IELTS Speaking Tips: How long should my answer be?

This lesson gives IELTS speaking tips: How long should my answer be? This lesson has advice on the best length of your answer for each part of the IELTS speaking test. Learn how many sentences to use for IELTS speaking part 1 or how to expand your talk for IELTS speaking part 2.  Learn how long your answer should be for IELTS speaking part 3.

Speaking Part 1 Advice

I heard that answers for speaking part 1 should be short. Are the answers below ok for part 1?

Q. What was your favorite book or story when you were a child?
A. The first book that I remember really enjoying was ‘……….’. It only took me a few days to read because I liked it so much that I couldn’t put it down.
Q. Do you like reading?
A. Yes, I like reading a lot. I read all sorts of things, including novels, newspapers, magazines, and online articles.

Advice and Tips
  1. Don’t limit your answer to only two sentences.
  2. Be more natural with your answer.
  3. If you have more information to give, then give it. For the second question above, I would probably give more “Yes, I like reading a lot. I read all sorts of things, including novels, newspapers, magazines, and online articles. However, most of my time is spent reading novels in order to relax and forget my problems.”.
  4. Speaking part 1 is 4 to 5 minutes in length for 12 questions. If your fluency is strong, you will be able to give longer answers. If you often hesitate when you answer, then you will waste time and your answers will need to be shorter.
  5. If you have strong fluency then don’t limit your answers to only two sentences. To get a high score in fluency, you must show you are able to speak at length without much effort.
  6. If your answer is too long, the examiner will stop you move on to the next question. That is not a bad thing, it’s just a natural part of the test.


Speaking Part 2 Advice

I heard that we must answer each question on the topic card. Is that true?

Describe a family celebration that you remember. You should say
– what you were celebrating
– who was present
– what happened
– and why you like that celebration

Answer to first two prompts:

• I’m going to describe my sister’s wedding day, which took place a few years ago in the town where I grew up. For my sister it was the biggest and most important day of her life.
• I think there were around 100 people at the marriage ceremony, which was held in a church. Even more people came to the party, or the wedding reception as we call it, after the ceremony. Of course, most members of my family were there, as well as the groom’s family and a collection of the bride and groom’s friends and colleagues. The person I remember most was …… because we hadn’t seen each other in over two years so that was a really pleasant surprise. 

Advice and Tips
  1. There are no questions on the topic card.
  2. There are prompts on the card.
  3. Prompts are there to guide you – nothing more.
  4. To give a full talk, you must add much more information to your talk rather than only follow the prompts.
  5. This is your main chance in the test to show your fluency. Use this opportunity and give lots of description and information.
  6. If the prompt asks “who was present”, you can add why they were there, how close you were to those people, how they traveled to the wedding,  if there were any people you wished hadn’t gone, describe a person you clearly remember … You choose what extra information to add.


Speaking Part 3 Advice

Is the answer below the right length?

Q. Is it better to get advice from a friend or from a family member?
A. I think it depends on the kind of advice that you need. Parents and grandparents probably have more life experience than a friend, and so you might get a wiser or more sensible answer from them. On the other hand, friends are less likely to become too worried if you go to them with a problem. For example, I probably wouldn’t want to burden my parents with a financial problem.

  1. The answer above is reasonable but not very detailed.
  2. If you have a very good level of English then this answer does not demonstrate your fluency or a good range of English.
  3. It’s always good in speaking part 3 to give examples.
  4. Give more examples of when you would seek advice from grandparents – what kinds of problems would prompt you to ask for their help?
  5. It is always better in speaking to give more than you need to give, than to give less.


How long should my answers be in IELTS speaking?

If you have a lower level of English with many hesitations, your answers will be shorter. If you are a fluent talker, your answer should be longer – in fact it would be a shame to have fluent English and only give short answers.

Here is a link to an IELTS speaking practice test video. There is also a link in that lesson to a model speaking test. You will be able to see clearly how long my answers are: Practice Speaking Test Video


  1. Hi Liz,

    I just want to ask whether it’s normal for an examiner to stop my answer in part 3?

    I sat IELTS test in 2016 in Vietnam and the examiner constantly stop me in part 3 every I seemed to have a point to answer, but he would listen attentively to a question I am more clueless. Sometimes I was just be able to say “From my perspective, I would say that…” but then he jumped onto another questions.

