IELTS Speaking Tips: Asking the Examiner Questions

Can you ask the examiner questions? This page explains clearly about asking the examiner questions in each part of the IELTS speaking test. Learn what questions can you ask and which you can’t ask.

Asking Questions in Speaking Part 1

You can ask the examiner to repeat the question in IELTS speaking part 1 (Could you repeat that, please?) but that’s all. You can’t ask other questions. The examiner is limited to asking questions only in speaking part 1 and can’t help you or explain. The examiner can’t explain questions and can’t explain words.

Asking Questions in Speaking Part 2

You can’t ask any questions in part 2. You can’t ask to change the topic. You must use the topic giving to you and try your best to talk about something related to your cue card.

If you don’t understand a word on your cue card, the examiner can’t help you. You need to follow the topic on your card and follow the prompts you understand. You can add any other information you want to your talk to make it longer which relates to the topic.

The examiner will tell you when to start talking and when to stop. You don’t need to ask.

Asking Questions in Speaking Part 3

You can ask the examiner to explain words and to explain the question in IELTS speaking part 3.  This is useful because the examiner will rephrase the question using different words and make it easier to understand. You can also ask the examiner to repeat the question, the same as part 1. Here is the list of questions you can ask in speaking part 3:

  • Could you explain that, please? (the examiner will rephrase the question)
  • What do you mean exactly? (the examiner will rephrase the question)
  • Could you explain what X means, please? (for a specific word)
  • What does X mean? (for a specific word)

Don’t ask the examiner the following questions

  • Have you been there?
  • What do you think?
  • Where do you come from?
  • Do you agree with me?
  • Can you change the question?
  • Can you give me an example?
  • Can you give me a different topic?
  • What are your opinions?

Thinking Time

Sometimes you need to time to think about the question and think of your answer. One way to do that is to ask the examiner to repeat the question. It is a useful way to gain time to think. Alternatively, you can say “It’s an interesting question. I’ve never really thought about it before. I suppose…” You could use that method for difficult questions in part 3.

Will I lose marks if I ask the examiner to repeat the question?

No, it won’t affect your score. Your score is calculated on fluency, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. There is no score for understanding or comprehension. So, it is fine to ask the examiner to repeat one to two questions in part 1 or to explain a question in part 3.

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  1. Maha Javid says:

    can we ask the exminer to give some time to think in part 1 of speaking test

  2. Hi Liz,
    Just finished my test on November 2,2017. My main concern is on my speaking test. I observed that my examiner was not really chatting with me but asking questions from a check-list and recording directly into the recorder. My question is -is it possible that I will be assessed by what he hears on the recorder after the test or by an on -the-spot assessment?
    Thanks for all your efforts. Emmanuel from Nigeria

  3. Today was my speaking test and I asked examiner to repeat one question more than one times.. I’m feeling worried

  4. Hasib Hasan says:

    liz, is it wrong to use a native non english word accidentally during speaking test? like sleep of tongue… how may it effect the score?

    • If you accidentally use a foreign word in your test, you should immediately paraphrase it by saying “which means ….”. You should avoid using foreign words but it if happens by accident don’t worry but make sure you explain the meaning.

  5. I asked my examiner at the end if I did well. He said that he cant really say so I asked him if he was pleased with my performance to which he had the same answer. Will they terminate my speaking exam?

    • I do not understand your question. What do you mean “will they terminate your test”? The examiner explained that he/she can’t answer the question – that’s all. What is the problem? I don’t see any problem at all.

  6. Amandeep singh Handa says:

    Dear liz,
    My speaking held yersterday and I want to clear two doubts.
    1. My cue card was (science subject you learn in secondary or senior secondary school)
    In this i spoke about 1 and a half mins n examiner stop me and i m worried about the content i spoked on medicine rather than any particular topic.
    Is this effect my score?

    2. In 3rd section,examiner asked me many question but in the end she asked me a long question which i found ununderstandable and i asked he that i didn’t get the question and she replied your speaking test is over

    Is it also effect my score?

