The International Language Testing System is a widely accepted English proficiency test taken by those students aiming to study in foreign institutions all over the world. It tests a candidate’s ability to communicate in English and is based on four essential skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.
The Speaking section of IELTS is a vital part of the test wherein the candidate’s pronunciation, fluency, grammar and vocabulary are checked. The test is divided into three parts, and the candidate must answer each with the help of cue cards of IELTS.
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Here is a comprehensive guide on IELTS speaking, along with sample questions, tips, syllabus and much more.
IELTS Syllabus for Speaking Test
IELTS is essential of two types: Academic and General Module. The former applies to those candidates who wish to pursue higher education abroad. On the other hand, the General Module is opted by those students planning to immigrate to English-speaking countries either for training or work purposes.
However, the speaking test remains the same for both types and assesses whether the candidate can communicate in English effectively with the native English speakers.
The total time for the test is approximately 11-14 minutes, and the syllabus is underlined below:
Part 1- Introduction and interview
Here, the interviewer and the candidate will introduce themselves and generally involves asking questions around generic topics such as family, education, hobbies and professional life. This session stretches to 4-5 minutes.
Part 2– Individual talk
Here candidates select cue cards of IELTS and speak on the topic at least for 2 minutes. The test-taker can make notes on the topic and must do so within the preparation time. After the stipulated time, follow-up questions are asked on the same topic. In this section, the candidate’s ability to communicate without any pause is assessed along with their language usage. This session is generally 3-4 minutes.
Part 3– Long discussion
The candidate must explain elaborately the topic given in cue cards of IELTS. More abstract issues will be discussed and may involve asking questions such as:
- What makes the subject important, according to you?
- Related questions to the topic
The main focus of the task is to assess whether the candidate is able to justify their opinions and if they are able to elaborate on the issue. This session stretches to 4-5 minutes.
Starting with IELTS speaking cards
The candidates will be given cue cards of IELTS, which will consist of 3-4 questions. However, it is marked on four parameters and will be marked on a range of 1-9.
Pronunciation– The examiner will assess: sound linking, intonation, clarity and individual phonic sounds. The way the candidate pronounce words is important, and the accent must be clear.
Lexical resource– This checks the usage of vocabulary the candidate has. The examiner will check whether the candidate uses different words for conveying their meaning. Even paraphrasing is taken into account.
Grammatical range and accuracy– The sentence construction and its formation are assessed. This must not sound forced and should be accurate.
Fluency and coherence– This is to determine whether the candidate is able to talk without any hesitancy and can connect ideas or not. The usage of pronouns, conjunctions etc., are tested along with the ability to speak for a long period.
Hence, it is advisable that the candidates:
- Do not memorize responses
- Understand what the topic asks
- Write the keywords down and converse using them
- Writing the vocabulary down
- In the paper, divide the topics into introduction, transition word, description and perspective.
- Do not use unknown words
- No repetitive phrases
- Not too many pauses
Expected IELTS cue cards for an upcoming exam
Many candidates are afraid of the speaking section as they do not know what type of questions will be asked by the examiner. This often lowers the self-confidence and leads to more pauses on the part of the candidates, ultimately reducing their band score in this section.
That is why we have prepared a list of expected IELTS cue cards for 2021 for the candidates. They can then practice cue cards of IELTS before the exam and evaluate themselves. This way, they can understand what is expected of them in each section. However, memorization is not beneficial at all and must be avoided at all costs.
- Describe an occasion which you were afraid of
- The shopping experience in a street market
- Experience in solving a puzzle
- A city where you want to live in future
- Talk about your favourite singer
- A piece of local news that intrigued you
- A time when you helped your friend
- Moving to a new school or shifting to a new home
- One of the most difficult things you have done
- A book that you enjoy reading
- A café you would like to visit
- A leisure activity that you would want to try near or in the sea
- Art and craft activity that you had at school
- A quiet place you would like to visit
- A movie you liked
- An interesting thing you had seen on social media
- A new public private building you would want to visit
- A company that you wish to be employed at
- A website that you often use
- A practical skill you have learned
- Your favourite politician
- A gadget that is your favourite
- An important decision you made
- An experience that you found the most exciting
- Describe a time when you had been late for some work
- A family member who you bond well with
- An aspect of science that interests you
- An idol who you looked up to when you were a child
- Experience of visiting a farm
- Your favourite author
- A song or poem on the history of the country
- An electronic device you wish to own
- Explain what would you do if you won a large prize of money
- A friend who has played a pivotal role in your life
- A part-time job you would wish to pursue abroad
- A creative personality whose work you look up to
- The habit your friend has and why you would like to develop that
- Explain why you admire the certain businessman
- A poisonous plant that exists in your homeland or country
- A short journey that you had taken but ended up disliking it
- A time which made you revisit your opinion and change it
- An ambition that you have harnessed from a long period of time
- An occasion where you did not use your time properly
- An experience where you had been cheated
- A risk that led to a positive outcome
- An advertisement that remained in your memory
- An application made through AI
- A pandemic that you experienced
- Description of a dream that you wish for to come true
- A movie that is your inspiration
Common IELTS speaking topics
It is important to be aware of the common topics that come in IELTS speaking to attain a high score.
