Advice Part 3 IELTS Speaking

Verb Tenses

In part 3 of the IELTS speaking test, you will probably get some questions about the past and the future. The examiner will be listening carefully to make sure you use the correct tense.

  • If the examiner mentions “50 years ago”, “when your parents were young” or “when you were a child”, you should answer using the past simple.
  • If the question asks you to predict, or if it mentions “in 50 years” or “in the future”, use a future tense (will + infinitive).

Do you think people had easier lives 50 years ago?
Yes, maybe life was simpler and less stressful 50 years ago. The mobile phone didn’t exist, so I suppose it was easier to forget about work at the end of the day because people couldn’t contact you so easily.

Do you think life will be more stressful in the future?
Yes, it probably will be more stressful. As the world gets smaller, employees will probably have to travel to different countries more often and stay in touch with colleagues and clients all over the world. There will also be more competition for jobs and the cost of living will keep going up.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: explain, alternative, example

In part 3 of the speaking test, you need to give longer, detailed answers. A good way to do this is by organising your answers according to the following steps:

  1. Idea: answer the question directly.
  2. Explain: give a reason or explain your answer in more detail.
  3. Alternative: explain an alternative (e.g. the opposite) to your answer.
  4. Example: give an example to support your answer.
  5. Another idea: sometimes you think of another idea while you are speaking. Just add it on the end of your answer.

You can give a really good answer without including all five steps, but you might find it useful to practise including all five, as I’ve done here:

Why do you think some people prefer to buy products from their own countries rather than imported items?

(idea) I suppose it’s because those people want to support the economy of the country they live in. (explain) If they buy something that was made in their own country, they know that they are contributing to the salaries of workers within the same country, (alternative) whereas if they buy imported items, a foreign company and its employees will benefit. (example) For example, if I buy some meat that originates from a local farm rather than a farm in another country, I’m helping one of my fellow citizens to carry on in business. (another idea) Also, I think that trust is an issue; people might feel that they can trust domestically produced items more than imported ones.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: comparing past and present

In part 3 of IELTS speaking, you might be asked to compare the past with the present. The examiner will be listening to your use tenses. For example:

Are there any differences between the types of people who were seen as celebrities in the past and those who are celebrities nowadays?

Yes, I think there have been some big changes in the types of people who become famous. In the past, before the invention of television, I suppose there were very few national or international celebrities; maybe kings and queens, military, political and religious leaders were the only household names. With the advent of TV and radio, performers such as actors and musicians became more well-known. However, we now seem to have a completely new breed of celebrity as a result of ‘reality’ television programmes; these are people who don’t really have any special skills as performers, but who are famous for just being themselves.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: adding details

These are the 3 techniques I use to create longer, more detailed answers:

  1. Explain why
  2. Give an example
  3. Explain the alternatives

Why do you think friendship is important?

I think friendship is important for all sorts of reasons. (why?) We need friends to share experiences with, to talk to, and for support. (example?) In my case, I like to meet up with friends at the weekend to do something enjoyable, like see a film or go out for dinner. I like chatting with my friends about what we’ve been doing during the week, or about what’s happening in the world. (alternatives?) Without friends to talk to, life would be dull and boring; we would only have our families to talk to.

For another example of this technique, click here.

IELTS Speaking: add detail

Many students worry too much about grammar. For speaking parts 2 and 3, it’s more important to worry about the quality of your answers. The best way to improve the quality of your answers is by adding detail.

Describe your best friend. Say when you met him/her.

Short answer about when we met:
I met my best friend at school when I was 11 years old.

Detailed answer about when we met:
I met my best friend at school when I was 11 years old, so we’ve known each other for … years. I remember we sat next to each other in my first science lesson at secondary school, and we had to work together to do an experiment. We got on straight away, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Notice that by adding more information I’ve also used more/better vocabulary and grammar.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: ‘history’ topic

Questions in part 3 of the speaking test follow on from the topic you were given in part 2. So, after last week’s historic event question, you might be asked some further questions about history and events. For example:

1. What do you think we can learn by studying events of the past?

I think we can learn a lot by studying history. Just as individual people learn from their mistakes, societies can learn from the mistakes made by previous governments or leaders. For example, from what I’ve read in the newspapers, many economists are looking back to the time of the Great Depression, around 80 years ago, in order to understand the financial crisis that is currently affecting many countries around the world. Even if we don’t always learn from mistakes, I think it’s fascinating to study history because it gives us an insight into who we are and where we come from.

2. What important events do you think might take place in the future?

It’s really difficult to predict what will happen in the future; most of the big, historic events of the past would have been impossible to foresee. For example, I don’t think that anyone living 100 years ago could have imagined that people would one day walk on the moon! If I had to guess what might happen in the future, I’d like to think that scientists will invent cures for diseases like cancer, and we’ll all live longer.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: longer answers

Here are 3 techniques to help you give longer, more detailed answers:

  1. Keep asking yourself “why?”
  2. Explain the alternatives
  3. Give an example

Do you think that school children should be encouraged to have their own ideas, or is it more important for them to learn what their teachers give them?

