IELTS Speaking: The dos and dont’s for achieving a high band score

two women sitting beside table and talking

Table of Contents

by Saya Khimta

by Saya Khimta

IELTS Expert


Speaking is one of the 4 skills that IELTS tests to assess your command of spoken English. The test is always face-to-face with the IELTS examiner. You’ll receive a band score (0-9) for IELTS Speaking in your results, which will also contribute 25% to your overall IELTS score. The IELTS Speaking test itself may range from 11 to 14 minutes. 

The Speaking Format

There are 3 parts to the IELTS Speaking test.

Part 1: General Questions About Your Personal Life

In Part 1, the examiner will first introduce themself to you. Next, they will check your identity and begin asking you some general questions. These questions may relate to your education, work, family, home, hobbies, etc. This round is usually 4-5 minutes long.

Here are a few questions that the examiner may ask you: 

  • Where is your hometown? 
  • Do you live in a house or a flat? 
  • Do many people in your country use bicycles? 
  • How did you celebrate your last birthday? 
  • What is the meaning of your name? 
  • Where do you usually buy your clothes? 
Part 2: Cue Card Round

In Part 2, the examiner will give you a cue card that contains a specific topic and some bullet points to cover. You must speak about this topic for about 2 minutes.

Before the examiner asks you to start your speech, you will get 1 minute to prepare your answer. The examiner will also give you a small piece of paper and a pencil to write down any keywords you want to use in your speech. Make sure you cover all the bullet points that are on your cue card.

At the end of the 2 minutes, the examiner will ask you some follow-up questions on the topic that was on the cue card. Here are a few sample cue card questions: 

  • Describe a cafe you like to visit 
  • Talk about a person you admire 
  • Describe a water sport you want to try 
  • Talk about a poem or song you like 
  • Describe a place you would like to visit again 
Part 3: Discussion Questions

In Part 3, the examiner will ask you more questions about the topic from the cue card in Part 2. In this round, you will get an opportunity to discuss your ideas in more detail to show off your language skills. This round lasts for about 4-5 minutes. 

What is the purpose of each part?

Part 1: Introduction and Interview

In Part 1, the examiner assesses your ability to effectively communicate opinions and details on topics that relate to day-to-day life. This part also focuses on how fluent you are at sharing knowledge on common experiences and situations. The number of questions that you may get varies from candidate to candidate. 

Part 2: Individual Long Speech

In Part 2, the examiner evaluates how well you cover all the points that were given on the cue card. The major focus is on your ability to speak as an individual for a longer duration without hesitation, minimal pauses, appropriate language, coherent organization of ideas, etc. 

Part 3: Discussion

This part focuses on how effectively and adequately you justify and support your opinion. The number of questions that each candidate may get is different. 

What are the marking criteria?

There are 4 criteria on which an IELTS Speaking examiner scores you. Each criterion is worth 25% of the total score. 

Fluency & Coherence

Fluency is more about how well you can speak at length (continuously). Your speech rate and speech continuity will affect your fluency. You must be able to speak comfortably without having to take excessively long pauses. These pauses may result if you start looking for words to use in your explanation.

Coherence is about connecting your ideas. The way you narrate an event by organizing the content in a logical sequence is important. Make your narration coherent and easy to follow by using connectors, pronouns, and conjunctions. You must avoid repeating the same words again and again. Refrain from self-correction. 

What to find out more? Check out our other blog, all about improving Fluency and Coherence.


This is about how easy you are to understand and includes any features of pronunciation that the examiner will be assessing you on. Your speech shouldn’t cause any strain on the listener. It is always better to avoid using words that are too complex to pronounce. Instead, go in for an easy alternative. For instance, if it is difficult for you to pronounce “elevator,” opt for using the word “lift.” 

Lexical Resource 

The criterion evaluates your ability to use a wide range of vocabulary precisely. However, it’s not about using fancy words. It is aboutyour ability to use both common and advanced words adequately and appropriately without any hesitation. For example, instead of using the phrase “modern technology,” you could use “cutting–edge technology” if it was appropriate for the sentence.

Grammatical Range & Accuracy 

The grammar that you use plays an important role in the Speaking test band score you will achieve. The length of your sentence and its complexity will affect your score in this criterion.

You must use subordinate clauses. Also, use a variety of sentence structures to put your information in sequence. Every time you make a grammatical error in your speech that causes a communicative flaw, you risk lowing your score.  

What to find out more? Check out our other blog, all about improving Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

The Dos and Don’ts

Here are some of the most effective tips that will help you to perform well your IELTS Speaking test.

Tip 1: Don’t underestimate importance of practice

It is very important you practice expressing your opinions on diverse topics and past experiences. Practice questions that are basic and have a high probability of being asked in the test. Here are some sample questions: 

  • What is your full name? 
  •  Is your last name common where you live? 
  •  Do you work or study? 
  • What work do you do? Or What subjects do you study? 
  • Why did you choose this type of work/subject? 
  • How many people are there in your family? 
  • Describe your house or flat. 

Get more sample Speaking test questions.

Tip 2: Don’t be shy or hesitant

Remember it is not a formal test but an informal interview. Speak your ideas openly and in a friendly manner. 

Tip 3: Answer questions directly (not indirectly)

Be very attentive when the examiner asks you a question and then answer it directly, especially in Parts 1 and 3.

For instance, the examiner asks, “What is the name of your birthplace?” 

  • Incorrect (indirect) answer: There are many cities in my country and all are beautiful but I was born in Toronto.
  • Correct (direct) answer: I was born in Toronto. (If you want, you may add something after this, like, “It is a really big city in the province of Ontario.”) 
Tip 4: Don’t focus too much on clothing

Clothing is not important when you take your IELTS Speaking test. Wear what you find comfortable. Wearing casual clothes is acceptable as long as your clothes don’t cause any visual or audio disturbance, like being very shimmery, reflective, or having bells on them.

Tip 5: Don’t take interruption by the examiner as a red flag

The examiner needs to keep a track of time. Therefore, if you speak beyond a specific time, the examiner might interrupt you by asking another question. Don’t worry! This is very normal and there is nothing to worry about. 

Tip 6: Do focus on all 4 criteria

Most IELTS test takers tend to focus on their vocabulary, forgetting that there are 3 more criteria also being assessed.

In an attempt to add more vocabulary, remember not to ignore your fluency, coherence, grammar and pronunciation. 

Tip 7: Do get professional help

Seeking professional IELTS coaching isn’t necessary to take the test, but it’s highly recommended! You can practice speaking a lot in front of a mirror but the mirror won’t talk back or give you feedback. Getting constructive feedback is only possible if you look for professional help from an experienced IELTS instructor.


Overall, you might be feeling a little stressed if you have an IELTS Speaking test in the coming few days. However, getting a good band score is neither stressful nor difficult. All you need to do is follow the tips in this blog and remember all 4 criteria that an examiner uses to evaluate your performance. Stay up to date with the latest IELTS Speaking topics and practice as much as possible. If possible, look for a professional to support you in this journey of yours.

If you are located in Vancouver or Toronto, Canada, contact our program advisors at ILAC to talk about your English goals.

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