City to get a better job when I was 20. I have lived here ever since. I love Ho Chi Minh City, but I consider Can Tho Province to be my hometown.I come from Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. I was born and raised there. Hanoi is the country’s second-largest city in Vietnam, and over 7 million people live there, which makes it a very crowded city. There are many stores as well as the headquarters of major companies, so it’s very convenient to live there
Standard AnswerAdvanced Answer
Where do you come from?

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