Listening to Different Accents in the IELTS Speaking Test

Candidates often get nervous about which accent they should expect to hear in the IELTS Speaking exam. In this case, the worry is not about what to say but whether or not you’ll understand the questions. This is the listening aspect of the Speaking exam and is often overlooked in IELTS training programs.

Since my students listen to me use the US accent every lesson, they might not be ready for questions about giviŋ ə took (talk) or remembering an ædvəətismə‛nt that made you want to buy something. Preparing your listening skills for the Speaking test will help you reduce the amount of time needed to formulate answers. After this lesson you should be better prepared for questions that sound quite different based on the examiners natural accent.

Questions Asked Differently:

There are a few questions that Brits and Americans ask differently, or find comfortable asking in different ways. Although most of what examiners ask you is from a script, there might be a tendency for 10% to be asked in their own way. Both scripted and optional questions might sound differently depending on the accent. Here are a few common ones.

Do you have a mobile phone on you?
US:də yuuv-ə moub‛l foun-aa‛n yuu?Play
UK: də yuuv-ə məubai‛l fəun-o‛n yuu?Play

What shall I call you?
US: wat ʃæl-ai kaa‛l yuu?Play
UK: wot ʃæl-ai koo‛l yuu?Play

You can take notes if you wish?
US: yuu ke‛n teik nouts-if yuu wiʃ.Play
UK: yuu kæ‛n teik nəuts-if yuu wiʃ.Play

Do you live in a house or an apartment?
US: də yuu liv-in-ə haus or-ən-əpaa‛r‛·m‛n‛?Play
UK: də yuu liv-in-ə haus or-ən-əpaa‛·m‛nt?Play


Words variations:

Here are some common pronunciation differences between the US and UK accents. Be prepared to listen for these differences depending on the type of accent your examiner uses.

Go for a walk: How often do you go for a walk?
US: hau waaf‛n də yuu gou for-ə waak?Play
UK: hau woof‛n də yuu gəu for-ə wook?Play

Give a talk: What’s difficult about giving a talk to children?
US: wats difikə‛lt-əbau‛ giviŋ ə taaktʃi‛ldʒri‛n? Play
UK: wots difiko‛lt-əbau‛ giviŋ ə tooktʃi‛ldʒri‛n?Play

Enjoy talking: Do you enjoy talking more with your friends or family?
US: də yuu wi‛ndʒoi taakiŋ mo‛r wiþ y‛r fre‛ndz-‛r fee‛mlii? Play
UK: də yuu wi‛ndʒoi tookiŋ moo wiþ yə fre‛ndz-oməlii? Play

Like to laugh: Are you a person who likes to laugh?
US: aa‛r yuu wə p‛rs‛n huu laiks tə læfPlay
UK: aa yuu wə pəəs‛n huu laiks tə laafPlay

Types of transport: Tell me about the types of transport in your city.
US: te‛l mii yəbau‛ ðə taips-əv tree‛nspo‛rd-i‛n y‛r sidii. Play
UK: te‛l mii yəbau‛ ðə taips-əv træ‛nspoot-i‛n yoo sitii. Play

Special plant: Do you have any special plants in your home?
US:  də yuu hæv-enii speʃə‛l plee‛nts-i‛n y‛r hou‛mPlay
UK: də yuu hæv-enii speʃə‛l plaa‛nts-i‛n yə həu‛mPlay

An advertisement you saw: Tell me about an advertisement you saw recently.
US: te‛l mii yəbaud-en-ædv‛rtaizm‛n‛ yuu saa riisə‛n‛·lii. Play
UK: te‛l mii yəbaut-ən-ədvəətism‛n‛ yuu soo riisə‛n‛·lii. Play

Worth learning from: Do other people think that he was worth learning from?
US: duu ð‛r piip‛l þiŋk ðæ hii wəz w‛rþ l‛rniŋ fra‛m? Play
UK: duu waðə piip‛l þiŋk ðæ hii waz wəəþ ləəniŋ fra‛m? Play

Your plan in the future: What do you plan to do in the future?
US: wa də yuu plee‛n tə duu wi‛n ðə fyuutʃ‛r? Play
UK: wo də yuu plæ‛n tə duu wi‛n ðə fyuutʃə? Play

A perfect holiday: What’s your idea of a perfect holiday?
US: wats yər-aidii·əv-ə p‛rfikt haalidei? Play
UK: wots yo-raidii·əv-ə pəəfikt holidei? Play

Learned in class: Tell me about a class in which you learned something.
US: te‛l mii yəbaud-ə klæs-i‛n witʃ yuu l‛rnd sa‛mþiŋ. Play
UK: te‛l mii yəbaut-ə klaas-i‛n witʃ yuu ləə‛nd sa‛mþiŋ. Play

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Leave A Reply (3 comments so far)

  • Maria Smith

    Skills in IELTS is very important for pass this test

  • Janina Santos

    Thanks a lot for posting this! I am really happy that both the American and British English accents were included. This really is a big help on my part. I really find speaking very difficult for non-native speaker like me! :D

    • Benji Ming

      You’re welcome Janina :) I’m glad you find this unique way of studying both accents helpful. It’s important to have the option to study both, be aware of both, and understand the differences of both. Thanks for your comment!

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