IELTS Speaking Tips: How long should my answer be?

This lesson gives IELTS speaking tips: How long should my answer be? This lesson has advice on the best length of your answer for each part of the IELTS speaking test. Learn how many sentences to use for IELTS speaking part 1 or how to expand your talk for IELTS speaking part 2.  Learn how long your answer should be for IELTS speaking part 3.

Speaking Part 1 Advice

I heard that answers for speaking part 1 should be short. Are the answers below ok for part 1?

Q. What was your favorite book or story when you were a child?
A. The first book that I remember really enjoying was ‘……….’. It only took me a few days to read because I liked it so much that I couldn’t put it down.
Q. Do you like reading?
A. Yes, I like reading a lot. I read all sorts of things, including novels, newspapers, magazines, and online articles.

Advice and Tips
  1. Don’t limit your answer to only two sentences.
  2. Be more natural with your answer.
  3. If you have more information to give, then give it. For the second question above, I would probably give more “Yes, I like reading a lot. I read all sorts of things, including novels, newspapers, magazines, and online articles. However, most of my time is spent reading novels in order to relax and forget my problems.”.
  4. Speaking part 1 is 4 to 5 minutes in length for 12 questions. If your fluency is strong, you will be able to give longer answers. If you often hesitate when you answer, then you will waste time and your answers will need to be shorter.
  5. If you have strong fluency then don’t limit your answers to only two sentences. To get a high score in fluency, you must show you are able to speak at length without much effort.
  6. If your answer is too long, the examiner will stop you move on to the next question. That is not a bad thing, it’s just a natural part of the test.

 

Speaking Part 2 Advice

I heard that we must answer each question on the topic card. Is that true?


Describe a family celebration that you remember. You should say
– what you were celebrating
– who was present
– what happened
– and why you like that celebration

Answer to first two prompts:

• I’m going to describe my sister’s wedding day, which took place a few years ago in the town where I grew up. For my sister it was the biggest and most important day of her life.
• I think there were around 100 people at the marriage ceremony, which was held in a church. Even more people came to the party, or the wedding reception as we call it, after the ceremony. Of course, most members of my family were there, as well as the groom’s family and a collection of the bride and groom’s friends and colleagues. The person I remember most was …… because we hadn’t seen each other in over two years so that was a really pleasant surprise. 

Advice and Tips
  1. There are no questions on the topic card.
  2. There are prompts on the card.
  3. Prompts are there to guide you – nothing more.
  4. To give a full talk, you must add much more information to your talk rather than only follow the prompts.
  5. This is your main chance in the test to show your fluency. Use this opportunity and give lots of description and information.
  6. If the prompt asks “who was present”, you can add why they were there, how close you were to those people, how they traveled to the wedding,  if there were any people you wished hadn’t gone, describe a person you clearly remember … You choose what extra information to add.

 

Speaking Part 3 Advice

Is the answer below the right length?

Q. Is it better to get advice from a friend or from a family member?
A. I think it depends on the kind of advice that you need. Parents and grandparents probably have more life experience than a friend, and so you might get a wiser or more sensible answer from them. On the other hand, friends are less likely to become too worried if you go to them with a problem. For example, I probably wouldn’t want to burden my parents with a financial problem.

Answer
  1. The answer above is reasonable but not very detailed.
  2. If you have a very good level of English then this answer does not demonstrate your fluency or a good range of English.
  3. It’s always good in speaking part 3 to give examples.
  4. Give more examples of when you would seek advice from grandparents – what kinds of problems would prompt you to ask for their help?
  5. It is always better in speaking to give more than you need to give, than to give less.

 

How long should my answers be in IELTS speaking?

If you have a lower level of English with many hesitations, your answers will be shorter. If you are a fluent talker, your answer should be longer – in fact it would be a shame to have fluent English and only give short answers.