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Below is a comprehensive list of common cue cards of IELTS topics that come in the speaking test. Students can practice these topics to nail this section:
- A childhood event that made you happy
- A photograph that is really close to your heart
A person you know
- A person whose influence has left an impact in your life
- An individual who you find interesting
- Your favourite teacher in school
- A present you have gifted to someone
- A gift that you liked
- Your favourite part of the day
- Your favourite song
- An exercise that you enjoy
- An event that you had attended
- Any sport that you wish to try
- A country to which you want to travel to
- Any waterbody that you have visited
- A vacation that you took recently
- A place that you find polluted
- Talk about your family
- Describe your experience in the family picnic
- A family event that you are excited about
- Describe a time when you had borrowed something useful from someone
- A product that made you content
- A meal that you enjoy
- Food that you ate outside
- Your favourite book
- A website you frequently visit
- A comedian who you find entertaining
- A TV show that you love
- A building which you like
- Any good news that you have received recently
- A time when you imagined something
- Any situation that had made you grumpy or angry
Samples IELTS speaking cue cards
To help candidates prepare the speaking section, the following cue cards of IELTS can be highly useful:
- “Do you enjoy travelling?”
Here the candidate must explain whether they enjoy travelling or not. They can explain what type of locations they like and provide a reason for it as well.
- “What do you like to do during your holidays”?
The student can start explaining their places of interest. For instance, the candidate may state, “I enjoy visiting museums and on my last vacation, had visited Rome. That was memorable and was an exciting experience!”.
IELTS speaking cue card will be provided. The candidate should try to break down the question into several parts while answering for the cue card of IELTS. For instance, the candidates may be asked to:
Describe a decision that changed their life
The candidate should start by explaining what their decision was and if any other choices had been available. Furthermore, the student must explain why they took the decision in the first place.
They can start like, “A recent decision involved my wish to pursue study abroad. Of course, before me, no one from my family had gone abroad, although my parents had hoped that I would join their family business. However, I wanted to pursue marketing in the UK and hence made this choice. I am very content and confident that this will help me in my career. When I go back to my country, I aim to expand my family business with our knowledge”.
Questions such as these deal with an event of the past. Candidates will be able to nail this if:
- They use a wide range of tenses
- Paraphrasing the question
- Avoiding the usage of terms such as actually
- Straight cut and answering to the point
- Ending the answer with a summarising sentence
Favourite vacation of your life
The student can first introduce the topic and then write down in cue cards of IELTS about:
- The place they took the vacation
- When they took it
- Who all went along in this trip
“What kind of possessions provide status to people?”
The candidate can begin by explaining the possessions that offer status in certain circumstances. For instance, they can start with “In public, cars such as Mercedes Benz may symbolise status because the majority of people would not be able to afford at all. Not only that, the property one owns is also a sign of status”.
“Were the same possessions considered valuable in the past?”
The candidate can compare how the possessions in the past and present have changed and provided their perspective on it.
“What is the reason people display their status in society?”
The student can give their opinion first by highlighting how it is in human nature to show success and wealth. Then, the candidate can state how the societal pressure exists and how displaying status is correlated to earning respect.
The speaking section is one of the most challenging areas of the IELTS exam. However, following this comprehensive guide of cue cards of IELTS will help students achieve a good score. Students can prepare for it likewise and more efficiently.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I get a 9 score in IELTS speaking?
Yes, it is possible to get 9 in IELTS. However, the candidate must try to:
- Not give a one-word answer
- Try to align your thoughts first and understand what the topic is demanding from you
- Try to put forward facts
2. How long is the speaking test for?
The speaking test is approximately 11- 14 minutes and consists of 3 parts.
3. Can I ask the examiner questions in the speaking test?
Yes, the candidate can ask the examiner to repeat the question for easier understanding.
Experienced IELTS prep trainer and education management industry veteran. Specializes in public speaking, international education, market research, mentoring, and management.