Today, I would like to teach you about IELTS speaking topics and explain why this is such a good way of learning new language. This article will show you how to learn more effectively.
First of all, I will briefly cover the issue of why it is necessary (or advisable) to study for IELTS in terms of different topics, and then we will look at some of the most common topics. I will give you lots of IELTS questions with answers so that you can see how you should approach them during your next test.
Why should we study different IELTS topics?
In the past, I have written many times about why studying different topics is the best way to prepare for IELTS. As such, many of the articles on this website focus on topics like space, childhood, and money. By learning in this way, you can learn several different skills together:
When you study a topic like space, for example, you can read an article, which will help you learn new vocabulary and grammar, and then you can use the ideas from it to write something. You can also listen to a news story and then talk about space. This complimentary approach makes learning easier and more effective.
Even when you just want to study one area (speaking, for example) it is still worth looking at a topic and then speaking about that. This helps you to learn and remember vocabulary better.
A few months ago, I wrote an article all about IELTS writing topics. To be honest, these are mostly the same topics! However, they have a very different focus and there are also some topics that are common in speaking but not in writing or vice versa.
30 Common IELTS Speaking Topics
First of all, let’s have a quick overview of the most common IELTS speaking topics. I will put these in alphabetical order, then in subsequent sections of this article I will show you some example questions for these topics.
Note: Some of these are a little difficult to define as a full category. For example, are holidays and travel two different topics or just one? I would say they are two categories, but clearly there is a lot of overlap. Below, I will include the biggest topic with potential subtopics in brackets. However, don’t worry too much about this. It should not really affect your preparation.
- Animals (and pets)
- Books (and reading habits)
- Flowers (and plants)
- Food (and cooking)
- Media (and news)
- Technology (inc. computers & the internet)
- Travel (and holidays)
There are other topics we could cover, but these are among the most common ones. Again, remember that some topics could be considered subtopics of others. I often see “dictionaries” listed as a speaking topic, but I would say it is part of the broader “books” category. Similarly, I would say that “mobile phones” are a part of the “technology” topic.
Differences between IELTS speaking topics and writing topics
I mentioned earlier that I have a collection of 30 IELTS writing topics here and maybe you think they are the same. After all, I have stated that topics are a great way to study for IELTS. However, there are definitely some topics that appear in the speaking section but not the writing one.
For example, above you will note that I have listed music, film, and weather as IELTS speaking topics. These could certainly occur in the IELTS writing test but it is unlikely that they would be the main topic of an essay. It is true that you might have data about weather in task 1 or an essay about the merits of films and technology for task 2, but these are isolated examples. In general, such topics are a little too limited.
Remember that IELTS speaking includes much easier questions. You will be asked things like, “Do you like cooking?” or “Who does the cooking in your household?” but these could never arise in the writing test. They are just too limited in scope.
Can these topics appear in all parts of the IELTS speaking test?
This is an interesting question. Technically, any of those 30 topics that I listed could appear at any point in the IELTS speaking test, but some are much more likely to occur in part one than parts two or three.
The reason is simply that certain topics are quite shallow and there is not much to talk about. Take the topic of plants and flowers, which we studied recently. For an English learner, there is not much to say. The IELTS examiner cannot assume you are a botanist, so he or she will not ask you about plant science. Instead, the questions will be things like, “Do you like flowers?” and “Are there any plants in your home?”
It could be difficult to go beyond this level of conversation without any specialistic vocabulary, so it unlikely in IELTS that you will be asked to discuss this topic for parts two and three. However, it does happen. You may be asked to “describe a plant” or something like that. It is uncommon, though.
IELTS Speaking Topics: Common Questions (with answers)
Let’s now pick some of the most common IELTS speaking topics and then explore a few sample answers. You can see many more IELTS speaking questions here.
Because it is something that affects everyone in the world, this is a topic that is very likely to appear in your next IELTS test. The questions for this section are pretty predictable. Here are a few possibilities:
What sort of accommodation do you live in?
Right now, I am living in a small apartment but in two weeks I will move to a semi-detached house in a suburban neighbourhood.
What is your favourite part of your home?
I really like my kitchen. I know that is an unusual thing to say, but I am honestly quite proud of it. These days, I do a lot of cooking there, so it is set up just the way I like it and it is always spotlessly clean.
Describe your ideal home or place to live.
You should say:
- where it would be
- how big it would be
- what it would contain
and explain why this kind of accommodation would attract you so much.
Actually, this is something that I think about quite often and so I have it planned out in my head. My ideal home would be, for a start, in the countryside with no neighbours or other buildings nearby. I would like a lot of land so that I could have trees and ponds, with wildlife free to visit.
The actual house itself would be quite large but not huge. Size is not particularly important here. I would have most of the rooms on the second floor, with balconies overlooking the gardens. I would want a large kitchen, of course, with a central workspace for preparing food. A study would be necessary because I work from home and need a private place to do my various tasks. I think that any house should have a spare bedroom for visitors and in my case I would probably have two or three, since there would be plenty of space. This house would have a minimalist design because I would not want to have much clutter. I prefer the Japanese style for interior and Southeast Asian for exterior designs, but I really like European gardens and American kitchens, so I suppose it would be a very international style of building in the end!