    Waiting for your revert

    • 1. content is not marked in speaking – only language you produce is marked.
      2. when the time is up, the examiner will stop the test / you are not scored on understanding in speaking

  7. Ramandeep singh says:

    Hello liz
    It was my speaking today. When examiner give me cud card and i started speaking very confidently but after three or four lines examiner stop me and said it’s ok and he moved to discussion topic…. My concern is that is it ok…. Why the examiner stopped me can it make any negative impact… I am little bit worried

  8. Dear liz
    Ive been examined by the same examiner for 2 of my ielts exams
    In the second one before the start of speaking part of the exam ,she start asking me : did isee you before!!!
    Why your repeating the exam improve your English fist?!!!!!
    Dear is she allowed to say such a thing..she put me in pressure and I became very anxious and frustrated and she gave me low score !!!!
    Ive repeated the exam only 5 days latter with different examiner and i got 7,5
    I want to repeat the exam again because of my writing i need6,5 and i always score 6
    My question can i ask the council before the exam to change the examiner? I dont want her she broke the roles once and im so uncomfortable

    • The examiner was giving you good advice. Students should not take the test again and again and again. If you get a low score, you need to develop your English and then take the test again. Development and improvement are required for a higher score. However, the examiner should not have said this at the beginning of your test because it would make you uncomfortable. She didn’t break any rules. I have not heard of someone asking to change their speaking examiner.

  9. When I began answering one of the questions during the speaking exam, I got lost on my own thoughts and said “I’m sorry, could you repeat the question. I got lost”. Will that affect my score?? And then I realized that the question asked the same as the point that I got to on the previous question, therefore I started my answer with “like I said before” and tried to develop my previous idea a bit more. Is that ok? Or will it prevent me from getting band score 8?

  10. Shifat Sharmin says:

    Hello Liz,

    Hope you are doing well. In speaking, I think my grammar is okay, but I face problems regarding ideas. I can’t get ideas or proper answers quickly while speaking, what can I do?

  11. Ronak Prajapati says:

    Hello liz,
    My speaking is very week. My speaking is on 11th August so plz give me some tips related to speaking. So i can score well.

  12. Dear Liz,

    Please could if I write all my reading and listening answers in capital letters, how can I write roman numbers you tell me how can I

  13. Rajesh kumar says:

    Hello everyone,
    I booked my ielts on coming 29 july.
    So, could anyone tell about their recent test questions came in ielts academic.
    If remeber, please write here.

  14. Ifeoluwa Ijaopo Babatunde says:

    Good morning, my speaking was yesterday and it went very smoothly. I was asked about robots in section one and section 2 was about swimming pool, section three was about leisure facilities and how it affect the youths of the community.

    I am hoping for 8.5. thanks LIz your materials have been very helpful.

    my Reading, hearing and writing is on the 24th.

    • Thanks for sharing 🙂 Good luck in the next part of your test. Keep your eye on the clock in reading and writing – manage your time well !!

  15. Amandeep kaur says:

    i am in australia and my test is on 24th june. i want to ask something on speaking.will examiners notice our clothes?? and what we can do if we dont understand the cue card,i mean we dont know the meaning of a given cue card.what will happen if we wish them good morning at 1pm , will it affect the bands?please reply as soon as possible.

    • You are marked on your speaking only – you can wear anything you want. If you don’t understand the cue card, just speaking on a topic similar to the one you get. Be confident – it won’t affect your score. If you wish them good morning at 1pm, just laugh and say – “I’m a late riser” which means I get up late 🙂 The IELTS speaking test is informal – so be friendly, chatty and try to enjoy it 🙂

  16. Hi, Liz
    I took my speaking on April 29th at British Council inViet Nam, my examiner yawned repeatedly when I begin, so I felt uncomfortable with my answers. He also asked the wrong question 3 times. I wonder whether these things happened frequently in IELTS exam?

    • Sorry to hear that happened to you. It’s not nice talking to someone who appears bored. On the whole, most examiners will try to be positive, friendly and encouraging in their body language. But they are also human and can have bad days or get tired. Good luck with your results 🙂

  17. Hi liz , i watched ur videos nd they are awesome thank u for ur help 🤗 I had my speaking test today. In part 3 the examiner didn’t give me much time to speak she was speaking all the times , is it ok? Nd she also finished my test in 9-12 mins . What does that mean?

  18. I took my speaking test today in Lagos Nigeria.
    In Part 1 I was asked questions related to where I live and shoes
    Part2 was to talk about a historical event, this one was unexpected so I talked about my country’s independence in 1960
    Part3was about museums

    I tried to speak correctly and fluently throughout the test. I hope I get a good bandscore. Thank you so much Liz, your lessons came in handy especially the one on shoes.

  19. Liz’s got this a whole. I did my speaking test today. I answered the questions as exactly as outlined by Liz and I noticed the interviewer smile as I answered.
    Thanks Liz

  20. one important thing isthat i did the repetation too in part 2 but in the last examiner asked me ok now we are going to the part 3
    does it will lose my bands

    • You will be marked on your overall performance, not just in part 2. It is not possible to predict if it will have an impact or not.

