IELTS Speaking Section - Part 3: Discussing an Issue

Instructor: Bill Sands
In Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking, a test taker must discuss an issue with the examiner. Learn more about Part 3 of the test, and pick up some tips on how to prepare for it.

IELTS Speaking Part 3 - Discussing an Issue

The Speaking portion of the IELTS is by far the shortest part of the test. Despite its brevity, this section consists of three unique subcategories. Part 1 is structured like an interview, Part 2 is a speech or discourse, and the third and final part is a discussion.


Unlike the more organized and structured formats found in the first two parts of the Speaking section, the content in Part 3 is largely determined by interactions between the candidate and examiner.

In Part 2, students are asked to deliver a discourse on a selected topic. After finishing this speech, the examiner then asks a few follow-up questions, and these questions serve as a segue into Part 3.

The candidate and examiner move away from the more concrete thoughts expressed in earlier sections and begin to discuss things in a more abstract sense, offering personal opinions and views on topics.


This part of the exam typically lasts around 4-5 minutes.

Task Objectives

Part 3 of the Speaking section tests a student's ability to develop, express, and analyze opinions and arguments. Critical thinking is essential, as students will be expected to construct arguments in response to a prompt and express any previously held notions.

In addition to talking about their own beliefs, candidates will also need to demonstrate their ability to analyze and interpret the beliefs of others. Part 3 is not a debate and students will not need to offer a rebuttal to everything an examiner says, but students should address general ideas and comments made by the examiner and allow these thoughts to alter the flow of the dialogue, much in the same way a natural conversation in English would occur.


Each part of the Speaking section is scored according to the same four domains: cohesion & fluency, grammatical range & accuracy, pronunciation, and lexical resources. For each domain, students will receive a score of 0-9. A 9 is the highest score, as students scoring in this range are considered fluent in the language, while students who fail to complete the task will receive a 0.

The Speaking section is graded on an overall basis, and students do not receive an individual score for each of the three parts. Examiners issue their scores based on the performance throughout the Speaking section, and not on each particular subsection.

A student's final score for the Speaking section is the average of their four scores. If, for example, a student scores 8, 9, 7, and 8 (respectively) on the four domains, his final score for the Speaking section would be 8 (the sum of these numbers is 32, which is then divided by 4).

Scores ending in .25 or .75 are rounded up to the next band score. For example, a score of 4.25 becomes 4.5, and a score of 4.75 becomes 5.

NOTE: This is the same scoring system used for the entire IELTS. A student's final score is the average of his or her score on each of the test's four sections (Writing, Reading, Speaking, and Listening)

Part 3 Preparation

As the least structured and most fluid part of the Speaking section, specific preparation for Part 3 can be a challenge. There is no way of knowing what topics will be discussed, so rather than studying potential conversation topics, candidates should instead practice by reviewing important skills that will be applicable for all subjects.

This IELTS Study Guide offers a helpful review for the entire test. As grammar skills are a vital part of the Speaking section, students will also benefit from this Grammar Resources course which covers fundamental grammar rules. These Vocabulary Flashcards can also help you pick up new words or practice words that you already know.

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.