Understanding the Speaking Test

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What is the purpose of the test?

The Speaking test is an oral interview between you and the examiner. The purpose of the test is to determine how effectively you can communicate in English.

How long is the test?

The test is 11 to 14 minutes long.

There are three main parts. Each part is clearly divided into specific time units.

Part Suggested time & title
1 Introduction and interview 4-5 minutes
2 Individual long turn 3-4 minutes
3 Two-way discussion 4-5 minutes

Note that you do not have to worry about how long each section is as the examiner will manage the time for you. The examiner will move you from one part to the next with such phrases as, ‘Now let’s talk about …’. He or she can interrupt you if you have spoken long enough on a topic.

What is the structure of the test?

The test is divided into three main parts.

Each part is different in terms of:

  • the type of task you are given
  • the type of language you need to use
  • how you and the examiner interact.
Part Interaction Task and language
1

 

4-5 minutes

Introduction

 

Interview

The examiner greets you and then introduces themself to you. The examiner checks your identification.

 

The examiner asks you some questions about topics that are familiar to you.

2

 

3-4 minutes

Individual long turn The examiner gives you a card with a topic written on it and some prompts to help you with your answer. You are also given a pencil and a piece of paper to make notes if you wish. You have one minute to think about the topic and prepare your answer.

 

Then, you must speak about the topic for one to two minutes. The examiner may stop you if you speak longer than this. After you finish talking, the examiner may ask you one or two follow-up questions.

3

 

4-5 minutes

Two-way discussion The examiner asks you some questions to involve you in a discussion. The questions the examiner asks have the same theme as Part 2. The language required in the discussion is generally more abstract than in the other sections.

What style of speaking should you use?

Your style of speaking should be:

  • relaxed
  • natural – never memorise an answer beforehand
  • appropriate for an interview.

It should also show that:

  • you are confident
  • you are interested in the topic
  • and that you are enjoying speaking to the examiner.

How is your interview assessed?

Your IELTS Speaking test is assessed by a qualified examiner using four specific categories:

  • fluency and coherence
  • lexical resource (vocabulary)
  • grammatical range and accuracy
  • pronunciation.

In this step we will briefly introduce what each of these categories means. In the following steps we will examine each category in detail. In the ‘Practice Tests‘ section of the module, we will assess two complete interviews using these four categories.

1 Fluency and coherence

Fluency is determined by:

  • your rate of speech
  • the smoothness and continuity of your speech.

Coherence is determined by:

  • sequencing your sentences logically
  • using signposts (first, next, on the other hand, similarly etc.) to mark each stage of your discussion, narration or argument
  • using cohesive devices (and, or, but, so, because) within and between sentences.

2 Lexical resource

Lexical resource refers to your use of vocabulary.

This is determined by:

  • the variety of words you use
  • how accurate and appropriate your vocabulary is
  • your ability to paraphrase, that is, to find another way of saying what you mean when you do not know the word in English

3 Grammatical range and accuracy

Grammatical range is determined by:

  • the length and complexity of your sentences
  • how appropriately you use complex sentences
  • the variety of sentence structures you use.

Grammatical accuracy is determined by:

  • how many grammatical errors you make
  • how much your errors interfere with communicating your ideas.

4 Pronunciation

This is the ability to produce speech (sounds) that can be understood.

This is determined by:

  • how easy it is for the examiner to understand what you are saying
  • how much of your speech is not understood
  • how much your own language influences your speech.