Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

In today’s IELTS Energy episode you’ll find out what to do if you don’t understand what the examiner is asking in Speaking Part 1, 2, and 3.

It can be really scary if you don’t understand the question that the examiner gives you.

What should you do?

  • In Part 1: You probably don’t understand the question because of one word. Ask specifically what the word means. You can say:
    • “Sorry, what does “x” mean please?”
    • “Sorry I didn’t understand the word “x.” Could you please explain what it means?”
  • In Speaking Part 2: You can’t ask for a different topic. The examiner can’t switch to a new topic. Find the thing that you don’t understand. Is it a vocabulary word?
    • Use the same phrases as Part 1 to ask what the word means
    • “Can you give an example of “x”? – this is an efficient and smart way to understand the question.
    • If you don’t understand the whole question you can say “I apologize. I am not familiar with this topic. Can you explain the question?”
  • In Speaking Part 3: For Part 3 use the same methods as Part 2 and Part 1. Ask for a word definition, an explanation of the topic, or an example. Don’t be afraid to be honest and articulate the fact that you don’t understand. Use more formal questions:
    • “Can you clarify please?”
    • “I’ve honestly never heard of this topic/word. Can you give me an example?”

Remember, it’s ok to say it if you don’t understand a question. Don’t forget to smile. Keep it lighthearted

Have you ever been in an IELTS situation where didn’t understand the Speaking test questions? What did you do?

Let us know in the comments below.

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