Activities and ideas to help students with the speaking component of the IELTS exam.


Photo of two people speaking in an exam context. If too complicatd, photo of  speech bubbles to suggest the idea of speaking.

Source: 10'000 Hours, Getty Images

Speaking test overview

  • An interview takes place between one examiner and one candidate for between 11 and 14 minutes.
  • The candidate’s speaking is assessed on fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation.
  • A band mark is awarded between 1 and 9 with 9 being the highest.

Test format:

Part 1Examiner and candidate introduce themselves, candidate answers general questions on familiar topics e.g. family, job, studies, free-time etc.about 4 to 5 minutes
Part 2 Candidate asked to speak on a given topic (information is written on a task card) for 1-2 minutes. One minute of preparation in which the candidate can make notes is allowed. 4 minutes
Part 3 Discussion on more abstract issue related to the chosen topic in part 2 of the test. about 4 to 5 minutes


My own students have often come to me after having taken the IELTS exam and said such things as “I could have done better” or “I just couldn’t think about what to say at the time” - some admit to having been overcome by nerves. The speaking test can be both frustrating and nerve racking for candidates.

IELTS candidates are assessed on their actual performance in an interview that shouldn’t last any longer than 14 minutes. To someone having to do a speaking test in a foreign language, 14 minutes may seem like a long time but in fact it is a very short time for a candidate to really show off their English speaking ability and perform at their best.

These classroom activities have been designed to help candidates for all parts of the speaking test.

Clearly, there is a lot of scope for speaking practice in IELTS preparation class. The activities I have described illustrate the importance of raising student awareness of what to expect in the speaking test and make use of the students’ own ideas through brainstorming and eliciting. Indeed the activities can be integrated into a lesson at any point and needn’t always be dry and serious, but fun by trying out different games such as the ones mentioned.