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  • Writer's pictureSte Sharpe

Time for IELTS Speaking Test... part 1

Clapping board with part 1 written on it
Learn about part 1 of the IELTS Speaking Test

The key to IELTS success is knowing about the test format: How long is each test paper? What question types will you have to answer? What criteria will be used to evaluate your English? How many times will you hear the audio recording? Without this knowledge, you’re setting yourself up for failure, as it will be like stepping into the unknown… and that’s not a great experience when sitting for a high-stakes test.

This is the first of 3 blog posts about the IELTS Speaking Test format, with each one focusing on each of the 3 parts of the test.

To start with, let’s have a look at part 1…

What is part 1 of the IELTS Speaking Test?

Part 1 is known as the ‘Introduction and Interview’ and lasts between 4-5 minutes.

The examiner will read a short introduction to the test, introduce themselves and check the candidate’s ID. They will then ask 3 sets of questions, each set with 4 questions each, focusing on ‘familiar topics’ about you, such as hobbies, family, travel, shopping, weather, etc…

There is a specific structure to the sets of questions:

  • 1st set = always about home, work/study

  • 2nd and 3rd set = a range of familiar topics

It’s important to know this information, as you can prepare some questions about home, work/study before taking the test.

What are the questions like part 1 of the IELTS Speaking Test?

Let’s look at some example part 1 questions taken from the official IELTS website.

Let’s talk about your home town or village.

  1. What kind of place is it?

  2. What’s the most interesting part of your town/village?

  3. What type of jobs do people in your town/village do?

  4. Would you say it’s a good place to live?

Let’s move on to talk about accommodation.

  1. Tell me about the kind of accommodation you live in?

  2. How long have you lived there?

  3. What do you like about living there?

  4. What sort of accommodation would you most like to live in?

Are there any tips for answering the questions in part 1 of the IELTS Speaking Test?

Here are some of my top tips to help you deliver your best in part 1:

-Extend your answers as much as possible

When the examiner asks you a question, try to give as much information as possible; if not, they’ll only ask you ‘Why?’ to encourage you to give more information.

Look at this example part 1 question below about daily routine and the two example answers.

What time do you usually get up in the morning?

A-I usually get up at 6.30am during the week.

B-On weekdays, I get up by 6.30am because I have to start work at 9am. As traffic in the city is always heavy during rush hour, I need to leave home early to avoid it, otherwise I’ll be late for work.

Answer A is short and doesn’t provide more information.

Answer B does expand by giving a reason and an example. Try to use this strategy to help you expand your answer.

Remember that the IELTS Speaking Test is a chance for you to show your range of English, as well as your ability to hold a conversation, so avoid giving short answers.

-Listen carefully to the questions

This is an obvious tip, but it’s important to hear the verb tense of the question so you can use the correct tense to reply. The example questions below show a range of verb tenses: 

How long have you been studying English? (present perfect continuous)

Do you think you will continue to live in your town in the future? (future with will)

Who do you usually have lunch/dinner with? (present simple)

When did you last go to the cinema? (past simple)

Also, if you don’t understand a question, you’re allowed to ask the examiner to repeat it.

-Relax… this is an informal setting

Having done several speaking tests in different languages myself, I know it’s easier said than done (you can read about one of my experiences in a previous blog post), but if you’re stressed, you’re going to lose concentration and make mistakes.

-Practise, practise, practise!

It goes without saying that you need to practise your speaking as much as possible so you can feel comfortable and prepared. Try finding some example IELTS Speaking Test part 1 questions, either on the Internet or from official IELTS Practice Test books, and practising them with your friends, classmates or family members. You can also practise on your own by recording your answers onto your mobile phone, then listening back to the recording to see if you expanded your answers, used a range of language accurately and had clear pronunciation.

So, what do I do now?

If you want to learn more about the IELTS Speaking Test, check out my online IELTS Speaking Course where you’ll not only learn all about the test format, but you’ll also practise and improve your speaking skills so you can deliver your best on the test day.

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