  21. Seinn Seinn min says:

    Hi Liz ,
    I have been very impressive with your website . It really helped me a lot whilst I preparing for IELTS exam . I did pretty well in morning section ( listening, reading , writing ) . But I was nervous in the speaking test . I make the most ridiculous mistake ever in my history . Examiner was asking me do you take bag everytime you go out ? I said , no , of course my (bed) stays only at home . And again he asked what kind of bags do you like and why? I love soft and comfy ( beds) !! because I couldn’t sleep easily . !! So I misunderstood the word bag as bed !! Too bad ! Will I get band score zero for not understanding the question at all ? It will be a shame 🙁 i feel still guilty of being confident and kept blaming myself for an hour already and decided to share with others here .
    Thanks for all your tips anyway . I can’t wait two weeks to get my results !!

    • I’m so glad I saw your comment. Relax and don’t worry. You are not marked on understanding the question in speaking. You are also not marked on ideas. You are marked only on your use of English – the word “comfy” is a great word and I’m sure the examiner understood what happened. Lets wait and see what your results are – but for now – chill out. It wasn’t a critical mistake. Go out for a meal with your friends or family and enjoy the freedom from exam stress! 🙂

  22. Hey Liz,
    Today i had my speaking test, and i have a few questions that been bothering me so much.
    First, In part one the examiner was keeping on interrupting me and kept rushing me which got me more nervous, and he wasn’t friendly at all, is it okay for examiner to do all that? I honestly got uncomfortable for the whole time. As for the second part, i read what you just written up there, that its not allowed to ask questions in second part, which unfortunately i did 🙁 i had no idea that we can’t ask to rephrase the questions, however my question for you is that will I lose any marks for asking the examiner in second part?

    • Part 1 is usually rushed. There are only 4 to 5 mins to ask questions and the examiner needs to cover a range of topics and language points. It is not possible to lose marks in speaking. You are marked only on your ability in the English language, not on anything else. So, if you ask any questions that the examiner can’t or doesn’t answer, it won’t affect your score.

  23. Hi liz, can u explain me please. Can i ask the examiner to explan words or explan questions?

  24. Nirmal Patel says:

    Can we ask for examiners comments after the result?

    • The examiner will not give you the results at the end of the test. You must wait until your results are released to find out. The examiner does not comment on your performance.

  25. Madam Liz can i ask the examiner for my score in ielts speaking after examination

  26. Hi, Liz.. I had my speaking test today. It was so easy and the environment was very friendly. at the end of my speaking test, the interviewer had said me thank you, have a good day and GOOD LUCK.
    Keeping this last sentences in mind, what band should I expect in speaking ? My speaking part 1 was good, part 2 was of 1:25 or 1:30 minutes and I was speaking but she interupted and started part 3… the part 3 was also good (she had a strange look towards me on point of view,,, because she had asked me about “are males, and females, both are confidant in your culture. I said no and I had justified it to her too.).

    • The examiner was being friendly. No-one can predict your score unless they listen to your full test. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you 🙂

  27. Hi liz,
    my speaking test was today.i think i did well. my test took 26-28 mins approx. while other test-takers were jus coming out in 14-15 mins max. I was asked a lot of questions. Which according to me i answered fairly well and fluently. In the last part me and examiner had a casual debate about should use of public libraries be free or chargeable. I said they should be but examiner was against it. She was asking lots of why’s and how. I stuck to the first answer i gave and tried to justify what i said. i was calm and cool. But i m worried that i contradicted examiner’s view-point. Can a healthy debate make the examiner pissed-off? Or it doesnt matter if you agree with the examiner or not? before this topic. I was asked about other topics also namely sports, newspapers, my job,my city. They werent asking anyone else sooo many questions. I m confused. Is it a good that i was questioned for the maximum time or it doesnt matter?
    I ll be obliged if you can answer these 2 questions of mine

  28. nur athirah says:

    Hi Liz. I’m just wondering, can I use the word “etc” for the speaking test?

  29. Hello! Liz. In the speaking part 3 how many questions I am allowed to ask the exerminer to repeat or explain? Thanks a lot for your answer

    • In part 3, you can ask the examiner to repeat or explain the question. There is no set number of times but if you do it often then is does show weakness in your English and wastes time in the test.

  30. hi liz
    I found your web site very useful for ielts students.
    I have a doubt. how does it affect the score if I added the examples in speaking part 2?

  31. Hi Mam
    Mam I have problem in speaking actually mam my grammer is fine but I have problem with ideas. I can’t get ideas quickly.
    Please help me.

  32. Hello .mam thanku sk much . Mam today speaking test by mistake l speak the wrong one answer but next question time i realise i speak wrong answer its introductions question time so mam its also effect the my band score introction question

  33. At the end of my speaking test i asked the examiner how was my performance during the test. So i feel it was not correct to ask him that kind of questions. Is it going to affect my score?

