IELTS Speaking – can I change the topic?

Many students have asked us if it is possible to change the topic during the IELTS speaking exam. They also asked us why the examiner continues to ask questions about a particular topic that they have answered, which they don’t like. We are here to explain to you 🙂

Changing the topic in IELTS speaking

At no time can you ask the examiner to change the topic. You must prepare enough information and vocabulary on common topics so you can talk about a range of topics.

If the examiner asks you “Do you like art?” and you answer “No, I don’t.”, the examiner will continue to ask you questions about art. Just because you don’t like the topic, doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the topic in English. This is an English language test and high level students should be able to talk about a wide range of topics that you like and also don’t like. Below is an example of how you can still talk about a topic you don’t like.

Part 1

The questions are often simple in speaking part 1. Even if you don’t know much about the question, you can still answer it. Here are some examples:

Q: What kind of art do you like?

A: As I don’t like art, there isn’t one type of style or art form that I particularly like. Of all the art forms, I really don’t like modernist paintings.

Examiner Comment: The student gave a clear and concise answer. The answer was an appropriate length for part 1 and it contained a clear explanation. This answer contains complex sentences which helps the grammar score.  The answer also contains a good range of vocabulary such as “art form”, “style” and “modernist paintings”.

Q. What kind of extreme sports are popular in your country?

A: I don’t know anything about extreme sports so I can’t say which ones are popular. Most people just play regular sports like ball sports and water sports.

Examiner Comments: This reply gives a direct answer and also adds more information. It helps with the criterion of fluency. Although this candidate didn’t give examples of extreme sports, they gave examples of other sports which is appropriate to the topic. This is a strong answer.

More Tips

  • Part 2 –  Try to talk about the topic as closely as you can. If you do not understand it, talk about something similar. Don’t worry if you don’t use all the prompts on the card.
  • Part 3 – If you really don’t have any ideas for the answer, explain that. The most important thing is to use your English to express yourself.  You can still get good marks for using strong English in your answer. Below is an example of a part 3 question when the candidate can’t think of a clear answer or ideas:

Q: How do you think sports equipment will develop in the future?

A: I have no idea really but I guess that as technology develops, equipment will also change. That is clear from the development of equipment over the past 50 years and the introduction of new materials.

Examiner: Although the answer didn’t go into details, the candidate was able to offer an answer which used both future forms and past tenses which would give a strong score in grammar.

  • Don’t expect the examiner to change your topic because you don’t know much about it. This is a language test and the examiner must test how well you cope talking about different topics.
  • Prepare a range of topics for your IELTS test. Prepare ideas and vocabulary.
  • There are no marks for a right or wrong answer in IELTS speaking. There are only marks for your use of English language (so hint hint, do throw in plenty of linking phrases!)

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