Strategies for the IELTS speaking test, part 3…

To carry on from my recent posts about specific strategies for the speaking section, it is time today to look at the third section. Now I know some people think this is the hardest part and in some respects that is true, as the questions progressively become more difficult. As you know, the examiner will ask questions related to the topic you just spoke about on the card but what is different however is that you are expected to talk at a higher level of abstraction, more generally in other words. Some people think this is difficult, especially if they have no previous knowledge of the subject. This should not be a problem for you, as I have mentioned before this is not a truth test, the actual “content” of your answer does not matter as such. Of course you need to address the topic, but there is not a “right” answer for you to give the examiner. What you need to do is pay attention to the “type” of question you are asked and respond in appropriate language to it. I will demonstrate what I mean in a minute.

So, as before, you need to give a fuller answer, not a yes or no answer, remember the examiner can only assess you on what you say, so make sure that you say plenty! Stick to the topic and stay relevant.

part 3 example

In this example, Candidate 1 has given a short answer that would get a good mark, as there is not enough for the examiner to assess. Candidate 3 has given a longer answer, but most of it is irrelevant, so again, not a good score. The best answer of course, is by Candidate 2, which is full and relevant, top marks!

What you can do then, is to not try to rehearse the topics in the sense of memorising answers. As I say several times a day to my students, this is a bad idea. What you should do is to practice the functional language you need to answer the questions. For example, if they ask: “Do you think radio or TV is better for presenting the news?” This is a comparison question, so you need to use comparative structures, better, worse, harder, faster, more than, less then, etc. I hope you get the idea, so if you carry on reading below you will find some more ideas and examples of functional language to address the questions.

The common types of question are

  • Giving your opinion and evaluating..what do you think about something?
  • Future..what do you think will happen?
  • Cause and effect…what is the cause of something and what effect has it had?
  • Hypothetical…what if, in other words.
  • Compare and contrast…how something is similar and/or different to something else.
  • Past…same as above, but in the past compared to now.

Here are some phrases and expressions you might use in giving your answers, I will write some examples another time, I want to just give you the general idea today.

Presenting your point of view

  • I think
  • Personally
  • I believe
  • in my view

Less certain

  • I reckon
  • I guess
  • I suppose

More certain

  • I’m convinced
  • I’m positive that
  • Definitely, I think
  • I’m sure that

You agree

  • That’s so true
  • No doubt in my mind
  • I (completely, totally) agree with you (100 per cent, absolutely).

You disagree

  • I disagree
  • I have to say, I completely disagree
  • I don’t believe so
  • Not really
  • Not exactly

To express the future

  • It’s probable that
  • I can foresee
  • I predict
  • It’s likely that

Cause and effect

  • because (don’t overuse, this is too simple)
  • so
  • as a result
  • as a consequence
  • therefore (bit formal,can be used though)


  • This is where you could use the Second Conditional (If + past participle, would + verb). “If I won the Lotto, I would buy my own apartment”.

Comparison, see above.


  • We can use several structures here
  • Past simple, “I saw…”
  • Used to, “I used to do something….”
  • Past continuous, “I was watching….”
  • Present perfect, “I have seen…”
  • Present perfect continuous, “I have been playing, reading, watching, etc…”

Ok, so that should give you some ideas of what to say and how to say it. In my next post/s I will be writing about how to construct a framework of connectors to join your sentences together, and as always, if you have any comments or questions or ideas for another post, then feel free to get in touch.

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