IELTS Speaking Changing the Topic: Tips and Advice

Although I’m on holiday, I wanted to share these tips about changing the topic in IELTS speaking.

Many students have asked me if it is possible to change the topic. They also asked me why the examiner continues to ask questions about a topic that you have answered you don’t like. Let me explain…

Changing the topic in IELTS speaking

At no time can you ask the examiner to change the topic. You must prepare enough information and vocabulary on common topics so you can talk about a range of topics.

If the examiner asks you “Do you like art?” and you answer “No, I don’t.”, the examiner will continue to ask you questions about art. Just because you don’t like the topic, doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the topic in English. This is an English language test and high level students should be able to talk about a wide range of topics that you like and also don’t like. Below is an example of how you can still talk about a topic you don’t like.

Part 1

The questions are often simple in speaking part 1. Even if you don’t know much about the question, you can still answer it. Here are some examples:

Q: What kind of art do you like?

A: As I don’t like art, there isn’t one type of style or art form that I particularly like. Of all the art forms, I really don’t like modernist paintings.

Examiner Comment: The student gave a clear and concise answer. The answer was an appropriate length for part 1 and it contained a clear explanation. This answer contains complex sentences which helps the grammar score.  The answer also contains a good range of vocabulary such as “art form”, “style” and “modernist paintings”.

Q. What kind of extreme sports are popular in your country?

A: I don’t know anything about extreme sports so I can’t say which ones are popular. Most people just play regular sports like ball sports and water sports.

Examiner Comments: This reply gives a direct answer and also adds more information. It helps with the criterion of fluency. Although this candidate didn’t give examples of extreme sports, they gave examples of other sports which is appropriate to the topic. This is a strong answer.

More Tips

  • Part 2 –  Try to talk about the topic as closely as you can. If you can’t understand it, talk about something similar. Don’t worry if you don’t use all the prompts on the card.
  • Part 3 – If you really don’t have any ideas for the answer, explain that. The most important thing is to use your English to express yourself.  You can still get good marks for using strong English in your answer. Below is an example of a part 3 question when the candidate can’t think of a clear answer or ideas:

Q: How do you think sports equipment will develop in the future?

A: I have no idea really but I guess that as technology develops, equipment will also change. That is clear from the development of equipment over the past 50 years and the introduction of new materials.

Examiner: Although the answer didn’t go into details, the candidate was able to offer an answer which used both future forms and past tenses which would give a strong score in grammar.

  • Don’t expect the examiner to change your topic because you don’t know much about it. This is a language test and the examiner must test how well you cope talking about different topics.
  • Prepare a range of topics for your IELTS test. Prepare ideas and vocabulary. See the links below for topic lists:
  • There are no marks for a right or wrong answer in IELTS speaking. There are only marks fr your English language.

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  1. Yagnesh Shah says

    I just gave my exam and think the examiner trapped me in part 2.
    Before giving me the topic card she explained me about tpc.The tpc was realted to sports which sports i would like try for 1st time.
    I think i had made following mistakes and i would like to know how much impact it will going to make
    1. She expailned me basic thing about tpoic so i did not even saw to topic card and did not realised it that i have to read that card.I just started making my notes and started speaking i think i spoke for 1.20mins.
    Now, i feel that i might have missed out few
    important tpc of card .. will it going to make any diffrence if i not cover all the points of cards
    I told her since driving is my passion would like F1 car racing sports
    Explined her about that how my parents are
    aginest it since speed can thrill but it might kill as well
    And told about mikel summaker.
    2. She was smiling all the time.. i can normally
    judge people from their facial expression but
    this time i failed in that
    I personally feel my 1st section was good. However i spoke littel more and she stopped me on the question where are u from ? and
    my 3rd section was also good
    Can pls guide/ comment on my 2nd section as soon as possible

    • You are marked only on your English language, not your ideas. If your English language was accurate with a good range, you might do well.

      • Yagnesh Shah says

        Hello liz,
        Appologies for disturibing you on your break time.
        Just wanted to tell you ,Thanks a lot for your kind reply and guidance.
        Tmrw is my LWR test and was watching your videos only.
        Thanks again ☺

        • Good luck!!

          • Hello Liz,
            I scored 7 bands in Speaking with overall band score of 6.
            I just took off from office for 7 days and saw all your videos which helped me a lot during exam.
            My score went down due reading since i missed out few question.
            Thanks a lot for sharing ocean of information.
            Scoring 7 bands in speaking is like dream coming true for me
            Thanks might be very small word to thank you, but thanks a ton brom bottom of my heart.
            HATS OFF TO YOU 🙂

      • Hi, Liz😁😁😁 I am sorry for asking this. But what if I was given a topic to describe any sport activity on the sea and I said sailing, but actually described wind surfing😐😐 how will this affect my Mark?

        • It would be confusing and not coherent so it might affect your score for fluency. The criterion for fluency includes coherence.

  2. Hi Liz,

    Hope u enjoyed ur vacation. Im so glad that ur back with ur posting as this website is really helpful.

    I have a question about the examiner’s attitude. I had an exam yeaterday (13/2/2016) and that was an extraordinary experience; for part 1, he skipped the introduction part where he supposed to explain about the general questions and he was asking me for the topic that was completely irrelevant to the part 2.

    For example, the question was about the special event or vacation and for the part 3, he asked me about the culture, work competition and noisy problems.

    Eventhough I do not have an option to choose for the topic, wouldnt this too much changing the topic?

    How shall I see of this examiner’s attitude?

  3. you’re so helpful and thank you

  4. Hi Liz, I find some IELTS qwestions too personal. Especially about my childhood. What do you think will happen if I answer in the following way:

    – Did you have a happy childhood?
    – No I didn’t. It is the reason why I used to visit a psychologist for 4 years in the past trying to fogert it.