Here is a link to an IELTS speaking practice test video. There is also a link in that lesson to a model speaking test. You will be able to see clearly how long my answers are: Practice Speaking Test Video

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Comments

  1. Hello Dear Liz!
    Although I read these great questions and answers I am curious about some points.
    1-)First, specifically, how long should my first part last? When I practice with practice questions it takes me 2-2.30 mins for answering first stage questions. I do not want to talk less then expected. So what is the limit for this stage and what is the limit of each of those questions in section 1? Is it bad if I answer one question very long and run out of time without seeing other questions?

    2-)For the last part… How many questions will I see and what is my time and sentence limit for each of those questions? Same question in my mind for stage 3… 🙁

    3-)when people say first part 4-5mins second 3-4 mins third 4-5 mins… Do they include examiner prompts?

    • Your first two questions are answered by yourself in the third question. part 1 lasts for 4-5 mins. This means during those 4-5 mins, the examiner will ask you about 12 questions based on usually three different topics. You can easily time yourself at home by asking and answering 12 questions over a period of no more than 5 mins. You will not be given even 1 second more than 5 mins. The last part is the same time limit, but the questions require a more detailed response. This means you usually get about 5 questions – could be more, could be fewer. The examiner might ask a question and ask you “why?” or “can you give some examples” – this is a way for the examiner to encourage more detail from you. The detail helps you produce more language so the examiner can asses you better. In all part 1 and part 3, the examiner will control the time and the length of your answer – you don’t decide this. If the examiner feels it is time to move to the next question, you will be interrupted in the middle of your answer and the next question will be asked. It is part of the testing system and nothing to worry about.

  2. Hii Liz,

    Just want to confirm a doubt of mine which I faced in my speaking test. Inspite of the fact that I spoke for around 1.5 mins in topic 2, the examiner prompted me to speak more. Well everything went well, its just that as soon as he prompted I again added few more points. So I spoke for in total 2 mins wherein he prompted me twice. Will this affect my marks? Its just that I was concerned about his need for extension of my speech, rest everything went fine.

    • It doesn’t affect your score that the examiner prompted you to continue. It is just a normal part of the testing system. Good luck with your results 🙂

  3. Hi Liz,
    I had my speaking test today, my part 2 topic was to talk about a live sports event I attended. However, I spoke about a live screening I attended of a football game and spoke about that. Only after my test got over I realised I made that mistake. My part 1 and 3 I think were fairly good enough. Do you think I’ll at least manage a band 4?

    • It’s completely fine. It makes no difference if you adapt the topic slightly. You can’t change it, but you can adapt it. Your topic was fine. Judging only by the English in your comment, you should easily get a band score 4. If you don’t, review your exam skills very carefully, because your level of English is easily over band 4. Good luck with your results 🙂

  4. Hello Liz,

    This might be a bit long, as I sort of ramble about stuff open minded. I hope you kindly read. I had my speaking test today and I guess it went pretty well. I only had a little less than 2 weeks to prepare for my test, but I think it was more than enough. I think I did brilliant in every single part of the test, all thanks to you :). Even though I may sound a bit overconfident, I’m actually worried if I messed up a bit in some parts of the exam. However, my parents have been telling me I’m just overthinking about it. This is my first time sitting in an IELTS exam and I’ve got writing, reading and listening tests tomorrow. I’m just going to focus on that first, but this has still been bugging me since morning, haha. I’d also like to share the questions.

    What I didn’t expect was that I would have to take part in my test through a video call on zoom, instead of a face to face conversation. But that’s no big deal. What’s been bothering me is that during the test, the call was stuttering sometimes and I could not hear the examiner for a second or two at all. However, I did tell the examiner about that in a really polite way, and begged his pardon if he could repeat those questions again (only twice the entire exam, one right before part 1 and the other one at part 3). I also reported to the invigilator, but he told me the examiner said it was fine. But on the bright side, I fluently and properly answered every single question I was asked.

