Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

First impressions are so important on IELTS Speaking!

If you start off on the wrong foot, it could throw you off from the get-go.

This might make it difficult to be confident!

Today you’ll learn what you should say when you meet the IELTS Examiner for your Speaking test.

We’ll teach you the do’s and don’ts that Examiners care about.

This way you won’t waste any time and start off on the wrong foot.

Start off on the right foot

Jessica and Aubrey used several idioms at the start of this episode!

  • start off on the wrong foot: to begin something poorly
  • start off on the right foot: to begin something well

We use both of these!

If you make a mistake at the beginning of something you can say:

I started off on the wrong foot!

On the other hand, if you do well at the beginning of something, say:

Luckily, I started off on the right foot!

  • throw you off: to affect one’s performance

If something goes poorly, it might affect your performance.

Use this idiom to describe it!

I messed up and it threw me off!

  • from the get-go: from the start

Today’s question

A listener wrote in asking about a common phrase in Singapore.

To say hello, they might say “Have you eaten?”

Here is her question:

Currently, I have been living in Singapore and studying for a doctoral degree. I know there are a couple of podcast episodes regarding the cultural differences; however, I am still not sure how to respond to a Singaporean way of greeting people that I encounter. It’s a very common phrase to hear “Have you eaten?” when you run into locals. In western societies, we tend to say “good morning” or “good afternoon” etc but whenever I hear this phrase I freeze and I don’t know how to respond. How would you guys respond? Thank you for the great podcast! P.S. I have signed up for IELTS for the first time and I will keep you updated once the scores are out.

Clearly, they aren’t actually asking if you’ve eaten.

It’s just a way to greet someone!

You would just answer the same way you would answer, “Hello” or “Good morning.”

I’m well, thanks. How are you?

Don’t greet the examiner in a creative way

Don’t translate phrases like this directly!

It is not a native English expression to say, “Have you eaten?”

This could confuse the Examiner.

Native English speakers will have no idea why you are asking if they’ve eaten!

When living in Taiwan, Jessica noticed something very similar in Chinese.

People would say, “Chao fan ma?” which literally means, “Have you eaten rice yet?”

They are not actually asking if you’ve eaten rice that day.

It’s just a way of saying, “Hello” and greeting someone.

Instead, you want to greet the Examiner the way a native English speaker would.

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Don’t waste effort!

You’re not scored on how you say, “Hello.”

However, it doesn’t help your score to get creative with how you greet them.

It’s important to know where to put your energy.

We are all about efficiency here on IELTS Energy.

We know you don’t have time to waste!

You want to be able to do your best with as little time and effort as possible.

Don’t put effort into creating an amazing greeting.

Know what to expect

You want to control what you can when it comes to IELTS.

This includes knowing what to expect for every test.

It’s important to be familiar with the procedure the Examiner has to follow.

You want to know all the ins and outs.

  • What will the Examiner say to me?
  • How strict is timing?
  • At what point does the Examiner begin scoring?

Insider Tip #1: Strict Examiner regulations

The procedure the Examiner must follow is very regimented.

They must account for every second.

This has become even stricter with recent changes to the IELTS exam.

While you are waiting outside the room, the Examiner is marking the previous exam.

No time is wasted between exams.

Insider Tip #2: When does the Speaking exam begin?

The Examiner will come to get you and greet you.

When you enter the room, the Examiner has already turned on the recorder.

The exam has already started when you enter the room.

Keep your greeting very simple.

  • Hello. Nice to meet you.

They will begin asking you questions right away.

Insider Tip #3: Don’t start a conversation

The Examiner is not allowed to have a conversation with you.

Don’t ask them questions.

They can’t joke around or show their personality.

Treat them as an Examiner instead of as a real person you want to chat with.

It is then easier for them to get to the questions.

This is their priority so make it easy on them.

If you try to have a conversation, it can create awkwardness.


It’s vital that you are familiar with what will happen on test day.

You need to know what to expect and at what point the Examiner begins scoring you.

Don’t spend time coming up with a fancy greeting for IELTS Speaking.

The Examiner cannot have a conversation with you.

They are following very strict procedures and requirements.

Keep it simple and greet them like a native English speaker would.

For all the strategies you need for every part of the exam, sign up for our online EILTS course!

Have you taken the IELTS Speaking exam before?

Share your experience in the comments section below.

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