I think that we should definitely allow children to be creative and have their own ideas. (why?) Children need to develop the ability to think for themselves and solve problems (why?) because as adults they will not always have somebody to guide them or tell them what to do. (alternatives?) If we don’t allow children to have their own ideas, they will be less successful in the adult world; they will be too reliant on others. (example?) A doctor, for example, might encounter a situation that he or she hasn’t been trained for, but will still be expected to make a decision that could save someone’s life.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: more long answers

Here are two more answers using the techniques I explained last week:

What do you think are the most important qualities for friends to have?

Maybe the most important things are that friends need to share common interests and be honest with each other. (why?) Friends are people we spend a lot of time with, so it definitely helps if they enjoy doing the same activities or talking about the same topics as we do, and of course we need to be able to trust our friends, so honesty is vital for a good friendship. (alternatives / example?) I think I would struggle to become friends with someone who didn’t have anything in common with me, or who wasn’t reliable or trustworthy.

How important do you think it is for a person to spend some time alone?

I’d say that it’s essential to spend a bit of time alone, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. (why?) When you have a few minutes to yourself, it’s a chance to take stock and reflect on things. (why?) Most of us live such busy lives that our brains need time to catch up every now and then. (example / alternatives?) Personally, I try to have a bit of “me time” every day; I’ll go for a coffee or find a quiet place to sit and read the newspaper. If I never had any time alone, I think I’d go mad!

IELTS Speaking Part 3: make it personal

In part 3 of IELTS speaking, it really helps if you give personal examples:

1. Do you think it’s important for people to have hobbies? Why?

Yes, I think people need to have hobbies because we all need to do things we enjoy in our spare time. In my case, I find that playing football once a week with some friends helps me to relax, keep fit and forget about work. I think it’s the same for everyone.

2. Can hobbies have any negative effects?

Yes, if you spend too much time on your hobby, it can affect other parts of your life. I remember that one of my friends spent most of his time at university playing computer games instead of studying. In the end, he failed most of his exams.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: verb tenses

In part 3 of the speaking test, it’s common to get questions about the past and future, as well as questions about ‘now’. The examiner will be listening to your use of verb tenses:

What types of transport are there in your town?

In Manchester I think you can find every form of transport apart from an underground system. You can drive around the city by car or get on a bus; there are even free buses that take people between the train stations. Manchester also has a tram system, and of course there are taxis too.

How has transport changed since your grandparents were young?

Well, they had cars, trains and planes back then, and London already had the underground system, but I suppose the difference is that technology has moved on. Having said that, the transport system is not necessarily better nowadays; people travel a lot more, and I’m sure we spend more time stuck in traffic.

What types of transport do you think we will use in the future?

I’m not sure, but hopefully we’ll have cars that drive themselves and never crash. I think we’ll probably fly more, and it might become normal to have your own plane. On the other hand, many cities are building more bicycle lanes, so maybe we will use cars less for getting around towns and cities.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: verb tenses

In part 3, the examiner often asks a question about the past and a question about the future. For example:

  1. Did people have more free time when your grandparents were young?
  2. Do you think the hobbies people have will be different in the future?

In the first answer, the examiner wants to hear some past tense verbs. In the second answer, you will need to use a future tense:

  1. When my grandparents were young, I think they had less leisure time. They didn’t have the gadgets we use nowadays, so they probably spent more time doing simple things. For example, nowadays we can cook meals in a microwave in less than 5 minutes, whereas in the past people had to cook everything themselves.
  2. No, I don’t think hobbies will change much in the future. I’m sure people will still play games and sports. On the other hand, maybe the Internet is changing the way we spend our free time. In the future, more and more people might have online hobbies.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: finish strongly!

When I was an examiner, I remember that not many candidates performed well towards the end of the speaking test. After trying really hard in parts 1 and 2, many people seemed to run out of energy when they got to part 3.

So, how can you make sure that you finish strongly and do well in part 3?

I think the secret is to answer according to a simple 3-step formula: answer the question directly, then explain in detail, then give an example (e.g. a personal experience). I’ve included a fourth step in this lesson, but the first 3 steps are the easiest to use.

Note: You need to practise consciously going through the 3 steps as you give an answer (maybe you could count the steps on your fingers). Otherwise, you’ll go back to your old technique of saying whatever comes into your head!

IELTS Speaking Part 3: idea, explain, personal example

Let’s look at a sample answer using the “idea, explain, example” structure. This time I’m using a personal example in the last sentence.

What disagreements do teenagers often have with their parents? Why?

(Idea / basic answer) Teenagers disagree with their parents about all sorts of things, like the clothes they want to wear, whether they can go out with their friends, doing homework, and how much help they give their parents around the house. (Explain why) I think the teenage years are when we develop a sense of identity, and we want to make our own decisions rather than follow other people’s instructions. (Personal example) I remember having disagreements with my own parents, usually about simple things like getting up early in the morning, tidying my room, or doing the washing up!