    Now, there’s two other things that bothered me. One of em was a mistake of mine. In part 3, while I was answering a question… halfway through, I accidentally picked up the pen from the table and casually waved it around alongside my hands with the flow of my words (lol… This is of course, a bad habit of mine). And almost instantly, I reacted by saying, “Oh, sorry. I accidentally picked up the pen from the table again. *putting it down while continuing my answer without a single pause* So anyways, I do believe that humor…” Would this affect my score badly? I really hope that isn’t the case. The other problem was something about part 2… I freaking nailed the entire thing and talked for like a minute and 40 seconds, until for some reason (and god bless me why). Right after I finished a sentence my brain completely froze for a split second and that’s when I knew, after all this fluency, I really don’t wanna destroy it all through hesitations. I told the examiner that was all I had to share and thanked him for listening.

    Part 1: “Do you work or study?”, “Did you find the subjects easy to understand?”, “What job would you like to do in the future?”, questions about picnics (do you go on, how often, when was the last time etc.) and finally,do you enjoy watching movies?

    Part 2: Describe about a movie that made you laugh (when, where, with who, why exactly did it make you laugh)

    Part 3: A broad discussion about comedy movies, cartoons and most of all humor. I felt like I was the one controlling the questions through my answers more than half of the time. And by that I mean like, whether humor is universal, whether it’s limited to age (cartoons and stuff), action or comedy and “Why do different genders have different preferences, as you’ve mentioned?”

    I had a really fun time answering the speaking test but there’s just some of those stuff that got me worried. Thank you, Liz, if you actually read through all of that and answer me. I’m not a native English speaker and I hardly talk in English other than on social media voice calls. It was quite surprising and sorta funny that most people I’d talk to couldn’t tell whether I was an Aussie or not. Because I live nowhere near those parts. But I guess accents don’t really matter much.

    Again, Liz… I’ve really got to thank you again for explaining all the stuff about IELTS in such a fun and effective way. I’m hoping I’m gonna do really good in the other tests tomorrow. And I heard you were having health issues. Please, get better soon and take care of yourself.

    • I enjoyed reading your message. You’ve got lots of life in you and I see a great future for you. About your first concern of the zoom connectivity problems. Don’t worry about it. The examiner will know that the connection was the problem and not your fluency. So, it wouldn’t affect your score. It does make the examiner’s job of marking more difficult, but they are professionals and by now are used to such issues. You did well to speak out about it. Whenever there is a problem which is beyond your control in a test, always tell someone. Regarding your second worry of waving the pen around – that made me laugh. It doesn’t affect your score at all. You can use whatever body language you want and the more natural you are, the better. Only your spoken English will affect your score. When it comes to pausing because you suddenly lack ideas, that is normal. Even band score 9 allows for such pauses. The examiner knows the difference between people who pause for language problems and those who pause for ideas. Even native speakers pause for ideas and this is allowed by IELTS. So, it seems your parents are correct 🙂 I don’t see anything to worry about. Your speaking score will be based on the language you produced – now it’s just a waiting game.
      Time for you to focus on tomorrow!!! Here are some tips:
      L Don’t lose your focus in the listening test.
      L Key words in the questions will help you follow the order of the questions.
      L Move to the next question without delay so you don’t lose your place.
      R & W Remember to keep your eye on the clock for reading and writing.
      R Each question is worth 1 point and your aim to gain points so manage your time carefully.
      WT1 Academic – make sure you write a clear overview with all key features in it – this is the most important paragraph and replaces the conclusion – don’t miss it out.
      WT1 Add data to support all statements in the body paragraphs (for graphs, tables, charts)
      WT2 Avoid informal language such as the word “kids” and write “children” instead
      WT2 Plan both main points and supporting points before you start writing – make sure all points are relevant
      WT2 Spend time analysing the question, the words and instructions. Too many people don’t read carefully enough and their essay is only loosely connected. Underline the keywords and address the issue or issues given
      WT2 Don’t miss the conclusion – check the time and make sure you write a conclusion

      Lots of luck!! 🙂
      Liz

      • Thank you for such a quick response yesterday, Liz. I wasn’t even expecting a reply, as I came to know you don’t really answer questions… but you did :). And thank you so much for the tips, they worked wonders for me. I wanted reply you back after I was done with the rest of the tests. And I think they went super well.

