IELTS Life Skills A1 Guide

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The first questions you are going to be asked are:

  • What’s your name?
  • How do you spell it?
  • What can I call you?
  • Where are you from?

You should make sure that you can answer these questions very easily in English.

Phase 1a: Familiar Questions

The next questions are going to come from a file of familiar questions that the examiner uses. These are on familiar topics which means that you should be able to talk about these quite easily. You will be asked two or three questions.

Example Questions

Tell me about your favourite food. What do you enjoy eating?

  • Do you cook?
  • Do you eat alone or with other people?
  • Do you like English food?

Tell me about the people you speak to every day. Who do you speak to every day.

  • Do you speak to anyone at work/your studies?
  • Who do you speak to in English?


Try to give two or three sentence answers, rather than just one or two words.

For example, if they ask your favourite food, don’t just say “sushi”. Try to give an answer more like:

I really like sushi. I tried it for the first time last year and now I have it every time I go out. It’s so delicious.

Phase 1b

In the second phase of the exam, you need to ask your partner about a topic which the examiner will give you. First you have up to 90 seconds to write some questions.

Example Topics

Ask your partner about:

  • a child he/she knows;
  • what he/she does in their quiet time;
  • what they use a computer for;
  • a park they like to visit;
  • the weather they like;
  • their favourite time of year;
  • their favourite place to eat;
  • a famous person they like;
  • his/her neighbours.

Writing Questions

Before you start, you have some time to write questions. About 4 or 5 questions will be enough.

To help you write questions, remember the question words we use:

  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Who
  • Why
  • How

We also start questions with do, be and have.

This should make it quicker to think of questions. If it is a person, for example, you can ask:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they like doing?
  • What do they look like?
  • Where are they from?
  • Why do they like this person?
  • How long have they known them?

For a place, you can ask:

  • Where is it?
  • How often do you go there?
  • When do/did you go there?
  • What can you do there?
  • Is it expensive/crowded?

About a hobby or activity, you can ask:

  • What is it?
  • How often do you do it?
  • When did you start?
  • Why did you start?
  • Is it difficult?
  • Are you good at it?

Asking and Answering

If you don’t understand your partner’s questions, ask them if they can repeat. If they don’t understand you, try to repeat your questions more slowly.

When answering, avoid one word answers. Try to give two or three sentences as before. For example:

Who is a famous person you like?

I quite like Tom Hanks. He’s an actor from America.

Phase 2a

In this part you will listen to two recordings twice. Each time you will be expected to answer questions. You will be told the questions before you listen.

You can make notes as you listen and you don’t need to answer in full sentences when asked by the examiner.

First Listening

The first question will be about either who the speaker is, where the speakers are or the topic of the conversation.

You will typically be given three pictures to chose from.

For example, you could be asked if the speakers are in:

  • a school;
  • a hospital; or
  • a church.

Second Listening

For the second listening, you will be asked to note two details. This could be a number and a word. For example, if the conversation is in a school, you could be asked “What subject does Mrs Black teach and which room is she in?”


Make sure you understand the examiner’s question before the recording starts. If you don’t understand, ask them to repeat the question.

For the first listening, they are unlikely to say the answer exactly. You need to work this answer out from the words that they use. If the conversation is in a hospital, for example, you will hear words like doctor, nurse, sick, get better, medicine, etc.

For the second listening, you need specific details. You might hear some possible answers that are designed to distract you. 

Phase 2b

In the final part of the test, you will discuss a topic with your partner. The examiner will tell you what the topic is.

Example Topics

Talk to each other about:

  • things you enjoy learning about.
  • food that is good for you and food that is bad for you.
  • a shopping centre you visit and what is good or bad about it.
  • places you go to in town and what you do there;
  • places you like to go at the weekend.


Remember that you both need to speak during this task. If you start, try to make a couple of points and then ask your partner what they think. Then if there is time left, you can respond to their points.

If you find that your partner is talking too much, try to interject politely. You can use a phrase like “excuse me, could I just say…”

This part of the test should sound like a conversation. You can ask your partner questions like “why do you think that?”

Ending the Test

At the end of the test, you can simply say “thank you” to the examiner. Don’t ask the examiner how you did because they will not be allowed to tell you.

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