Number one for English language teachers

IELTS: Minimal resources - speaking

Introduction: A note about the IELTS speaking paper

PART 1Examiner asks candidates general questions e.g. about their home country, job, free time, etc.

Candidate has a minute to prepare a monologue to speak for one to two minutes on a topic which is written on a topic card given to the candidate to read, e.g. talk about a film you have seen, describe a personal possession that is important to you, talk about a country you would like to visit, etc.

PART 3Discussion questions connected to part 2 topic, candidate required to give opinion and speculate.

Expanding vocabulary

This is an activity for talking about work and careers, as well as expanding vocabulary.

Time:40 minutes +
Language focus:Talking about work/careers
Materials: A piece of scrap paper for making simple ’Job title’ role cards

This activity focuses on expanding the students’ vocabulary for a chosen topic. On this occasion I’ve chosen the topic of work. The activity can help students prepare for all parts of the speaking test.

Stage 1: 

Write about twenty words and phrases on the board which you think would be appropriate for your students associated with the topic of work. For example:

to be made redundant

work unsocial hours



a bonus

relocation package

company pension scheme

physically demanding

perks of the job



work on commission



climb the career ladder


get promoted

job prospects

work long hours


Stage 2:

Students work in pairs to categorise words into two columns depending on whether they think the word/phrase has a positive or negative connotation. Pairwork is particularly useful here as students will often teach each other new words.

RedundantPerks of the job



Stage 3:

Get feedback and discuss each word/phrase (with examples as appropriate) to clarify meaning. Encourage students to give personal examples from their own work experience or their expectations of different jobs. You may find differing opinions as to whether a word has a negative or positive connotation. This may depend on personal experience.

Stage 4:

In pairs, students talk for a couple of minutes about their own job (or job ambitions) attempting to integrate some of the new vocabulary. Give the students a minute to think about what they are going to say and let them make notes if they wish (as in part 2 of the speaking test).

Stage 5:

After the above activity, give each student a scrap of paper (role card) with a job written on it: e.g. vet, farmer, astronaut, actor, teacher, etc. Tell the students that they must keep the information on the card secret.

Stage 6:

Working in small groups, students describe the jobs from the role card to each other trying to include some of the vocabulary presented at the beginning of the lesson. Allow students some time to think about how they are going to describe the job before speaking. Explain to them not to make it too obvious what the job is so as to make the task more challenging to the other students in the group. Demonstrate the task to the students by preparing your own description, for example:

This job is inside and generally 9–5. It is a very professional job and requires a university education. I believe that the salary is very good but I also think that the job is physically and mentally demanding. I expect the job is very secure because these professionals are in demand. We are supposed to go and see such a person on a regular basis - perhaps every six months -  but nobody likes going to see them, especially children. I personally wouldn’t like this job as I would find it very stressful.

Other students in the group have to guess what the job is. (In the example above, it is a dentist)

Stage 7:

Follow up with class discussion questions (preparation for part 3 of the speaking paper), for example:

  • What would be your dream job and why?
  • What did you want to be when you were a child?
  • How do you think working practices will change in the future?
  • Do you think recent technological developments make us more productive in our work?

Talking about technology using past, present, future and comparatives

Time: 40 minutes +
Language focus: vocabulary – technology; tenses – past present and future; ‘used to’ and comparative structures

This activity is aimed at preparing the students for the speaking test on the topic of technology. In addition, the activity is useful in case a technological topic comes up in the writing test part 2. It looks at both the positive and negative sides of technology.

Stage 1:

Draw a table on the board and label the middle column ‘NOW’. Students brainstorm a list of technologies that they believe they could not live without, e.g. email, mobile telephone, television, the car, antibiotics, etc. Students explain why they couldn’t live without them and how they improve their daily lives (to the class or in small groups).

 mobile phone


the car







Stage 2:

Now, focusing on the very same ideas that the students have come up with, get them to think about and discuss why the same technologies have made their lives more difficult and in fact have lowered the quality of their lives. For example:

I find email very useful but probably I spend too much time everyday checking it when I could be doing something else…

I need my car to get to work but the smog in our city is so bad thanks to the car and more and more people are suffering from chest complaints like asthma.

Stage 3:

Now label the first column “PAST”. Ask the students to think about when they were children: What technology did they used to have? What did they used to do? This is a great opportunity to practise “used to”, present perfect and comparative structures. For example:

Technology has really advanced over the years. For example when I was 10 years old we didn’t use to have computers and I spent most of my time playing outdoors with my friends while these days lots of children spend time indoors playing computer games - in my opinion too much time.

Now label the third column “FUTURE” – students speculate on how technology will change in the near and distant future. Here you can practise language of opinion and speculation, for example:

I think that in the future roads will become so congested that we won’t be able to use cars anymore, and I think we will have to have better forms of public transport.

So at the end of the lesson you may have a board that looks something that looks like this:

land line phones



car / bicyle

mobile phone



the car

video phone


computerized homes

better public transport




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