        As a first timer, I did not have a single clue about the IELTS test at the start. It all started from the ‘How to Prepare for IELTS’ video and I followed all your content till the very end. The topics and ideas, tips and lessons… along with the samples were extremely helpful, especially for the writing test. Because if you didn’t remind me to plan out the introductions, overview and thesis statement, bodies and the conclusion beforehand, give all those samples and ideas, I would’ve never imagined I’d write such an organized and wonderful description of the chart along with the essay.

        I started overthinking about an answer in the listening test, but I remembered you told me to just focus on the rest of the test and I nailed everything. Plus, I completely remembered the correct answer to that single question in the end too, yay! I got a bit nervous during the reading test for literally no reason. But I went through it just as well as the speaking and listening test. Skimming and scanning, speed reading etc. were a thing I already used to do. But your suggested practice materials helped me improve them by a ton.

        For the writing tests, one of my tasks were to describe a bar chart about the top ten sports played by the percentages of Canadian people in two separate years. And the other task was an agree or disagree essay, on whether or not I agree that it’s no longer necessary to learn about the facts of subjects like history or science, due to the existence of the internet.

        Again, thank you, Liz. I would’ve never imagined I’d be confident enough to say that I might score a band 8.5 or 9 on my first time. I can’t thank you enough for spending time to create all these stuff and share all this knowledge. That’s pretty much all I wanted to say. Oh shoot, sorry for typing such a long message again (lol…). I’ll surely let you know about my scores later if you’d like. Take care!

  5. Isabella Carol Ann Jardine says

    my student was asked to talk for longer even though he thought he had spoken for 1.5 mınutes, and then asked again. Will thıs have a negatıve effect on his score_

    Thank you for all your tips I’m sure ıt helped. I am just suprised that he had t talk more,however he ıs very nervous in exams despıte hıs excellent vocabulary.
    Thank you for everythıng

    • Sorry for this late reply. It is the rules of IELTS that a candidate be given 2 minutes to speak. So, when a candidate finishes their part 2 talk early, the examiner must encourage them to continue speaking because it is the candidates right to have 2 mins. However, the candidate does not need to keep speaking. In fact, if they finish early, they can simply say “That’s all, I’ve finished”, then the examiner will understand, move on to the rounding off questions and then move into part 3. Fluency is not marked only by reaching 2 mins in part 2. There are many other factors involved in marking fluency throughout the test. So, it might not have an impact on their score. But, it is a wasted opportunity to stop if the candidate can offer more. Always best to help candidates find ways of extending their talk.

  6. Hi Liz,

    I just want to ask whether it’s normal for an examiner to stop my answer in part 3?

    I sat IELTS test in 2016 in Vietnam and the examiner constantly stop me in part 3 every I seemed to have a point to answer, but he would listen attentively to a question I am more clueless. Sometimes I was just be able to say “From my perspective, I would say that…” but then he jumped onto another questions.

    And strangely, not one topic gets develop. Meaning that normally I heard people would answer 3-4 questions in the same topic, but my topic change every 1-2 question. Every time my answer go beyond 3 sentences he will stop me, which makes me think this is another extended part 1 session.

    I got 5-7 topics in total in part 3 only. (Maths, sky etc)

    I answered part 1 quite well because it has a lot of common questions (1-2 quite new but manageable), part 2 I received a card which requires me to tell a story (again manageable although I didn’t have any experience that fit the cue card)

    • It is normal for your answers to be challenged or interrupted because you are talking about personal things instead of the world in general in part 3. Part 3 is not about yourself. Part 3 is your chance to show you can talk about world issues, not personal issues.
      However, you shouldn’t be interrupted before you actually give an answer. Furthermore, it is fine to start with “From my perspective” – that is fine – it is your personal opinion about world issues and is completely acceptable. Also, in part 3, the topic should follow that of part 2. It is possible for the examiner to change the topic to challenge a higher level candidate, but not to change is continuously from topic to topic. Just one change is enough.
      Certainly, you could complain if you want, but I don’t think it will alter your score. Complaining might make sure the examiner is reviewed which might ensure other candidates don’t have a similar experience. About your score, wait until you get your score. You could ask for a remark if you feel it necessary.

