The following steps are precise and need your attention:
The I.D. Check
Although the ID check is not intended to be part of the test, in reality it is part of the test because the examiner is hearing your speech and cannot help but form some sort of impression or judgment about your English. The tape recorder is recording what you say and the examiner will notice the quality of your language and any English mistakes you make but is not really trying to test your English. At this time, the examiner also gets an impression about how you relate to a foreigner, although that factor is not supposed to be considered in the grading of a speaking test.
The examiner's intention here is really to check your identity because it has been known for a, "double", someone who looks like the candidate named on the application form, to take the test for the real candidate. Obviously that has been done because the double speaks better English than the real candidate. The examiner has your application form in front of him or her, the form you filled out, with your photo on it and, in addition to asking you a few questions, he or she has to compare the person sitting in front of himself or herself with the photo.
If the ID check were to be considered in terms of linguistics, the language function is, "Verifying One's Identity". The idea here is to give appropriate (= suitable) answers to simple questions that are used to verify your identity. For this, "appropriate answers" means, "short and crisp answers", not long answers or answers that are full of extra details after you have answered the basic question. But if you are friendly and can speak fast, a short, quick comment along with some answers would not damage your "performance".
The ID check begins with a greeting such as, “Good morning” and the examiner introduces him or herself.
Then the examiner asks you The Four Standard Questions. They are "standard" because every candidate is asked these exact same questions. (See below)
The examiner wants to do this part of the test quite quickly, in 20 to 30 seconds. So he or she might be very "business-like" (somewhat formal) when they ask these questions.
The Standard Introduction Questions
Good morning/afternoon. My name is ...... . Can you tell me your full name, please? (= Could you tell me your full name, please? = Please tell me your name.)
What can I call you? (= What shall I call you? = What should I call you?)
Can you tell me where you’re from? (= Could you tell me where you’re from? = Where are you from?)
Can I see your identification, please? (= Could I see your identification, please? = May I see your identification, please?)
Note that every candidate is asked the same questions, exactly or almost exactly as written here.
The Part 1 questions are from the examiner's "Question Book". He or she must use the exact wording as it is written in the Question Book. Even an American examiner must sometimes use a British word or expression in those instances when Americans have a different word or expression, because the questions are written in basically British English.
Each Part 1 topic in the Question Book has six or seven questions, and usually two of them are more difficult than the others. Those questions are like Part 3 questions. The examiner has a choice about what questions to ask, choosing 3 or 4 of them.
Part 1 begins when the examiner says something like, "Now I'd like to ask you are few more questions about your life", introduces a topic (Topic 1), and asks you a few questions on that topic. Topic 1 is one of the following: your home (= house or flat; your home street; your hometown; your home province; or your home country); or your work or your studies.
Then the examiner introduces another topic (Topic 2) and asks you a few questions on that topic.
Finally, the examiner introduces the third and last topic for Part 1, (Topic 3) and asks you a few questions on that topic.
The topics in Part 1 are about your everyday life, and about everyday life in your country. The topics especially apply to the lives of typical IELTS candidates. Typical topics are, "Food", "Sport", "Music", "Free time activities", "Films", "Transport" etc. Sometimes more abstract (therefore more difficult) topics are available for the examiner to choose, such as, "Patience". The examiner is more likely to choose one of the more abstract topics if the candidate appears to be quite strong in English up to this point in the test.
Each topic will have about 4 questions, so that Part 1 has a total of about 12 questions. These 12 questions are to be answered in just under 5 minutes. Assuming the examiner uses an average of two seconds to ask each question, the average answer in Part 1 should be about 22 seconds long. Therefore, your general strategy in Part 1 is to speak quite a lot, giving the examiner more than just minimal answers but at the same time, controlling the average length of your answers to allow the examiner enough time to ask you about 4 questions for each of the 3 Part 1 topics. The examiner must strictly stay within the 4 to 5 minute time limit for Part 1.
