Speaking part 1

Speaking part 1 is the part of the test where the student is made comfortable.

This is the 'ice-breaker' segment.


The examiner meets the student for the 1st time and will ask for his or her ID for verification. Then they will begin the task of asking 'personal' questions.


These will be about:  job or study, family, hobbies, home city, city of residence (if different),  country, culture, traditions, food, entertainment, transport and more. There are many more, but the core topics are listed above.


The 1st thing we are going to look at are the question types.  What do I mean by this?


This means that many of the questions are structured for the examiner to expect specific types of responses.


Below is a list of most of the types of question you will encounter.

( I have provided some examples below. The bulk of the examples are in the attached  PDF below the examples).


1. List questions
2. Past experience
3. Past and present comparisons.
4. Opinions
5. Comparisons
6. Like/dislike.
7. Hypothetical questions
8. Description questions.
9. Frequency.
10. Preference.
11. Choice
12. Quantity.
13. Method.


All of these questions are structured to get the answers the examiners are looking for. Then they assess your answers, against the 'criteria' they set.




What are the most/least/best........?
What are your favourite......?
What do you like most about.....?
What types/kinds of....?
In what ways do you.....?
How many ways.....?
What clothes/sports/drinks/books/magazines....?


The 'list' type of questions. Here you should produce a list of things. Not a long list, but a list of at least 3-4 things, with an explanation for 1 or 2 of them.




"What types of advertising are there in your country?" (What types..)


"There are many, such as/for example, social media, TV, radio, billboards, flyers, magazine adverts, and internet ads. I would say that TV and social media are the 2 most popular and effective these days".


"In what ways do you take care of your health?"(In what ways..)


"For me, the are no reasons not to be healthy.  The things I do include; eating lots of fruit and vegetables, exercising at the gym regularly, not drinking too much alcohol, and of course, not smoking.  Eating is the most important followed by exercise"


So I have made my list and provided brief explanations for 2 of the things I mentioned. This covers the information the examiner wants and the time factor (average answer time should be around 15-20 seconds).


Past experiences.


Did you....?
Have you ever....?
When did you last...?
When was the last time you...?
Did your....?
When did you begin/start/first....?
Were (object) important to you when you were young/as a child...?


You are being asked to talk about your past experiences. This will allow the examiner to check your use of the past tense in relation to the question being asked. Most past experiences use the 'Simple Past Tense' but watch out for the 'present perfect' (have you ever...?)




"Did you watch much TV when you were a child?"(past experience and tense check).


"Most children watched TV, and I was no different. I liked to watch cartoons and game shows. My favourite program was Thunderbirds"


"Have you ever refused to help someone?" (present perfect, but still the past).


"I have, yes, It was difficult to do but I refused to help my friend, who never saved any money, was always broke, and borrowed money from me, until the time I said no to him"


Using the past tense correctly (in blue) and recalling past experiences.


Past & present comparative language.


Has (topic) changed much over the years?
Do you feel that (object) is more important now than when...?
Are (topic) better or worse than before...?


Comparing past and present needs both past and present tense use, and comparison language.


"Are your weekends more important now than when you were a child?"


"Absolutely! My weekends now are vital to me, as they give me the opportunity to recharge my batteries after a week at work, and allow me to spend more time with my family. Compared to when I was a kid, the weekends then, just meant 'no school' and more 'play time'"

(present tense = green, past tense = blue, comparison = orange)


"Do you think people today have more time to relax than in the past?"


"Comparing the past to now is quite difficult as they are 2 very different eras. In the past people had more job security, and worked less hours, but now people seem to work longer hours because jobs are scarce, so people try to protect theirs by working long hours".




Do you think...?
In your opinion..?
How do you feel about....?
How do you think you could...?
What suggestions would you make to....?
What would you say is/are....?


All of these types of questions are asking for your opinion. Be versatile when answering. Try not say "I think/In my opinion..." try to use alternative choices.


"Do you think public holidays are important?"


"Some are important, while others, I believe, are not so important. Christmas and New Year are a part of the culture, while bank holidays do not signify anything traditional or cultural"


"Do you think people should have to work at weekends?"


"Personally speaking I think that weekends should be a time to relax and not to work, unless of course, you work in a service industry such as a restaurant or hotel for example"


These are some of the examples from the list at the beginning of the lesson. The remainder are attached in the 'Part 1 speaking. Question types' PDF. Please study them, and after studying them, look at the various types of questions in the 'Part 1 questions and answers' PDF, and practice recognising the requirements for each type, and practice providing answers which fit the requirements.

Part 1 questions & answers
Speaking part 1 question types

The video below also has an overview of WH- questions and how to identify them. Some of the video overlaps with the previous exercises, but is more specifically related to the 'topic words' rather than the type of question.

Negative answers.


As teachers we often get asked this question, "what if I don't know anything about the topic the examiner asks about?"


A good question, but ask yourself this, "Does everyone know about every topic out there?"  The answer is NO.   You are taking an English test, not competing on 'Mastermind' (click the link for more information).


The way to treat negative answers is to turn them (wherever possible) into positive answers. We do this in a number of ways:


Change the topic.


Example:  "What type of art is traditional in your country?"