    And strangely, not one topic gets develop. Meaning that normally I heard people would answer 3-4 questions in the same topic, but my topic change every 1-2 question. Every time my answer go beyond 3 sentences he will stop me, which makes me think this is another extended part 1 session.

    I got 5-7 topics in total in part 3 only. (Maths, sky etc)

    I answered part 1 quite well because it has a lot of common questions (1-2 quite new but manageable), part 2 I received a card which requires me to tell a story (again manageable although I didn’t have any experience that fit the cue card)

    • It certainly isn’t common. It is usual for your answers to be challenged or to be interrupted because you are talking about personal things instead of the world in general. But you shouldn’t be interrupted before you actually give an answer. Also the topic should be altered so much in part 3. It is possible to change the topic, but I would say once is enough. Certainly, you could complain if you want, but I don’t think it will alter your score. Complain might help the test centre review the examiner’s behaviour and choices during the test which could help other candidates. About your score, wait until you get your score. You could ask for a remark.

  2. Thank you Liz for the tips shared around this topic.
    In my case, I stutter occasionally and can get more frequent under exam conditions. Is it acceptable to communicate to the examiner my condition at the outset of the speaking test?

  3. Hamza Ben Maaoui says

    Dear teacher Liz, firstly thanks a lot for your valuable efforts and for all the time that you dedicate to improve the IELTS preparation for several people around the globe, may God reward you and your family.

    I will pass the speaking test tomorrow morning and my question is should I try to talk until the examiner stops me in part 1 also or if I feel that my response is clear and sufficient I stop and let the examiner ask the following question.

    For part 3, for example if I don’t talk directly after the examiner asks his question , I take some seconds to think rapidly and start my answer, would it affect the score ? because sometimes seen that in the speaking test there is no sufficient time to think we can lack some ideas in the beginning.

    the last thing , is it normal to shake hands with the examiner when greeting him or it’s better to avoid it seen that it can be not accepted by some persons. Thanks a lot in advance.
    Greetings from Tunisia..

    • Why are you concerned about your response being clear and sufficient. Your ideas are not marked. Your task response is not marked. Only your English language is marked and if you don’t show willingness to speak, you will struggle to get a good score. Always keep talking until you are interrupted. Let the examiner decide when it is time to move on to the next question. So, answer directly and add more.
      In part 3, the questions are more difficult. But hopefully you will have prepared a lot of topics and have lots of ideas. You do not get thinking time. If you don’t answer it shows your English is failing you. Silence is not good in a language test. If you need thinking time, ask the examiner to repeat the question.
      Act in any way that you feel comfortable. Greet the examiner as you wish. But mostly I would advise you to let the examiner direct things. But it is still fine to be yourself and act naturally. Remember this is an informal speaking test.

      Good luck tomorrow!! 🙂

      • Hamza Ben Maaoui says

        thanks a lot for your rapid answer, I just was concerned about exceeding the five minutes limit of part 1 because I can speak for a long time and therefore the examiner will not reach twelve questions.
        I understand that it’s the right strategy now and the examiner will interrupt me when he wants.
        In reality, I’m counting on my level of English, I concentrated more on other parts of the test that seemed more challenging for me like the reading part but hopefully with the topics on your rewarding website and the official cambridge guide to IELTS I will manage to get the band the score that I aim for inchallah.
        Best Regards and a lot of respect great teacher Liz

        • Your English is all that counts in the speaking test. But do think about the language you are using and the skills you want to showcase. For example, in part 2, you have 1 minute to prepare. So, use that 1 min to think of future forms, past tenses, comparisons, superlatives, conditional statements (If I had X…, I would …) – all these things boost your score. Add description, details and examples. The more you add, the more English you showcase. In part 3, make sure to focus on talking about people in general and expand your ideas to show ho you can handle complex language and speak at length.
          Good luck!! Let me know how it all goes 🙂

          • Good evening dear teacher Liz,

            I’m trying to post the comment since I finished the exam but it’s not accepted I don’t know why, anyway for my speaking test I think that I spoke well without hesitation or stops , I answered directly modt of the time , however I have two concerns that i want to ask you about.

            in the second part I suppose that I spoke for 1 min 45 , the examiner added one question and we passed directly to part 3 , what it can affect the evaluation ?
            my second concern is about part 3 , in one of the questions after I answered she said the question was and we continued the discussion I guess that I didn’t respond to this question from the beginning , how can it affect the score.

