Not all IELTS Examiners Smile in the Speaking Test

I think it is a good time to talk about your IELTS Speaking Examiners.ย In the IELTS speaking test, you will be face to face with an IELTS speaking examiner who will ask you questions. There are three parts:

  1. short answer questions – about 12 questions in under 5 mins
  2. a talk – 1 mins to prepare and 1-2 mins to talk
  3. a discussion – about 4 to 8 questions in under 5 mins

The IELTS speaking test is informal. This means you need to be open, chatty and friendly throughout your test. This way you can showcase your English to the examiner. For speaking tips and model answers, see my Main IELTS Speaking Page

IELTS Examiners

IELTS examiners are supposed to be friendly, smiley and encouraging. They can’t be chatty with you but they should be encouraging in their body language, facial expressions and general manner. This is what they are taught to do.

BUT not all examiners are friendly. This means it can feel difficult to be chatty and friendly with an examiner if they don’t smile, yawn, avoid looking at you and show disinterest in what you say. Unfortunately, not all examiners are good with body language.

Your Preparation

You need to be prepared to face any type of examiner – encouraging or not encouraging You need to be mentally ready to be chatty and open even if the person you are talking to appears bored.

Your speaking test is 11 to 14 minutes in length. This is not a lot of time. But in that time, you can change your future. So, don’t let a bored examiner control your fate. Take your future into your own hands and be ready for anything.

Students’ Experience

Most IELTS students have a good experience in their IELTS speaking test and some even enjoy it. Most students found the examiner encouraging and friendly. This is the ideal situation. But examiners are humans and a few of them are not prefect – you must be prepared for that.

Your Experience

Please share your experience of the speaking test by posting below.ย Remember this is not a time to complain. It is a time to share experiences – good and bad. Please remember that the aim of this website is to prepare students for IELTS and also BUILD CONFIDENCE !!!

My Message to IELTS

It is time to get a camera in the IELTS speaking test room. Having an audio recording is not enough and certainly behind the times. Having a camera in the room means IELTS can monitor their examiners more closely to ensure that IELTS candidates who have paid money for this test are in fact being tested at the standard that IELTS have set. It should not be acceptable that IELTS have some examiners who put students off talking by appearing bored and annoyed.ย This entirely defeats the purpose of having a face to face speaking test rather than one done with a computer. IELTS want their speaking test to be as life like as possible – but at what time would you have a personal chat with someone for 14 minutes who wishes you weren’t in the room and shows it!

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  1. Liz, only wish I saw this article before I got my speaking tested. I have been studying and working in the US. for 9 years, and I communicate in English everyday. I am very confident with my English speaking skills, and people always tell me they are surprised by my “no accent” English. But I only got a band 6 in my speaking test.

    I know I made a few mistakes during the test. For example, I over talked, I didn’t keep answers within the time limit, a couple of my answers were bit off topic…

    Now I think back, except for that I didn’t prepare to know how to time myself, the one important reason I failed was that my examiner was super rude during the test with his body languages. I was the last one that day, and he seemed super tired from the beginning. I didn’t know that examiners would act like this, so I was having a hard time adjusting to the situation. I was nervous and I could hear my heart jumping out of my throat. He seemed to be very annoyed at my answers, he never smiled back at me the whole time, and he rarely even looked at me.

    I agree with you so much that we pay a significant amount of money to take an exam, and we deserve to be examined in a fair way.

    Thank you for putting out the message. I hope that if the voice is loud enough, they will make some changes someday.

    • I’m so sorry you had that experience. IELTS really need to get cameras into the speaking test room so that this doesn’t happen.

      However, I do have to say more about your speaking test. You said that you think one problem is that you talked too much, pushed past time limits and went off topic. This shows me that you do not understand how the speaking test is marked – and that means you didn’t prepare properly. It is a good thing to talk a lot – it shows fluency and willingness to talk – it doesn’t lower your score. There is NO FIXED TIME for answering questions – the examiner controls the time – you must try to continue speaking as much as possible until the examiner stops you. You said you went off topic a bit – that’s fine and doesn’t lower your score. Your score is language based on response based – ideas are not marked at all.

      Of course, it is awful when you are talking to someone who doesn’t appear interested and is making you feel uncomfortable. But your score is probably also due to the fact that you didn’t understand how to maximise your score. If you do the test again, do not book it until you understand all the right techniques for the speaking test. Judging my your English, you have the potential to do very well – but if you don’t understand how it is marked, you will struggle to get the right score. If I had advanced speaking lessons I would give them to you, but they are not ready yet. So, I can only wish you luck ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hi..liz..
    During my Speaking test examiner make crossed in the paper what indicate it..?

  3. Hi Liz! Happy new year! Is it normal for an examiner to debate a candidate during the test especially in part 3 discussion? Thanks!

    • The examiner can challenge your ideas, ask you to explain – it’s a two way discussion. When the examiner asks for more, it’s because they want to hear a wider range of language.

  4. Hi Liz, I have been training with a person that told me that he is a ielts examiner, they can tell about it? How could I know if he is lying me? Thanks!

  5. Hello Liz,
    I’m an avid fan of yours. ๐Ÿ˜Š Thanks to your website, i learned a lot! I just want to share with you my experience earlier. The speaking part was fine. It was just really difficult to talk and not get any reaction from the interviewer. She didn’t look annoyed nor bored. I think she was the perfect example of ‘poker face’. She had no reaction at all ๐Ÿ˜‚ But i’m still hoping that she’d give me a good score. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Examiners should not have poker faces – they should be smiling and encouraging in their body language so that you feel comfortable. But it sounds like you handled it fine ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. For me, i had my ielts test sometime in June in Nigeria and was faced with an examiner who after asking each question, closed her eyes as if she wasn’t interested in what i was saying. The only times when she opened her eyes was when she was reading the questions. I got a 6.5 after the result was released with L8 W7.5. Liz, how do you handle this to ensure it doesn’t affect your speaking cos i will be siting for another test again soon.

