The official IELTS by IDP app is here! Download it today.


Does the thought of speaking in public or to a stranger scare you? Perhaps you’re afraid of stuttering, pausing awkwardly or losing your train of thought mid-sentence. The worst thing is carrying these issues into a high-stakes situation like your IELTS Speaking test.

How do you overcome your fear of speaking and master the nuances of communicating effectively?

As a test of language and a platform where public communication skills are scrutinised, every pause, stutter, and nuance in speech delivery can tip the scales in your IELTS Speaking test. This guide aims to arm you with strategies on how to get out of a tight spot during your test, as well as leverage resources such as IELTS exam practice tests online, to ensure you're well-prepared to give a speech or converse fluently in English under any circumstances.

Understanding the IELTS Speaking test

The IELTS Speaking test is a structured evaluation of your English speaking skills, consisting of three parts, each assessing different aspects of your ability:

  • Part 1: Introduction and Interview (4-5 minutes) – Focuses on your capacity to communicate about everyday topics and common experiences. You'll answer general questions about yourself and your interests, testing your fluency, coherence, pronunciation, mastery of grammar and other aspects of speaking on familiar topics. To ace Part 1 with confidence, it's important to engage in regular practice discussing a wide range of personal and familiar topics such as hobbies, work, studies, family, and interests.

  • Part 2: Long turn (3-4 minutes) - Examines your ability to speak at length on a given topic, with one minute to prepare before speaking for 1-2 minutes. This part evaluates your skill in organising thoughts, using a wide range of vocabulary, and speaking coherently without interaction from the examiner.

  • Part 3: Discussion (4-5 minutes) - Involves a more interactive and challenging conversation related to the topic in Part 2. It assesses your ability to express and justify opinions, engage in discussion, and speculate, requiring a higher level of language proficiency and critical thinking.

Engaging in IELTS online courses and attending IELTS classes can provide the structured practice and feedback necessary to excel. These resources often include simulated speaking scenarios, offering invaluable opportunities to refine your speech delivery and manage public communication anxieties, such as stuttering or losing your train of thought.

How to tackle common IELTS Speaking test challenges

Navigating through the IELTS Speaking test requires more than just improving your English language proficiency; it demands strategies for tackling various challenges. Whether it's dealing with unfamiliar questions, practising solo, or managing nerves, preparation is key. Here are common scenarios you might encounter and tips to overcome them:

Common scenario 1: facing an unfamiliar question

An unfamiliar question can unsettle even the most prepared candidate. This scenario, however, offers an opportunity to showcase adaptability and critical thinking. A key strategy is to dissect the question into more familiar components, allowing you to anchor your response in known territories.

If the question remains opaque, do not shy away from asking the examiner for clarification or repetition. This not only buys you time but also shows active engagement with the task at hand.

Incorporating IELTS online exam practice tests into your study routine can expose you to a wide variety of questions, enhancing your ability to think on your feet. Such preparation aids in reducing the anxiety associated with public speaking and builds your confidence in articulating well-structured responses.

Common scenario 2: losing your train of thought

The fear of losing one's train of thought is prevalent among test takers. It can happen to anyone, but having a toolkit of strategies can help you manage this situation gracefully. One of the simplest techniques is to allow yourself a brief pause to collect your thoughts. This momentary break can be instrumental in regaining your focus and organising your ideas before continuing.

If you can't immediately recall your original point, smoothly transition to a related topic. This keeps the conversation flowing and can buy you time to remember your initial train of thought.


Non-verbal cues can significantly impact your perceived confidence. Maintaining eye contact with the examiner and using open, confident body language can help you appear more composed, even if you're internally regrouping. Remember that the test assesses your ability to communicate effectively, not your perfection in delivering content. Focusing on maintaining fluency, coherence and other aspects of speaking can help reduce the pressure of producing the perfect answer, making it easier to recover from lapses in thought.

Common scenario 3: coping with technical glitches (online tests)

For those opting for IELTS Online, technical glitches pose a unique challenge. Being familiar with the test's digital platform, as offered by many IELTS online courses, can prepare you for such eventualities. These courses provide tips on staying composed and troubleshooting common technical issues, ensuring that your speech delivery remains unaffected.

Common scenario 4: running out of time

Effective time management is essential during the IELTS Speaking test, particularly when delivering a prepared speech on a specific topic. Practising with a timer can help you gauge and adjust the length of your responses.

Employing transitional phrases to signal the conclusion of your thoughts can also aid in wrapping up your speech succinctly, ensuring you convey all critical points within the allotted time. This practice enhances your ability to communicate effectively and efficiently, a key aspect of proficient public communication.

Common scenario 5: managing nervousness during the test

Nervousness is a universal experience that can affect anyone from a beginner to someone who can speak English well. Some strategies, such as deep breathing exercises and positive visualisation can significantly alleviate test anxiety, helping to maintain focus and calmness and overcome the fear of having conversations in English.

IELTS preparation courses often incorporate specific techniques aimed at boosting confidence and reducing nervousness, focusing on developing strong public communication skills and fostering a positive mindset. These strategies are designed to empower candidates to approach the test with confidence, ensuring they can perform to the best of their abilities.

Common scenario 6: solo practice without a partner

The absence of a practice partner is a common concern. But it’s a matter of finding innovative ways to practice when a partner isn't available. While the traditional approach involves interaction with others, there are several effective solo practice techniques that can closely mimic the conditions of the actual test.

One of the most effective strategies is recording your own responses to various speaking prompts. This allows you to play back your answers, critically assess your performance, and identify areas for improvement.

Engaging in self-dialogues is another valuable practice method. By simulating both sides of a conversation, you can challenge your ability to think quickly and respond coherently, enhancing your fluency and ability to structure your thoughts. This practice can be particularly beneficial for developing a wide range of vocabulary and grammatical structures.

Maximise your IELTS speaking success with IDP

The IELTS Speaking test demands more than just language proficiency; it tests your ability to handle real-time scenarios with confidence and strategic thinking.

Refine your speaking skills and develop strategies to overcome common challenges using official IELTS preparation materials such as those by IDP, a co-owner of the IELTS test. That’s how to ensure that when the time comes to give a speech or converse in English, you can do so with poise and proficiency.

When you’re ready, book your IELTS by IDP test today!