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IELTS Speaking Overview - Article

Updated: Feb 17, 2023


The Speaking test is for both general and academic candidates and is an interview or conversation between one examiner and one candidate. The speaking test assesses your ability to communicate effectively using the English language.

The speaking test has three parts and lasts between 11 to 14 minutes. All parts of the test are recorded for monitoring and the examiner is trained and certified to deliver and assess the test.

The examiner will control the timing of the exam and tell you when to start and went to finish speaking. You must show your best English communication skills during a test, try to speak clearly and audibly, and answer questions is complete as you can.

The speaking test has three main parts: introductions and personal information; individual long-term; and two-way discussion.

IELTS Speaking Test Overview
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Part 1: Introduction and personal information

4-5 minutes

In Part 1 of the Speaking test, the examiner will introduce themselves and verify your identity. This section lasts for 4 to 5 minutes and the examiner will ask you questions about topics that you may not be familiar with such as your phone, work, studies, general life and interests. This is a chance for you to show your ability to communicate effectively in English and provide information about yourself. The questions will be general in nature, allowing you to showcase your speaking skills. During this part of the test, it's important to speak clearly and audibly, and answer the questions as completely as you can.

Part 2: Individual long turn

3-4 minutes

In Part 2, the examiner asks you to speak for 1 to 2 minutes without interruption on a particular topic. The exam will select a topic from a range of topics, which involve describing an experience, period or event in your life.

Before you speak, the examiner will give you a task card with prompts to help you organise your ideas. You’ll have one minute to prepare, during which you will have no paper and a pencil to make notes if you wish.

The examiner will tell you when to stop speaking and may ask 1 or 2 extra questions to finish this part.

Part 3: Two-way discussion

4-5 minutes

In Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test, you will engage in a two-way discussion with the examiner. This part of the test lasts 4-5 minutes and focuses on more abstract and complex topics related to the topic you discussed in Part 2. The examiner will ask you further questions and encourage you to expand on your answers and explore different perspectives on the topic. This part of the test assesses your ability to communicate more abstract and complex ideas, as well as your ability to understand and respond to more challenging questions. The examiner may also ask you to compare and contrast different ideas, explain your opinions, and discuss the implications of different viewpoints.

What is being tested?

In the IELTS speaking test, the examiner is evaluating your ability to communicate effectively in English. The test is designed to assess your proficiency in the language, rather than your knowledge of any specific topic.

The four key areas that the examiner is evaluating are:

Vocabulary: The examiner assesses your range of vocabulary and the accuracy of your word choice and formation.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy: The examiner evaluates the complexity and sophistication of your sentence structures, and the accuracy of your grammar and syntax.

Pronunciation: The examiner evaluates how well you articulate words and sentences, and the clarity and naturalness of your pronunciation.

Fluency and Cohesion: The examiner evaluates the fluency and ease with which you communicate, and how well you link your ideas and connect sentences.

Each of these four areas is given equal weight by the examiner, and all four areas will be considered in determining your final score for the speaking test.


Vocabulary evaluation takes into consideration not only the quantity of words utilized to express thoughts, but also the precision of the words in terms of choice and formation, and their suitability in various contexts. During the examination, the evaluators are attentive to:

The range of words and phrases you used to express your ideas.

How accurately the words and phrases you choose are formed (word information, prefixes and suffixes and so on).

How appropriately the words and phrases are selected and placed in different situations, including collocations, set phrases or idioms, appropriate tone, formality levels or register.

How well you can reword an idea if you can’t remember a word or phrase you require.

Grammatical structures

This refers to the range of grammatical structures you can draw to express your ideas and how accurately the structures are spoken. Examiners listen for:

The number of different sentence structures is used to express your ideas (range of tenses and so on).

The length and complexity of sentence structures and you use (simple sentences, sentences with subordinating clauses and so on).

How accurately you use a range of sentence structures (subject-verb agreement, repeated basic errors or errors only when complex structures are attempted).

How appropriate your sentence structures are to the context.


This refers to the overall sound of your English language, how you speak in English and how much strain may you may not be placed on the listener. Pronunciation consists of many elements and the examiners listens for:

Your accurate and clear use of sounds of English.

Your attention to the stress of syllables in words: word stress.

Your attention to stressing parts of sentences; sentence stress.

Your use of generally accepted rises and falls of English as it is spoken sentences and in longer utterances; intonation.

Pronunciation can be measured by:

How much strain is placed on the listener when trying to understand you?

How much interference there may be from your first language on English you use: intrusion

English is a world language that exists in various forms any spoken with a range of accents. As a non-native speaker of English, some accent from your first language is expected, but it should not be so intrusive as to make your English difficult for a listener to understand.

Fluency and Cohesion

This refers to the speed, smoothness, and flow of your language as you attend to express your ideas, and how well your ideas are organised and linked. During the exam the examiners will listen for:

The speed, smoothness, and flow of your language as you speak: fluency.

The number of pauses, repetition, and hesitation as you speak, and how they interfere with the flow and the speed of delivery of your ideas: fluency.

How you organise your ideas into logical, sequence flow of English-language discourse: cohesion.

How you link your ideas using a variety of linking words, connectives, and substitutions: cohesion.

Speaking test – Scoring system

A score of 9 is considered an "expert" user, while a score of 1 is considered a "non-user." In between, scores of 2-8 are considered "limited" to "good" users.

For vocabulary, a score of 9 means that the candidate has an extensive range of vocabulary and is able to use it accurately and appropriately in a wide range of situations. A score of 1 means that the candidate has a limited range of vocabulary and may struggle to express their ideas effectively.

For grammar, a score of 9 means that the candidate has a high level of grammatical accuracy and complexity in their speaking. A score of 1 means that the candidate has frequent and significant grammatical errors in their speaking.

For pronunciation, a score of 9 means that the candidate has near-native-like pronunciation, with very few errors. A score of 1 means that the candidate has significant pronunciation errors that make it difficult for listeners to understand them.

For fluency and cohesion, a score of 9 means that the candidate speaks with ease and fluency, with a natural rhythm and intonation. A score of 1 means that the candidate speaks with significant hesitation and difficulty, with a choppy and disjointed delivery.

In conclusion, the IELTS speaking test scoring system assesses the candidate's language proficiency in four areas: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and fluency and cohesion. The scores in each of these areas are combined to give an overall score, which ranges from 1 to 9.

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