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The Speaking Exam: How long should I speak?

Students often ask me this question:

Should I speak as long as possible?

The Answer is YES and NO!

It is important to show the examiner that you can speak at length about familiar and unfamiliar topics but you should not always speak as much as you can. You need to understand the different parts of the exam.

If you understand each part of the speaking exam, you can know when it is helpful to speak for a longer time and when it is not necessary.

Let's look at each part of the exam:

Part 1: 4-5 (minutes)

In this part, the examiner will first ask you some introductory questions like:

Can you tell me your full name?

May I see your ID?

After this, the examiner will ask you between 9 - 11 questions on 3 TOPIC areas, which often reflect hobbies or interests such as: photography, music, fitness, gaming etc...

IELTS examiners MUST complete these questions within 4-5 minutes. Therefore, if you speak too much on one question, the examiner might be more focused on finishing on time than on actually listening to your language to give you your score.

TIP: In part 1, you should not speak more than an average of 20 seconds on each question.

TIP: If you give a very short answer in part 1, the examiner may ask you WHY?, so you can be ready for this by answering the WHY before he or she asks you.

PART 2 (3-4 minutes)

In part 2, you need to speak about a topic for 1-2 minutes.

In theory, you only have to speak for 1 minute. However, in reality, the examiner will encourage you to speak for the full two minutes. For example, if you run out of things to say, the examiner will remain silent to encourage you to continue speaking.

You get higher marks for Fluency and Cohesion if you can speak for long periods of time, link your ideas together effectively, and speak without hesitating or getting stuck.

TIP: If you really run out of ideas and have already spoken for 1 minute, let the examiner know that you are finished.

Imagine you have to talk about a movie you have seen. You could say:

1) ...and that's all I have to say about Avatar.

2) ...and therefore, I really think that Avatar is one of the best films ever made. (like a concluding sentence)

Follow-up question.

When you are finished speaking for 1-2 minutes, the examiner will probably ask you a follow-up question. You can choose to make a very short answer or to speak for a longer period of time. However, do not go more than about 30 seconds because there are only 4 minutes maximum for part 2, and you have already used the following:

1 minute to prepare

1-2 minutes to speak

a few seconds to listen to the examiners' instructions

TIP: If you do not speak for the full two minutes, try to give a longer answer to the follow-up question.

Part 3 (4-5 minutes)

In this part, the examiner will ask you a maximum for 6 main questions. The examiner may also ask you follow-ups to some of the main questions.

In this section, you should give longer answers. However, try not to speak more than a minute on any one question.


1) Mix it up. Try to use a mixture of longer and shorter answers. Be natural. Give longer answers to the questions you find easier to talk about.

2) Remember that the longer you speak, the fewer follow-up questions the examiner will ask you.

3) Also, remember that Part 3 is the when you need to impress the examiner with all areas of your speaking, including Fluency and Cohesion.

I will discuss how to score higher with grammar, pronunciation, fluency and vocabulary in another blog.

Therefore, it is important to be prepared and to practice speaking under exam conditions. You can do this with a friend.

You can also practice online with me.

In my classes you will get the exact same experience as in the real exam.

I will also give you an evaluation of your band score and help you with the areas you need to improve.

At the moment, I am offering free classes to the first students who sign up, so don't be lazy and sign up today!

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