The examiner needs you to speak so that your oral fluency and accuracy can be assessed. It’s difficult to do that if you are silent and it’s really not practical for the examiner to just ask you to speak.
Examiner: Good morning. Please sit down.
You: Good morning.
there is silence
You (smiling but confused): Well?
there is more silence
Examiner: You have twenty minutes. Speak.
You: About what?
the silence returns
The questions that the examiner asks you are not meant to trick you or confuse you. You might feel confused if you don’t listen to the question properly but the examiner really does want to give you every opportunity to speak. The questions are designed and asked to give you something to speak about.
When you answer the questions, you have a chance to show off your English and demonstrate what you can do. There’s no point answering the questions with a one word answer. Put yourself in the examiner’s shoes. What IELTS speaking band grade should the following IELTS candidate get?
Examiner: Do you study or work?
IELTS candidate: Study.
Examiner: Okay. What are you studying?
IELTS candidate: Science.
Examiner: That’s interesting. Which science are you specialising in?
IELTS candidate: Biology.
It would be really difficult the grade the English heard. The examiner might feel frustrated and would be forced to give a low grade based on the performance of the IELTS candidate. This would be sad, especially if the IELTS candidate was able to produce better English than this.
When you are being interviewed, you have to put on a show. You have to perform and during your performance you must demonstrate your level of English. Interviews are an artificial situation : both for you and for the IELTS examiner. You are not chatting over dinner in an expensive restaurant. More often than not, you will be one of many candidates that the IELTS examiner will interview during the day and examiners can get tired. Don’t make them work too hard : help them to see that your English is fantastic by giving full answers to their questions.
How could you answer this question in a full sentence (or more!) of at least ten words? Think about it for a minute or two before you read the answer of our fictional IELTS candidate below.
What do you do?
Here’s a great answer to this question :
“At the moment, I am working as a cook in a restaurant. It’s just a temporary job. I am starting my master’s at the University of Bristol in three months. Working in the restaurant is great fun but it’s only for the short term.”
Notice how the IELTS candidate answers the question but gives lots of detail. The candidate mentions their current job and also their plans for the future. The candidate also states how they feel about the current job.
This is much better than saying “I am a cook.”
Look at the following questions. How could you answer them in a sentence of 10 words or more. Could you give 2 sentence answers?
1. Do you read a lot?
2. Where are you from?
3. What time of day do you prefer?
4. Do you eat a lot of meat?
5. Do you prefer camping or hotel holidays?
Don’t forget to give reasons for your answer. Try to explain your answer.
The only way to get better at answering questions fully is by practising every day. Find lists of possible IELTS speaking questions and think about how you would answer them.