Not all IELTS Examiners Smile in the Speaking Test

I think it is a good time to talk about your IELTS Speaking Examiners.Β 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.Β 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.Β 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. An examiner appearing annoyed or disinterested has nothing to do with you as a candidate or your performance. We are required to be neutral in our expressions which you may interpret negatively- especially if we naturally have a “resting bitch face”. They also might just be having a bad day. But, in my opinion, there’s a good chance that an annoyed examiner is being overworked by the BC/IDP. There are breaks required every 5 candidates and there is a cap on the number of candidates they can get per day. Often those standards are pushed for the sake of efficiency. Imagine doing 25 candidates in one day and not getting a bathroom break for hours. We don’t punish the candidate for this though. Wishing everyone great success on your IELTS exams!

  2. Krishna M says

    Hi Liz,
    Thank you for your work and your website.
    I would like to share my experience of the IELTS exam specially the speaking portion. I took the IELTS test on Saturday May 18, 2019 here in Dallas, TX. The speaking examiner was a big old lady (no offense intended, just being honest). She did not smile and she wanted to rush rush rush. She did not have time for anything and she was barely breathing. It was as if she wanted to be done with all the students and go home early. She seemed kind of upset, perhaps she was angry that she had to work on a Saturday, I am not so sure. I tried to answer all the questions honestly and the best I could. I did feel like for some questions, I should have tried to elaborate a bit more however, the way she was rushing kind of threw me off. Also, at one point in the exam, she said I could make some notes before I speak for 1-2 minutes. So when I tried to reach for the piece of paper and pencil in front of me, she almost screamed because “she was not done finishing her sentence”. Not only was her behavior childish but kind of rude and inappropriate. She was not professional at all, although she attempted to sound professional, her behavior was not at all professional. She barely even made any eye contact with me while I was speaking. Such a shame.

    The listening, reading, and writing sections were extremely easy.

    • I’m so sorry to hear this. It really is off-putting when examiners behave in an inappropriate manner. I hope it didn’t affect your performance. Judging from your message, you should be getting a very high score. If you do need to take the test again (hopefully not), I want you to take a few things from this experience:
      1) Go in to the speaking room determined that, no matter how the examiner acts, you will give everything you have and make the most of every question
      2) You will be ready to be interrupted and feel like questions are fired rapidly. Your task is just to keep talking until your are interrupted.
      3) Let the examiner guide you when to start and when to finish each part. Always let the examiner take control. They have a script that they must follow.
      4) You will be friendly, chatty and cheerful even if you have an examiner who likes like they have tooth ache.
      I’ll keep my fingers crossed for your results πŸ™‚

  3. Hi Liz,
    I had my exam today for speaking. My 1st and 3rd part were really in flow but in the topic I was asked about a perfect house. I said about the house of my dreams how it should be on beach and about details like how I want my kitchen to have Island and windows to be of glass as it is sea facing. I also talked about wanting a home theatre in basement and having an elevator as to not climb stairs. I also added of wanting a garage having atleast 3 car parking and the tiles in the house should be of marble because they are shiny. I felt i blabbered a bit.
    While ending the test she said with a big smile and thumbs up nodding her head being positive. Although while getting out the door out of nervousness I ended up asking her was I good? To which she replied babye. Will this affect? I have to really get above 7 on this section. And my exam for other 3 parts is on saturday.

    • Your score is based on the English you produced during the test – nothing else can affect your score – nothing at all. As soon as the recording device is finished and you answered the last question, the test is at an end. Time for you to focus on the next part of IELTS – good luck!

  4. Hi Liz,

    Thank you for your guidance. I watched your lectures and it helped me a lot.
    I gave my test today, both speaking and other parts. I was feeling a little nervous as usual before the speaking test, but I felt confident when I went inside. I was doing alright. I was thinking straight when the examiner asked a question, and during my answer she actually rolled her eyes. She seemed condescending from her expression and it put me off. I don’t remember how I answered my questions after this. But, I am pretty sure, it affected my performance. There was a camera in the room but it was turned towards me. I don’t think it captured examiner’s expressions.

    • Sorry to hear that. You definitely need to be prepared for examiners having different body language. They are all supposed to be encouraging and friendly i their behaviour. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. IELTS really need a camera in the room to record examiner behaviour.

  5. Hi Liz,

    I had my Ielts exam yesterday, and what happened with me before the speaking exam was really racist. The examiner asked me if I have knife in my pocket. How is going to carry a knife with him into an IELTS exam for god sake!?. Any way I used to deal with sick peoples such that, and I did well in the speaking test πŸ™‚ .
    Thank you for your time,

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. That’s awful. I know what it is like to deal with negativity aimed directly at you. I hope it didn’t affect your performance in your test. I will keep my fingers crossed for you that your results come out well. Keep me informed πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Liz!

    Thank you for all your videos. It’s very helpful.

