IELTS Speaking: Part 1 Topics, Questions & Tips

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by Azade Gholami

by Azade Gholami

ILAC IELTS Teacher & IELTS Expert


The IELTS Speaking section has three parts and is the same for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests. The 3 parts last for 11 to 14 minutes in total. You will be sitting with an examiner who will ask you questions about specific topics. It is important to understand the format and goals of each part, to prepare yourself for success. In this post, we will focus on what to expect in Part 1 and cover some tips on improving your Speaking score. 

How Part 1 Works

Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test is about 4 to 5 minutes long. It includes general questions about you and how you live, such as your daily routine, work or hobbies. There are no wrong answers to these questions. As a result, the examiner is evaluating your fluency and accuracy.

Fluency means how comfortable you are when speaking about a particular topic. You can talk more fluently when you know more words that fit a specific subject. It is also essential that your thoughts are connected while talking. You lose marks for jumping between random thoughts that do not relate to each other.  

Furthermore, speak with accuracy when answering the questions. The examiner will pay close attention to your grammar, words, and how you pronounce them. It is okay to have an accent, but you need to ensure that the examiner can easily understand the words. Try to use a variety of words and grammar that are appropriate to your topic to get maximum marks.

The most common topics are your home, neighbourhood, hometown, work, education, and hobbies.

Speaking Part 1 Topics

Part 1 questions are about topics such as study, work, free time, shopping, transport, neighbourhoods, home, travel, family, sports, music, weather, culture, books, and habits. Among these, the most common topics are your home, neighbourhood, hometown, work, education, and hobbies.  

It could be helpful to create a list of useful words for each topic and learn to use them in sentences. In addition, try to have some specific details prepared about each topic (without memorizing full answers), as these will help you speak fluently. 

Questions for Speaking Part 1 Topics

Below are some common questions you can expect for the topics mentioned above: 

  • Do you live in an apartment or a house? 
  • How have you decorated your room? 
  • What would you change in your home? 
Neighborhoods & Hometown
  • Where is your hometown? 
  • Is there a subway system in your hometown? 
  • What is your neighbourhood like? 
  • Are you studying anything at the moment? 
  • What is/was your favorite subject? 
  • Where did you go to school?
  • What’s your job? 
  • How do you get to work? 
  • What are some challenges at your work?
  • What do you do in your free time? 
  • What’s your favorite hobby? 
  • Do you spend your free time alone?
  • Do you enjoy shopping? 
  • Do you prefer shopping online? 
  • What’s your favourite place to shop? 
  • Do you drive? 
  • Do you use public transport? 
  • Do you prefer trains or buses? 
  • How often do you travel? 
  • What’s your favorite destination? 
  • Do you prefer travelling by plane or by train?
Family & Friends
  • How large is your family? 
  • How often do you spend time with your family? 
  • Do you have a best friend?
  • Do you watch any sports? 
  • Have you played any sports? 
  • What’s the most popular sport in your country?
  • Do you know how to play a musical instrument? 
  • What’s your favorite music genre? 
  • How often do you listen to music?
  • Do you prefer warm weather over cold? 
  • How do you feel when it rains? 
  • What’s the weather like in your hometown/country? 
  • Do you like following traditions? 
  • What are traditional clothes like in your country? 
  • What do you like about your local culture?
  • Are you a morning person? 
  • Do you plan your day? 
  • Do you change your routines often? 

Tips For Success in Speaking Part 1

Tip 1: Do not stop speaking

Try not to take long pauses when speaking. If you forget a word, don’t waste time trying to remember it. Instead, use another word. Furthermore, if you need to think for a few seconds, learn to use some filler expressions, for example, “that is a good question” and “in my opinion”. 

Tip 2: Listen carefully to identify the grammar

You can understand if you need to talk about the past, present, or future by paying attention to the verb tenses. Focus on what the examiner is asking, as well as the verbs in the question. 

Tip 3: Give more information about your answers

Try to extend your answers by providing more details. Be creative and share what comes to your mind. 

Tip 4: Speak confidently

Sounding confident increases your chances of getting a higher score. Try to sit up and speak loudly and clearly. Do not be afraid to make eye contact. In addition, a smile goes a long way while giving your answers. 

Tip 5: Do not memorize answers

While it is good to familiarize yourself with different topics, never memorize your answers in advance. When speaking, you should sound natural and not as if you are delivering a rehearsed answer. 

Tip 6: Do not ask the examiner questions

It is okay to ask the examiner to repeat or rephrase a question if you didn’t hear it, or didn’t understand it (as long as you don’t do it too frequently!) However, don’t ask them followup questions or personal questions about their own experiences.

Achieve a good score by knowing the test format, goals, marking criteria and practicing questions.

You can get a good score by preparing in advance, no matter what questions the examiner might ask you in Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking module. Focus on learning keywords and prepare specific details for each topic in advance. IELTS preparation classes can also be very helpful in preparing you for the test, as speaking practice with an expert teacher and classmates can significantly help you achieve a higher score. 

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