Part One of the IELTS Speaking Test — what it is and how to prepare for it

In this guide, I will explain everything you need to know about Part One of the IELTS Speaking Test.

I will introduce the format and what is tested and then cover what kind of questions the examiner could ask you. Then I will give some more details about the questions and some examples.

Are you ready? Let’s begin.



What is Part One of the IELTS Speaking Test?


The IELTS speaking test has three parts. Here, we are looking at Part One.

Essentially, in Part One of the test, you will just talk to the examiner about common things in your life. You should be able to answer all of the questions in Part One.

For example, the examiner might ask you about your hometown, cooking and food or the weather.

But he could also ask you about your free-time activities, transportation, reading or sport.

If you think any of the topics I have just mentioned are too difficult, then you need to do some more preparation before taking the test.

Part One of the IELTS speaking test takes around 4 to 5 minutes in total.

In this part of the test, the examiner is trying to help you to relax. He knows that you probably feel a little nervous in the test, so he asks you common questions about your life and other aspects of you as a person.

Just try to relax in this part. You should be able to answer the questions easily.



What Happens At The Very Beginning?


When you walk into the test room, the examiner will greet you.

He will say hello and often give you a smile. He wants to have a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the room so he will try to help you feel calm.

When he says hello to you, you can say hello to him too. It is polite!

The examiner will introduce himself and ask you to introduce yourself too. You should give him your full name.

Some students may have two names — their own birth name and their English name. You can tell him both if you wish, it’s up to you.

For example, you can say My name is Edgardo Gonsalez, but you can call me Eddie.

You should then give your ID or ID information to the examiner along with the IELTS form.



What is the Examiner Testing in Part One?


In this part of the test, the examiner is testing your ability to speak in full and longer sentences.

You should try to avoid giving him one-word answers. So, if he asks you if you like your hometown, you should not just say Yes.

Say, yes, but follow it up with reasons and examples why you like your hometown.

As long as you speak in full sentences and avoid short simple answers, you should be fine.

The examiner also wants you to describe and explain things.

Maybe you tell him that your hometown doesn’t have a subway system. He might ask why not. So you have to tell him. You cannot just say Because there isn’t one — this is not good enough.

And you should really avoid saying I don’t know — even if you really don’t know!

You have to try to give more details than that.

So you might say:

I am not sure why my hometown doesn’t have a subway. I think maybe it’s because my hometown is kind of small, so maybe there is no need to have one. We have many buses — and many people drive their own cars, so maybe the local government thinks there is no need for a subway.

If you answer something like that, the examiner will be very happy.

Always try to describe things in detail. And always try to explain the reasons for something.

This is what the examiner is looking for in Part One.



What Kind of Questions are in Part One?


This is what every IELTS student wants to know.

The main kind of questions the examiner will ask you are questions ABOUT YOU.

The examiner could ask you about:

  • your school and what you are studying (if you are a student)
  • you work and your job (if you are working)
  • your hometown
  • your free-time activities
  • the kind of movies you like
  • your neighbourhood
  • family
  • friends
  • your interests and hobbies


If the examiner asks you any of the above kind of questions, you should be able to answer easily. These questions are about you and your life.


But the examiner may ask some more GENERAL QUESTIONS.

These are questions that are about very general topics that most people can talk about.

These questions could be:

  • cooking and food
  • the weather
  • shopping
  • transportation
  • reading
  • sport


Now you could answer these questions and just talk about your own life. But the examiner may want to hear a general answer.

For example, he may ask you: Why is reading important, do you think?

Many IELTS students make the mistake of thinking that the examiner is asking: Why is reading important TO YOU do you think?

But he is not!

He wants to know why reading is important for ALL PEOPLE.

So you could answer by saying something like:

Reading is important because it is good for our mind and we can gain a lot of knowledge by reading. It is also a great way to relax. Reading a book in the evening can help us to sleep better at night.

Plus, reading makes people more interesting. If people read a lot, they are often interesting people to talk to and engage with.

Notice in this answer, all the pronouns are OUR, WE, US or the word PEOPLE. This answer is addressing why reading is important for ALL PEOPLE, not just the person speaking.

But, you can also add at the end why you think reading is good FOR YOU as an individual.

I think reading helps me learn a lot and I can find any kind of book I want either in the library for free or online for convenience.

