Everything you need to know to prepare for the IELTS Speaking Test Part 1

student studying for the ielts exam

As the most trusted English exam in the world, every year millions of people take the IELTS exam. While many people do well, others often need to repeat the test. Lack of practice and unfamiliarity with the IELTS test are two common reasons that cause them to miss the mark.

In this article, you will find out more about the IELTS Speaking Test Part 1; common IELTS Speaking topics; and helpful IELTS speaking tips so that you can prepare better for the exam and get the score you deserve.

Introduction to the IELTS Full Speaking Test

The full IELTS Speaking test is quite short and takes no more than 15 minutes.  It is a one-on-one interview with an IELTS examiner, who is an expert in the English language.  There are three parts to the test: Introduction, Long Turn, and Discussion. The difficulty of the speaking test increases as the interview progresses with the examiner grading you according to Fluency, Vocabulary, Grammar, and Pronunciation.  The interview is also recorded for reference (in case you have complaints) and for quality assurance (which is why it is the number 1 test globally!).

Learn about the IELTS Speaking Test Part 1

The Introduction portion of the Speaking test serves as a warm up.  The IELTS Speaking topics that the examiner uses are about everyday subjects (e.g. hobbies, work, school) one might discuss in a normal conversation. Good answers last around 30 seconds per question. Although this section serves as a “warm up,” it is important to do well in this part, especially for high scores like 7.0 and above.

Let’s look at an example question and answer.

Example Question: Do your friends like the same movies that you do?

– No. Most of my friends like horror for some reason or another.  I don’t understand why anybody would want to scare themselves, especially late at night.  When I see something like that, I can’t sleep so horror flicks are a big NO for me, regardless of who the actor is.

Example Question: How have movies changed in your country?

– Over the years I think the movies here have slowly shifted from drama to romantic-comedies. Maybe it’s because people are already emotionally burdened by all the negativity in life which is why they don’t want to spend their free time watching drama.  Everybody wants to be happy so maybe that’s why all these happy movies about love are in demand.

What is the IELTS Examiner Looking for?

As part 1 of the speaking exam is a warm up, the examiner wants to get an initial idea of the test taker’s level. The examiner expects to hear answers that make sense; use a variety of words; and have good grammar and pronunciation.

Caution: Many times candidates are so nervous they say the first thing that comes to mind, not realizing they do not make sense.

For example: What kind of transport do you normally use?

– I like to use the airplane. It is fast and cheap.  It can get me places quickly like school or the grocery.  I usually go with my friends. It’s great.

Obviously, one would wonder how a person could use a plane for daily use, especially if just to go to school or the supermarket!

Test takers should always consider that it is not how quickly they answer or even how “professional sounding” the answer is.  The test is about expression so express exactly how you feel, even if you are unsure about the topic.

A better example: How often do you read the newspaper?

– Oh. I don’t read the newspaper.  I read novels and comic books but not the newspaper.  I think it’s because I can get my daily updates from social media.  If something important happens in the world I usually hear about it from someone else.

This is a good answer as the person was not rattled and able to say confidently that they do not read the newspaper.  More importantly, they were able to explain why and gave other reasons to support this.

Now let’s look at some of the common IELTS Speaking topics and questions that are asked in the IELTS Speaking part 1 Exam.

Common IELTS Speaking Topics for Part 1

The following are some common questions to practice on:


  1. Do you like using computers?
  2. When did you first use a computer?
  3. How has the computer affected your life?
  4. Is it important for you to have the latest computer?


  1. How important is fashion in your culture?
  2. Is it important for you to be fashionable?
  3. What kind of fashion do you not like?
  4. Do you think your fashion will change in the future?


  1. Is it important to have pets in your culture?
  2. Did you have any pets when you were younger?
  3. Which is easier to care for, cats or dogs?
  4. Do you plan on having pets in the future?


  1. What was your school like when you were young?
  2. Did you like going to school when you were younger?
  3. Which subjects gave you the most difficulty?
  4. Would you like your children to attend the same school you did?


  1. How often do you play sports?
  2. What sports did you play when you were young?
  3. Are there any sports you would like to try?
  4. How important are sports in your culture?


  1. What kind of transport do you use daily?
  2. When did you start using that transport?
  3. Do most people in your community use the bus or the train?
  4. What would you like to improve about the transport in your area?


  1. Do you like to travel?
  2. When did you last travel?
  3. Do you prefer travelling with family or friends?
  4. Do your friends travel as often as you do?


  1. What kind of weather does your country have?
  2. How does the weather affect how you feel?
  3. Do you prefer hot or cold weather?
  4. Do you discuss the weather with your friends?


  1. What kind of work do you do?
  2. Have you always wanted to do that job?
  3. What do you like most about your job?
  4. What would you like to change about your job?

5 Things to do to prepare for the IELTS speaking part 1

1. Practice the Different Topics

– A really good test taker can talk about a lot of topics, not just about their work and family.  So practice, practice, practice! If you know that you are weak in a certain area like sports, art, or money matters, then take the time to work on them.  You never know, they might come up!

2. Do NOT Learn Answers by Heart

– Some students make the mistake of memorizing answers. It is a good idea to memories short phrases and expressions but to get a good score, you must answer naturally.  The examiners are wise. If something seems memorized, they might challenge your answers by asking, “Why?” Obviously, if you cannot reply anymore, your score will drop.  

3. Practice with a Friend, Family Member or Teacher

– As practice is very important, it is mentioned twice!  Aside from practicing on your own, it is necessary to practice with a friend.  Sometimes you might THINK you are doing well only to find out that you don’t make any sense when someone else is listening.  Give the other person the list of possible topics and ask them to ask you anything from the list. After a few hours of answering questions you will feel a lot more confident to talk about any of the topics. Obviously, a native speaker is the best option because they can tell if you are off topic, using the wrong tenses, or pronouncing something wrong.

4. Relax and Warm Up before the Test

– To overcome nerves, it is best to practice at least two hours before to get yourself in “English mode.” Ask a friend to come along for moral support and talk to you. You need to get your

5. Be Presentable

– Though it is NOT a job interview, it is still an official exam.  You should be presentable and comfortable in the clothes your choose to wear.  Some make the mistake of dressing too formally as if they were going to a fancy party.  Others dress too casually (as if they were at the beach!) only to feel embarrassed at the test venue when they see others in smart casual clothing.  If you don’t feel comfortable in your clothing, you’ll just end up fidgeting during the interview. Wear what you makes you feel good, but looks decent.

To sum up, the IELTS Speaking Exam Part 1 is basically all about you, so be yourself when you take the test.  But remember, practice really makes perfect so do your part before you enter the test venue.