Even if you are asked what seems like a yes–no question, you are expected to say more.

The IELTS interview gives you roughly 10 to 15 minutes of time to display your English speaking skills to the examiner. If you give one-word or very short answers to questions you are not giving the examiner much with which to assess you.

Even if you are asked what seems like a yes–no question you are expected to say more than a simple “yes" or “no”. You should try to develop what you say by, for example, giving reasons, opinions or describing something in more detail.

In the video clip Joao is asked to tell the examiner something he likes about his job. He answers by saying “the people”, which shows that he has understood the question, but it doesn’t show off any of his English skills. What he needs to do, which eventually he does with some prompting from the examiner, is to develop his answer and describe in more detail why he likes the people he works with.

A good tip for candidates is to look for signals from the examiner. Often you can see from the examiner’s facial expression or manner if you have said enough or not.


Hello Sphynx,

In general, I think it's important to tell the interviewer if you're having a difficult time understanding him or her. I expect that most will be quite understanding, especially as it is often more difficult to understand someone over the computer or phone. Questions like yours are really best for a career counselor, but I'd say it's a good idea to say if you have a hard time understanding someone. A couple of sentences you could use to do this are:

I'm afraid that I'm having a hard time understanding you.
I'm afraid that the connection is making it difficult for me to understand you.

Good luck!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I would like to ask a question here.
What if I don't have an answer to a particular question. For example, if the question asks: "tell me about someone you admire". So if I genuinely didn't have someone that I admired, how should I approach this question? Can I talk about the topic in a slightly different way; for example, can I say I don't have anyone I admired and give reasons why it is so? - I think I will have a lot more to say this way, however I realized that I won't be answering any of the questions. Is this a good approach or not? Or, should I just make up the answer?

Hello Aida117,

In the exam you will receive a speaking card which has more than just one question on it. There are prompts such as 'Why do you admire them?' / 'What have they done that is admirable?' / 'Do other people generally admire this person?' and so on. If you don't answer the question then it's very hard to address the other points.

The questions are generally very open, and designed so that everyone can provide an answer. For example, for the question you quote a real person, a historical person, a fictional person or a person from your family - there's a very wide range!

For more information on the IELTS exam, including the speaking part, please take a look at the British Council's site for IETLS candidates, TakeIELTS.

Best wishes and good luck!


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter for your very prompt reply.
Are you saying that my marks will be deducted if I didn't answer the questions? Oh dear..
What I really meant was how do we approach a difficult question? One particular topic may seem 'general' and easy for one person but can be considered as unfamiliar or uninteresting to another person. Every individual prefers to talk about certain topics and doesn't like to talk about some other topics. Therefore, there will be a topic which will appear tough for someone to talk about.
So, how do we approach this situation? What can we do to perform well during the speaking test if we have to talk about an unfamiliar topic? I guess what makes it a lot harder is the time constraint during exam.

Best wishes,

Hello Aida117,

In general, you will not get full marks if you don't answer the question. It sounds to me like you are equating something familiar or general with something interesting. You might not find it interesting to speak about someone you admire, but there must be someone you admire in your life – this is a universal human experience. Even if it's difficult for you to think of someone you admire, you can imagine what it would be like and speak as if you do. And you can admire anyone – someone in your family, a friend or even someone you don't know or who is dead (e.g. Gandhi). On the other hand, if the question were for you to speak about, for example, the causes of the Spanish Civil War, that would require knowledge that is not universally held. You won't find that kind of topic on the IELTS.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Thanks for your explanation.
I think I get the idea now ;)


The eye contact between them is funny and make sense!
But i would like to know if the body lanuage affect my performance possitively there or not?

Hello ewb,

No, you are assessed on the language you produce, not on your body language.

You can find more information on the IELTS exam on the British Council's site for IELTS candidates, TakeIELTS.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Simple but valuable to non-native speakers like me.

this video is so funny, thanks for sharing