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IELTS Speaking Part 1: Topics, Questions & Answers

In this 3-part blog series, we will show you the most common topics that appear on IELTS Speaking exams. We will list the topics in full and give you examiner questions and candidate answers to demonstrate how you can score band 7+. In this guide to IELTS Speaking Part 1, don’t forget to check out our “Hot Tips” to get your exam technique just right!

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IELTS Speaking Part 1: Quick Intro

This section of the IELTS Speaking exam is also known as ‘the interview’.

In Speaking Part 1, the examiner will ask you questions about yourself. A lot of candidates think they will only be asked about their hobbies, studies or job. However, this is not true! In this study guide, we will go through 11 (don’t panic!) different topics that you may be asked about during your IELTS Speaking Part 1 test.

These topics are as follows: People & Relationships, Health & body, Work & studies, Nature & environment, Communication, Technology, Hobbies, Youth, Home, Culture, Travel.

Remember that for IELTS Speaking you are assessed on the following four “key criteria”. You will get a score out of 25% for each:

  • Pronunciation – how natural do you sound?
  • Lexical Resource – how good and appropriate is your vocabulary?
  • Fluency & coherence – how clear and organised is your speech?
  • Grammatical Range & Accuracy – how good is your grammar?
IELTS Speaking Part 1: Topics, Questions & Answers

Note: The model answers given below would score around band 7.0 on IELTS Speaking. There are three sample questions with answers for each topic on the list. We have also included some useful tips to help you do well on your speaking exam.


 

1. People and Relationships

Example i

Can you tell me about your family?
Well, my mum’s family is from Lisbon, but my Dad is from Barcelona. Uh, my parents divorced when I was ten. Me and my two sisters, who are both younger than me and sometimes make me crazy – especially the younger one, we grew up in Lisbon with my mum. About…9 years ago, my parents married other people, and now I have a step brother from my Dad’s marriage and step sister from my mum’s marriage. Oh, and a step mum and step dad. So, I have quite a big family now. 

Example ii

In what way is your family important to you?
Umm. Can you give me a second to think about that?… So, My family means the world to me. We have always been very close and supportive of each other. Whenever I’ve had problems in my life, my family has always been there to help me. I feel I can do anything when I have my family around.  

Example iii

What do you like doing most with your family?
I really enjoy it when my family comes around my house for special occasions, such as Christmas and Easter. Being together at these special times, eating, drinking and playing games is what I love the most. 

Use filler sounds and phrases such as well, so, um, about (Example 1.i). This will make you sound more natural and will give you an opportunity to think about your answer. As well as using fillers, if you are asked a question and you are not sure how to answer it, you can use questions to “buy yourself time” (Example 1.ii).

 

2. Health and the Body

Example i

What sports do you enjoy playing?
I don’t like playing sports or watching sports. It doesn’t interest me. I mean, I used to enjoy playing tennis when I was a child, but as I got older I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore. I became very uninterested in it when I became a teenager because I just wanted to hang out with my friends.  

Example ii

Do you do anything to keep fit?
I like to go jogging. I tried going to the gym, but I didn’t enjoy it because there were too many people in there. Also, they’re all sweaty and making very loud noises – Eugh! It’s not my cup of tea at all.

Example iii

What’s the most popular sport in your country?
I’m not 100% certain. Uh… I would have to say the most popular sport in my country is probably basketball because I hear people talking about it the most. Don’t take my word for it though.

Using occasional and appropriate idioms (Example 2.ii) will ensure that your fluency and vocabulary score is higher. But don’t overdo it! You don’t want to sound like a Shakespearian sonnet! To learn more idioms for IELTS, check out this list.

 

3. Work and Studies

Example i

Are you studying or do you work?
Recently, I’ve been doing both. I’ve been studying for IELTS and I’ve been working as a pharmacist, but now I would like to do the same job in the UK. I would also like to do a Master’s Degree at a British university.

Example ii

Why did you choose to be a pharmacist?
Because when I was a child my grandfather was very ill, and my family was broke. So, we couldn’t afford medicine for him. I promised him that I will become a pharmacist so I can create a special medicine to help him get better.

Example iii

If you couldn’t be a pharmacist, what other job would you do?
That’s a very good question. Uh, maybe a nurse or something along those lines. The thing is I’ve always enjoyed helping people with their medical problems, so I would probably stay within that field of work.

Take your time. Slow down (but not too much!) Most candidates believe speaking quickly will make them sound more fluent. That is incorrect. If the examiner can’t understand you, then you will get a lower band score on your speaking exam. Keep you speaking speed at a normal pace.