I like to read books and just lose myself in what I am reading. I think this helps me unwind at the end of a busy day.


With these GENERAL QUESTIONS, the examiner wants to hear a GENERAL point of view. But you can also talk about the question in a personal way. Just add the personal comments at the end of your answer.



Questions about Information on your IELTS Form


In your application form to do the test, you should fill in as much information about yourself as possible.

Include as much detail as possible.

If you like to play football with your friends in your free time, then make sure you write all of this information down. Because the examiner may choose to talk about one of these topics in Part One.

So he might say:

It says here that you like to play football. Can you tell me why you like to play football?

Now, if football is one of your passions, this should be very easy for you to answer!

You should be able to talk about football for a long time. Just talk about the reasons why you like football so much.

Once you answer why you like to play football, the examiner might have some additional questions about football.

He might ask you:

  • Who do you play football with?
  • Where do you play football?
  • How often do you play football?


And because football is one of your big interests, you should be able to talk about these questions easily.

Another important piece of information you write on the IELTS form is your hometown.

If you are lucky, the examiner will take a look at your hometown on the form and ask you about it.

Why is it lucky? Because this is your hometown and you should be able to talk about it for hours!

So the examiner might look at your hometown written on the form and say:

It says here that your hometown is in Bangkok. Can you tell me about your hometown?

And this allows you to talk about your hometown.


What can you talk about with your hometown?

  • the things you like about it
  • the things you dislike about it
  • the food
  • the culture
  • the people
  • public transportation (or lack of it)
  • the kind of jobs people have there
  • the weather and climate
  • the social problems, like crime, etc

There is no end of things to talk about!


The examiner might have some other questions about your hometown, such as

  • Do you like your hometown? Why, why not?
  • Can you tell me about the food in your hometown?
  • What kind of jobs do people have in your hometown?
  • What are the things you dislike about your hometown?


So, my point is this. When you write information on the IELTS test form, write information about yourself clearly.

This can help you a lot.


As an example, I had a student who had a hobby of flying drones. He loved to fly drones in his free time, and he would post videos and pictures from his drone high above the city.

He wrote about this on his IELTS test form — and sure enough; the examiner asked him about it.

It says here you like drones. Tell me about drones.

My student was very happy. He could talk about drones for a long time.



The ONE Question You Could Be Asked


There is ONE question that the examiner could ask you.

Some people are asked this question, and they have no idea what to say.

The question is:


Why are you taking the IELTS test?


Think about this question for a minute.

Well, why are you taking the IELTS test?


I have had mock tests with students and I have asked them this question and they often reply: I don’t know.

You don’t know??

You cannot say that in Part One — or any part of the IELTS test.

You have to have a reason why you are taking the IELTS test.

Let me give you a good example for you to use.

I am taking the IELTS test so that I can study abroad. I believe that if I study abroad, it can make me more independent and I will be able to take care of myself.

I also think that I can learn a lot from living in another country. I can learn about a different culture and different people. But maybe I will learn that people are essentially the same.

But overall, I think it will be a great experience for me and my life.

That is why I am taking the IELTS test.

If you say something like this, the examiner should be very happy.

Don’t say I DON’T KNOW!



The Questions in Detail


I want to give you some of the topics and the kind of questions the examiner might ask you about each one.

Take a look below and try to practice all of them by yourself or with a good friend.

The more you practice, the easier it becomes.


Your Name

Can I have your full name, please?

What name should I call you?

Does your name have a special meaning?

Is your name important to you? Why/why not?

Are names important in your culture? Why/why not?

Do people in your country like to choose an English name? Why/why not?


The next two topics could be about work or study. So the examiner might first ask you:

  • What do you do?
  • Do you work or are you a student?
  • Are you a student?

He is trying to find out if you are a student or working, then he can move on to the next topic.



What are you studying?

Are you in high school or university?

What’s your major?

Why did you choose this major?

Tell me about your major.

What is your favourite subject at school? Why do you like this subject?

What do you dislike about studying?

What do you hope to do after you graduate?



What is your job?

What do you do for a living?

Do you like your job?

Can you describe your job?

What is a typical working day for you?

What are the things that you like about your job?

Would you like to change your job? What would you prefer to do?

What are your career plans for the future?


Your Hometown

Where do you come from?

Where is your hometown?

What do you think about your hometown?