    I attended my speaking test yesterday! This is the second time. Last time I scored 7 in speaking. I took up the test again to improve my scores in writing. However, in my speaking test, I noticed that while I was talking the examiner had a small chit where there were a list of 8 to 10 categories written and she was marking 4.7, 5.2, 4.5, etc. This got me nervous but I managed to answer everything as I would normally. However, I got tensed seeing that she is marking very less scores. I am very worried about my results now. I hope I will score good marks in LRW but I should not loose my 8777 because of speaking. Could you please explain what type of Rating that she followed? Many say it’s timing. Even then, I talked only for 12 to 14 minutes and she has marked so many 4.7 and 4.6, which doesn’t match with the explanation. I am confused and worried 😣

    • Examiners usually write down timing. It has nothing to do with scores. It is important that you understand this before you enter the test room – otherwise, it will affect your nerves. The numbers she wrote down make perfect sense to me and relate directly to timing.

  7. I took my IELTS speaking test. I would like to share my experience with everyone who is going to sit the exam in the future. Although, I don’t remember all the questions that were asked during the exam, I certainly remember certain distinct ones and I am sharing them below. My IELTS exam was scheduled to happen at 11.20 AM. I started well before time for the exam, but unfortunately, I was stuck in a bad traffic jam. Lesson 1 – Start at least 2 hours before your test time. Of course I did reach on time, but the few minutes that I was stuck really changed my frame of mind. I reached around 11.05 AM and used the washroom, since I wasn’t sure if I would have the opportunity to use one once I enter the test venue. Then I entered the test venue, I was asked to submit my belongings and proceed to the verification room with only my passport and the coloured photocopy of the passport.

    In the verification room, I was asked to verify basic details such as the test type and my name and was asked to sign a form. After this, they took my finger prints and photographs. I was nervours until this point, but believe me, the people at British Council were warm and friendly. Once my verification was over, I was made for sit for about 2 minutes. After the wait time, I was asked to enter the test room. I must say that I was lucky because the examiner greeted me and welcomed me inside with a smile. She asked me all the basic questions that Liz speaks about in her video – your name, where you are from, your passport etc. Once this is done, part 1 began. These were some of the questions asked.

    1. Where do you currently reside?
    2. What are the best things about where you live?
    3. Do you have other people living in this area?
    4. How much water do you drink?
    5. What is your favorite pastime?

    I think there were a couple of other questions, which I don’t remember

    Then she moved on to part 2. The question was something along the lines of what is the one thing that I really wanted and someone gave it to me. I spoke about something that my mum gave me for 2 minutes when she stopped me and moved on to the next part.

    In part 3, she asked me about 6-7 questions. some of the questions were:

    1. What do young people like to buy these days?
    2. Why do young people buy these things?
    3. Do you think people sometimes buy things that they don’t need?
    4. Why do you think people are materialistic these days?
    5. Is it a negative thing that people these days are so focussed on accumulating wealth and other materialistic possessions?

    Overall, I felt I did well, although I am sure my scores would speak once they are out. So keeping my fingers crossed until then.

    I would like to especially thank Liz for all the useful videos that she posts. Keep up the good work.

    My LRW is on 9th. Wish my luck!

    • Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚ Sorry to hear about your getting stuck in traffic – that’s a bit of bad luck! Good luck on the 9th πŸ™‚

  8. Hi Liz, you are doing a really good job, firstly you are motivating and encouraging. But I would not say the same for my IELTS examiner during the Speaking session. He was extremely rude, and arrogant. I talked to many of my friends and I know the examiners don’t have to smile all the time but it is not the issue. He was impolite, disinterested, and rolled his eyes at many times with an approving grin. It was like I was speaking to a person I had a dispute before. I am considering to pen a complaint about him.

    • I really wish IELTS put a camera in their speaking test rooms. Examiner body language and behaviour can have a serious impact on a person’s performance. I wish you luck if you decide to complain.

      • Hey Liz
        I had my speaking exam yesterday
        My examiner was polite and chatty
        I was also confident coz of his positive attitude
        At the end of interview, he offer shake hand I was surprised than I simply smile n shake hand with him n say this a normal gesture?

        • Are you really asking me about a hand shake? Surely you understand the culture of greeting and saying farewell for English speaking people.

  9. Hello Liz

    I had my speaking test today (12/10/18) in dehradun, India and got lots of questions than I imagined. The examiner was switching the topics very frequently, before I could finish. I am little worried about this behavior of him.

    Questions I got includes
    *related to city life and village life
    *cue card was related to a website I use frequently…

    My major concern is that the examiner was having a neutral face for most of the time..
    Hoping for a good result 🀞.

    • It is completely normal for the examiner to interrupt your answers in the speaking test. It does not affect your score and you should be prepared for it. Good luck with your results πŸ™‚

  10. I want to talk about my first experience with IELTS.

    I took the IELTS last year, i felt so confident with my speaking, i perceived a completely positive attitude from the examiner during my performance. However, i was surprised once i got the final score: Only a poor 5.5!! I felt so good during the test, confident and enjoying the experience, but receiving such a low score despite of my level back then was something completely out of the blue. A situation that caught my attention was the absence of “cue cards”; The examiner gave me a book with the task-2 topic instead which I think isn’t very professional.

