IELTS Life Skills B1 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?
  • How long have you lived here?

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

Phase 1a: Familiar Questions

The first phase of the exam consists of familiar questions, but in the B1 exam, you will be given a topic and told to ask your partner about it.

Example Topics

Find out from each other:

  • what websites you use and why you like them.
  • about another town or city you have visited and why you like it.
  • what kind of presents people in your country give each other and when.
  • about a country you have visited and the countries you would like to visit.
  • about the places that you have to go to in town and what you need to do there.


    Remember that in English we make a lot of questions with these question words:

    • What
    • Where
    • When
    • Who
    • Why
    • Which
    • How
    • Do
    • Be
    • Have

    These should help you to come up with questions pretty quickly.

    Answering Questions

    Make sure you avoid giving one or two word answers. Try to give a couple of sentences at a minimum.

    Phase 1b

    In the second phase of the test, you are given a topic to speak about for 90 seconds. Before you start speaking, you will have 60 seconds to plan what you are going to say.

    After speaking, your partner will ask you three questions about what you said. Equally, you will be expected to ask three questions about their talk.

    Example Topics

    You are going to talk about:

    • things and people that make you laugh;
    • something you’d like to be good at and why;
    • an actor or singer you really like and why;
    • what your perfect home would be like and where it would be;
    • the last time you had a meal with a group of friends;
    • things you take with you whenever you go out;
    • something you loved doing when you were a child and why;
    • a time you went out with friends recently and what you did;
    • a time you helped someone and what you did;
    • the kind of music you like and when you listen to it.


    Before you do the exam, practise speaking about some of these topics and make sure you can talk about them for a minute and a half without much difficulty.

    In the minute you have to prepare, make notes. Don’t write full sentences as you will only be able to write one or two sentences at most. It’s better to have 10 words that will help you speak.

    Listen to your partner when they are speaking and write questions as you go so you don’t forget them. You can just make notes of the questions rather than writing them in full form.

    It is great if you can ask questions that show you were listening. You can do this with a phrase like “you said that…”

    When the examiner says “thank you”, stop speaking. The examiner has to make sure the exam stays on the correct timings.

    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 related to the gist of the listening. You will typically be given three answers to chose from.

    For example, you could be asked if someone is talking about:

    • driving lessons;
    • cooking lessons; or
    • martial arts lessons.

    Second Listening

    For the second listening, you will be asked to note two details. This could be a number or a word. For example, for the conversation above about classes, you could be asked how many lessons someone will have and what time they start.


    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 may not say the answer exactly. You need to work this answer out from the words that they use. For example, if it is about driving lessons, they will mention words like car, parking, steering, etc. If it is about martial arts, they are likely to mention works like kick, belt, opponent, etc.

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

    Don’t listen for your partner’s questions. Just worry about your own.

    Phase 2b

    The final part of the test is broken into two stages: a planning task and a discussion.

    Planning Task

    The first stage involves listening to a scenario and planning something with your partner.

    You have two minutes to discuss this and the examiner may interrupt to keep you on track.


    I’d like you to imagine that two of your friends are getting married and have asked your advice about the wedding party.

    First talk about where they should have the wedding party. Should it be at their home, in a hotel or at a restaurant.

    Then plan what to do about these things:

    • Who they should invite.
    • What food they could eat.
    • What else they need to organise.


    It may help to start this task by recapping what you have to do. For example, “so, we need to decide where to have the wedding party and then decide who to invite and what to eat.”

    You may have to imagine that you and your partner have a mutual friend. It is best to imagine someone quite generic. If your partner makes up a detail about them, it is probably easier to go along with it.

    Make sure you react to what your partner says. You can say that something is a good idea, or if you disagree you could say “maybe it would be better to…”


    The final part of the test is a discussion. The examiner will give you a topic to discuss.

    Example Topics

    Now you’re going to talk together about:

    • meeting people. Talk to each other about the places you can go to meet new people and the things you can do to make new friends.
    • transport. Talk to each other about the transport you use every day and why you use it.
    • learning new skills. Talk to each other about the type of skills you think it is useful to learn.
    • getting information. Talk to each other about how you get the information you need in day-to-day life.
    • starting a new job. Talk to each other about what can be enjoyable and what can be difficult about starting a new job.


    Remember that both you and your partner need to show the examiner that you have at least a B1 level of English. It isn’t a competition to show whose English is best, and the examiner is likely to be more impressed if you help each other.

    If your partner isn’t speaking very much, try to ask some questions to bring them into the conversation. If they talk a lot, try to interject politely by saying “excuse me.”

    You can disagree with your partner. Try to do this politely by saying something like “I’m afraid I would have to disagree with that.”

    Don’t worry about mistakes you might have made. Focus on getting your message across to your partner.

    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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