    • You need to boost your confidence and ensure that no behaviour from the examiner will affect you for 14 mins of your life. It isn’t a long time and it can make a difference to your future. So, practice speaking regardless of the person in front of you. Start acting ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. my speaking topic was about politeness
    im glad that i can cope up with the following questions in part 3 although i thought i havent make good answers in part 2, i got a band score 7. maybe because i dont look like anxious or nervous. you just have to be relaxed and just be yourself. i think that helps

  8. I had a lady in my last speaking exam.she was very encouraging and helpful by indicating me with her body gesture to speak more.In fact later she came to the door to say bye.

  9. Jomon thomas says:

    I had attended 4 times speaking test in front of British examiners and they were very friendly minded and encouraged people moreover i was feeling a natural talk..

  10. My experience overall was good. I did the IELTS twice: the first one i got 6.5, the second is 7 ! What is interesting is in part 2 I did horrible and i barely answered the question fully, that was so stressful for me. But I did part 3 very well and thanks for the examiner: with his reactions to my points, wether nodding or smiling (I am a funny guy, so I brought some cool examples to the table) , It was a relief for me. I am not a good story teller, I am good in discussing a topic, and mentioning examples with pushing hard to convince the other side.

  11. Hello Liz,

    As I mentioned you about my speaking experience in recent question section, I had terrible experience in my speaking test.
    Since I am hearing impaired, I was trying to explain him beforehand to speak louder for me but he didn’t listen to my request carefully and behaved that he had known it already.
    Secondly, the room is slightly big and the lighting was not good, so I could not see his lip clearly. (I have to rely on lip reading about 20% because of my hearing.) In one section, he covered his lips with hands and I was feeling more anxious and was not able to elaborate in my speaking. Moreover, since I can’t hear his questions properly, I asked him to repeat it. Then, he made his face, that pushed me into a stressful situation!
    When result came out, I got only band 6. I sat IELTS exam 2 weeks before that attempt and I got 7 in speaking!. It’s really bad that I can’t complaint to examiner and I am pretty scared of to have him when I sit the exam again! In that case, do I have the right to refuse the examiner?
    Thanks with best regards,

    • I don’t know about refusing an examiner. You can ask about that. But it is essential that you make your situation known clearly. Be forceful and explain to the examiner that due to hearing difficulties, you need to lip read. If the examiner covers their lips, you need to ignore the question and say very clearly “Please don’t cover your lips. I need to lip read to understand your question. Please repeat the question again slowly”. You must get this on the recording so that you can appeal later on. This is your test, you have rights – get them on the recording. Good luck next test – hopefully you’ll get a nice examiner ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Thanks so much for your helpful advice and your wishes!
        I will act the way you suggest.

        Best regards,

  12. Mohamed Kat says:

    For me, It was not a very bad experiance. The examiner was very bored with my answer, and she never smiled to back to me. I was the last candidate, so I gauss she had a long day, and then I completely ignored her. I smiled all over my exam, and I was quick and clear with my answers; I did not wait for any approval or support from the examiner. After the exam, A friend of mine was waiting for me, and we get out together. So It was a long day, but diffidently a bad experience for me.
    I got speaking band 6. Even I get listening band 8 and band 7 for reading. I will take the exam one more time next month, and I am confident I can do it this time.
    THANK YOU VERY MUCH, LIZ. Highly appreciate your help and support.

  13. Thank you for making an excellent and long overdue point. In these last few years I’ve heard stories from my students here in Italy who took their speaking test at 6 or 7 p.m. on Saturdays and the examiners rushed through everything and seemed “annoyed” about having to work so late in the day.

  14. Certainly!!! Wish could have camera to capture the gesture of examiner. Horrible experience…. he didn’t even look up at me. Kept on simply reading questions from his booklet as if in cls teachers ask lesson from students. So weird!!!!! It Completely devastated my confidence…. my continuous efforts to entertain him through my conversation seemed to be failing…..
    Poor me…
    However managed to be satisfied with 7 bands

  15. Isha Goswami says:

    My speaking test was on 25th august 2017.
    Describe two members from the same family-
    *who are they?
    *how they look like
    *what similarities are between them?

    I gave my best.
    But when i was speaking she stopped me, i didn’t complete the whole topic, was in the middle.
    But she was smiling by listening my answers because i always try to communicate in good mood with a smile on my face.
    By the way don’t know about score.
    Waiting for result..๐Ÿ˜œ
    At the end she wished me ” have a nice day”.

    I told about my own parants, mom and dad.
    Is that fine?

  16. I recently took the ielts exam
    Speaking intro was About advertisements and birthdays
    Cue card was a recent change related to study or work follow up question was about new experiences like why people do not try new experiences ?
    Why people afraiding to try new experiences ?
    Why children do not try new experiences ?

  17. Aseem goel says:

    My experience at speaking test was good…. the examiner came to receive me at the door into the room…. i was pleased …. then the test started n all through the exam he was smiling,nodding in affirmative n agreed on my views… after 2-3 questions i started feeling confident, the reason may be that i thought the examiner was enjoying what i was saying ….

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