            I had the rest of my test on saturday , it’s was not easy and not difficult in my opinion, the reading part that I was struggling with and I afraid of not finishing on time went well surprisingly and I had time to check and verify my answers, the listening was a little bit difficult despite that it seemed acceptable for me in the practice tests that I had, I improved my reading with the excellent strategies that I found on your website especially for locating answers which was my weaskest point, I losr valuable time on it.
            I’m really grateful for you and I always tell other people to visit your website , the teachers in British council Tunis know your website also and they say it’s one of the best.

            I hope that you will have one day a visit to British Council Tunis where we can learn from all your expertise

            Best Regards

            • Part 2 is your chance to show fluency. While aiming for 2 full minutes is good, it’s fine to speak for only 1.5 mins. At the end of the day, it is more about the level of your English and willingness to speak at length that counts. Fluency is also about the effort involved for you to keep talking. So, don’t worry about that. For the whole of the speaking test, there are no marks for task achievement or completing a question or ideas or developing ideas. It does not affect your marks if your answer wasn’t completely on target. If the examiner guides you, it’s fine. Again, your score will be about the level and range of your English when you speak, not what you understand.
              I’m glad to hear teachers in Tunis know my work. I will certainly put Tunis on my list of places I would one day love to visit 🙂
              Good luck with your results 🙂

              • Hamza Ben Maaoui says

                thanks a lot, I hope that I will get the band score that I worked for.

                • Hamza Ben Maaoui says

                  Dear teacher Liz,

                  thanks to your website , the practice tests in the official cambridge guide to IELTS I achieved my objective and got 7.5 overall band score which I think is a respectable score.
                  Despite that I haven’t too much time to prepare , I was confident practice is the key.
                  I’m very grateful that in our difficult world nowadays great people like you still let their knowledge and expertise available for several learners around the world for free.
                  my score for each section of the test :
                  listening : 7.5
                  reading : 7.5
                  writing : 7
                  speaking : 7

                • I’m so glad to hear your results – very well done 🙂

  4. Im a house wife neither work nor study so what would be the answer of question Do I work Or study?

    • You could try being direct which is always the best policy – “I’m a housewife. I don’t work or study”. IELTS is not a trick test. Just be yourself – it’s an informal speaking test.

  5. Lontsi Vanina says

    Hello Liz, I took my speaking test today and I finish part two before time I don’t know if it will affect my score. And the last part was very confusing, the examiner ask two questions that seems to be similar to me

    • It is common to finish before 2 mins is up. Of course, it’s best to keep speaking until the end, but you can still do well in fluency if you don’t. Your score is based on your overall performance.

  6. Hi Liz,

    Is it fine if i close my eyes and answer to the question posted by the examiner? Or do it create any negative impression in his mind that i am not maintaining eye-contact with him.

    Thanks in advance

    • One problem is that people who close their eyes or look away do that because they are trying to remember an answer that they learned by heart. This is a red flag for the examiner because you can’t use memorised answers – all answers need to be produced naturally. However, there is no actual rule that you need to keep eye contact. Not looking at the examiner doesn’t affect your score because your score is based on the English you produced. So, the key question really is – why would you not look at the person you are speaking to? What is the reason you don’t want to look?

  7. El Bevon dos santoz says

    Hi Liz ,your lessons are understandable . However you didn’t quite answer the question regarding carrying a wrist watch in order to time yourself during speaking part 2. The question is if it is really necessary to carry a wrist watch.

    • Why would you look at your watch in the speaking test if the examiner controls the time? There is no reason for you to think about time in the speaking test. You should keep talking until the examiner stops you. If you then think “but how do I know what 2 mins feels like?” I will answer – because you will have practised at least 50 times at home to speak for 2 mins with your stop watch. You practice everything at home, then in the test you let the examiner take control of the time. You NEVER decide when it’s time to stop talking in the test. The examiner will stop you when it’s time. You NEVER decide the answer is long enough, the examiner decides that. All you do is practise at home with time controls and then let the examiner guide you in the actual test. I hope you understand.

      • exactly! it is not necessary to bring watch…even disturbs the concentration and shares some focus that supposed to be in the answering. Liz you explain it perfectly.

  8. Hi Liz,
    Is it permissible to refer to the topic card while speaking in order to keep up with the flow (with reference to speaking Part II)? Or is it just shown before one begins to speak?