Some answers in Part 1 are summaries. Or, you can think of the questions as being rather 'open ended'. For example, if the question is, “What kind of place is your hometown?”, you have to describe your hometown in just a few (e.g., 4 to 6) sentences. This is a summary because in fact you possibly could answer this question in detail by speaking for 10 minutes! These 'summary' types of questions require you to give slightly longer answers than for other questions.
The examiner will (normally) not make any comments in Parts 1 or 2; he or she will simply introduce each new topic, ask you questions, and listen to your answers. However, most examiners do occasionally say very short things after an answer such as "OK", "Thanks" or makes sounds such as "mmm!", sounds that communicate meaning.
Be prepared to be asked many questions in a short period of time, i.e., quickly!
The examiner can give you a little help with the meaning of any word that you don't understand in Part 1 but you should be very careful about revealing any vocabulary weaknesses in Part 1. This is because the words used in the questions in Part 1 are generally considered to be understandable to candidates who are a Band 5 standard and above.
You will know when Part 1 is over when the examiner tells you that he or she is going to give you a topic for you to talk about. This is the beginning of Part 2.
You will know that Part 2 is going to begin when the examiner says: “I’m now going to give you a topic and I’d like you to talk about that topic for one to two minutes. Before you start to talk, you’ll have one minute to think about what you’re going to say. You can make notes if you wish on this paper. Do you understand?”
Then the examiner will give you a card, which will look just like the questions in the typical Part 2 example below. The topic of this question is called, ‘Topic 4’ in this summary.
When the examiner gives you the card, he’ll say, “I’d like you to describe …” followed by the words in the first line on the card. There will be more questions on the card, and you should answer these in your monologue. But the examiner will not read these questions for you.
Note that the words, “you should say …” really mean, “you should include these points but you should also say more than just these points.”
When you receive the card, you’ll have 60 seconds to:
read the card,
decide what example you’re going to talk about, (each card asks for an example) and
think about (i.e., plan) your answer and jot down some points on the notepaper that is given to you.
Hint: Concentrate on ideas and vocabulary rather than on forming sentences in your 1 minute of thinking time.
At the end of the 60 seconds of thinking time, the examiner will remind you that you have 1 to 2 minutes to answer the question and then he’ll say, “Can you start speaking now, please?”(= "Please start speaking now".)
While you are speaking, you’ll have the card with you to look at.
The examiner will not interrupt you or speak to you while you are speaking, even if he or she doesn't hear you clearly or doesn't understand your meaning.
When the 2 minutes are up, or when you stop talking (ideally, at close to 2 minutes), the examiner will probably say, “Thank you.”
Part 2 often, but not always finishes with the examiner asking you 1 or 2 short questions (from the examiner's question book), connected to the Part 2 topic. The purpose of these questions is to ‘wrap up’ Part 2 and to make you feel that the examiner was interested in what you said. You should give very short answers to these follow-up questions. These questions are also often a hint to the questions that will follow in Part 3. The follow-up questions are also used to start to put you into a discussion frame of mind, for Part 3. In some cases, for example when there is no more time left in Part 2 for some reason, or if you have already answered these follow-up questions, the examiner might omit them.
Topic 4 will probably be from one of the following general categories: People, Things, Places, Everyday Activities, Experiences, and Future plans or Speculation about the Future. Almost always, the topic is one example of something that is directly connected with your life or experience. In other words, you need to speak personally, not speak in general.
Part 2 is considered to be a little more difficult than Part 1.
The most important thing you should aim to do in Part 2 is to continue speaking for between 1.5 and 2 minutes. (Speaking for just over 1 minute is allowable but you should aim to speak for a little longer than this minimum time.)
Except for the 2-minute point, when the examiner asks you to stop, it is YOU who controls when you stop. Some candidates speak for a suitable length of time (e.g., 1.5 minutes) and they answer all the points on the task card but then they make the mistake of sitting there silently at the end, trying to think of more things to say or wondering how to finish or who should say something next. When you have finished, just tell the examiner something like, "Well, that's all I have to say." Sitting there silently can cause you to lose fluency points.
You cannot ask for a different topic if you do not like the topic that the examiner gives you. (The only exception is a topic that asks you to describe a website – some candidates who are high school students have parents who do not allow them to use the internet.)
