25 - How to Prepare for IELTS Academic Speaking


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Magoosh IELTS


In this episode, Eliot and Naomi talk about IELTS Speaking. They'll cover: 

  • What makes IELTS Speaking so different
  • All three parts of the IELTS Speaking section
  • IELTS Speaking scoring categories

Episode resources and links: 

Learn how to improve your IELTS band score with Magoosh!
Use coupon code ieltspodcast to save 20% at ielts.magoosh.com 


Episode 25 Transcript - How to Prepare for IELTS Academic Speaking

Translations: (Tiếng Việt)


Welcome to the Magoosh IELTS Podcast! This is Episode 25. In this episode, we’ll discuss all things IELTS-Speaking. Check the show notes for a complete transcript, and links to the IELTS Speaking resources we discuss.

And don’t forget to visit us at IELTS.Magoosh.com for more great resources to improve your IELTS band score. Use coupon code “ieltspodcast” to save 20% off your IELTS test prep!

Okay, let’s get started!

Part 1

Eliot: The IELTS Speaking section really is unique. You’re not just sitting there alone in a test center with your exam booklet.


Naomi: It is a real change of pace, isn’t it, Eliot? Can you tell our students more about what makes IELTS Speaking so different?


Eliot: Well, most noticeably, it’s an actual interview, where you talk to a real human being.


Naomi: An interview. That sounds intimidating. Is it stressful, like a job interview?


Eliot: Don’t worry, it’s definitely not structured like a job interview and shouldn’t be nearly as stressful. The interview has different sorts of questions, and comes in three parts….


Naomi: What makes each part different?


Eliot: You can think of them as three different pieces of the same conversation. And each part has a connection to the next. In Part 1, you’re asked a series of questions about your personal life. But nothing that’s deeply personal or embarrassing-- just questions about your hobbies, things you like to do with your family, your hometown, etc…. This part of the interview lasts 4 or 5 minutes.


Naomi: That does sound easier than a job interview. So how does IELTS Speaking Part 1 lead to the second part?


Eliot: For the second part, you’re still talking about something personal from your life. But now you need to give a short solo speech. You’ll be given a topic card, and a minute to prepare a speech based on the topic card. The speech itself will last for 1 to 2 minutes. This is longer than you’ll speak on your own during any other part of the test. So they call the IELTS Speaking Part 2 speech “the long turn.”


Naomi: Does that mean Part 2 is even shorter than Part 1? Is IELTS Speaking Part 2 just 2 or 3 minutes long?


Eliot: No, it still lasts 4-5 minutes. After you give your speech, the interviewer asks you some follow-up questions about how you responded to the topic card.


Naomi: About that topic card. I’m having a little trouble picturing it. What does it look like?


Eliot: It’s a small index card with a detailed question written on it. Actually, why don’t I read a typical IELTS Speaking Part 2 topic card to you?


Naomi: Oh yes, that would be very helpful.


Eliot: OK, here’s one:


Describe an important tradition in your family.


You should say:

  • What the tradition is.
  • How it’s celebrated.
  • When it’s celebrated.

And explain why the tradition is important to your family.


Naomi: That really is a lot like the kinds of things you’d discuss in Part 1. So tell me: Does the IELTS set up the Part 1 questions so that they cover the same subject as the Part 2 “long turn”?


Eliot: That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, the topics that come up in Part 1 and Part 2 are random, and aren’t guaranteed to be directly related to each other. But here’s the good news: Part 3 does deal with the same subject you see on the Part 2 “long turn” topic card.


Naomi: You don’t have to give another speech, do you?


Eliot: Thankfully, no. Instead, Part 3 is kind of a “wind-down” exercise from Part 2. The interviewer and the student will have a short follow-up conversation about the subject of the speech, or a closely related subject.


Naomi: It sounds like you’re saying that if the subject changes, it won’t change much.


Eliot: Precisely. And the subject in Part 3, if it’s different, won’t be a full change in topic. Instead, it will be a shift to a similar topic. For example, if the long turn talk is about family, the student and teacher will either continue to talk about family, or about something family related, like respect for elders, or the importance of family versus friends.


Naomi: And the last part of the interview-- does that last 4 to 5 minutes as well?


Eliot: Perfect guess! Yes, parts 1, 2, and 3 are each 4 to 5 minutes long.


Naomi: So what should students know as they prepare to give answers that will get them a good score?


Eliot: Sure here are some important preparation tips to get a great score on this section.


Naomi: Before we look at scoring for IELTS Speaking, and what that means for your IELTS Speaking prep, let’s pause for a word from Magoosh.



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Now back to the show!


Part 2


Eliot: First and foremost, students should know their interviewer. I don’t mean know the interviewer personally, of course. But students should know what the interviewer is looking for, how the interview’s going to score their response.


Naomi: There must be scoring categories. Kind of like the Writing score categories we talked about in Episode 22? [


Eliot: Kind of like that, yeah. One of the score categories is Fluency and Coherence. That category is about how well you organize your speaking. Do your ideas flow together well? Do you use good transitions when you speak?


Naomi: Transitions… I feel like I know how transitions work in writing. But how do they work in speech?


Eliot: It’s the same concept. Just as you might say “on the other hand” when bringing up a contrasting idea in an essay, you’d use “on the other hand” for that kind of contrast in IELTS Speaking. That’s just one example, of course. And for the Fluency and Coherence category, you’ll also want to have your ideas come out in logical order, using the right words, words that make sense….


Naomi: But you can’t proofread or take a long pause to think about the words you’ll use, like you would in IELTS Writing. What if you make a mistake?


Eliot: Mistakes are a lot more forgivable in IELTS Speaking. Even native English users misspeak all the time. If you make a mistake of any kind in IELTS Speaking, catch it and correct yourself. Often, if you do a smooth self-correction, you don’t lose any points.


Naomi: So Fluency and Coherence…. What else is there?


Eliot: The next two categories are Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range. Lexical Resource refers to having a  good range of vocabulary-- knowing lots of words and using words correctly and appropriately. And grammatical range is about being able to use a lot of different grammatical structures-- all in a correct, well-spoken way, of course. Last but not least, we have the fourth category: pronunciation.


Naomi: So we have three parts to the interview: a warm up conversation, a short speech, and a closing conversation, and these are graded for organization, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Did I get that right?


Eliot: I love how well you summed that up, Naomi.


Naomi: I feel like I have a much better idea of how to prepare for the IELTS Speaking test. I know what activities to practice, and what skills to build…. But where can I get the best IELTS Speaking prep materials?


Eliot: The best place to start is The Complete Guide to IELTS Speaking, on the Magoosh IELTS Blog. That guide is a really good resource in and of itself. And it has links to just about any other IELTS Speaking material you’d need. I’ll put a link in the show notes.


So what did you think? If you need to look at these tips again, check out the show notes for a transcript of this episode so that you can follow along and listen again.

Oh and by the way! We’re looking for volunteers to help us translate the show transcripts from English to your first language. If you are interested, please email me at naomi@magoosh.com with the subject line “translation,” and let me know what language you can translate into!  

Thanks for listening! If you like our show, help us out by leaving a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, it helps people find us! And don’t forget to hit the subscribe button. Until next time! This is Naomi at Magoosh, wishing you happy studying!