The IELTS speaking test lasts only 11-14 minutes; the IELTS examiner will ask questions in three parts.
IELTS speaking Part 1: Short Q & A about familiar Topics (3-4 minutes): Always either a question about where you live or where you work/study; and one additional question about familiar topics such as hobbies, holidays, sports, entertainment.
IELTS speaking Part 2: Long Turn (2 minutes plus 1 minute for preparation): Candidates are given a topic card and then given 1 minute to prepare a 2 minute answer. Topics include describing or commenting on a person, place, or movie. The examiner may ask 1 or 2 rounding-off questions at the end of this turn.
IELTS speaking Part 3: Discussion (3-4 minutes): This is roughly based on the topic area of the Part 2: Long Turn. Questions typically ask the candidate to compare, analyse or speculate on the given topic. In this part the examiner may push the candidate hard to see the boundaries of their ability.
How the speaking test is graded
Your speaking test is graded and marked from 1-9 in accordance with four key criteria, as follows:
Fluency and coherence: Fluency is about your ability to speak at a normal speed without excessive hesitation and restarting. Coherence refers to your speaking being easy to understand. In order to score highly you need to show willingness to talk at length and develop your topic, use connectives and discourse markers, avoid pauses and restarts.
Vocabulary: To score highly you must use higher level words, pay attention to collocation, and also control your word endings (correctly use singular/plural and use the correct verb ending for the correct tense). In addition you should try to show an ability to paraphrase and use colloquial language. You will also be rewarded for uses the correct vocabulary to precisely explain things.
Grammar: To score highly you need to use a variety of sentence types (simple, compound, complex) and also avoid grammatical errors, such as with articles and prepositions and sentence order especially when they make your speaking difficult to understand.
Pronunciation: Your grade is influenced by the level to which your accent makes it difficult to understand what you are saying, and also the degree to which you use language features of a native speaker such as intonation, stress, and rhythm.
Special Note: In some instances errors can count in two categories; for example, many grammatical errors also result in a lower score for coherence. On the positive, it is useful to learn lots of connective devices because they can count for Coherence & Cohesion as well as vocabulary. Part of your self-study should be aimed at efficiently using your time to maximize your grade.
The public version of the IELTS speaking test criteria
Improving your Score
To improve your score in the IELTS speaking section, you should focus on the following areas:
- Understanding how the speaking test is graded
- Preparing for and practicing common questions that are asked
- Learning ways of structuring an answer
- Learning to paraphrase – this is important to get a score of over 7
- Improving your accent – ensuring you can make all sounds correctly (th, l, r, long vowel sounds) and also getting natural sounding stress, intonation, and connected speech.
- Improving spoken grammar – correcting any frequent errors.
- Broadening your vocabulary – especially building common phrases that can be used in a variety of responses, such as connectives and discourse markers.
I just finished my speaking book…February 2015! This book is over 200 pages and clearly explains the three different parts of the IELTS speaking exam. The different skills and strategies that are required for each part of the test are clearly identified and explained. As well as this, there are model answers for the common types of questions. This book also includes a section on ways to increase your score for grammar and vocabulary for common topics that are asked in the exam.