You should not consider your Part 2 answer to be like a formal "speech". Instead, it should be like an extended answer that someone would speak in a natural way during a conversation.
A Typical Part 2 Question
(In the following example, note that “them” means, “him or her”.)
Describe a teacher who has greatly influenced you in your education.
You should say:
where you met them
what subject they taught
what was special about them
and explain why this person influenced you so much.
Part 3 of the test starts when the examiner says something like this: “We’ve been talking about (Topic 4) and now I’d like to ask you a few more general questions related to (this topic).”
Part 3 will seem similar to Part 1 but, unlike Part 1, in Part 3 the examiner can make his or her own questions and these questions will, at times, be based on your previous answer. In this way, some parts of Part 3 will be similar to a discussion. Often, these further questions are asking you to explain more fully something that you just said. Sometimes, an examiner will suggest an alternative argument, as in an academic debate, and ask you to justify your previous answer in light of this alternative argument or to evaluate this alternative argument.
In Part 3, you’ll usually be asked questions on two topics (Topics 5 and 6). If there is enough time, you’ll be asked several (about 5) questions on both topics but if there isn’t much time left, you might only be asked one or two questions on the second topic. You’ll probably be asked a total of eight to ten questions, but this could vary depending on how fast you speak and how long your answers are.
Both Topic 5 and Topic 6 are loosely connected with (or sometimes, exactly the same as) the topic of Part 2, Topic 4. The one or two follow-up questions in Part 2 might have hinted at the topics for Part 3.
The words used in the questions are usually more difficult than the words in the questions for Parts 1 and 2. The replies also usually require you to use more advanced language. Generally, the language and the ideas of Part 3 are more abstract than in the earlier parts of the test. For example, in Part 1 you are mostly asked several questions about yourself (although some general questions are also included in Part 1 sometimes) and Part 2 is also about yourself but in Part 3, questions about yourself are not so common – general questions about the people and life in your country are used instead.
The following topics and concepts are important for Part 3 (but there could be other topics and concepts that are not listed here): Attitudes and Values; Personal qualities; Psychology (people's motives and thoughts); Information and Communication; Society; Change (both cause and effect); and Education. Often these topics or concepts are combined. For example, often there are questions about child development but this is really just a more specific example of (or a mixture of) the topics and concepts that are listed here.
The following are typical language functions that are elicited in Part 3:
Giving Information. Here, you are usually asked to give several examples of something. For example: “What sports are popular in your country?” Ideally, you should include extra information or some personal comments in your answer.
Speculating ( = guessing about the past, the present and especially, the future.) This might include speculating about people’s reasons or motives for doing something or thinking in a certain way. 'Speculating' could include answering such questions as, “What would …. if …. ?”
Suggesting For example: suggesting possible ways to solve a problem; and suggesting advice for people.
Comparing and contrasting. For example: differences between older and younger people; differences between males and females; differences between a situation today and the situation in previous years; differences between rural and urban areas.
Explaining situations ( = explaining how or why certain situations exist).
Giving your opinion or judgment. For example, answering questions that begin with words such as, 'How well ...?', 'How effective ... ?', 'How much ... ?', 'How important ... ?', or answering questions that begin with, 'Do you think .... ?' or 'Should ...?' Of these, 'How important ... ?' is the most important type of question. You might also be asked for your judgment or opinion about any problems connected with a certain area of human activity. Sometimes questions about your judgment or opinion of responsibility are used, often using the word, "should".
Justifying or defending your opinion. Sometimes the examiner will challenge your opinion to see if you can give some evidence or good reasons for your opinion. Do not be afraid to speak up and defend yourself!
In Part 3, the examiner can help you a little if you don’t understand the questions. That is, the examiner can re-ask the question using simpler words or explain the meaning of a question.
Since (most of) Part 3 is supposed to be a simulated discussion, you should be in a very communicative frame of mind and try to discuss, not simply answer questions as in Part 1. That is, try to give answers that are full of detail and that even introduce new points that are connected to your main answer. This kind of answer gives the examiner many opportunities to find further points to use for questions in order to continue the discussion.