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Your ability to speak competent English is very important if you’re planning to live, work or study in Australia. When you take the IELTS test, speaking is one of the English comprehension skills you will be scored on. Your overall IELTS score is calculated based on your performance in each of the four IELTS categories:

The minimum IELTS band score you need will depend on the visa, university or job you’re applying for. Some universities accept a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.0 if no individual band falls below 5.5. If you’re planning to move permanently to Australia, you will usually need a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 for all four IELTS components.

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What is the IELTS Speaking test?

The IELTS speaking test is between 11 and 14 minutes long. The test takes place face-to-face in a quiet room with a trained and certified IELTS examiner. The speaking test consists of three parts:

Speaking test format

  • Introduction & Interview (4-5 minutes) 

The examiner introduces him/herself. And, they ask you to introduce yourself. Then, the examiner asks you general questions on familiar topics, (e.g. family, work, studies and interests). 

  • Individual long turn (3-4 minutes) 

After the first part, you talk about a particular topic. The examiner gives you points you can cover in your talk. You can prepare your talk for a minute, and you are given a pencil and paper to make notes. You talk for one to two minutes on the topic. The examiner then asks you one or two questions on the same topic. 

  • Two-way discussion (4-5 minutes) 

The examiner asks further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. This gives you an opportunity to discuss more general issues and ideas. 

Free Speaking practice questions

No secrets to how your IELTS test is marked

Your examiner will score your speaking test based on the following four marking criteria:

Fluency and coherence

  • Are you able to speak comfortably and without long silences? 

  • Do your sentences make sense? 

  • Are you using cohesive devices such as connectors and conjunctions properly?

Lexical resource

  • Do you have a large vocabulary?

  • Are the words you’re using right for the conversation?

  • Can you use other words to get around a vocabulary gap with low effort?

Grammatical range and accuracy

  • Can you use a range of sentence structures?

  • Are you making grammatical errors when you speak?

  • Are the length of your sentences right for the conversation?


  • Are you pronouncing your words clearly?

  • Can a listener understand you easily?

  • Does a listener need to strain to understand you properly?

Your examiner will give you a band score of 0-9 for each of these four criteria. These scores will be used to calculate your overall speaking band score.

Download the IELTS Speaking Band Descriptors

Tip 1: Study the assessment criteria

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One of the best ways to improve your speaking band score is to understand what the examiner will be looking for.

The speaking test assessment criteria is available online and shows exactly which skills are required to achieve high band scores in each of the four marking criteria. Read through the assessment criteria and circle any skills you think you need to work on.

Tip 2: Avoid using filler words

When you’re speaking a different language, it can sometimes take time to think of the right words for your conversation. Try to avoid using ‘filler’ words like ‘um’, ‘er’ and ‘ah’ when you’re thinking. While this can be a hard habit to break, these words can be distracting for listeners and may result in a lower band score for the fluency and coherence marking criteria.

Tip 3: Expand your answers

Short answers may sometimes be appropriate for a spoken conversation, but during your IELTS speaking test your examiner wants to hear you speak as much as possible! Expanding on your answers and keeping the conversation going can help demonstrate to the examiner that you can communicate fully developed ideas and opinions.

Tip 4: Immerse yourself in spoken English

One of the best ways to improve your pronunciation skills is to listen to as many native English speakers as you can. Watching TV shows in English (with subtitles if needed), listening to podcasts by native English speakers and listening to English language music are all fun activities that can help you learn the correct pronunciation of words and improve your general fluency.

Tip 5: Use a range of sentence structures

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The IELTS spoken test is the perfect opportunity to show off your ability to use a range of different sentence structures. An easy way to create more complex sentences is to practise connecting simple sentences. For example, two simple sentences such as:

“I met a friend for lunch.’ 

‘We went to a cafe.’

Could become:

‘I met a friend for lunch today and we went to a cafe.’

Using a mix of simple and complex sentence structures can help you achieve a higher score for the grammatical range and accuracy marking criteria.

Tip 6: Speak English as often as possible

Have a chat with the English speaking employees at the shops or ask an English speaking coworker how their weekend was (and tell them about yours). By speaking to as many English speakers as possible you will develop the ability to discuss a wide range of topics, which can help you achieve a higher score for the lexical resource marking criteria.

Tip 7: Practise rephrasing your ideas

Your examiner will be looking for your ability to use less-common and idiomatic (natural) words for the lexical resource marking criteria. One way to improve your vocabulary and sound more natural is to practise rephrasing your sentences and ideas. Instead of repeating the same answers in response to common questions, look up other words with similar meanings and think about how many different ways you could reply instead.

Tip 8: Record yourself speaking English

Use your phone or computer to record video or audio of yourself speaking English and listen to it back. Hearing yourself speak can help you identify any words you’re stumbling over, struggling to pronounce or using too often.

Tip 9: Get a study buddy

If you know someone else who is preparing for the IELTS, organise some study sessions together. Try speaking only in English during your study sessions, play some English comprehension games and give each other feedback on your speaking skills.

Tip 10: Receive professional help

You can complete a mock Speaking test with a qualified IELTS Speaking Coach and receive a personalised action plan within 3-5 days to help you improve your Speaking band score before your official test. Your 45-minute coaching session with an experienced IELTS teacher includes:

  • A discussion with your coach about your previous test experience and your target band score

  • A one-on-one mock Speaking test session with practice questions.

Need help booking your test?

Ready for test day? Book your IELTS test today and get one step closer to living, working or studying in Australia!

Whether you need to find out who accepts IELTS, or you want to know how to access free official IELTS practice material, we're here for you. Contact us if you have any questions about your booking, or need support getting ready for your test.