A red and white cartoon alarm clock sits on a dark grey background. The image conveys that the post will discuss how long you should talk for in IELTS Speaking Part 1

How long should your answers be in IELTS Speaking Part 1?

IELTS Speaking Part 1 lasts between 4 and 5 minutes, during which the examiner should ask you between 7 and 11 questions. Think about that – 5 minutes for 11 questions. That works out at about 27 seconds per question (including the time it takes the examiner to ask them!).

It’s not a great deal of time, but it’s such a short amount either. (I mean – it’s a quarter of your cue card time!) Now, I have seen a lot of sites that tells students to answer each Part 1 question in 2 or 3 sentences. In general, I think that this is great advice.


However, A lot students seem to have mistaken this good advice for a RULE. Many test-takers feel that they can ONLY use 2 – 3 sentences, and this is definitely NOT TRUE! The number of sentences you use in your reply will depend on the question. For example, if the examiner asks, “Do you like rainy weather?”, it would be perfectly acceptable to reply:

No, not really. It makes me depressed.

This ONE SENTENCE is a wonderfully complete response. It doesn’t need to be extended or explained further, so the student can happily end here and wait for the next question. 😇

In the same way, if the examiner asks, “Have you ever been outside when it started to rain?”, and you have a great story about a time when this happened to you, don’t be afraid to tell it!

Yes, at my sister’s wedding, we were waiting to have our photographs taken, when all of a sudden there was a clap of thunder and it started pouring with rain. Of course, none of us had an umbrella, so we all had to run as quickly as we could to find shelter. The only problem was that the only place to hide from the rain was under a tree, and we were terrified that it might get struck by lightning. In the end, we decided it was better to get wet than to die, so we all ran back to the venue. I got soaked and my sister’s dress was ruined.

This answer is FIVE SENTENCES, but they are all relevant and directly answer the question. You will probably find that in Task 1, there are 2 or 3 questions that you have a genuine interest in, and can extend in this way. When those questions appear – USE THEM! Don’t be afraid to extend if you really have something to say!

My point is this. I never think it is a good idea for students to “count” the number of sentences they use in their heads! Some questions in IELTS Speaking Part 1 will naturally require short answers, others will invite longer responses.


The examiner doesn’t care if you use 1 sentence or 10, as long as your response is natural and relevant, they will let you continue. And, if the examiner does interrupts you, don’t worry – it isn’t a bad thing. It just means that it is time to move to another question.

Want to know the six most common errors made in Speaking Part 1? Then listen to this recent episode of the My IELTS Classroom Podcast:

So, why don’t you practise a full IELTS Speaking Part 1 today and time yourself! ⏰ If you are taking more than 4 minutes to answer SEVEN questions – you are speaking too much. If you finish at only 2 or 3 minutes, you aren’t extending enough! GOOD LUCK 🚀

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