 

4. Nature and the environment

Example i

What’s the climate like in your country?
The climate in my country is extremely cold in the winter and absolutely boiling in the summer. This means that in winter we have to prepare the roads, the runways and the railway lines, so transport can still work. It’s not that bad in the summer as we have very good air-con to help keep ourselves cool.

Example ii

What season do you like the most?
I prefer spring and autumn as it’s not too hot and not too cold. It’s the right temperature for me. I can also be outside without wearing a thick coat, like in winter, and I don’t have to put a lot of sunscreen on like I do in the summer.


Example iii

Does the weather affect how you’re feeling?
It does. I love the rain. It really relaxes me. I especially love it when it rains after a long hot summer’s day. The heat makes me feel very uncomfortable and a little bit irritable, but when it rains at the end of the day, I feel all fresh again.

If you want to make faster progress with your preparation for IELTS Speaking, find a native English tutor to help you via Skype or Zoom. Having an online IELTS coach really helps, especially with the Speaking section of the exam!

 

5. Communication

Example i

What’s your mother tongue?
Well, my first language is Spanish. I’m from Argentina though, so it’s not like the Spanish that is spoken in other Spanish speaking countries like Spain, Mexico or Chile. It’s a dialect so the pronunciation and some words can be different.

Example ii

What other languages can you speak?
Although I grew up in Argentina, my Dad’s Italian and my Mum’s Brazilian. So, I could speak Italian, Portuguese and Spanish from a very young age. I started learning English when I was in elementary school. I didn’t like my first English teacher though. She was quite strict. I love being multilingual though. It has allowed me to speak to so many different people, and learn about so many different cultures. When I have more time, I would like to learn Japanese next.

Example iii

How do you like to keep in touch with friends?
If I am far away from my friends, I prefer to use Whatsapp because I can contact them through WIFI. Plus, I can also use video chat if I want to show them something. When I am in my home country, I usually use SMS or call my mates.

Use a mix of grammatical structures, such as complex sentences (Example 5.ii/iii) and conditionals (Example 5.iii). This will demonstrate to the examiner that you can use a range of simple and difficult structures accurately. It also shows variety in your language.

 

6. Technology

Example i

Does everyone have access to the internet in your county?
I believe so. (A) I think most people in the city have a good connection because of the infrastructure. (E/C) However, my Aunty has a terrible connection in the village where she lives. It’s painfully slow. (C) So, I would say most people have an internet connection but the speed differs a lot depending on where you live.

Example ii

What do you use the internet for?
I mostly use the internet for watching movies or a tv series. I stream them from places like Netflix or Amazon Prime. I like to use social media as well. It’s a good way to keep in contact with your friends and family. I do use the web for online shopping, but I like going to a physical store to buy things like clothes.

Example iii

Do you think older people in your country are worried about using new technology?
Generally, yes. Having said that, my Gran, who’s in her late sixties, loves using her smartphone. She enjoys taking selfies and posting them on social media. Admittedly she was a bit nervous at first, but now she can’t seem to live without. I think if you show the older generation the benefits of any new tech, they are more likely to enjoy using it.  

If you have difficulty structuring your answers just remember, A, E/C, C” – otherwise known as the Answer, Example/Contrast, Conclusion approach (Example 6.i). This can help you form your answers and ensure you’re fulfilling the Fluency & Cohesion criteria. Start by answering the question with a simple sentence (A). Next you need to give either an example of your answer (E) or a contrast to your answer (C). Finally sum up the previous sentences by using a conclusion (C).

 

7. Hobbies

Example i

What do you do in your free-time?
I like to read books, watch films and catch-up with friends at a coffee shop.

Example ii

What type of films do you like to watch?
I like to watch all types of movies, but I really like horror films. The scarier the better. I like going to the cinema with my best friends at the weekend. The only thing I will say is I don’t always like the movies that my friends choose.

Example iii

Do you think reading books is important?
My teachers used to say that you need to be well-read because it will help you with your education and later in life. But to be honest, I have always read for pleasure and to be entertained.

Make sure your answers are not too short (Example 7.i). Expand on your answers where possible. If the examiner is speaking more than you, then you’re not doing the exam, the examiner is doing it for you! This means you will lose marks.

 

8. Youth

Example i

What is your most vivid childhood memory?
It has to be the time I fell off my bike when I was 7. I had just got a new bike for my birthday and I went out with friends to a place called Mt Edgecumbe. It has a lot of steep hills and me and my friends decided we wanted to go down one of them. I began going down the hill when I went over a large stone and my bike wheel went the wrong way. I fell off and grazed the entire left side of my body. It was so painful. I still have a few scars, actually.