    I took this question from the book from Mat Clark. Do you think the examiner would ask me the next qwestion? The next one woul be then:

    – What part of your childhood do you remember most?
    – It is the part, which I’ve been trying to forget for the whole my life! 🙁

    I find it difficult to invent happy stories… and this might arise some emotions which I don’t want to have on the exam…

  5. Hi Liz,

    First of all thanks for this blog. It is just amazing and helps a lot! I wanted to ask you something about my speaking test. I was asked by the examiner. “Did you like history lessons at school” My answer was “No, I did not like history lessons. Our teacher was very strict and he required memorizing years of this or that event in history. I am not good at memorizing numbers, so I did not like the lessons at all.” No my question is – Is it ok to say that I do not like history, I do not read history books and I prefer reading fiction and fantasy, as well as detective stories. Are these kind of answers OK in part 1? Thanks!

    • You have given an answer which contains complex grammar and also a good range of vocabulary. It’s a strong answer.
      All the best

  6. Geraldine Escabarte says

    Hi Liz! I have taken Ielts 5times already and I always have 6.5 in reading and sometimes 6.5 in writing . If I enroll in your course online, how do you check the writing part and what best advice can you give me for reading. ? I need to get 7 in all sections for my Nursing qualification here in UK.Thank you.

  7. Feri Afrianto says

    Hi Liz , my name Feri , from Indonesia , for the next day at 8th and 9th Januari i will face an IELTS exam i really worry to get band less than 5 , i have try for train my self with speaking test from smartphone, but not in listening, writting dan reading . I always try to read newspaper, books , and try to remind many vocabulary, but i always forget the new words, please help me how to remember the new word. and please pray for me . I have watch all your video liz, I really helpfull by your video. It have add my competency, skill, knowledge and information . but i still have no confidence , please give me some advice to encourage my self . Thank you liz

  8. Hi liz
    thx for ur wonderfull effort
    but i hve a q.
    in egypt.examiners do intened to fail exam.takers
    just to make ys retake z ezam and pay again tge fees..
    wt can we do about that??

    • All students I have met who have failed to get the band score they wanted, understood little about the band score requirements and didn’t possess the level of English necessary. Examiners don’t know the band score you are aiming for. They mark carefully and are both trained and checked in their marking. If you fail to get the band score you want, spend more time developing accuracy and depth of understanding in English and also get professional training so you know how your speaking and writing are actually marked.
      All the best

  9. Nice insight Liz – all the best, Philip

  10. Narender Kumar says

    Hello Mam, i just have taken IELTS and got L-7.5, R-6, W-6.5 & S-6.5, which is marginally less than the requirement. I just surprised to see a fractional score in Speaking & writing which are more subjective. I visited on your website only one week ahead of the exam and got some useful tips. Things would have been better if i could do it earlier. I think i am taking a bit longer in reading. kindly suggest to improve my reading skills.

  11. Hi Liz! I’m your student from Uzbekistan. I have started studying ielts with your blog a month ago. Your lessons realy wonderful. I like them. In May, I’m going to pass exam, but still I have many problems with my english. I hope with you I can achieve my goal and I can take high score and I can change my life. Thank you very much for your help. You the best teacher I have ever met. Thank you Liz

    • Make sure you work on both your English language accuracy as well as your understanding of IELTS.
      All the best

  12. poonam mehta says

    thank you maam

  13. Neeraj Mahajan says

    Hi Liz,

    I have recently given GT exam on 12 December and got very unexpected results. R6.5, L6.5, W6.0, S7.0. My performance was good in listening and writing but I got less score compare to my expectations. In general my reading is good but got stuck in section 1 during exam and was not able to do well to get 7. In speaking part, I didn’t had good experience, I took couple of big pauses in between and in round one when examiner asked me about museum, I replied ‘difficult question , I don’t have any interest in museums or history’ . I need 7 in each and don’t know what to do. Could you please help me or suggest something.

  14. I appreciate your assistance, Kindly to know how to get highest score band in Listening module.

  15. hello liz , I had given IELTS academic exam on nov 21 I got 5 band in writing i required 5.5 band so can I go for remarking and can remarking also decrease my score to 4.5 another thing is that i take extra sheet for just conclusion and write about 5 lines is this also reason for low bands and please also provide me special tips for improving writing band score from 5 to 6 bands

    • Without seeing your writing I can’t advise you on taking a remark or not. Clearly there were serious issues with your writing which is why you got band 5. My only recommendation is to get one of my advanced lessons to learn what the examiner expects in an IELTS essay. However, knowing the technique is only one step, you still need to produce an essay with a good degree of accuracy in the English language. Here’s a link to my advanced lessons:

  16. Thank you Liz, for this wonderful guideline required in speaking test. I just sat for my ielts exam, i hope for a good result, thanks to your tips.

    • Fingers crossed 🙂

      • Hi Liz,

        I wish to thank you so much for all your support throughout my Ielts journey, yes it was a journey because I have lost count of the times I sat for this exam until I stumbled into your blog. Your tips in the four module of Ielts exams were exceptionally helpful and I made sure I tried out some of the free exam questions you also uploaded. I just checked my result online: listening and reading -8, while Writing and speaking is 7.
        I am so glad and I wish to appreciate the unmeasurable effort you put into the blog to make a success your students. Please do keep the good work going.

  17. Thanks. I hope your blog remains free.

  18. This is a great point indeed, but I have other concern; In my normal live I am short answering man , will this affect the way the examiner evaluates my answers? for example if I have been asked what kind of extreme sports are popular in your country? I would just reply: Wrestling and boxing!

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