Teaching Tips: IELTS Speaking

Teaching Tips: IELTS Speaking

When I was working as an Assistant Director of studies at an official IELTS test centre I trained up lots of IELTS teachers and worked with IELTS examiners. I organized various sessions and we often discussed IELTS Speaking. These are some great tips and lifehacks we talked over during those days:

- Structure (question-answer format; you can only ask the examiner to repeat a question)

1) 'Small Talk' (questions about you)  4-5 minutes
The first set of questions is either about work, accommodation or hometown; then there could be any topics from clothes to fish.

2) Story / Individual long turn (1-2 minutes monologue / 1 minute to prepare) - 4 minutes

3) More general questions related to the topic in Part 2 - 4-5 minutes
These questions are not about you, but the world/society in general. Here you can get philosophical and Thoughtful. It is a Spoken Essay: from general to specific (examples).

- Students show off their

  • Tenses
  • Functions (agree/disagree/paraphrasing/fillers etc)
  • Topic Vocab

Focus on the high level words

You can play Banned Words game: write the words and/so/but on the WB, give Ss questions from any part,  tell them they should answer the questions, but they mustn't use these words, they should use more complex lexis e.g. Furthermore, What's more, Therefore, However etc. They listen to each other and spot the useage of the banned words. You could ban good/bad or I think to get Ss to use more comples wording.

- Speaking exam format training

1) In the middle/end of the course or both give Ss a full reading test. While they are on it, you do the speaking with one student in another room. Arrange the desk as in the exam and sit down facing the student. Have a stopwatch; paper/pencils ready for the student to take notes. Speaking can last for about 10 minutes. You could reduce it if you have 7/8 students to 8 minutes.

While the student is answering the questions you jot down Good Language they use as well as Errors/Language to improve (simple words).

Provide hot feedback right away. First, ask the student how they feel about their answer, then praise for what was good (fluency/language/grammar/full answers etc); give the student the paper showing the good language they used and ask them to correct the errors either with you or go to the classroom and correct them there.

Say which band the student can achieve (6.5-7.0).

2) Arrange Ss in pairs, one is an examiner, the other a candidate, then they swop. Provide a task to the examiners. You monitor, write their Good Language they use as well as Errors

Language to improve (simple words). Examiners can give bands using the criteria. Provide delayed error correction and comment on their performance.

3) if you have a 121 student, you can record their speaking in class. They can also record themselves and send you their speaking.

4) Students can act as examiners and ask YOU questions. They then give you the band and explain your score. :)

- Your Feedback after pairwork and Your feedback on Ss' speaking

We should provide feedback after students finish speaking. Monitor while they are on the task and write down good language/language to improve on the WB for delayed correction.

Tell them what they should improve to achieve a high score: avoid pausing for language; more complex words such as I reckon/congestion/excellent etc.

Improve their language if they tend to use simple words during the correction stage:                         

good -- ..... (elicit a more complex word)
bad --- .....
I think ---  .....
interesting -- .....

- Students can give Feedback to each other

- How to get Students to use complex grammar or lexis?

Present vocabulary/grammar you want them to use.
For instance, you present the 2nd conditional and elicited some sentences to the WB:

If I were... I'd...
If I could... I'd...
If I had a chance I'd...

Give them IELTS questions. Ask them to answer the questions and use at least 3 sentences with the 2nd conditional. They listen to each other and count.

This focus could help SS to concentrate only on one structure and use it in speech. Later they will find it much easier to squeeze it into their speaking.

The same could be done with the lexis and other grammar structures.


- Answer the question
- Extend your answer: answer +why give details WH questions
- Be enthusiastic, mean it,interested, make the examiner interested
- Paraphrase, use synonyms, clarification (paraphrase yourself/ideas or the words)
- Students may want to provide facts, but IELTS questions are not about facts, they are speaking prompts.
- Make your speech easy to understand, lead the examiner through it, use linking, signpost words


- be silent
- repeat
- worry about the time
- give short answers
- stop to search for words
- try to be super creative
- talk about a different from the cue card topic in Part 2
- worry if the examiner stops you in the middle of your mind-boggling story. It's because of time.

How to Teach IELTS

Ultimate IELTS Course for Teachers

All IELTS Parts with Exam Strategies
IELTS Writing and Speaking Assessment
Insights into Teaching IELTS Effectively

- 8 weeks of Teacher Training
- Live Zoom Sessions

Subscribe to notifications, updates and early bird offers