Tips for IELTS Speaking Part One

Part one of IELTS Speaking is the easiest part. The purpose of part one is simply to warm you up. It lasts four to five minutes during which the examiner will ask you 10 to 12 questions, covering three topics. 

The first topic is always about your work or studies. After that, they’ll ask you four questions about a second topic, and then four more questions about a third topic. 

The questions are all quite simple. They’re mostly about you and your life. 

The following five tips will help you answer your part-one questions well enough for a band-seven score.

1. Focus on Fluency

In part one, your focus should be on answering easily and fluently, without too much hesitation or repetition. 

You don’t need to speak very quickly. Just speak smoothly, without many moments of silence (hesitation). 

It’s okay to use quite simple English in part one. Your vocabulary and grammar don’t need to be very advanced and complex (that’s more important in parts two and three). 

So don’t worry too much about vocabulary and grammar in part one. Focus all your energy on answering fluently, without hesitating or repeating yourself.

2. Give Short, Simple Answers

Remember that in part one, the examiner has to ask you 10 to 12 questions in only four or five minutes. That’s not a lot of time.

Help the examiner out by giving short, clear answers. Each answer should be ten or twenty seconds long, not more. 

Some students get nervous and so they keep talking and talking and talking. Don’t do this. Remember to stop.

This is especially important in the first topic, which is about your work and studies. Your work and studies are such easy topics to talk about that some students want to say many, many things about them.

Don’t do this. Keep your answers short and sweet. 

3. Use the Three-Step YES Method

Here’s a simple way to answer each part-one question well. With the three-step YES Method, you simply say:

  • Your answer (answer the question directly)
  • Explain your answer (say one or two simple sentences to explain your answer)
  • Stop talking (stop with confidence, and wait patiently for the next question)

Practice answering part-one questions using this simple YES system. It will help you give just the right length of answer.

Two Example Questions With Answers

Let’s look at how to use the YES Method with a couple of examples.

If the examiner asks: ‘Do you like swimming?’ you can say:

‘Yes, I do.’ (This is Your answer)

‘I like swimming because it’s a very healthy way to keep fit. I occasionally go swimming at my local swimming pool.’ (This is quickly Explaining your answer)

‘…’ (This is you Stopping talking, and waiting patiently for the next question)

If the examiner asks: ‘What is your main responsibility at work?’ you could say:

‘I need to make sure that our clients receive their products on time.’ (Your answer)

‘If we miss a deadline, the client might lose money and my boss will be very unhappy. So I always make sure we deliver our products promptly.’ (Explain your answer)

‘…’ (Stop talking)

4. Listen Carefully, Answer Exactly

You don’t need to use complex grammar in part one. But you do need to listen carefully to the question and then answer with the correct grammatical tense or sentence structure. 

You must show that you can listen carefully, understand questions clearly, and answer them exactly.  

For example, if the question asks: ‘Have you ever done ______?’ then you should answer ‘yes, I have,’ or ‘no, I haven’t.’

If the question asks: ‘How often do you do _______?’ then say how often you do that thing. 

If the question asks: ‘What did you enjoy doing as a child?’ then answer using the past tense, not the present tense. 

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

Of course, the key to success in part one (and also parts two and three) is practice. 

You can find wonderful long lists of part-one questions online (such as this list and this list). 

If you answer a few part-one questions every day, and you use the YES Method to answer them smoothly and fluently, then you’ll soon become very good at it. 

When you’re alone, the best way to practice is by recording yourself. This way you can listen to your answers, notice any mistakes or hesitation, and repeat the questions, improving a little each time.

On this site, you can read hundreds of example answers to part-one questions. All the answers are written by a native English speaker and teacher from London. So the language used is natural, real English. 

That’s all for part one.  

For advice on how to prepare for part two of the test, go here.

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