  7. Thank you Liz for the tips shared around this topic.
    In my case, I stutter occasionally and can get more frequent under exam conditions. Is it acceptable to communicate to the examiner my condition at the outset of the speaking test?

  8. Hamza Ben Maaoui says

    Dear teacher Liz, firstly thanks a lot for your valuable efforts and for all the time that you dedicate to improve the IELTS preparation for several people around the globe, may God reward you and your family.

    I will pass the speaking test tomorrow morning and my question is should I try to talk until the examiner stops me in part 1 also or if I feel that my response is clear and sufficient I stop and let the examiner ask the following question.

    For part 3, for example if I don’t talk directly after the examiner asks his question , I take some seconds to think rapidly and start my answer, would it affect the score ? because sometimes seen that in the speaking test there is no sufficient time to think we can lack some ideas in the beginning.

    the last thing , is it normal to shake hands with the examiner when greeting him or it’s better to avoid it seen that it can be not accepted by some persons. Thanks a lot in advance.
    Greetings from Tunisia..

    • The examiner is not interested in your ideas, only your English. So, if the examiner asks “Do you swim?”, he or she isn’t actually interested if you really swim or not, they are interested only in hearing your English. If you give short answers, it means you don’t have enough English to give a longer answer. So, yes, speak until you are stopped. Always keep talking until you are interrupted. Let the examiner decide when it is time to move on to the next question. Answer directly and add more.
      In part 3, the questions are more difficult. But hopefully you will have prepared a lot of topics and have lots of ideas. You do not get thinking time. If you don’t answer directly, it shows your English is failing you. Silence is not good in a language test. If you need thinking time, ask the examiner to repeat the question – it doesn’t affect your score – but don’t do it all the time.
      About your last concern, act in any way that you feel comfortable. Greet the examiner as you wish. But mostly I would advise you to let the examiner direct things. But it is still fine to be yourself and act naturally. Remember this is an informal speaking test.
      Good luck tomorrow!! 🙂

      • Hamza Ben Maaoui says

        thanks a lot for your rapid answer, I just was concerned about exceeding the five minutes limit of part 1 because I can speak for a long time and therefore the examiner will not reach twelve questions.
        I understand that it’s the right strategy now and the examiner will interrupt me when he wants.
        In reality, I’m counting on my level of English, I concentrated more on other parts of the test that seemed more challenging for me like the reading part but hopefully with the topics on your rewarding website and the official cambridge guide to IELTS I will manage to get the band the score that I aim for inchallah.
        Best Regards and a lot of respect great teacher Liz

        • Your English is all that counts in the speaking test. In part 1, show your fluency and willingness to speak straight away. And think about the language you are using and the skills you want to showcase. For example, in part 2, you have 1 minute to prepare. So, use that 1 min to think of future forms, past tenses, comparisons, superlatives, conditional statements (If I had X…, I would …) – all these things boost your score. Add description, details and examples. The more you add, the more English you showcase. In part 3, make sure to focus on talking about people in general and expand your ideas to show ho you can handle complex language and speak at length.
          Good luck!! Let me know how it all goes 🙂

          • Good evening dear teacher Liz,

            I’m trying to post the comment since I finished the exam but it’s not accepted I don’t know why, anyway for my speaking test I think that I spoke well without hesitation or stops , I answered directly modt of the time , however I have two concerns that i want to ask you about.

            in the second part I suppose that I spoke for 1 min 45 , the examiner added one question and we passed directly to part 3 , what it can affect the evaluation ?
            my second concern is about part 3 , in one of the questions after I answered she said the question was and we continued the discussion I guess that I didn’t respond to this question from the beginning , how can it affect the score.

