On my two IELTS websites, I spend a lot of time giving advice and lesson plans for the various IELTS tests (speaking, writing, listening, and reading) but many teachers are curious about how to introduce these to new students. That is, how do you teach students who have never studied IELTS before what the IELTS exam is all about.

I have an introduction to IELTS writing lesson at my other website, as well as an overview of the whole IELTS exam itself, which can be quite useful. What this is, however, is a complete beginner’s guide to IELTS speaking, for students who are entirely unfamiliar. I will put this in guided discovery form, which is my preferred method.


I like to start with a little quiz on IELTS speaking. Tell the students that they can guess the answers if they don’t know. Likely, if most of your students are completely new, they will be guessing. That’s ok! Guessing incorrectly helps people remember the correct answer.

  1. The IELTS speaking exam lasts for
    • 8-10 minutes
    • 11-14 minutes
    • 15-18 minutes
  2. The exam has:
    • 2 parts
    • 3 parts
    • 4 parts
  3. The first part is about:
    • everyday topics
    • specialist topics
    • academic topics
  4. The second part asks you to:
    • argue something
    • explain something
    • describe something
  5. The third part is on:
    • the same topic as part two
    • a different topic to part two
    • the same topic as part one

The answers are: 1) b 2) b 3) a 4) c 5) a

Focus on Topics

Highlight the answer to question 3 from above: “everyday topics.” Explain that part one is about common, everyday topics that are often personal in nature. Give two examples: family and friends.

Then ask your students to brainstorm other topic ideas. Collect the ideas on the board and discuss which topics usually appear in the IELTS exam. Here are some IELTS topics:

  • friends
  • family
  • health
  • study/ work
  • food
  • music
  • TV
  • books
  • hobbies
  • hometown
  • travel
  • transport

There are more, and there is some overlap between the topics, but this is just an introductory lesson.

You can also explain at this point that topics are a great way to study for IELTS. Why? Because they can learn vocabulary in context and mix together the four parts of the IELTS exam to have a more interesting and valuable learning experience.

Answering Questions

Next, we’re going to look at some sample questions and answers. Simply show these (or read them aloud) to your students and ask, “Which was the best answer?” You can add in other answers to demonstrate, for example, that students shouldn’t speak too much in part one of the speaking test. If you have students with a higher level of English, you may want to add some more complex answers to address issues like paraphrasing the question, but for my students, at this stage, I keep it very basic.

  1. Do you like action movies?
    • Yes.
    • Yes, I quite like action movies. Although some people think they’re shallow and silly, I find them rather exciting.
  2. Where do you live?
    • I live in London right now, which is the capital city of the UK. I’ve been living there for about three years.
    • London.

As I said above, you can edit or expand this activity according to your students’ needs.

I would suggest giving your students some questions and having them answer them according to the above lesson. Remind them to answer the question and then expand slightly, without saying too much or straying off-topic.

Here are some ideas:

  1. What do you do with your friends on the weekend?
  2. Do you get enough exercise?
  3. Why did you choose your major?
  4. Do you get along better with your father or mother?
  5. Can you cook?

Watch an IELTS Speaking Test

Finally, I think it’s useful to watch an actual IELTS speaking test. There are so many sample videos on YouTube, and you might want to make it relevant to your students by choosing someone from their country or someone near their level of English. However, I like this video: