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IELTS Speaking Test: Part 1
Tips & Strategies

Check out our IELTS Speaking test Part 1 video lesson. 

Part 1 has three sections and is 4-5 minutes long.

Section 1: Personal information questions.

Section 2: Question about work or studies or where you live.

Section 3: Topic based questions.

Part 1: Section 1

The questions are always the same for Part 1 section 1. The rational for fixed questions in Section 1 is to make the candidate feel at ease. For example…

Examiner: Good morning

Candidate: Good morning

Ex: My name is (examiner's name). Can you tell me your full name please?

Ca: Joanne Suh.

Ex: And what shall I call you? 

Ca: Please call me / You can call me Joanne

Ex: Where are you from?

Ca: I'm from Cebu city in the Philippines.

Ex: Can I see your identification please?

Strategies & tips: Section 1

  • Because everyone knows the Section 1 questions, it’s tempting for candidates to memorize lengthy responses. For example...

Examiner: Can you tell me your full name?​

Candidate: My name is Janet Shirley Jane Gomes. I am 28 years old. I am a nurse at the public hospital. I’m single and live with my parents. I like going to the beach.

  • This is an example of memorized language and will not be graded. It’s also an example of poor training. The candidate has been advised by the tutor to expand their answer by memorizing a short speech.

  • Memorized speeches are easy to spot for all examiners. If you try this, the examiner will most likely interrupt you by saying “thank you” and/or raise their hand to indicate you should stop.

  • This can have a demotivating effect on candidates because they’ve been trained to memorize a short speech probably with the advice that it will “impress” the examiner. In reality, it has the opposite effect. So keep your answers short and relevant in Section 1.

  • Keep your answers short and direct for Section 1. After the ID check… EXPAND your answers for the remainder of the test.

Part 1: Section 2

Section 2 begins after the examiner checks your identification and the topics for this section are always the same. That’s “Where you live” OR “Your work / studies”. You will be asked about one or the other, not both.

Strategies & tips: Section 2

  • Because Section 2 has only two possible topics (work/studies and where you live) candidates are tempted to memorize their answers which is not a good strategy as explained above.

  • Don’t try to memorize answers as this can actually stress you because you are so focused on delivering the perfect answer.

  • Instead of memorizing, increase your vocabulary to describe where you live, your city/town and work or studies.

  • The answers to Section 2 questions are usually in the present and future tenses.

Example: The questions the examiner asks may vary.

Examiner: Let’s talk about where you live. Do you live in a house or an apartment?

Candidate: I live in a house. It’s a newly built house in the suburbs in the north of the city. Actually, I live there with my wife and our 6 year old daughter.

Examiner: Can you describe your house?

Candidate: Yes… as I said before, it’s a newly built house and it’s semi-detached with a garden in the front and a yard in the back… and also a driveway but we don’t have a car. Specifically, It’s a 2 storey house and on the ground floor there’s a sizeable living room, bathroom and kitchen and obviously, upstairs there’s 2 bedrooms and another bedroom on the first floor.

Examiner: What’s your favorite room?

Candidate: Well, I’d say my favorite room would be the living room because that’s where my family and I tend to spend most of our time. We do a lot of things together there, in particular, we watch TV and have our meals sometimes play video games together. I mean my daughter does that.

Examiner: Do you think you will live there in the future?

Candidate: For the short term future… yes for sure, mostly because we just bought it. However, as you know, I’m taking the IELTS test now and if I get the required result, we plan to move to Canada. So long term, I guess we hope to be living in Canada and, if that works out well, we’ll most likely sell the house.

Example: The questions the examiner asks may vary.

Examiner: Let’s talk about where you liveCan you describe your city or town?

Candidate: Sure… I live in Cebu which is the second city of the Philippines. I’m not quite sure, but I think approximately 1 million people live here. It’s a historic city, in fact Cebu was the first city in the Philippines and was founded by the Spanish. It’s also a modern city with lots of malls, cinemas and public parks. There are many historic places of interest here like St. Nino church which was built by the Spanish. Our city is popular with tourists and… I guess, we have the same problems as other cities… for example… too much traffic unfortunately but we plan to build a light railway soon.

Examiner: What’s your favorite part of your city?

Candidate: Let me see… well I suppose it’s the Seaside shopping mall. It’s a pretty new mall in the south of the city and I read somewhere that it’s the biggest mall in the Philippines. It’s got loads of different shops ranging from designer to local stores and lots of places to eat which cater for all budgets. What I like most about the place is the outdoor spaces where you can stroll around and just hang out.

Examiner: Has your city changed much in the last few years?

Candidate: Yeah, I guess it has... and as I see it, not always for the better. There’s been a lot of construction, especially high-rise buildings in the commercial district and a huge mall... on the edge of town. But the topic on everyone’s lips is the chronic traffic problems... I mean terrible. Seems like in the last, I’d say, 5 years the sheer number of cars has doubled. It’s really had a disastrous effect on the city... I mean, the rise in pollution, noise and just general inconvenience has really changed the city forever.

Examiner: Do you think you will live in your city in the future?

Candidate: Hopefully no… I’ve already started the process of emigration to Canada… that’s why I’m taking IELTS. Don’t get me wrong… I love my city and, of course, all my friends and family are here… but I have an opportunity to move to Canada now because my uncle lives there and he’ll sponsor me… So that’s my plan and, with a bit of luck, I can move there next year. Maybe someday in the distant future, I’ll move back here.

Example: The questions the examiner asks may vary.


Examiner: Let’s talk about what you do. Do you work or are you a student?