    • IELTS is not a trick test – they are not testing your memory. Of course you can look at your notes and the cue card while you speak. Your notes are there to remind you of the language you want to introduce into your talk 🙂

  9. Charanjeet singh says

    Thankyou respected mam
    Your lessons are really helpful. Seriously i can easily understand your language.
    Thankyou very much.
    God bless you to live long life.

  10. Preeti Dogra says

    Hi Liz,

    Thanks for all the lessons they are really helpful, I have my speaking test tomorrow and I am little nervous so any last minute tips that will help?

    Thanks so much
    I’ll keep you posted after test.


  11. Dear Liz,

    First of all, thanks a lot for your clear and detailed lessons, they are really helpful. However, I have a question regarding Speaking Part 2. Is it possible to wear a wrist-watch to time myself during this part of the test? Or should I just keep talking until the examiner stops me? I find it difficult to “understand” how long I have been talking in part 2 without a timer.

    Kind regards


    • 1) You should be practising at home to try and reach 2 mins. 2) The examiner controls the time in all parts of the speaking test. You keep talking until the examiner chooses to move on. In part 2, the examiner MUST give you 2 mins unless you stop early.

  12. Lifna Thomas says

    Hi Liz,

    Your tips are very useful. Specially in writing I found myself improving after watching your writing tips. Also you explain things in a very simple way with precision. I am lucky that I found your tutorial in the early stage of my preparation and hope all your tips will definitely help me to boost my confidential and score as well. I am planning to give exam on February 2018.

    Thank you

  13. Dear liz,
    so a candidate is being scored after the speaking test immediately ?? or is the recording played once again for `re-evaluation ?

    • The recording is for remarking if you are not happy with the test score and also for checking the examiner when necessary. Do you really think IELTS pays two speaking examiners for each student all the time?

    • I m so much confused for my speaking exam..My speaking test is on 26th august..I have a problem in speaking…Not getting ideas for speaking…
      In speaking module..1 cue card n 3 cues questions r given so on those 3 cues can I speak 2 lines on each cue question to score 7 bands in ielts??

  14. Hi Liz,

    Must we let the examiner ask all questions in Part 1 or is it alright to speak at length and let the examiner cut us off and move on to the following question?

    What if that means the examiner can’t ask us all of the questions he or she has on her script?

    Thank you

    • Just be natural. Give clear, direct answers in part 1 with some extra information. The examiner will control the time and the examiner move on when he/she wants. The examiner has many many many questions and will decide which questions to ask and how many – you don’t control that.

  15. Pls help me mam I have a lack of ideas..that’s why I am worry about my exam.

    • Start preparing ideas for topics in both speaking and writing. Google topics and start writing a list of ideas. You need to do the work to achieve a good score. 🙂

  16. in speaking part 1, how long should my answers be for the questions about work or study and hometown as i saw your questions about them and they are a short answer questions , another thing , i’ve just graduated and i don’t have a job yet should i prepare for work or studying questions or both?

    • There are 12 questions to answer in under 5 mins. This means you will only be able to give answers with about two sentences. As you can see from my model answers. If you don’t have a job, then you say that. This isn’t a tricky test. It is an informal chat with the examiner – so be open and normal “I have just finished my studies and I don’t have a job yet”.

  17. Hi LIZ
    please do we have to answer the questions in order ?

    • I don’t understand your question. The examiner will ask you questions one at a time.

      • Rachid,

        I think you are talking about the second part, and I believe I have an answer for you.

        Like Liz says in the advice above, these are only prompts and NOT questions, and are there as a guide only to build up a detailed and fluent talk on the subject. So just use them to formulate a good answer that contains all that information in a nice, non-jumbled way.

        All the best.

  18. Jean Chau says

    Hi, may I know if it is a must to use all the prompts in the cue card?
    Thank you.

    • You can use all the prompts, some of the prompts or no prompts. It’s your choice how you tackle your talk and what information you include. Stick to the general topic but develop the talk in your own way.

    • Anitha Sudhir says

      Dear Liz, Would you be kind enough to explain the speaking task models from Book No: 2 of Cambridge Ielts ? It is an entirely different model. I have a student appearing for the test this 24th. Awaiting your reply.

      • I don’t have access to my IELTS Cambridge books at the moment. What are your concerns? Can you explain them to me?