Can you describe your hometown?

Tell me about some famous landmark or building in your hometown.

What kind of jobs do the people do in your hometown?

What kind of food can I find in your hometown?

Do you prefer to live in your hometown or somewhere else?

Do you think it’s better to live in a big city or a small town?

What do you think is better — the city or the countryside?

Does your hometown have much pollution?

How is the public transportation in your hometown?


Your Free-Time Activities

What do you like to do in your free time?

Do you have much free time?

Do you have any hobbies?

Do people have more or less free time than a few years ago?

What do your parents do in their free time?

Do you waste much of your free time?

What do your friends do in their free time?

Is there much entertainment in your hometown for people to do in their free time?


Going On Holiday

Do you like to go on holiday?

Where do you like to go on holiday?

Who do you like to go on holiday with?

Do you prefer to travel alone?

Are there many holidays every year in your country?

What is your favourite holiday?

Are holidays important do you think?


Your Neighbourhood

Do you like your neighbourhood?

Is your neighbourhood a nice place to live?

Is your neighbourhood crowded?

Can you describe your neighbourhood?

What kind of facilities do you have in your neighbourhood?

How could your neighbourhood be improved, do you think?



Do you like to go shopping?

Is your hometown or neighbourhood good for shopping?

Tell me about the last time you went shopping?

Describe a shop you like to go to.

What do you think of online shopping?

What are the dangers of online shopping?



How did you get here today?

How is the public transportation in your hometown?

How could the public transport in your hometown be improved?

What kind of public transport do you prefer?

Do you drive?

Do you like to drive?

Do people in your hometown prefer to drive or use public transport?


Reading and Books

Do you like to read?

What kind of books do you like to read?

Tell me about the last book you read.

Do you like to read the news?

Is reading good for us? Why?

Are books too expensive, do you think?

Do you prefer to read a real book or a digital book?


Sports and Games

What kind of sports do you like?

What kind of sports are popular in your hometown?

Do you prefer to watch sport or play?

Do people do enough exercise, do you think?

Has sport become too commercial?

Are sports players overpaid?



Difficult Questions


The examiner usually asks you about your life and things about your life.

So he could ask you about your hometown and the kind of questions you can see above about your hometown.

But then he might ask you about buildings.

He might say something like:

Let’s talk about buildings. Tell me about old and modern buildings in your hometown.

And you need to talk about this. So you should try to introduce old and modern buildings in your hometown.

The examiner will not expect you to have a full knowledge of the architecture of your hometown, but you have to try to talk about at least one old and one modern building.

Then the examiner might ask you:

Do we need old buildings, do you think?

And then:

Are there too many modern buildings, do you think?

The examiner might also ask you about tourism in your hometown, or the culture of your hometown. These questions can be a little challenging for some students.

The best way to prepare for this is to work on your GENERAL ENGLISH all the time.

Other difficult questions could be about:

  • the education system in your country
  • work and working life and how work has changed over the years
  • family, family relationships and the role of the family today
  • free-time activities and how they have changed over the years


REMEMBER — the questions are mainly about YOU and YOUR LIFE in Part One. But they could also be general questions that talk about the above topics.



How to Prepare for Part One of the IELTS Speaking Test


The way to prepare for Part One is the way you prepare for all the IELTS test.

You must improve your GENERAL ENGLISH.

Work on your General English long before you consider doing any IELTS classes.

This means lots of reading — read everything you can get your hands on.

Read articles, books, short stories, news. Reading will help you improve your English vocabulary very effectively. It will also help you improve things like English phrases and sentence structure.

You can also work on listening. There are many things for you to listen to in English.

  • podcasts
  • news
  • radio
  • TV shows
  • movies

All of these different forms of listening can help you a lot.

Attend English speaking classes too.

And the most essential thing is to have an effective ENGLISH STUDY PLAN.

Make a plan and you cannot go wrong!




Part One of the IELTS Speaking Test should be easy for you.

The questions are about YOU and YOUR LIFE. So you should be able to talk about these things easily.

And the other questions are GENERAL QUESTIONS that most people can talk about. You should also be able to talk about these topics too.

The best way to prepare is to go over all the questions and look at the topics regularly. Make sure you have a broad enough range of vocabulary to answer the questions properly.

Improve your GENERAL ENGLISH and you should be successful.

Good luck — and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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