Candidate: I work…. Specifically, I’m an English teacher at an Academy in the north of the city. Every day… sorry not every day. I mean from Monday to Friday I start work at 8am and finish at 5pm… and I have a one hour lunch break. I teach mostly ESL students and I also monitor and grade their tests. It’s quite a challenging job but it’s rewarding. By challenging, I mean most of our students are low level ESL students so I need to be patient and understanding… but it’s rewarding because they always improve their English… oh and by the way… they are always very grateful. It’s not particularly well-paid but there’s the chance to work overtime plus I get 10 days paid leave every year and medical insurance.

Examiner: What part of your job do you like best?

Candidate: That’s an interesting question… an enjoyable part of my work is making friends with my students and… let me see… seeing them making progress with English … but at the end of the day… I think my favorite part is their gratitude. You know… these students are really hard working. So… they are really grateful, appreciate it when they feel they have improved their English. What’s more… They are polite and constantly say thanks and even give me gifts when the course is finished… can you believe it? My favorites are the handmade thank you cards.

Examiner: What type of work will you do in the future?

Candidate: As a matter of fact… I really enjoy my work now but, because of economic reasons, I plan to work as a state school teacher. I’m already a national certified teacher and I intend to apply this year for a high school teaching post. I hope I’m successful because the salary and especially the benefits are much better than the job I have now. so… my plan is to wait until early next year and start applying.


Example: The questions the examiner asks may vary.


Examiner: Let’s talk about what you do. Do you work or are you a student?

Candidate: I’m a student… Specifically, I’m studying Business Management at the National University … As a matter of fact,, it’s a 3 year course and I’m in my last year now. I attend the university 5 days a week and have lectures usually in the morning from 8am to 1pm. For the course itself, we study all aspects of business management from how to lead the team to how to make business plans… professional ones.  It’s a very interesting course and practical because in the afternoon we do OJT… that’s on the job training.

Examiner: What’s your favorite part of your studies?

Candidate: My favorite part? Well… there’s not just one best thing I suppose… there are many positives. For example, The teachers… or should I say professors… are very knowledgeable and have lots of energy. Also the college itself has an excellent academic record and reputation… for instance, research has shown that most graduates from our college can find well paid … and suitable jobs very soon after graduation.

Examiner: How will you use your studies in the future?

Candidate: In the future… Ok, after I graduate, I’ll take a few months holiday, my parents said they’ll pay for it and then I’ll start applying for work… preferably with international companies. I also have the option of continuing my studies by doing a Masters… in Business Management. So, I’ll decide after my short holiday.

Part 1: Section 3

Section 3 lasts for a maximum of 3 minutes and you answer questions on “familiar” topics such as music, shopping, hobbies etc. There will be no controversial topics such as politics or religion. You don’t need any specialized knowledge to discuss the topics in Section 3 and you can be asked questions on a maximum of 2 topics depending on the timing.

Example Topic:

Now let’s talk about sport

  • How often do you watch sport? (Why / why not?)

  • Which sports are popular in your country?

  • Did/Do you learn sports at school? (Why / why not?)

  • Do you play any sports? (Which ones?)


The question words in brackets (why / why not?) are asked by the examiner if the candidate’s answer is short and the examiner believes they can say more.


Strategies & tips: Section 3

  • For Section 3 many sources suggest that you should learn vocabulary lists connected to a topic. While it’s always a good strategy to increase your vocabulary, trying to memorize vocabulary lists connected with particular topics, such as education, is questionable since the chances of those topics appearing in the test are very slim.

  • There are literally hundreds of possible topics and trying to predict which ones will be in section 3 is a risky strategy.



Examiner: Now let’s talk about sports… How often do watch sports?

Candidate: Well… I’m a huge sports fan so, obviously, I watch it every day if it’s on TV. My favourite is basketball, especially the NBA because it has the best players in the world and it’s very exciting of course. The quality is unbelievable and it has so many superstars. At the moment it’s playoff time for the NBA… that’s when the best teams play each other to try to reach the final and, then, try to become champions.

Examiner: Which sports are popular in your country?

Candidate: Yes, I’d say that the number one sport here is also basketball and, because of this, the NBA is hugely popular. We have our own national league but the standard is nowhere near that of the NBA. Another sport that’s actually gaining in popularity here is soccer or football, and I think that’s because today we can watch the international soccer on TV. So, there’s a lot of interest growing in that now.

Examiner: Did you learn sports at school?

Candidate: Yes we had physical education, or PE as it was known, classes at least once a week. We did a variety of sports but mostly athletics and gym work. When I say athletics I mean we spent a lot of time running… usually around the gym. Occasionally we played basketball and everyone loved that, especially if you were picked for the school team.  

Examiner: Do you play any sports?

Candidate: Play sports? Well… unfortunately not a lot these days because of my workload and… I also have a young family. But when I was at high school and college I played a lot because I was lucky enough to get picked for the school… and college basketball team. So usually after school we practiced and were coached by some pretty coaches, actually.. but… that was then.

Strategies & tips: Closed Questions

In Sections 2 and 3 you will be asked several closed questions which require a yes or no answer. For example, “Do/did you…” “Can you…” “Have you…”

  • Answer the question with a yes / no response.

  • Give reasons why you answered yes/no.

  • Give examples and talk about your experience.


Examiner: Do you play any sports?

Candidate: Play sports? Well… unfortunately not a lot these days because of my workload and… I also have a young family. But when I was at high school and college, I played a lot because I was lucky enough to get picked for the school… and college basketball team. So usually after school we practiced and were coached by some pretty coaches, actually. but… that was then.

Sample Mock Test: Part 1

Watch the IELTS Speaking mock test, part 1 with a band 9 student. The topics are...

  • Describe your house/apartment

  • Cooking

  • Learning a language

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