Altogether, this would attract me because it would be a dignified, comfortable, and attractive building that incorporates the elements that I like and gives me space for the things that I need. Obviously, this is just a dream home but I suspect that any home I have in future would need some of these elements to make me happy.
Why is homelessness such a problem in some areas?
Well, that is clearly a difficult question because, if it were easy to answer, we would probably not have any homeless people. I think that in most places homelessness is a result of the various gaps in our social welfare systems and it points to flaws in our culture, too. I think most people can agree that developed countries have no excuse for homelessness and so it points to the fact that we allow certain people to struggle and fail, ultimately landing in a difficult situation from which there is little hope of escape. This could stem from unemployment, rising house prices, mental health issues, or any number of other factors.
This is another universal topic. People in every country of the world go to school for some period of time and so everyone should be able to express an opinion or talk a little about their experiences with schools and studying.
What was your favourite subject in school?
When I was in primary school, I really loved art; however, by the time I was in secondary school I preferred English and geography.
Who was your favourite teacher?
I really liked my English teacher in secondary school. She helped me realise that I could understand books by looking below the surface text and digging into the layers of hidden meaning, and that really helped shape my life.
Describe an educational trip you went on in your school days.
You should say:
- where the trip was
- what you did and what you learned
- who went with you
and explain why it was important to you.
When I was a pupil in primary school, we went on a few school trips. To be honest, I do not have a great memory of those days but I can piece together a few things that happened and try to talk about those.
I went to school in Scotland but on several occasions we travelled by bus to places in England for various reasons. In remember one such trip, when my class travelled to a large manner house near Birmingham and did lots of outdoor activities. This sort of thing was quite popular when I was a child because people were not so afraid of their children getting hurt or lost. We did some things that would be considered very dangerous nowadays, like firing guns! I remember it being quite exciting and also at night it was fun to hang out with friends in the dormitories.
This trip was made up of pupils from my year and these were pretty much all people I was friends with. We went to school in a small village, so everybody knew everyone else and we all got along pretty well.
It is important to me only that it is one of the early events in my life that I still partly remember. Most of the rest of my childhood has faded into shadow by now.
Do you think that teenagers should be able to choose the subjects they want to study?
I think that sounds like a great idea… but actually it would be a pretty terrible idea in practice. On the surface, it seems as though people have the right to study what they want, but I think that for children and teenagers it is better that an expert chooses for them. Young people may have some things they want to study but an expert in education will know that it is better to have a range of skills, such as maths, English, and science. This well-rounded approach is preferable because it will prepare people for the future.
Now we will look at another topic that could appear in IELTS speaking: friends. Again, this is a somewhat universal topic in that everyone has (hopefully) at least one friend. It is a subject that people can talk about confidently at both the personal and existential level.
How often do you see your friends?
Right now, I do not see my friends very often because most of them live far away from me; however, in the past I used to see them on average twice a week.
What do you normally do when you see your friends?
Well, that depends on the situation and the friend. I suppose for the people I am most likely to see, we would normally have a few beers and talk about our lives for a couple of hours.
Describe a childhood friend. You should say:
- who he/she is
- when you met
- why he/she was so close to you
and say you liked best about your friend.
When I was young, I had a really close friend called Ross, who lived in the same village as me. We stayed on opposite sides of the village but it wasn’t far to walk to his house. In those days, of course, we didn’t have phones and so I would actually walk to his house and knock on his door to ask if he wanted to do something.
I suppose we met in school but it is possible we knew each other from before then. I honestly cannot remember meeting him because we knew each other from a very early age. We got along well because we were both introverts with similar interests, such as art and music. We could talk easily and share stories about our lives, which brought us closer together.
I really liked him because he was a good guy to talk to and fun to be around. We don’t see each other much nowadays but maybe once a year I will go and visit him for a while and we still laugh a lot at the strange stories about our lives.
Can people become really close friends in spite of a significant age gap?
Yes, of course. I don’t think that age is really particularly important in a friendship, especially if both people are adults. Certainly, it would be weird for an adult to befriend a small child but a twenty-year-old and a seventy-year-old could easily get along. It is true that certain things might be harder, such as finding shared values and hobbies, but for some people this is easy. When I was about twenty-five, one of my closest friends was more than sixty, but we had no problems communicating. He was a good guy and we had much in common, so we never really noticed the age gap at all. I think for people in our situation, it is probably the same.
When you are studying for your next IELTS test, you need to spend plenty of time learning vocabulary and grammar. I would highly recommend that you break your study days down into topics, so that you can cover a wider area and learn in a more holistic manner. By looking at these common IELTS speaking topics, you can get a better idea of the sorts of material that you need to learn. However, do not limit yourself. When you want to learn about art, go out and find a diverse range of sources. Make notes on the language but also practice producing your own. This sort of approach will result in reliable, consistent improvements in your skill level.