  34. hello liz
    It was my speaking yesterday. I got questions about hometown , doing works quickly and cue card was about how you would spend a day off from work and following questions were related to free time.

    I answered all the questions very well But i am really very stressed because Examiner was repeating the questions even without any request for repeating from my side. Will itaffect my scores. Thanx in advance i.

  35. heena kouser says:

    hi my test was on nov 14 i did well but i got l-5.5,r-4.5,w-6,s-6 i want to improve my reading i have to get 6.5 in each. plz help me

  36. mam,,how can i find matching information in reading

  37. Hi are you.could we organise a video call with you via skype or vider so as to practise speaking as u are native english speaker and experienced teacher

  38. Hi Liz,
    thanks for your tips, you really helped me for my IELTS preparation. My results are L7 R7 W6.5 S6. And I need 6.5 in every section. My speaking was quite confusing, the examiner was trying to help me with various face expression which in fact distracted me. I don’t really remember my answers because I was nervous but I tried to keep strong vocabulary and grammar. I might got off topic in the first task. However, do you think that appealing will be worthy? Is there any chance that I can hear the recording and decide whether to appeal or not. How much time does it take to get an answer if I decide to appeal?

  39. Prashant shanker says:

    Hello mam,
    I have my exam on 5th Dec 2015,previously I had through ielts exam on August and I got L-6,R-5.5,W-6,S-6.
    I start as a self starter,could you please give any advice while self preparing

  40. Amrinder singh says:

    Hello mam.
    How many proverbs we can use in writing task2?
    I think use of proverbs is a better way to make it impressive.
    Plz give me some important suggestions about proverbs

    • You should not use proverbs in your writing task 2. You are being marked on the use of your own English language not your memory to quote other people’s words. This has been explained in one of my lessons. Please read all tips and lessons to learn about writing task 2:
      All the best

  41. Abiy Hailu says:

    i will have ielts exam in January ,i do know whether acadamic or general. What do you advise me ? Thank you once again.

    • You must decide for yourself depending on your aims. See the official IELTS site for information.
      All the best

  42. Abiy Hailu says:

    really your lessons about ielts are so helpful.
    thank you

  43. Sardar Ali says:

    Hi Madam your lessons are very helpful for the Ielts test taker .I want to take ielts test in the month of January 2016 so I need your help plz send me some useful tips and lessons for preparation thanx and regards

  44. Hi Liz
    I scored a band of 8 in the recent exam held on the 24th oct. From the bottom of my heart I bless you from providing us with the study materials for free, which enables us to practice.
    I pray to God to give you the strength and tools to do a lot more and prosper.



  45. Hanan Khattak says:

    Hello Liz,
    I hear from my friends that IELTS test from AEO center can give you an edge of .5 or 1 band especially in Speaking task
    Although,I believe that it’s standard test all over the world. Could you give me information about that
    best regard

    • 100% false. All IELTS tests are the same standard worldwide because they are written by the same company. The examiners train in the same way and often together for all testing centers. All IELTS tests are equal.
      All the best

  46. Thanks for the heads up Liz. Now I know it is a good tactic to ask the examiner to explain a question in part 3

  47. thank you for your valauble tips i am going for exam on nov14

    • Abdullah izam says:

      Hello Tins,

      My name is Abdullah and wish to enroll for the IELTS test after two weeks but still i am under the orientation Process, Could you share with me your Experience after conducting Your IELTS, Please? I hope you to hear from you soon.

      Best Regards

  48. thank you so much….

  49. Hi liz
    please tell me how i prepare myself for test. Please give me some idea i mean how, how much time specially writting task 1 plesae share your experience because i just read task 1 any other idea for it & for speaking too as well as other prepeation mthod

    • WAtch my preparation video on the home page and then read the information pages. After that, you decide your time span. Don’t book your test until you repeatedly get the score you want on practice tests.

  50. sachin patel says:

    Hello liz,
    I have just give my ielts speaking on 2nd November. Its all good but i asked examiner to change cue card topic and she said no….hopefully i understood the topic at the end of given time. I spoke very well without being hesitate. Is it affect my score..?

    • It won’t affect your score. You can’t change cue card but you can talk about anything you want related to the topic. You are scored only on your English language, not on ideas or relevancy.

  51. Good evening Liz! Can i have the recent exam questions from all sections please…

  52. hello Liz,

    it was my speaking today .I got questions from home town,swimming,and hand writing areas ,while for Q card it was “talk about an apartment or building that you would like to live in the future ?
    then in the 3rd part she asked about link between climate and structure of homes.

    rest of my modules are on 7th of this month.

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