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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.

  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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  1. 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.

    • Why would you look at your watch in the speaking test if the examiner controls the time? There is NO reason for you to think about time in the speaking test. You keep talking until the examiner stops you. 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. You practice everything at home, then in the test you let the examiner take control of the time. You NEVER decide when it’s time to stop talking in the test. The examiner will stop you when it’s time. You NEVER decide the answer is long enough, the examiner decides that. Do you feel I still have’t answered this? Do you need a watch in the test room? No.

  2. Hi Liz,
    Is it permissible to refer to the topic card while speaking in order to keep up with the flow (with reference to speaking Part II)? Or is it just shown before one begins to speak?

    • IELTS is not a trick test – they are not testing your memory. Of course you can look at your notes and the cue card while you speak. Your notes are there to remind you of the language you want to introduce into your talk 🙂

  3. Charanjeet singh says:

    Thankyou respected mam
    Your lessons are really helpful. Seriously i can easily understand your language.
    Thankyou very much.
    God bless you to live long life.

  4. Preeti Dogra says:

    Hi Liz,

    Thanks for all the lessons they are really helpful, I have my speaking test tomorrow and I am little nervous so any last minute tips that will help?

    Thanks so much
    I’ll keep you posted after test.


  5. Laura B says:

    Dear Liz,

    First of all, thanks a lot for your clear and detailed lessons, they are really helpful. However, I have a question regarding Speaking Part 2. Is it possible to wear a wrist-watch to time myself during this part of the test? Or should I just keep talking until the examiner stops me? I find it difficult to “understand” how long I have been talking in part 2 without a timer.

    Kind regards


    • 1) You should be practising at home to try and reach 2 mins. 2) The examiner controls the time in all parts of the speaking test. You keep talking until the examiner chooses to move on. In part 2, the examiner MUST give you 2 mins unless you stop early.

  6. Lifna Thomas says:

    Hi Liz,

    Your tips are very useful. Specially in writing I found myself improving after watching your writing tips. Also you explain things in a very simple way with precision. I am lucky that I found your tutorial in the early stage of my preparation and hope all your tips will definitely help me to boost my confidential and score as well. I am planning to give exam on February 2018.

    Thank you

  7. Dear liz,
    so a candidate is being scored after the speaking test immediately ?? or is the recording played once again for `re-evaluation ?

    • The recording is for remarking if you are not happy with the test score and also for checking the examiner when necessary. Do you really think IELTS pays two speaking examiners for each student all the time?

    • I m so much confused for my speaking exam..My speaking test is on 26th august..I have a problem in speaking…Not getting ideas for speaking…
      In speaking module..1 cue card n 3 cues questions r given so on those 3 cues can I speak 2 lines on each cue question to score 7 bands in ielts??

  8. Hi Liz,

    Must we let the examiner ask all questions in Part 1 or is it alright to speak at length and let the examiner cut us off and move on to the following question?

    What if that means the examiner can’t ask us all of the questions he or she has on her script?

    Thank you

    • Just be natural. Give clear, direct answers in part 1 with some extra information. The examiner will control the time and the examiner move on when he/she wants. The examiner has many many many questions and will decide which questions to ask and how many – you don’t control that.

  9. Pls help me mam I have a lack of ideas..that’s why I am worry about my exam.

    • Start preparing ideas for topics in both speaking and writing. Google topics and start writing a list of ideas. You need to do the work to achieve a good score. 🙂

  10. in speaking part 1, how long should my answers be for the questions about work or study and hometown as i saw your questions about them and they are a short answer questions , another thing , i’ve just graduated and i don’t have a job yet should i prepare for work or studying questions or both?

    • There are 12 questions to answer in under 5 mins. This means you will only be able to give answers with about two sentences. As you can see from my model answers. If you don’t have a job, then you say that. This isn’t a tricky test. It is an informal chat with the examiner – so be open and normal “I have just finished my studies and I don’t have a job yet”.

  11. Hi LIZ
    please do we have to answer the questions in order ?

    • I don’t understand your question. The examiner will ask you questions one at a time.

      • Rachid,

        I think you are talking about the second part, and I believe I have an answer for you.

        Like Liz says in the advice above, these are only prompts and NOT questions, and are there as a guide only to build up a detailed and fluent talk on the subject. So just use them to formulate a good answer that contains all that information in a nice, non-jumbled way.

        All the best.

  12. Jean Chau says:

    Hi, may I know if it is a must to use all the prompts in the cue card?
    Thank you.

    • You can use all the prompts, some of the prompts or no prompts. It’s your choice how you tackle your talk and what information you include. Stick to the general topic but develop the talk in your own way.

