IELTS conversations are not disorganised or “idle.” Instead, all IELTS conversations focus on information — both requesting it and confirming it. Read on to learn vocabulary related to requesting and confirming information that will help you with IELTS conversations. For more IELTS vocabulary words, you can read my posts on work vocabulary and family vocabulary.
IELTS Conversational Vocabulary: Question words and phrases to request information
Question words and phrases are especially important in IELTS Speaking. On this part of the exam, you’ll take questions from a live interviewer. You’ll need to quickly and correctly recognize key question words and phrases.
You probably already know the meanings of the basic “wh-words” in English: who, what, when, where, why, and how. But it’s easy to mis-hear these words in conversation. So many IELTS test-takers get a “what” question from their interviewer but think they heard “when” or “where;” confusing “how” and “who” is common as well. Be sure to practice listening to and pronouncing these question words, so that you’ll really be able to recognise them on test day.
Be ready to recognise and respond to some other question words and phrases too. Here are a few vocabulary terms for questions that are important on the IELTS.
- “Describe” will appear at the beginning of many IELTS Speaking topic cards. Be ready for requests for information such as “Describe the house you grew up in,” or “Describe your closest friend.”
- Would you say that…?
- “Would you say that…” is a common phrase in follow-up questions to the initial IELTS topic card enquiry. For the “describe a place you live” question, for instance, the follow-up could be “Would you say it’s a nice place to live?”
- Could you explain more…?
- This is another follow-up question phrase to listen for. Your IELTS interviewer will use this phrase when he or she wants more detailed information on something you just said. For example, if you tell an IELTS interviewer that your best friend is always very helpful, they might ask “Could you explain more about how your best friend helps you?”
- Can you tell me…?
- This is an alternate way to start an IELTS question, rather than starting it with a wh word or describe. To give a couple of examples, “”What is your name?” can be rephrased as “Can you tell me your name?” and “Describe your family” could also be asked as “Can you tell me about your family?”
- I need to know….
- This form of questioning can be easy to miss because it sounds like a statement rather than a question or request. “I need to know” is commonly heard in IELTS Listening. The phrase is often said by a person who has contacted a company or teacher to get information about something.
If you’re able to actively respond to these phrases in the IELTS Speaking section, you’ll have a good ear for these questions — and their answers — on the IELTS Listening audio track.
IELTS Conversational Vocabulary: words and phrases that confirm information has been received
When you give information on the IELTS Speaking test, your interviewers will want to make sure they understand the information correctly. They also may indicate to you that they are recording the information you give them.
Similarly, in conversational IELTS Listening tracks, one speaker often confirms and records information that they get from another speaker. In fact, some IELTS Listening tracks are basically interviews of speakers, with questions and topics that are similar to the topics in the IELTS Speaking interview.
- I got it.
- This sentence is used when a listener wants to confirm that they understand the information they’ve just heard. In IELTS Listening, the statement “I got it” signals that a piece of information is now fully understood, and that new information is about to be introduced. You can also use this phrase in IELTS Speaking to tell your interviewer that you understand the instructions they’ve given you.
- We’ve been talking about….
- Like “I got it,” the phrase “We’ve been talking about…” is used to confirm that information is understood, and to move on to new questions. In an IELTS interview (either between you and your Speaking interviewer, or on a Listening audio track), this phrase introduces new questions on the same topic. For instance, if you’ve been talking about a person who has influenced you, a follow-up question might be “We’ve been talking about influential people in your life. Would you say you’re more influenced by family members or friends?”
- You mentioned….
- This phrase is very similar to “We’ve been talking about,” but references a specific fact that has just been discussed, rather than a general topic. A typical example would be “You mentioned that you plan to study engineering. What are your plans for after you graduate?”
- You say that….
- This is another common way to confirm information and introduce a follow-up question on the IELTS. For example, in an interview about someone’s hometown (again, possible either in the Speaking section or on a Listening track), you might hear something such as “You say that your hometown is very beautiful. Does it have any popular tourist attractions?”
- In IELTS conversations, the word “sorry” is frequently used to ask someone to repeat information so it can be properly confirmed. It’s short for “Sorry, I didn’t understand what you just said,” and is said in a questioning tone, as in “Sorry?” If a speaker says “sorry” in a question-tone, the other speaker will know they weren’t understood.
- You mean
- When a speaker wants to confirm what they’ve just been told, they can use the phrase “you mean.” In IELTS Listening, you may hear someone say “You mean that I need to turn left at the next corner?” to make sure they understand the directions they’ve been given. Or if you want to make sure you understand what an IELTS interviewer is asking you, you might say things like “Do you mean I should tell you about the house I grew up in?” “Do you mean I have time to prepare before I answer this question?” and so on.
- As you know….
- “As you know” is an interesting phrase on the IELTS because it can be used to confirm facts that are known to both speakers, but have not actually been mentioned in the current conversation. One example of this phrase on could be “As you probably know, I will be showing you some topic cards for this IELTS Speaking interview.” This might be said by an IELTS Speaking interviewer. And in IELTS listening, you might hear an academic counsellor tell a student “As you know, you’ll need to take several English courses in order to graduate.”
- Take down/put down/make note of
- These three phrases are especially common in IELTS Listening conversation audio. They all have the same definition — to record information. Possible uses on the IELTS include “take down your personal information,” “put down your name in the guest book” or “make note of the results of the experiment.”