This web page discusses issues about the IELTS exam that are not publicized by the IELTS consortium or are discussed briefly in a small number of outlets.

To avoid ambiguity, all suggestions are supported with a web link that has authority.

Difficult topics

It is possible to score a band 7 or higher for the speaking section even if you know little about the topic that you are given for:

  • ​Speaking part 2 - the cue card.
  • Speaking part 3 - the topic about general issues in society.

It is important that you do not remain silent if you are offered a question that you know nothing about. If you do not attempt to answer the question you receive zero for that part of the test.

It is acceptable to speak about the topic that you are offered in a general way. So long as your discussion has some relevance to the topic, you can still score well for your:   

  • Fluency and coherence
  • ​Lexical resource (vocabulary and discussion structure)
  • Pronunciation

Sample speaking question, IELTS official source:


Examiner's question: "In Germany, what kinds of people are famous?"

Consider this situation. You never: read newspapers, read magazines, listen to the radio, watch television, read books, visit the cinema or discuss celebrity culture with others. You therefore have no idea about what kinds of people are famous in Germany.

Do not panic or remain silent.

The examiner is looking to see that you understand the question and can talk about the topic in general. It is possible to demonstrate this requirement even if you know nothing about that topic.

For the question about celebrities in Germany, the examiner will consider your verbal response to be relevant if you commence your sentences with statements such as:

  • I do not know because I do not follow celebrity culture in Germany because ...
  • Because I do not engage with cultural media, I cannot name the national heroes in my home country ...
  • If I wanted to find out which people have a high public profile in Germany, I would ask my sister because she likes to read popular magazines such as Vanity Fair and Time. 



Speech pace

Speak slowly, but not too slow.

The faster you speak, the more difficult it is to meet the minimum time limit, because you may run out of ideas faster.

If  you speak fast, it is difficult for the examiner to understand your pronunciation.

​Pronunciation is  a component of the assessment rubric.



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