In the IELTS speaking test, you will be asked questions about common daily topics, such as technology, education, and health. It is also quite common to be asked about reading and books.

In this lesson, I’ll show you some common questions and give some sample answers.

Books and Reading: How does this topic appear in IELTS?

First of all, I’ll just mention that this topic could pop up in any part of the IELTS exam. I’ve seen it in the listening, reading, speaking, and writing tests.

For IELTS speaking, it could appear in any three of the parts, so you need to be aware of that. Here’s how it would generally occur:

  • Part 1 – simple questions about books and your preferences in terms of reading
  • Part 2 – you’ll have to describe a book or a library
  • Part 3 – more abstract questions, perhaps relating to age or gender

Let’s now look in more depth at how reading and books could appear in IELTS speaking.

Part 1

In this part of the test, questions about books and reading will be quite basic and mostly about your personal opinions. Here are some sample questions (Q) and answers (A):

  • Q: Do you like reading?
  • A: Yes, I love reading. I try to read at least one book every two weeks and I frequently read articles from magazines and journals.
  • Q: Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
  • A: Hmm. I like them both for different reasons, so I can’t say I necessarily prefer one more than the other. I usually alternate between novels and non-fiction books and I like them equally.
  • Q: What’s your favourite book?
  • A: Well, there are many books that I really like but I suppose the first one that comes to mind right now is Haruki Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I love the complexity and the mixture of realism and surrealism.
  • Q: Do you ever read poetry?
  • A: Not often, but occasionally. I liked reading it when I was younger but nowadays I generally don’t find that it appeals to me. However, sometimes I will stumble upon a poetry book that I like and read it for a while.
  • Q: Do you ever go to the library?
  • A: There are no libraries where I live, so I don’t go now. However, when I was a child I was often at the library. Now, I buy my books online or in second-hand shops. I also read a lot on my Kindle.
  • Q: Do you prefer reading paper books or digital ones?
  • A: I slightly prefer paper books but I’m comfortable reading either. I suppose it depends in part on the type of e-reader. My new Kindle is great but I didn’t much like the older ones, and I can’t stand reading on an iPad or laptop.

Here are some of my books about IELTS:

ielts books
You can order them here.

Tips for Part 1

You might feel that my answers here were too short, but they’re fine. We don’t need to say a lot at this point in the test. Avoid saying too little, though. You can generally think of your answers like this:

  1. Answer the question directly
  2. Give a little detail about your answer

Remember that you’ll have plenty of time to speak at length in parts 2 and 3.

Part 2

An IELTS speaking part 2 question about books would likely revolve around describing a book or describing a library or bookshop.

I have given a detailed guide to describing a book here and you can see the video here:

You might also appreciate this guide to IELTS cue cards.

Part 3

For part 3, the questions will be a lot more difficult than in part 1. They are often a little abstract and involve “bigger issues” like society, technology, age, and so on. Instead of asking what you like to read, the examiner might ask about reading preferences between young people and old ones, or between men and women.

Here are some examples:

  • Q: Do you think that ebooks will one day replace paper books?
  • A: No, I don’t think so. However, they might become a lot more popular than they currently are. Ebooks clearly possess great value and as technology advances I think they will become increasingly common, but I think that printed books will continue to have a place. They might change form a little, but people generally prefer them and so I cannot see them becoming obsolete in the near future.
  • Q: How can children be encouraged to read?
  • A: First of all, it’s important that reading is not a chore for them. If children are told that they have to read certain books, they will view it as an unpleasant task and the things they prefer, such as video games, will be the reward for finishing that task. However, this means that they won’t read unless they are forced to. As such, it’s important to let children find the joy in reading and that will typically come from a playful early exposure. I think the best way is having parents read to children when they are young, so that they gain positive associations and come to appreciate this way of enjoying a story.
  • Q: Will libraries still exist in the future?
  • A: Sadly, I think that they will become less common, but they still will exist. Although ebooks and the internet will make libraries less important, it is likely that they will have a place in society because they offer various services beyond just borrowing printed books. Libraries loan ebooks, for example, as well as software. They are a place for people without a PC to use one and they do contain information that is not yet online.
  • Q: There are differences between the sorts of books that appeal to men and women?
  • A: Generally, I think there are but of course we should keep in mind that anyone should be free to read anything they want. We can easily see that young boys and girls have major differences in their innate preferences and I think this carries over to adulthood. There is a sort of cliché that women like romantic books and men like action, and this definitely has some truth in it, although obviously many genres are enjoyed by both genders.

Tips for Part 3

Notice that each of my answers was developed. I followed a similar patterns as I did for part 1, but with more explanation:

  1. Directly answer the question
  2. Explain
  3. Explain further or give example

It’s worth practising this in order to expand your ideas sufficiently without repetition. You also will want to bring your answer to a natural conclusion, although this is mostly done with tone rather than words.