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

What happens to your IELTS Speaking score if you don’t understand a question and don’t respond at all?

Listen today to find out!

You will want to avoid making this drastic mistake.

Students often tell us they didn’t understand and didn’t answer a question.

Knowing how much this will affect your score is a bit complicated, so we’ll break it down.

We’ll also share details about the Speaking score and how it is determined.

How is your score affected if you don’t answer a question?

If you did really well on the rest of the Speaking exam, it won’t hurt you much.

However, skipping a question entirely will lower your score a bit.

It also depends on what kind of question it was.

If it’s an easy Part 1 question that you didn’t understand, you’ll definitely be in trouble in Part 3.

However, if it’s a complicated Part 3 question, it will affect your score less.

Today’s question

One of our 3 Keys students asked us the following question:

I was doing well in my Speaking until it came to the last question which was:

  • What kind of sustainable projects can make the economy grow?

Unfortunately, I didn’t understand and I didn’t answer the question. 

My question is, how many points will I lose in the speaking test because of this question that I didn’t answer?

Speaking Parts 2 and 3 are related

Your Part 3 questions are related to your Part 2 question.

They will all be around one theme or topic.

  • Media
  • Celebrity
  • Finance
  • Environment

This will help you understand each one that is asked.

You’ll hear the Examiner say, “We’ve been talking about ____” and they’ll refer to the Part 2 topic.

They’ll then say, “I’d like to ask you a few questions related to this.”

This gives you a clue about the overall topic.

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Ask a clarifying question

Not answering and answering the wrong thing will both hurt your score.

However, asking the Examiner for an example does not hurt your score.

Even as a native, we might ask:

Do you mean sustainable projects like solar panels, for example?

The Examiner would then say, “Sure, yeah.”

Or if you have misunderstood, they can rephrase the question.

Sustainable projects

You can break down the word sustainable to determine it’s meaning.

Able to sustain means able to keep something going.

Examples of sustainable projects that could help the economy:

  • Solar panels
  • Recycling
  • Fuel alternatives such as algae or electricity
  • Urban gardening

Speaking score breakdown

Fluency/Coherence will likely be a 6 or lower if you don’t answer a question at all.

This is a hypothetical, as this wouldn’t happen if you’re at a band 9 on every other question.

Vocabulary score will also be affected, as it shows you don’t have the vocabulary to say something about any topic.

Pronunciation and grammar won’t be affected.

However, if Vocabulary and Fluency/Coherence are at a 6, it is extremely difficult to get a 7 as the 4 scores are averaged.

This is the last impression!

Part 3 of the Speaking exam is the last impression you give the Examiner.

You also need to be aware that the Examiner may be intentionally asking you a difficult question looking for specific things.

  • Idiomatic expressions
  • Transition phrases
  • Variety of vocabulary

You may be right between a 6 and a 7.

If you don’t answer at all, the Examiner can’t bump your score.


Your Speaking score will definitely be affected if you don’t answer a question at all.

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or an example to make sure you understand.

And don’t forget to sign up for our upcoming webclass, all about slang!

This is the best way to get the range of vocabulary you need for your Speaking score.

It will be January 20 and 23.

It’s filling up, so grab your spot today!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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