Example ii

Are you still in touch with your childhood friends?
Yes. My best friend Nikos. We have pretty much grown up together. We went to the same elementary school and high school together and he also lived down the street from me. There was a time when we lost touch, but that’s because we went to different universities. We try to catch-up as much as possible, but we’re both really busy with work at the moment.

Example iii

What was your favourite toy when you were child?
I liked playing with action figures when I was younger. I’ve always had an active imagination, and I enjoyed creating different missions for my action men to go on. In fact, I think my mum still has some of my action figures in her cellar. I would like to pass them down to my own kids one day.

Be careful with certain types of questions (Example 8.i). The examiner is asking a “present tense question”, but it is about your childhood (your past). Here the examiner is testing your understanding of the question and the correct grammar that you should use to respond.

 

9. Home

Example i

Can you describe your hometown?
Sure. I live in a small village about 10 miles southwest of the capital. It has a population of around 2,500. When I was younger, I loved my village as it’s surrounded by lots of woodland, and I could go off on little adventures with my friends. As I grew up though, I got a bit bored of it. There isn’t really a lot to do there. I mean, it has a church, a few shops and a pub, but that’s it. 

Example ii

In what ways would you improve your hometown?
If I was in charge, I would improve the public transport links to the capital. At least that way you could access it easily if you wanted a change of scenery. There isn’t a lot for teenagers and young adults to do there. I don’t think adding more amenities such as more shops, gyms and banks is the right thing to do because this will ruin the look of the village.

Example iii

Why would someone want to visit your hometown?
To be honest, I don’t know. Although people do. As I said before, there really isn’t much to do there. Hmm. Now that I think about it, we do have a few historic buildings and some interesting architecture, oh and some nice wildlife. I guess you take your hometown for granted when you grow up there.

Pay attention to the grammatical structure of the examiner’s question (Example 9.ii)! This particular question is conditional in its structure (In what ways would you improve…). Therefore, you should be using an appropriate conditional response.

 

10. Culture

Example i

What is the most important festival in your country?
Our most important festival is Eid, at the end of Ramadan. We are not only celebrating the end of fasting, but thanking Allah for the strength he gave us throughout the previous month. Mosques will hold special services and a special meal is eaten during the day. We also dress in our best clothes, children receive gifts and we also spend time with our friends and family.

Example ii

Do you think that this festival will still be as important in the future?
I really believe it will. A lot of people in my country are very devout Muslims. We are taught to pray and worship Allah from when we are children.

Example iii

How are weddings celebrated in your country?
So, a Muslim wedding is known as a nikah, and is usually a simple ceremony. Normally, there are readings from the Qur’an, and then the couple say their vows in front of witnesses for both of them. It’s not always necessary, but often there is an imam, which is like a priest in my country. And he will give a short, um, I can’t remember the word in English but it’s like a lecture or speech. There are certain things which all Muslim marriages have to have. Number one, they should never be in secret. Two, you have to tell everyone and you do this by having a large feast, or as we say, a walimah. Finally, the men and women have to be separated. 

Try to use as much topic specific vocabulary as you can (Example 10.ii). This will demonstrate your understanding of specific subjects and boost your vocabulary score. Remember to use it appropriately and accurately for maximum results.

 

11. Travel

Example i

Can you describe your perfect holiday?
I’ve always wanted to visit South Africa. I’d love to go on a safari and see all the wild animals. It’s a dream of mine to camp out on the savannah, watching the sunset and drinking a nice glass of wine surrounded by the wildlife. I want to trek up to Table Mountain as well. I’ve seen pictures of people at the peak of the mountain and they look absolutely incredible.

Example ii

Do you enjoy active holidays then?
Yes, absolutely. I’m not one of those people who like to sit by the pool all day and sunbathe. I get so bored. When I go on holiday, I like to get out there and visit the historical buildings, eat the local food and, if possible, speak to the local people.

Example iii

Is your country popular with tourists?
Oh definitely. I’m from Thailand so most of my country’s economy is from tourism. Although, I have to say some tourists don’t enjoy the humidity, especially westerners. I think what they see in the brochures is not necessarily what they experience. They see the sun, sand and sea and think it’s going to be hot, which it is, but they don’t really think about how humid it is in my country. It doesn’t seem to put them off going there though.    

Using contractions (Example 11.i) consistently and correctly will help you to achieve a higher band score. They are a feature of “natural/native” speech so are associated with better fluency in English.

Want to improve your IELTS Speaking score, and fast? Contact us today to book your consultation with one of our expert exam prep tutors! We can help you get the band score you need.

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Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Written by
Dan Doige
IELTS Tutor
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