IELTS Speaking: Can I ask Examiner Questions?

Can I ask the examiner questions during the exam?

This page explains to your questions you should and shouldn’t ask examiners in each part of the IELTS speaking test. Take a moment to go through 🙂

Asking Questions in Speaking Part 1

Of course, you can ask the examiner to repeat the question in IELTS speaking part 1 (Could you repeat that, please?) but that’s about all you can ask. You can’t ask other questions. The examiner is limited to asking questions only in speaking part 1 and can’t help you or explain. The examiner can’t explain questions and can’t explain words.

Asking Questions in Speaking Part 2

You can’t ask any questions in part 2. And you definitely won’t be able to ask the examiner to change the topic. You must use the topic that has been given to you and try your best to talk about something related to your cue card. If you don’t understand a word on your cue card, the examiner can’t help you. You need to follow the topic on your card and follow the prompts you understand. You can add any other information you want to your talk to make it longer which relates to the topic. Remember to use plenty of LINKING PHRASES!!
The examiner will tell you when to start talking and when to stop. You don’t need to ask.

Asking Questions in Speaking Part 3

You can ask the examiner to explain words and to explain the question in IELTS speaking part 3.  This is useful because the examiner will rephrase the question using different words and make it easier to understand. You can also ask the examiner to repeat the question, the same as part 1.

Here is the list of questions you can ask in speaking part 3:

  • Could you explain that, please? (the examiner will rephrase the question)
  • What do you mean exactly? (the examiner will rephrase the question)
  • Could you explain what X means, please? (for a specific word)
  • What does X mean? (for a specific word)

Don’t ask the examiner the following questions:

  • Have you been there?
  • What do you think?
  • Where do you come from?
  • Do you agree with me?
  • Can you change the question?
  • Can you give me an example?
  • Can you give me a different topic?
  • What are your opinions?

Thinking Time

Sometimes you need to time to think about the question and think of your answer. One way to do that is to ask the examiner to repeat the question. It is a useful way to gain time to think. Alternatively, you can say “It’s an interesting question. I’ve never really thought about it before. I suppose” You could use that method for difficult questions in part 3.

Will I lose marks if I ask the examiner to repeat the question?

No, it won’t affect your score. Your score is calculated on fluency, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. There is no score for understanding or comprehension. So, it is fine to ask the examiner to repeat one to two questions in part 1 or to explain a question in part 3.

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