The shadow of two heads a placed on a green background. In one head there is a white spiral, which loops and connected to a scribbled mess inside the head opposite. The picture symbolises how an IELTS test-taker might not understand the functions they are asked to discuss in the in the speaking exam.

What does the examiner want you to do in IELTS Speaking Part 3?

In are recent post, I spoke about how important it was in IELTS Speaking Part 3 to speak in GENERAL. However, even more important than this is making sure that you directly answer the examiners question. But, what if you can’t work out what the examiner is asking you to talk about?! Or, more importantly, what if you can’t recognise the type of language they are asking you to produce? Well, my top-tip for this is


In IELTS Speaking Part 3, the examiner will ask you more abstract questions connected to the topic you spoke about in Part 2. These questions always focus on FUNCTIONS. 👈

In general, you in IELTS Speaking Part 3, will need language to be able to

  • compare,
  • agree/disagree with a statement,
  • evaluate, consider or assess something’s importance,
  • give a reason or explanation for a phenomenon, 
  • identify or describe a trend
  • predict or speculate about future habits
  • suggest a solution to a problem.

But (and this is a BIG BUT), the examiner WILL NEVER MENTION THESE FUNCTIONS DIRECTLY IN THEIR QUESTIONS! 😳 I know it might sound crazy, but you will NEVER hear an examiner say the words compare or agree or suggest or any of the functions shown in bold in your exam. So, if are expecting to hear them, it can be quite a shock when come!

Of course, the examiner wants you to do these things, but they will ask you to do them using different words! That’s right, they will paraphrase! Let’s look at some examples:

  • CompareWhat’s the difference between the type of stories that young children like to read and those that teenagers are interested in? OR  Do you think young children and teenagers are interested in the same types of stories or different ones?
  • Agree / Disagree – Some people say that the closest friends are the ones we make at school. What do you think? / What’s your opinion?
  • Evaluate/Consider/AssessWhat level of impact does tourism have on local communities? OR What advantages and disadvantages does tourism have for local communities? OR How does tourism affect local communities?
  • Reason / Explanation Why do some people say that society is becoming more competitive these days?
  • Identity / DescribeWhat are some of the ways that people show politeness in your country?
  • Predict / Speculate – Do you think life will be more or less stressful in the future?
  • Suggest – How might the routines of working life change in the future? OR Can you think of some ways that people’s work routines could change in the future?

So, when as you are practising for your IELTS speaking Part 3, it’s important to keep these functions in mind. And, if you are studying with a teacher, make sure they teach you some language structures you can use to address each of these types of question. Good luck 👍

If you enjoyed this short lesson, you can find all of our live and video lessons on our main website, which is where you can also sign up for our IELTS speaking courses or book a personal speaking lesson with Nick or Shelly. 🚀

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