            I had the rest of my test on saturday , it’s was not easy and not difficult in my opinion, the reading part that I was struggling with and I afraid of not finishing on time went well surprisingly and I had time to check and verify my answers, the listening was a little bit difficult despite that it seemed acceptable for me in the practice tests that I had, I improved my reading with the excellent strategies that I found on your website especially for locating answers which was my weaskest point, I losr valuable time on it.
            I’m really grateful for you and I always tell other people to visit your website , the teachers in British council Tunis know your website also and they say it’s one of the best.

            I hope that you will have one day a visit to British Council Tunis where we can learn from all your expertise

            Best Regards

            • Part 2 is your chance to show fluency. While aiming for 2 full minutes is good, it’s fine to speak for only 1.5 mins. At the end of the day, it is more about the level of your English and willingness to speak at length that counts. Fluency is also about the effort involved for you to keep talking. So, don’t worry about that. For the whole of the speaking test, there are no marks for task achievement or completing a question or ideas or developing ideas. It does not affect your marks if your answer wasn’t completely on target. If the examiner guides you, it’s fine. Again, your score will be about the level and range of your English when you speak, not what you understand.
              I’m glad to hear teachers in Tunis know my work. I will certainly put Tunis on my list of places I would one day love to visit 🙂
              Good luck with your results 🙂

              • Hamza Ben Maaoui says

                thanks a lot, I hope that I will get the band score that I worked for.

                • Hamza Ben Maaoui says

                  Dear teacher Liz,

                  thanks to your website , the practice tests in the official cambridge guide to IELTS I achieved my objective and got 7.5 overall band score which I think is a respectable score.
                  Despite that I haven’t too much time to prepare , I was confident practice is the key.
                  I’m very grateful that in our difficult world nowadays great people like you still let their knowledge and expertise available for several learners around the world for free.
                  my score for each section of the test :
                  listening : 7.5
                  reading : 7.5
                  writing : 7
                  speaking : 7

                • I’m so glad to hear your results – very well done 🙂

  9. Im a house wife neither work nor study so what would be the answer of question Do I work Or study?

    • Being direct is always the best policy – “I’m a housewife. I don’t work or study”. IELTS is not a trick test. Just be yourself – it’s an informal speaking test.

  10. Lontsi Vanina says

    Hello Liz, I took my speaking test today and I finish part two before time I don’t know if it will affect my score. And the last part was very confusing, the examiner ask two questions that seems to be similar to me

    • It is common to finish before 2 mins is up. Of course, it’s best to keep speaking until the end, but you can still do well in fluency if you don’t. Your score is based on your overall performance.

  11. Hi Liz,

    Is it fine if i close my eyes and answer to the question posted by the examiner? Or do it create any negative impression in his mind that i am not maintaining eye-contact with him.

    Thanks in advance

    • One problem is that people who close their eyes or look away do that because they are trying to remember an answer that they learned by heart. This is a red flag for the examiner because you can’t use memorised answers – all answers need to be produced naturally. However, there is no actual rule that you need to keep eye contact. Not looking at the examiner doesn’t affect your score because your score is based on the English you produced. So, the key question really is – why would you not look at the person you are speaking to? What is the reason you don’t want to look?

  12. El Bevon dos santoz says

    Hi Liz ,your lessons are understandable . However you didn’t quite answer the question regarding carrying a wrist watch in order to time yourself during speaking part 2. The question is if it is really necessary to carry a wrist watch.

    • You can’t wear a watch in the speaking test. There is no reason for you to think about time in the speaking test. The examiner controls the time and will stop you when it’s time for a new question. You should keep talking until the examiner stops you in part 1 and part 3. In part 2, if you then think “but how do I know what 2 mins feels like?”, I will answer – because you will have practised at least 50 times at home to speak for 2 mins with your stop watch. This means you will instinctively know more or less how long your talk should be from your practice sessions. Even so, the examiner will stop you when 2 mins is up so just keep talking until the examiner stops you. Never think that your answer is too long – there is no such thing. Showing fluency and a willingness to speak is essential for a high score.

      • exactly! it is not necessary to bring watch…even disturbs the concentration and shares some focus that supposed to be in the answering. Liz you explain it perfectly.

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