The Speaking Test is a Videogame

I often tell my students to think of the IELTS speaking test like a videogame. The early levels are easy; it gets harder later in the test.

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Here’s an example of some easy part 1 speaking questions (you can find some more samples on our YouTube page):

-What do you like doing at the weekend?

-When you were a child what did you like to eat the most?

-Do you enjoy sunny days much?

Compare that with speaking part 3 questions about a much harder topic:

-Why do you think many people prefer working alone?

-What can the government do create more public spaces?

-How has the internet changed how people consume the news?

The speaking test starts out easy and gets really hard by part 3.

The difference in a videogame is that you are trying to get to beat the last level to win. In the speaking test you are graded at every level.

That means that a question in part 1 has equal value to a question in part 3, even though part 3 is much, much harder.

Think of IELTS speaking all the time, please!

So… what’s the tip?

It’s simple, just talk a lot in part 1.

Take more chances with good vocabulary in this part because it is more likely you will use it accurately when talking about familiar topics.


Because part 1 is the easiest and you’ll do the best in this part.

The part 1 questions are simple, you’ve probably practiced them before, and you don’t have to think of ideas since they are always personal.

Essentially, your answers have more value early in the test (when the questions are easy) than they do later in the test.

In the videogame example, this is like getting as many points for beating level 1 as for beating level 10, even though level 10 is much harder!

It’s true that examiners might give more weight to part 3 because the topics are unfamiliar and therefore a better test for strong candidates.

That doesn’t change the fact that speaking as much as possible in part 1 offers you the best value on the whole speaking test and is the surest, quickest way to bump up your speaking score.

Top 3 practice ideas

I know it sounds easy to talk a lot but in fact this is a skill that many students need to practice as well.

If you go to the test and you haven’t practiced and you start talking a lot you may start hesitating and self-correcting. That will really hurt your fluency score.

So please please try some of the practice ideas below!

1. Have a conversation with Siri or your voice assistant on your phone. Give long answers.

2. Have a sample conversation in English in your head as you go to bed and the same one when you wake up in the morning. Research has shown that imaginary practice in your head has the same impact as actually speaking!

3. Watch a YouTube sample speaking test and pause after the examiner asks the question. Answer it yourself. Repeat with the same video twice in 1 hour to really develop!

4. Write down a topic on your hand to talk about (robots, sunshine, eating vegetables) and practice talking about it throughout the day when you have some free time (on the toilet maybe).

Here’s an example of Nguyen from our Facebook and Instagram doing a Part 1 Speaking question on DREAMS:

Here are some other speaking model answers: friends, phones, school, and history.

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