Speaking practice for part 1 IELTS

If you’re looking for some speaking practice for part 1 IELTS, here’s a simple idea that may help you improve your skills. You just practise speaking about the same questions in slightly different ways.

How does it help? It can be easy to get stuck with trying to find the perfect answer to a question and trying to repeat that when you get to the test. That can put more pressure on you – especially when you get a slightly unexpected question. This method is different. You go into the test with

  • ideas of different things you can say
  • different ways of extending your answer – the key skill in part 1

It can help you find answers to unexpected questions and questions you haven’t prepared for.

IELTS speaking practice

Key idea – try some different ways of saying more

What I suggest is that you try answering the same question in 4 different ways. Here are 4 possibilities.

  1. adding detail
  2. talking about different times
  3. giving a reason

This list isn’t supposed to be complete! There are lots of ways of answering questions. Rather it’s supposed to show you that if you think in different ways you can find more to say. Do this exercise enough and you’ll soon find you have lots of things to say to even simple questions.

Look at these sample answers to the question “What do you study?’.


I’m majoring in English but I’m also doing French as my minor and taking one or two optional courses in Spanish. We spend most of our time on literature but there are also some modules in language too.

Different times

I’m currently doing a degree at Nottingham Uni – it’s in English . But I’ve only been doing that for a couple of months now. Before that I was at Shanghai Central University where I also studied English – the difference is that there most of the course focussed on the language and not literature.

A reason

I’m actually studying English. I chose to do that as I’ve always enjoyed literature and it’s also a chance to take my language to another level. I’ve always wanted to learn to speak a language really fluently and in the end it should help me find a well-paid job.

Quick notes

Don’t worry about trying to say something completely different each time. That’s not really the goal. In practice many of your answers will sound quite similar and contain similar information. Rather what should happen is that each time you change your answer you find another way of talking about the same thing.

Do this exercise enough and the process of extending your answers should become what we call “second nature” – something you do automatically.

See some more examples

Adding detail

Look at these possible questions about university life and see how I add detail each time. More detail leads to more specific language. That’s good for vocabulary.Start with a simple general answer firstMake your answer personal and think about your personal experienceAs you’re speaking, just try and be more precise when you say something general

What do you study?

I’m majoring in English but I’m also doing French as my minor and taking one or two optional courses in Spanish. We spend most of our time on literature but there are also some modules in language too.

Why did you choose to study that?

I chose law because I’ve always wanted to be a barrister. It’s been my ambition since I was in 8th grade when I we had a day in court and I was fascinated by the whole process and I just knew I wanted help defend the innocent.

What do you like about your course?

I most enjoy it when we get to work in the labs.

Talking about different times

These are the same questions – I just answer them differently because this time I’m thinking about different times. This can give you more to say but also can help your grammar by showing that you can use different tenses.Answer the question in the tense it is asked in firstThink about other times too. What about last year/ Next year?

What do you study?

I’m currently doing a masters at Nottingham Uni – it’s in Biomechanical Engineering. But I’ve only been doing that for a couple of months now. Before that I was at Shanghai Central University where I did my first degree in engineering.

Why did you choose to study that?

I chose computer science because that was the subject I was best at in school and I had the right grades to get to university. I had wanted to become a doctor when I was little because my dad is a neurosurgeon but then

What do you like about your course?

Writing essays and doing research! When I was at school I used to hate having to write essays but it’s really different now when I have to write a paper at uni. I get to do my own research and I don’t just have to repeat all the notes I made class like in school.

Giving a reason

Here are the same questions again. This time I concentrate on extending my answer in a different way – giving  a reason. Note you can do this even when you don’t hear the question “why?”. To extend your answer further, see if you can explain your reason. Don’t just say “because”.Answer the questionGive a reason with becauseExplain the reason

What do you study?

I’m actually studying to be a dentist. I chose to do dentistry because it’s a good career and pays well and the hours aren’t quite as demanding as being a doctor – which was my other option. My career and financial security matter quite a lot to me.

Why did you choose to study that?

I decided to study economics because I my goal is to run my own business one day. It’s an ambitious goal I know but I really want to be independent and not have to work for a giant corporation. And knowing about finance is the best way to get there I think.

What do you like about your course?

I suppose it’s the experiments in the labs. That’s because I don’t really enjoy the reading and essay writing at all and I chose to do science because I’m interested in seeing how things work – or don’t work – in practice.

Try some more practice questions about university life

Have a go at giving your own answers to the question above and then try these questions. Remember the idea is not to get one perfect answer but to experiment and see what different answers you can give.

What do you like about your course?

Is there anything you dislike about your course?

What is the most interesting thing about what you study?

Do you study in a group or alone?

What are your career plans?

Other helpful links and lessons

University education vocabulary – this can help you use more topic vocabulary in your answers. Topic vocabulary is often the bets vocabulary to use.

How to extend answers in IELTS speaking – more detailed help on ways you can learn to say more about part 1 questions

More part 1 speaking questions – a sensible way to practise to is to go through several questions on the same topic.