IELTS Speaking: How to perform at your best in part 1
Learn how to start your Speaking test confidently and continue this confident performance for the whole test. Today, we will look at some tips to help you perform at your best in part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test.
We have created a series of three articles giving you tips and advice on how to perform at your best in all three parts of the speaking test; the part 1 introduction, the part 2 long turn and the part 3 discussion. Read on to see how to perform at your best in part 1 of the test.
Starting a test can be quite daunting for most test-takers as you know you have to perform at your very best. We will go through some tips on how to successfully prepare for when you start your Speaking test and then to continue speaking in the same manner throughout the test.
Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test is often referred to as the ‘easiest’ part. The reason for this is the fact that the topics in part 1 are very familiar to you. You are asked questions about yourself, what you do and where you come from. You might also be asked questions about your family, your country, your personal experiences, and the activities you do. Talking about yourself should be easy as the vocabulary and topics are familiar to you.
Let’s look at the structure of Part 1: Introduction
The test begins with the examiner introducing himself or herself and checking the test taker’s identification. It then continues as an interview.
If you are asked about where you live, you will be asked questions like this:
Let’s talk about your home town or village.
• What kind of place is it?
• What’s the most interesting part of your town/village?
• What kind of jobs do the people in your town/village do?
• Would you say it’s a good place to live? (Why?)
Let’s move on to talk about accommodation.
• Tell me about the kind of accommodation you live in?
• How long have you lived there?
• What do you like about living there?
• What sort of accommodation would you most like to live in?
Before you read through the following notes, watch an example of part 1of the IELTS test.
Part 1 – Introduction
The best way to start the test confidently is to be confident!
Read through the following steps which tell you what happens at the beginning of your Speaking test and tips and advice on how to perform.
1. The examiner calls your name or candidate number.
Smile and respond with ‘Yes, that’s me’, or a similar phrase, and walk confidently to meet them. You can then greet them with a simple ‘Hello’, or ‘Hi, how are you?‘.
2. Sit down at the test table.
Breathe in and get ready and remember to smile and appear at ease. The examiner will have started the recorder and will have their paperwork ready for the test. The examiner will ask you for your passport, so place it on the table in front of you.
3. The examiner will read out your details and will ask you some basic questions about who you are and where you are from.
Answer this briefly, for example, ‘I come from China’. Do not produce a memorised response about the location of your city and why it is famous. You have not been asked for this information.
4. The examiner checks your ID.
Have your passport ready on the photo page, so it’s easy for you to hand it to the examiner. Say ‘Yes, here you go’, as you hand it to them.
5. The examiner asks you about what you do or where you live.
Be ready for these simple and familiar questions. If you work and study, choose one of these options and don’t tell the examiner that you do both. The examiner will choose which questions they want to ask you based on your answer, so control the choice of topic by saying you either study – or – work. If you don’t study or work, you could respond like this – ‘Actually, I don’t study or work, I’m a stay-at-home parent.’
6. Listen to the tense and make sure your answer matches the tense.
What do you study? – Present – I’m studying science at university.
What did you study? – Past – I studied science when I was at university.
What will you study? – Future – I’m planning to study science in the future.
7. Extend your responses to add some more information to your answer before the examiner asks ‘why?’.
What do you study? – Now – I’m studying science at university because I have always wanted to be a scientist.
What did you study? – Past – I studied science when I was at university and now, I am preparing to do my doctorate.
What will you study? – Future – I’m planning to study science in the future, as I believe that scientists will help us deal with future environmental issues.
8. Prepare for these familiar questions.
Make sure you can talk about your work or study and what you have done and plan to do. Also, make sure you can talk about where you live and your country. When you answer, use a range of cohesive devices and linking words/phrases.
9. Speak clearly at a good pace.
Make sure you open your mouth and clearly enunciate your words. Don’t speak too quickly, or too slowly. If you smile occasionally as you speak, this action opens your mouth a bit wider and helps you to sound clearer. Also, make sure to use intonation and rhythm. Stress important words, or words that show a contrast:
‘Well, when I was younger I loved candies, but now that I’m older, I hate them!
10. If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification.
‘Could you repeat that, please?’
‘What does _____ mean?’
Part 1 – Familiar topics
Once you have answered some questions about what you do or where you live, the examiner will ask you questions on common topics, like your interests and hobbies.
Listen to Aashish from Nepal. He received a band 7.5 for his overall performance in his Speaking test.
He was asked part 1 questions about two familiar topics: friends and food & cooking. Note how he extends his answers giving reasons for his opinion and ideas. If the answer is a bit shorter or the examiner wants to know more about what he said, he asks Aashish to extend with a ‘Why?’ or ‘Why not?’ question.
Practice answering the following questions on these topics:
Let’s go on to talk about friends now:
Are your friends mostly your age or different ages? (Why?)
Do you usually see your friends during the week or at weekends?
The last time you saw your friends, what did you do together?
In what ways are your friends important to you?
I’d like to move on to talk about food and cooking now:
What kind of food do you like to eat?
What kind of new food would you like to try? (Why?)
Do you like cooking? (Why not?)
What was the last meal you cooked?
Use functional language
Using functional language in part 1 will show that you are able to access the language and ideas needed to keep speaking.
Although you probably won’t find part 1 questions difficult to answer, it is important that you vary your language when introducing personal experiences showing the examiner that you can extend your answers.
Here are some examples of phrases you can use:
I remember when…
Back when I was…
I don’t remember exactly when, but…
(Just) the other day…
In my childhood…
When I was very young…
Not so long ago…
Back in the day when I was a teenager…
Preparation is important and being ready to respond easily to familiar questions and familiar topics will mean that you are a more confident speaker.
Now that you understand how to perform at your best in part 1, why not read about how to improve your part 2 long turn.
If you feel you are confident enough to do some official Speaking test practice, why not try an official IELTS practice test, IELTS Progress Check. These practice tests are available for Academic and General Training test takers and include a Speaking test. The test is not a face-to-face test as in the real IELTS test; however, it is realistic in terms of test questions, timing and delivery. The examiner questions are pre-recorded, and timed responses are recorded and uploaded for an official IELTS marker to rate.
With targeted practice like this, you will become more fluent and will be able to achieve the goals you have set!