"Well not being an art lover myself, I can't really tell you about traditional art, but I am fond of our traditional songs, of which we have many"


As you can see, the person told the examiner about his/her lack of knowledge about art then talked about a related topic which he or she knew about.


Provide reasons for your negative answer.


Example:  "Does the government in your country provide good facilities for disabled people in public buildings?"


"That is not something I know about, because I don't know any disabled people. None of my friends or family are disabled".


You are speaking from experience here, and providing a good reason why you don't know, because it does not really affect you.


Talk about someone who knows about the topic.


Example: "Do you like photography?"


"I appreciate good photos, but I am not into photography. However, I have a friend who is a very good photographer and does some great work"


At this point I would like to stress that there is nothing wrong with giving negative answers. We do this in our everyday lives, so why not in an IELTS test. The test is about conversation. Not all conversation is positive. Sometimes we give negative answers, so do not panic, just practice.Don't panic!




Asking questions.


Let us clarify this in plain, simple English.  Yes you can ask the examiner questions!


In parts 1 & 3 if you do not understand a question or a word within a question, ask for clarification.


"Sorry, I didn’t get the question. Could you say it again please?"

"Sorry, can you repeat the question please?"

"Sorry, would you mind repeating the question?"

"Sorry, what was the last word?"


All of these responses are perfectly acceptable and do no impact on your score.


Only in part 3 can you ask the examiner to paraphrase a question if you do not understand the way it has been said. (It can be repeated in part 1, but not rephrased).


Sorry, could you explain that question in another way?

Sorry, I didn’t get the question. Could you say it in a different way?


Only do this once or a maximum twice. If you do it more than this number of times, the examiner will begin to suspect that you do not understand, and that 'will' (not 'would') affect your score.


Parroting the Question.


The students that get the best marks in their IELTS tests are the ones who are able to paraphrase the question they’ve been asked. If you make your answer sound too much like the question it doesn’t show off your language skills.


Let's look at some examples of what you should try 'not' to do:


"What is your favourite sport?"  - "My favourite sport is tennis"

"How do you feel when you listen to music" - "When I listen to music I feel..."


Basically,the answers 'parrot' the questions.  This does not demonstrate your own use of English, where you need to show the examiner that you can paraphrase and present answers in other forms.


Examples of paraphrased answers.


"I really love/like / I am really into tennis".

"I experience many emotions through listening to music..."


The last answers demonstrate simple paraphrasing. The questions are answered correctly, but the use of paraphrasing ensures that the answers do not 'repeat' the questions. This approach will earn you a higher score.

Talking about yourself.


This is another topic which actually surprises me when I teach students.


They have very few skills when it comes to:


Self-introduction.   Hometown descriptions.    Hobbies.


These things can be learnt and then put away for when you need them, because they are not going to change.


Self intro. (How can you not know how to introduce yourself?)


Talk about:

Name - age - job or study - family - hobbies - anything interesting or unusual that you do, or have experienced (the last is not so important, but adds spice to your intro).


John Doe.


Hello, my name is John Doe, I am 23 years old, and I am from Manchester in England. I am currently in my last year of university, studying law. I hope to become a tax lawyer after I graduate.

As I said, I am from Manchester, which is famous for Manchester United football club. The city has a lot of old architecture, mixed in with modern buildings like the Canal Wharf. There are a lot of great bars and restaurants, and ample sports facilities. Something for everyone.

There 5 of us in my family, my parents, my younger sister, my older brother and me. My sister Penny is still at school and graduates next year, while my brother Barry, is a Policeman, and is married. I still live at home with my sister. My brother has his own house.

In my spare time I love to watch Manchester United play, I also play the guitar in a band, and I am learning to design websites as an interest. One day I hope to travel to some places around the world.  (Practice by replacing the information here with your own).


If you can't do this, make something up, but the whole idea of part 1 is for you to speak about yourself, so If this is a problem now, then part 2 will be a whole lot worse for you.

For your hometown, research some information. Don't be vague (it is nice!!! what does that tell me?) Talk about food, buildings, entertainment, famous things, traditional things, transport system, weather,...,)

For Hobbies. Do not say "watching movies/reading books" unless you can talk about movies/books you have watched/read and know everything about them. NEVER say "sleeping"   "eating" (unless you cook and eat different types of food as a hobby, and can talk about it)these are not hobbies, they are necessary. Again, make something up if you have to.  The examiner is not from the PNP. He/she is not going to investigate your answers, and put you in jail if they are not true!!!.


Watch the video of speaking part 1. Listen to the question types. See if you recognize the types.  What does she say about her hometown?

Final tips:


  1. Increase your vocabulary by reading and listening to various topics
  2. Speak as much as you can in English. Everyday, even for a short time helps.
  3. Listen to videos of speaking part 1 (and 2, 3) to get more comfortable with the format, the questions, the responses of other candidates.
  4. Also learn to absorb the English in the questions. If you need the structures, you know they are correct (unless the teacher is Chinese!!!) so you can use them when needed.
  5. Do not "parrot' the questions"

That is the end of this 1st lesson of the course. Please refer to the forum if you have any questions (I cannot answer all individual questions, so post them, and I will put the answers on the forum) please feel free to ask.


Salamat po.  Makikita tayo sa susunod na aralin.