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

If you don’t know what to expect on your IELTS Speaking exam, you can be easily confused.

You could get stuck at a band 6 or lower.

Don’t let this happen to you!

There are a few aspects of the Speaking exam that often confuse students.

Today we let you know how to avoid being thrown off by these.

Why do students get thrown off?

When students haven’t prepared a lot, they don’t know the structure of the Speaking exam.

They might not understand when the exam is starting and when to talk.

If you let this throw you off, it’s hard to get back on track!

We’ve seen students get a difficult Part 2 card and panic.

The Examiner has to wait for you to keep going.

This can lead to awkward silence.

This can destroy a student’s confidence and they might give up!

Strategies Created By a Former Examiner

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#1: Speaking exam instructions

You should be aware of what will happen on test day.

The Examiner will start a recording before letting you into the room.

They then check your passport and read a short script.

This script is just to clearly label the recording with the following:

  • Date
  • Candidate name and number
  • Examiner number

When they say your name on this recording, you might think they are addressing you.

When it’s your turn to speak, the Examiner will ask you a direct question.

“Alice, I’d like to ask you some questions about yourself.”

Pro tip: watch for Examiner cues

The Examiner won’t make eye contact with you while reading the script.

They’ll be looking down at the recorder.

Once it’s time to start the exam, they will then make eye contact.

They’ll then address you directly when Speaking Part 1 starts.

#2: Questions that sound like small talk

The Examiner might ask you a question to being Speaking Part 1 that sounds like small talk.

How did you get to the test center today?

You might be tempted to answer with just a few words.

  • “I drove.”
  • “I walked.”
  • “I rode the bus.”

These answers are not sufficient!

You need 3-5 sentences for every question.

How to answer more completely

Provide more detail!

Normally I would take the bus, but I didn’t want to risk anything happening that was out of my control!

Describe your feelings of anxiety on the way to the test center!

When we name our fear, we take away its power.

Acknowledge your anxiety out loud to reduce it!

Let the emotion show in your answer!

Any time you can let your emotion show, it will help vary your intonation.


You must know the structure of the exam.

You need to know what to expect!

At the beginning of the Speaking exam, the Examiner will speak into a recorder.

Just sit and wait politely, without interrupting.

When it is time to begin, the Examiner will look up and signal to you.

Additionally, don’t let casual questions that sound like small talk throw you off.

Once the test has begun, all answers must be detailed!

For more strategies, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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