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Functional language and your IELTS Speaking test

Published on December 22, 2017

So you’ve decided to prepare for your IELTS. Good for you! In this post, we’ll take a look at phrases that you can use when answering typical questions on the IELTS Speaking test. Even though you should not memorize scripted answers at all, you can learn and practice useful language to talk about a variety of common topics.

Talking about personal experiences

In Part 1 of the Speaking test, you will have the chance to talk about your experiences on a variety of familiar topics. In addition, in Part 2 of the Speaking test you will be asked to talk for 1 to 2 minutes on a topic that will also be based on your personal experiences. Although you probably won’t find Part 1 questions difficult to answer, it is important that you vary your language when introducing personal experiences. Here are some examples of phrases you can use:

  • I once…
  • I remember when…
  • Back when I was…
  • I don’t remember exactly when, but…
  • (Just) the other day…

Giving your personal opinion

Throughout the Speaking test, you are also expected to use a range of phrases when giving your personal opinion on a subject. The following options can help you to stay away from the overused phrase ‘I think’ and to show the examiner flexibility when expressing personal opinions:

  • I believe…
  • In my opinion…
  • It seems to me that…
  • From my perspective…
  • As I see it…

There might be times when you feel very strongly about a specific topic. In such cases, you can use phrases such as the following:

  • I’m convinced that…
  • I’m certain that…
  • I’m sure that…
  • I know for a fact that…
  • There’s no way that…

Speculating and talking about the future

In parts 2 and 3 of the Speaking test, the examiner might ask you to talk about an imaginary situation or to talk about the future and express possibilities. Speculating (talking about something you’re not certain about), is a technique that you can also use when you have no experience or strong views on a topic. Let’s look at some of the phrases you can use to speculate and talk about the future:

  • I’d say…
  • I guess…
  • Perhaps / Maybe…
  • It’s possible…
  • I would imagine that…

Agreeing and disagreeing

In Part 3 of the Speaking test, you’ll be encouraged to discuss the topic from Part 2 more fully. This is where you will be invited to agree or disagree with a number of statements. Take this opportunity to demonstrate variety and control of language within a two-way discussion. For this, you can use phrases such as the following:


  • That’s for sure.
  • You’re absolutely right.
  • No doubt about it.
  • You have a point there.
  • Exactly.


  • I’m afraid I disagree.
  • That’s not always the case.
  • That’s not always true.
  • I’m not so sure about that.
  • I don’t think so.

Making comparisons and contrasting

You will also be asked to compare people, experiences, places or things throughout the IELTS Speaking test. To do this successfully, you need to know how to use comparative structures appropriately (e.g. taller than, more important than, better than). You can also go one step further by using adverbs, which will allow you to be more accurate in your descriptions (e.g. a bit further than, significantly higher than, far more interesting than). As well, there are expressions that you can use to make comparisons and contrast:

Explaining small differences or no difference

  • as + adjective + as
    ‘Studying Engineering is not as difficult as I thought it would be.’
  • same + noun + as
    ‘We bought an apartment in the city for the same price as our previous house.’
  • similar to
    ‘I’m very similar to my best friend in many aspects.’
  • much the same
    ‘All language schools in the area are much the same.’

Explaining big differences

  • no comparison
    ‘There’s no comparison. Online shopping is far more convenient than in-store shopping.’


  • compared to
    ‘Dogs are so much friendlier compared to cats.’
  • in contrast to
    ‘Living in the city has many advantages in contrast to living in the countryside.’

Asking the examiner for clarification

Finally, let’s look at some phrases and questions you can use if you don’t understand a question on the Speaking test:

  • Could you repeat that, please?
  • Could you say that again?
  • Sorry, I didn’t catch that.
  • Sorry, I didn’t understand the question.

In part 3 of the Speaking test, you can also ask the examiner to ask the question again using different words so that the question is clear to you:

  • Could you rephrase that, please?
  • Could you explain the question, please?
  • Would you mind explaining what you mean by?

By adding some of these phrases into your answers, you are sure to show your full range of vocabulary, helping you to get the score you deserve!