The speaking test is an interview which assesses how well you can communicate in spoken English. It is a test of general speaking skills and is broadly the same for all candidates. The interview lasts for eleven to fourteen minutes and is in three main sections:
- the first part is on familiar topics such as your work or study experience, your family or home culture and your interests or hobbies.
- this is followed by a part where you are asked to talk on a particular topic for one to two minutes. You are given a card which states what you should talk about and you are given one minute to prepare. At the end of your one to two minutes the examiner may ask you one or two questions before moving on to the third part of the test.
- the final part is an extension of the part 2 topic to a more abstract discussion of related issues.
You are assessed on your ability to communicate fluently, clearly (i.e. with clear pronunciation) and accurately using appropriate grammar and vocabulary. Your fluency is being assessed so it is important to say as much as you can as well as to speak spontaneously and not to learn what you are going to say. If the examiner thinks you are giving a prepared answer he or she will quickly change the question. Throughout the speaking test, the examiners will ask the questions and control the timing and the move from one part to another. The interview will be recorded. This is to make sure the interviewers and band scores are consistent in all IELTS centres.
To get maximum benefit all the practice should be done without preparing your answers. You will not know exactly what the examiner is going to ask or exactly how he or she will ask it. You need to be spontaneous, to speak as naturally and fluently as possible. The aim of this practice section is to help you to prepare for the type of questions you will get and practise dealing with them without preparing specific answers. It is important to keep to this for two reasons. First, the examiner will notice if you are repeating something you have learned and will stop you. Second, though it may seem difficult at first, it will actually make the test easier for you if you relax and talk naturally rather than trying to remember a ready-made answer. So the first and most important skill is talking fluently.
The only way to improve your fluency is by getting a lot of practice in speaking. Be confident. Think about what you want to say. Of course you should try to get your English right, but do not worry too much about getting everything absolutely correct. The important thing is that you should speak and listen, that you should engage in an extended interview with the examiner and that you should enjoy using your English to communicate with an English speaker.