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How IELTS Tests Your Speaking Skills

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IELTS Speaking

In a previous post we described how TOEFL tests speaking skills. Here we will focus on the  IELTS speaking part in order to help you compare the two.


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) assesses English language proficiency, just as TOEFL does. Both tests check all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking.

The big differences

A big difference between TOEFL and IELTS is that the speaking part of the IELTS is a face-to-face interview with an examiner. On the TOEFL, the speaking part is done entirely on a computer. In this way, the IELTS speaking part is more interactive. This is important for some test takers who may feel embarrassed about speaking to a computer, as it is on the TOEFL.
Another important aspect to consider is that the IELTS speaking part may be done up to seven days before or after the test. However, you will take the Listening, Reading and Writing parts of IELTS all on the same day.

What is the IELTS Speaking Test?

The IELTS speaking part is the shortest of the four parts of the test. It takes only 11 to 14 minutes, compared to 30 minutes for the listening part and 60 minutes each for the reading and writing parts. Your performance is recorded.

First, the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as home, family, work, studies and interests.

Then, you will be asked to talk about a particular topic. You will have one minute to prepare and then speak for up to two minutes. The examiner will ask you additional questions on the same topic.

Finally, you will be asked further questions connected to the topic. This will give you the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues.

How are your responses evaluated?

The  IELTS speaking part assesses your use of spoken English and it is delivered in a way that means you cannot practise set responses in advance.
Your performance is evaluated on four criteria: Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy and Pronunciation. The four criteria are equally weighted.

Practical considerations

The interactive format of the IELTS speaking part may be appealing to many test takers. Another advantage is that this component is a bit shorter than the 20-minute speaking part on the TOEFL. The IELTS speaking component starts immediately after the break, just as on the TOEFL. However, the IELTS speaking part may be done up to seven days before or after the rest of the test.
These differences make the IELTS more attractive to some test takers, compared to the TOEFL. However, there are many other factors to consider before you select which test to take in order to perform at your best.

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