Work is one of the most common IELTS topics. It pops up in the speaking, the listening, and the writing modules. That’s because it’s something that is familiar to almost all people (at least those old enough to sit IELTS).
Today, we are going to look at how the topic of work could appear in the IELTS speaking test. I’ll show you some sample questions and answers, as well as some useful vocabulary.
IELTS Speaking: Questions about Work
The topic of work could appear in any of the three parts of the IELTS speaking test. In parts one and two, it is most likely to be a matter of personal experience and in part three it will probably be a general (abstract) discussion about work.
If you are given the topic of work in part one of the IELTS speaking test, the questions will be quite personal. They’ll usually start in a very open way because the examiner will need to find out if you have any work experience before asking more specific questions. Thus, you may be asked:
- Do you have a job?
- Do you work or are you a student?
If you answered “yes” to the first or “I have a job” to the second, you would probably get some follow-up questions about work. These might include:
- Why did you choose that job?
- Do you enjoy your job?
- Do you get along well with your co-workers?
- What responsibilities do you have?
- What would you like to change about your job?
These are just examples but from these you can see the sorts of questions that could occur – basic, personal, and easily relatable.
Remember that you don’t have to say much for part one. This section could be viewed almost as a warm-up exercise before parts two and three. Still, you should try to answer a question and then give some sort of basic explanation.
- Do you have a job?
- Yes, I’m a teacher. I help people to prepare for their IELTS exams.
- Do you enjoy your job?
- I do. It gives me a great sense of achievement when I see people learn new skills and make great achievements.
In this part of the speaking test, you will have to talk for 1-2 minutes about something that is written on a cue card. For the topic of work, that might require you to describe a:
- job you have done in the past
- job you would like to do in the future
- dream job
- interesting job you’ve heard about
Here’s an example:
Describe a job that you would like to do in the future.
You should say:
- what the job is
- how much training would be necessary
- what is so special about this job
and explain why you are attracted to this job.
You can see how I would answer this cue card here.
You can learn how to start your part two answers here.
Part three of the IELTS speaking test will often require you to talk about more abstract issues. These typically involve age, gender, ethics, and so on.
For the topic of work, we might see the following:
- Should men and women get paid the same?
- Can men and women do the same work?
- Are there any jobs that men are better at than women?
- Should people be forced to retire at a certain age?
- What age should people retire?
- What problems do people face after retirement?
- Why might companies want people to retire early?
- What can employers do to safeguard their employees’ health?
- How can people find a job that will provide them with job satisfaction?
- What is more important, job satisfaction or a high salary?
- In the future, will more people work from home?
- Should co-workers spend their leisure time together?
You can see some common ideas emerge. It is a good idea to look at these practice questions so that you know what sort of questions you might encounter in the real IELTS exam.
There’s a video guide to answering part three questions here.
Language for Talking about Work
At the most basic level, you need to be able to talk about jobs. It’s worth knowing various professions and the people who do them. For example:
Once you know these, you should be able to talk a little about them. Here are some useful phrases:
|I’m a [job title]||I’m a dentist.|
|I work as a [job title]||I work as an editor.|
|I work in a [place of work]||I work in a warehouse.|
|I’m [status] right now.||I’m unemployed right now.|
Going beyond that, we can try to give some details about our job. Here are two great phrases to use:
- My job involves VERB-ing.
- I have to [do something] and [something else]
- My job involves giving presentations.
- My job involves tracking sales.
- I have to fix computers and set up networks.
- I have to meet guests and organise files.
It’s also worth learning how to talk about the future, particularly if you are a young person and most of your work life is ahead of you. Here are some good expressions:
|I’m hoping to be a [job title]||I’m hoping to be a chemist.|
|I’m studying to be a [job title]||I’m studying to be an accountant.|
|I plan on becoming a [job title]||I plan on becoming a programmer.|
|After graduating, I’d like to [describe plans]||After graduating, I’d like to find a job in the publishing industry.|
Talking about jobs, you should be able to describe the duties that are required by employees. For example:
- You have to [do something] and [something else]
- You need to have [attribute]
- You need to be [personal quality]
- You have to call people and collect information.
- You need to have patience.
- You need to have a lot of energy.
- You need to be cautious.
- You need to be highly motivated.
Note: We use “you” to refer to people in general. This is a little informal, so it’s better to reserve this language for speaking than writing.
There’s some more work-related language in this video:
Work is something that most people experience in their life, so you should be prepared to talk about it for IELTS. If you haven’t had work experience, you can still learn how to talk about the future so that you can describe a job that you’d like to do. Be aware that this is a really common topic in IELTS, so it’s worth having a range of vocab and grammar to deal with it if it arises.