Can you answer the following question in the same way?

Do you think that it’s important to be polite?

IELTS Speaking Part 3: long answer practice

Try using the ‘long answer’ technique from this lesson to answer the questions below (from Cambridge book 11).

  1. Do you think there are too many game shows on TV nowadays? Why?
  2. Do you think that people pay attention to adverts on TV? Why?

I’ll show you my answers next Friday.

IELTS Speaking Part 2: future aim - IELTS Speaking / IELTS Speaking Part 2 n 3 - 8IELTS - Học Tiếng Anh công nghệ cao

IELTS Speaking Part 3: sample answers

Here are my sample answers to the questions in last week’s lesson. I’ve used the ‘long answer’ steps that I always recommend for part 3.

1) Do you think there are too many game shows on TV nowadays? Why?

(answer) Yes, there are far too many game shows on TV for my liking. (explain) I suppose the channels show these programmes because they are popular, and they must be very profitable. (example) A good example is ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’, which has been sold to TV channels across the world. (alternative) Personally, I’m not a fan of game shows, and I’d much rather watch a film or an original drama series.

2) Do you think that people pay attention to adverts on TV? Why?

(answer) Yes, I think we are all influenced to some extent by TV adverts, otherwise companies wouldn’t pay so much to have them shown. (explain) Advertisers are very good at making us believe that their products or services will improve our lives in some way. (example) For example, if you see an advert for a new phone, it plants a seed in your mind, and you start to wonder about upgrading your old phone.

IELTS Speaking: opinion phrases

Here are 3 good phrases that I used when giving my opinion in yesterday’s speaking lesson. Try using them in your own sentences.

  • too… for my liking (e.g. the weather is too hot for my liking)
  • Personally, I’m not a fan of…
  • I’d much rather do A (than B)

IELTS Speaking Advice: general or personal?

Here’s a useful question from a student called Tuan:

In the book ‘Complete IELTS’, it says that in speaking part 3 the examinee should talk about the subject in general, not in a personal way.

Example question: How popular is art as a school subject?

The book advises me to say this:
On the whole, I think most children enjoy art, although they do seem to go off it a bit when they get older. I guess that’s to be expected.

The book says I shouldn’t say this:
Well, in my primary school, children loved it. I loved making things, for example, and in my secondary school, students hated it; we couldn’t see the point when we had so many other things to do.

Simon, do you agree with this advice?

Here’s my reply:

The examiner just wants to hear a good answer. If the question is general rather than personal, like the example above, it makes sense to answer in a general way. It seems strange to go straight into a personal example about your own primary school.

However, there is nothing wrong with including a personal example after giving a general answer. I tell my students to follow three steps when answering part 3 speaking questions: first answer the question (in a general way), then explain your answer, then support your answer with an example (which could be a personal example).

IELTS Speaking Part 3: think ‘paragraph’

In part 3 of the speaking test, you should try to give longer, detailed answers. A good way to do this is to imagine that you are making a paragraph.

Remember the ‘paragraph building’ techniques that we use in writing task 2:

Idea, explain, example
Start with a direct answer to the question, like the ‘topic sentence’ in a written paragraph. Then explain your answer in more detail, and support your explanation with an example.
Try answering this question: Do you think that it’s important for people to go on holiday?

Firstly, secondly, finally
Start with the direct answer, then explain it by giving two or three reasons, and maybe an example too.
Try answering this question: Why do you think some people prefer not to go abroad on holiday?

IELTS Speaking Part 3: longer answers

Do you remember my advice about how to give longer answers in part 3?

  • Answer the question directly
  • Explain your answer (ask your self why)
  • Give an example
  • Mention an alternative or opposite answer

Example question
Do you think the seasons still influence people’s behaviour?

Example answer
(direct answer) Yes, I do think the seasons still affect how we behave. (explain how) We still wear different clothes depending on the weather, and clothes shops change what they sell according to the season. We also adapt our habits and daily routines according to the time of year. (example) For example, people in my country like to eat outside in their gardens in the summer, but we can’t do that during the other seasons. (opposite) On the other hand, I don’t think we notice the change in seasons when it comes to food; the big supermarkets import food from around the world, so most people don’t buy seasonal fruit and vegetables any more.

IELTS Speaking Part 3: finish strongly!

By the end of speaking part 2, many IELTS candidates are exhausted and just want the exam to end. Consequently, they don’t do as well as they could in part 3.

Ever since I noticed this problem as an examiner, I’ve told my students to make sure that they master the 3-step (or sometimes 4-step) method that I showed you last Friday.

Practise answering as many questions as you can using the “answer, explain, example (alternative)” method. If you can get into the habit of following these steps, you’ll finish the speaking test strongly and make a good final impression on the examiner.