    My teacher was also surprised because i deserved at least a 6.5. This year IΒ΄m taking this test again so i hope to get a result which represents better my actual level and off course, i prefer a non-smiling but objective examiner rather than a smiley but apparently subjective.

    Bye and thanks for this blog, it is resourceful!!

    • I will keep my fingers crossed for you πŸ™‚ Go in with the same positive attitude and forget your previous experience. Also remember that each question is a chance to showcase your English. The examiner doesn’t mark your ideas and there is no task completion. Just be chatty and offer lots of tenses in your answers.

  11. Hi! I took the IELTS exam a week ago and I am worried of my Speaking test result. My examiner didn’t even smile througout my speaking test. He also yawned while he was listening to my answers and I got distracted because of this. I had a long paue because I got distracted. I am worried that I might get a low score because of this. What do you think?

    Thanks , Liz!

    • If you are ever worried that your score doesn’t reflect your performance in the test, you can ask for a remark. But if the examiner’s behaviour affected your performance, there is nothing you can do. We all know that examiners are human and all candidates MUST be prepared for an examiner who isn’t encouraging. I wish IELTS had cameras in the rooms so they could monitor examiner behaviour , but they don’t. So, you should always be prepared for the worst.

  12. Mahasweta Biswas says

    I recently took my Ielts speaking test in Kolkata and was disappointed with the way the examiner was rushing me with all the questions all through the speaking test. I am not even complaining that she did not smile or was not encouraging most of which i experienced during my test session but the very fact that she wanted to get over with me.

    But my husband had a positive experience when we took the speaking test last month from Doha Qatar and scored a 8 for himself. I know as you have mentioned that all examiners are not all night here should be some quality checks and standardisation in place since established and reputed institutes like BCL .

    I don’t know how to interpret this experience and what impact it will have on my scores which is awaited in early April.

    • From what you are saying, the problem was that the examiner didn’t let you finish your answers. Is that right? If that is the case, I can positively say that this is normal. The examiner will move on the question when they want. They are not judging your ideas and there is no marking criteria for task response. The examiner will move on when they hear enough language to satisfy them. Each question tests different language functions and they will test the language they want. It is 100% normal that answers are interrupted. All students should be prepared for this in their test.

      • Mahasweta Biswas says

        Thank you for your response.

      • Gaurav Ranjit says

        Hi Liz,
        I took my speaking test on 5th of June 2018, in Doha, Qatar, and I am still awaiting results. In my case, the examiner was a lady, looked quite friendly. I had arrived early for the test and surprisingly was sent to the test area around half an hour early. Anyways, the examiner wasn’t inside at that moment, so I followed her into the test room.

        Like the Original Commenter, I also felt that my examiner was trying to rush. Well, the first question was “where are you from?” to which I answered but she cut me off and proceded with other questions. Despite the fact that my voice was quivering throughout the entire test, I think she was pleasant to talk to. However, I did feel that she tended to try and rush into another question, which I believe I noticed by her expressions/body language, but most of the time I felt I wasn’t done so added some “and”, “however” etc which basically hinted at her that I hadn’t finished answering the question. I got to complete each of my answers without being cut off.

        Do you think I will be marked negatively for doing that? Also, during my “Individual Long turn” I spoke non-stop about the past but got cut off at the end when I was introducing something related to the topic at the present. I hope this is normal.

        My biggest concern is, will my quivering voice impact my score?

        • The question “where are you from” is usually part of the ID check at the start of the test and you do NOT expand on that answer. It is a fact checking question, not a test question. It is 100% normal that the examiner will move quickly from one question to another. Finishing your answer plays no role in marking for IELTS speaking. In part 2, when your 2 mins is up, the examiner will stop you. Nothing you have written is unusual at all. Anything you say after the test is not marked. The real question you need to ask yourself is why didn’t you know all this before entering the test room. You should know exactly what to expect in your speaking test.

          • Gaurav Ranjit says

            Um, well I guess have always been a nervous speaker. Regardless, I am hoping for a satisfactory score. Just 3 days to go now. The 13 days after the test are the longest I tell you. πŸ˜€ Anyways, your other videos did help me a great deal, so thank you very much. I can’t wait to get my results.

  13. 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 πŸ™‚

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. Hello Liz,
    I’m an avid fan of yours. 😊 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 πŸ˜‚ But i’m still hoping that she’d give me a good score. πŸ™‚

    • 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 πŸ™‚

  18. 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 πŸ™‚

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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..

  22. 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.

  23. 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 πŸ™‚

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

        Best regards,

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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

  27. 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..😜
    At the end she wished me ” have a nice day”.

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

  28. 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 ?

  29. 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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