    • Anitha Sudhir says:

      Dear Liz, Would you be kind enough to explain the speaking task models from Book No: 2 of Cambridge Ielts ? It is an entirely different model. I have a student appearing for the test this 24th. Awaiting your reply.

      • I don’t have access to my IELTS Cambridge books at the moment. What are your concerns? Can you explain them to me?

  13. Mam Liz,, I had my speaking test last week here in Lagos on 15/04/2017,,,, d test goes thus:
    Part 1
    Do u live in apartment or house
    wht do u see through d window
    Do u always have visitors
    Who do visit
    Do u enjoy visiting others
    Do u love taking photograph
    Do u have photographs of when u ar a child
    wht can you say about photograph

    Part 2 (cue card)
    describe a website u know
    wht it is
    how u know it
    wht u do their
    ..and y people visit it
    (actually for dz part,, I talked about Google,,, i said wht I can say about it,,, some if wch ar even still asked in part 3 like internet),,,, but after d exam,,, I realise DAT Google is not even website,,,, but yet I try to relax my mind bcos one of d tip I learnt from u is DAT just try to talk on something related yo d topic ,,, ur idea is not marked but rather ur talk,,,(hope I’m right,, as in on right track)

    Part 3
    do u like shopping
    wht ar d adv of shopping online
    wht ar d adv of internet
    Is there any negative effect of it ( on dz negatv,, I pause in d last part as I was able to say one adv,,i pause for a while to think on d second adv,, we were looking at our self , eyes to eyes,,,, she got to say, okay datz d end of d speaking test,,,then d point came to my mind and i said it as she is rounding up) so hope it doesnt affect my band score?? I wish to av above 6.5,, I answered all the rest of the question perfectly to d best of my knowledge.,….
    All ur tips, lessons and videos really helps…
    Thanks and may God bless you…..

    • Thanks for sharing 🙂 You are not marked on your ideas so talking about google is 100% fine. In part 3, don’t worry if ideas come to you later – it’s fine. You are only marked on the English language you produce. Good luck with your results 🙂

  14. Dr asfandyar khalil says:

    I had the interview a day before i got a small pause in part 2 and examiner said you have time talk more ……… although it was good enough will this pause affect my score to b less than 7 bands …… i have used alot of transitions even

    • If this is the only pause in your test, it won’t have much impact.

      • Dr asfandyar says:

        Thank u very much miss liz it was the only pause that i had in the interview it was just bcox of the reason that i thought that may b the 1 min time is over but when the examiner saod u have time i started my views again in the topic .

        • In speaking, there are two types of pauses. One type of pause is when you are looking for language because you can’t remember the word or you don’t know how to express yourself. The other type of pause is when you hesitate for natural reasons or for an idea. The examiner knows the difference between these types of pauses. The second type which is natural in even your own language, does not affect your score. As long as it’s just slight and not often. So, it sounds like you don’t need to worry. Let us know how your results are 🙂

      • Mirmukhammad says:

        Thank you Liz.I want to ask you about length of speaking in Part2.Some say that it is better to speak 2minutes rather than 1.30 or 1.40 minutes.What would be consequences of speaking less than it is supposed tobe

        • Part 2 is a chance to demonstrate your fluency by speaking at length without effort. Aiming for 2 mins is best but 1.5 mins to also fine – as long as you don’t have hesitations.

  15. rupinder says:

    How can I improve my band score

  16. Ramish Qiyami says:

    very nice things u have mentioned … may God bless u ..

  17. Tofunmi Aro says:

    I am so grateful for these tips. They are really helpful.

  18. Rowshonara zaman says:

    Please give me some information’s regarding reading .thanks mam

  19. Toniya Thomas says:

    Is it necessary to use idioms for speaking exam? I m bit confused regarding this. Can u please help me?

  20. Hi Liza,
    I do thanks for your efforts and guidance you giving the learners. I have problem with speaking in fluency way, i spent 2/3 hours reading English news a day, but it seems that my speaking skills in low still. Now, i need your advice on this issue, how i improve my speaking skill.
    Thanks in advance,

  21. Hi, Liz you are a excellent teacher. i really appreciate for hard work. would you tell me some question relating to time and job ? thank you i am awaiting you’re reply.

  22. dear Liz

    In case I give some details, is not that considered digression?

    Kind Regards.

  23. what different between idp and bc i want to knowwhich was easier in general ielts BC OR IDP? ……………………………..

    For getting good band score…………………………

    • They are both the same. They use the same exam papers and examiners are trained 100% the same. The grading is the same. In fact, they are both part of the same company of IELTS and are equal partners.

  24. What is the difference between idp and bc…i really want to know cause some people said that bc is gud to get high band than idp…..

  25. sandip sharma says:

    can you tell me the speed of talking with examiner in ielts speaking test …

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