How do IELTS examiners do the IELTS speaking test?

Entering the room

The examiner will come and collect you and take you into the room.  You are being recorded at this point to make sure that everything is legal and that the examiner is not corrupt.  The examiner cannot talk to you although they will ask whether you have mobile phone, smartwatch etc.  Once you sit down, the examiner will start the test by doing the “This is the International Language Testing System speaking test……etc”.  You can relax.  You don’t have to do anything here.  Once the examiner has said their examiner number, switch yourself back on!

You will be asked for your name and ID.  You may be asked to pull down your mask to check your identity.  Once this has been done, we can start.

Speaking Part 1 – Q & A

The examiner will ask you about what you do (work/study) or where you live.  Keep your answers short.  This is a really good article on how to answer the questions.

For the next questions, the examiner has 14 sets of questions to choose from and they could be about anything from climbing trees to using a computer.

The key here is to answer the question and explain why.  For example

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Did you climb trees when you were a child? CompareYes, I did but not any more.toYes, although I can’t believe that I used to do that.  I’m terrified of heights now!  In the park near my house, there was a woods and me and my friends (or “my friends and I”) used to go there to climb trees and throw things at each other.  We were pretty stupid!Have you ever climbed a tree? CompareYes, I have.  I don’t remember why.toYes, probably loads of times.  I can’t actually remember a specific time but I remember a woods near my house and me and my friends (or “my friends and I”) used to go there to climb trees and throw things at each other.  We were pretty stupid!  

If the examiner is asking you ‘Why?” all the time then you are not developing your answers enough.

Speaking Part 2 – Speaking on your own for 2 minutes

This is where the examiner makes a very important choice about your speaking score.  Your performance in Part 2 affects the questions you are given in Part 3.  In Part 3, there are easier and more difficult questions.  Obviously, the weaker candidates get the easier questions.

This is also a chance for the examiner to really listen to your speech without having to think about the next question they will ask you.  You really need to practice speaking for 2 minutes so the examiner can stop you.  This is a good article on how to do this.  You will also get asked a follow up question about what you have said.  Just give a very short answer here.

Speaking Part 3 – the conversation

This is the toughest part.  So, let’s imagine, you have talked for 2 minutes in Part 2 and you had quite a lot to say.  Now, the examiner will choose the more challenging questions for Band 7+ candidates to ask you to see where you are in Band 7 to 9.

This part is very similar to IELTS writing.  You are asked for your opinion and you have to justify it.  However, you cannot justify it with personal experiences (Personal experiences are fine in IELTS writing though).  The idea here is for you to be able to use your background knowledge, or add hypothetical ideas to support your opinions.  Use the news, stories you have heard etc but just don’t talk about yourself.  Why?  Because it is easy to talk about yourself.

The examiner will push you here and the questions can be quite tough.  Don’t say you don’t have an opinion or that you have never thought about it before.  Answer the best you can.

Once the time is up, the test will finish.  Say “Goodbye” and that is it.  You are still being recorded until you leave the room so the examiner cannot say anything to you.

After you leave the room the examiner will use the marking criteria to give you a mark for

Fluency and coherence and coherenceLexical resourceGrammatical range and accuracyPronunciation
Did you hesitate?Did you self correctDid you pause to look for vocabulary?Did your ideas make sense?Did you use linking words?Did you use a wide range of vocabulary?  Was there repetition in your speech because you didn’t have the right word?Were you able to paraphrase?Did you make errors with word choice?Did you use a range of structures?Did you use a mix of simple and complex structures?Were your complex structures accurate?Did you make a lot of mistakes?Could the examiner understand you all through the test?Did you use intonation correctly?Did you stress words correctly?Did you use weak forms?

There are more things for each criterion but you get the idea.

It takes a long time for an examiner to become competent and confident.  However, once you have this experience, you can grade someone’s speech or writing very accurately.

It is frustrating for us at upmyielts to see so many people doing IELTS again and again.  It shows that it isn’t being taught properly and people who call themselves IELTS gurus are just not that.  Be careful where you get your IELTS support from.

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