How to Compare and Contrast in IELTS Speaking

In the IELTS speaking test, you may be asked to compare and contrast two things, places, groups or periods of time. This kind of question usually appears in part one and part three, especially the last part.  Generally, it requires you to describe the similarities and differences based on your prior knowledge. Let’s take a look at how to compare and contrast in IELTS speaking for success on this type of question.

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Common Questions

Compare and contrast two things

  1. What are the differences between letters and emails?
  2. Do you prefer live in a house or an apartment?

Compare and contrast two places

  1. What are the differences between living in the city and the countryside?
  2. What are the differences between the south and the north in your country?

Compare and contrast two periods of time

  1. How are the houses today different from the ones in the past?
  2. What changes have you seen in the past few years in your town?                                             

Compare and contrast two groups of people

  1. Do men and women have the same attitudes to shopping?
  2. Do young people and old people like listening to the same kind of radio programs?

Tips for Comparing and Contrasting

Start with an Introduction Sentence

To begin your answer, you need an introduction sentence. If the question directly asks about the differences between two things (this kind of question usually begins with what and how), you can start the answer with There are quite a few/some/a lot of/a number of differences between …and….

If the question is a yes or no question, you need to state your opinion first. For example, you may say Yes/No, I believe that they have a lot of similarities/differences. Check out our post on how to give opinions in IELTS speaking to learn more!

Use comparatives

Then you can list two or three details to explain more. The most common way is to use comparatives. You can either use as…as or than to compare and contrast two things.


An apartment building usually has more public amenities than a house such as gyms and conference facilities.

Sending letters is not as convenient as sending emails. 

You can also add adverbs such as much, quite, even, a lot, far, still and considerably before the than structure to strength the comparative.

A house has much more space than an apartment.

Use expressions

Compare and contrast expressions are great tools to structure your answer as well. Here are several useful expressions to contrast two things!


Different from

By/in contrast

Compared to

On the contrary


Different from women, men are more rational when purchasing a product.

If you want to describe the similarities between two things, you can use the following expressions.

Just like


Much the same

Similar to



Just like the elders, young people also like listening to news radios because they want to know more about the current world.

Pay Attention to the Tense

If you are asked to compare and contrast the past and the present, always pay attention to the tense. Though the rules are easy to follow, some students forget to use the correct tense when they feel stressed.


Decades ago, only a small number of people had private cars in my town. However, the increasing number of cars causes a lot of traffic and environmental problems today.


By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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  • Kuangyan

    Kuangyan creates IELTS blogs at Magoosh. She is passionate about language education and has a MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from New York University. Kuangyan has experience of teaching English both in China and in US. In her free time, she drinks mocha, does yoga, takes photos and travels to different places to explore the exciting world.

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