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Stop saying, “I don’t know” in IELTS Speaking

So, often in IELTS Speaking, the examiner will ask a question, especially in Part 3, that you simply don’t know the answer to

Of course, you can say

‘I don’t know’

…but you really want to show off your vocabulary, and if possible, develop your answer.

In this article we will look at some typically difficult questions, and how you can start to answer them, using something different from ‘I don’t know’.

Some of these phrases are also good fillers that can help give you more time to think on your feet and start developing a better answer.

1. WELL

English speakers often stretch this word out to “weeellllllll” at the start of a reply. You can also add wellllll to the start of another filler to give you even more time:

“What’s your favourite celebration in your country?”

Weeeellllll, I think I like New Year’s celebration best because……etc.”

2. MMMMMMM.

Usually used before another filler. See point 3 below

3. THAT’S A TOUGH ONE

Good delay filler for the tougher part 3 questions. For example:

“How do you think tourism affects the environment?”

Mmmmmm, that’s a tough one. Obviously if there are too many tourists ……etc.”

4. THAT’S A TRICKY QUESTION

Similar use to point 3 above:

“Do you think we’ll ever be able to fully cure cancer?”

Mmmm that’s a (very) tricky question. I think that…..etc.”

5. TO BE HONEST

Used when you’re expressing something slightly controversial or when you want to express an opposite point of view or disagreeing. For example:

“Many people think that eating red meat is a health risk. What do you think?”

Weeeeellll, to be honest I really don’t believe this is a major problem because……etc.”

6. I’VE NEVER REALLY THOUGHT ABOUT THAT

Used to answer a particularly tricky question and indeed, one you may not have thought about before:

“Do you think that one day humans will live on Mars?”

Mmmmmm, I’ve never really thought about that. I would say probably but not yet because…..etc.”

7. LET ME THINK / LET ME SEE

Used purely to delay your reply whilst thinking.

“Can we have economic growth and environmental protection?”

Mmmm, let me think…….yes I believe we can and the reason is…..etc.”

8. THAT’S AN INTERESTING QUESTION

Used before answering a difficult question which may require some thought to answer.

“What do you think are the benefits of living in a foreign country?”

Mmmm, that’s an interesting question. Let me think. Yes they are many benefits. To start with there is……etc.”

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