  19. Mam Liz,, I had my speaking test last week here in Lagos on 15/04/2017,,,, d test goes thus:
    Part 1
    Do u live in apartment or house
    wht do u see through d window
    Do u always have visitors
    Who do visit
    Do u enjoy visiting others
    Do u love taking photograph
    Do u have photographs of when u ar a child
    wht can you say about photograph

    Part 2 (cue card)
    describe a website u know
    wht it is
    how u know it
    wht u do their
    ..and y people visit it
    (actually for dz part,, I talked about Google,,, i said wht I can say about it,,, some if wch ar even still asked in part 3 like internet),,,, but after d exam,,, I realise DAT Google is not even website,,,, but yet I try to relax my mind bcos one of d tip I learnt from u is DAT just try to talk on something related yo d topic ,,, ur idea is not marked but rather ur talk,,,(hope I’m right,, as in on right track)

    Part 3
    do u like shopping
    wht ar d adv of shopping online
    wht ar d adv of internet
    Is there any negative effect of it ( on dz negatv,, I pause in d last part as I was able to say one adv,,i pause for a while to think on d second adv,, we were looking at our self , eyes to eyes,,,, she got to say, okay datz d end of d speaking test,,,then d point came to my mind and i said it as she is rounding up) so hope it doesnt affect my band score?? I wish to av above 6.5,, I answered all the rest of the question perfectly to d best of my knowledge.,….
    All ur tips, lessons and videos really helps…
    Thanks and may God bless you…..

    • Thanks for sharing 🙂 You are not marked on your ideas so talking about google is 100% fine. In part 3, don’t worry if ideas come to you later – it’s fine. You are only marked on the English language you produce. Good luck with your results 🙂

  20. Dr asfandyar khalil says

    I had the interview a day before i got a small pause in part 2 and examiner said you have time talk more ……… although it was good enough will this pause affect my score to b less than 7 bands …… i have used alot of transitions even

    • If this is the only pause in your test, it won’t have much impact.

      • Dr asfandyar says

        Thank u very much miss liz it was the only pause that i had in the interview it was just bcox of the reason that i thought that may b the 1 min time is over but when the examiner saod u have time i started my views again in the topic .

        • In speaking, there are two types of pauses. One type of pause is when you are looking for language because you can’t remember the word or you don’t know how to express yourself. The other type of pause is when you hesitate for natural reasons or for an idea. The examiner knows the difference between these types of pauses. The second type which is natural in even your own language, does not affect your score. As long as it’s just slight and not often. So, it sounds like you don’t need to worry. Let us know how your results are 🙂

      • Mirmukhammad says

        Thank you Liz.I want to ask you about length of speaking in Part2.Some say that it is better to speak 2minutes rather than 1.30 or 1.40 minutes.What would be consequences of speaking less than it is supposed tobe

        • Part 2 is a chance to demonstrate your fluency by speaking at length without effort. Aiming for 2 mins is best but 1.5 mins to also fine – as long as you don’t have hesitations.

  21. How can I improve my band score

  22. Ramish Qiyami says

    very nice things u have mentioned … may God bless u ..

  23. Tofunmi Aro says

    I am so grateful for these tips. They are really helpful.

  24. Rowshonara zaman says

    Please give me some information’s regarding reading .thanks mam

  25. Toniya Thomas says

    Is it necessary to use idioms for speaking exam? I m bit confused regarding this. Can u please help me?

  26. Hi Liza,
    I do thanks for your efforts and guidance you giving the learners. I have problem with speaking in fluency way, i spent 2/3 hours reading English news a day, but it seems that my speaking skills in low still. Now, i need your advice on this issue, how i improve my speaking skill.
    Thanks in advance,

  27. Hi, Liz you are a excellent teacher. i really appreciate for hard work. would you tell me some question relating to time and job ? thank you i am awaiting you’re reply.

  28. dear Liz

    In case I give some details, is not that considered digression?

    Kind Regards.

  29. what different between idp and bc i want to knowwhich was easier in general ielts BC OR IDP? ……………………………..

    For getting good band score…………………………

    • They are both the same. They use the same exam papers and examiners are trained 100% the same. The grading is the same. In fact, they are both part of the same company of IELTS and are equal partners.

  30. What is the difference between idp and bc…i really want to know cause some people said that bc is gud to get high band than idp…..

  31. sandip sharma says

    can you tell me the speed of talking with examiner in ielts speaking test …

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