Best Strategy for the IELTS Speaking Test | How to Get a Better IELTS Speaking Score

Best Strategy for IELTS Speaking Test | Functional Language

Many IELTS test takers worry a lot about the speaking topics which come up in the IELTS speaking test. Some test takers even practice memorizing sample answers for various topics – but this is largely a waste of time. There is a better strategy to improve your IELTS speaking score.

It’s impossible to predict which topics will come up in a particular test, although some of the same topics might appear across the world in the same month. But there are literally hundreds of different topics which can be selected – and just because one IELTS speaking test, for example in Australia, has a certain topic one week does not mean that the same topic will be used again the following week or the next month.

In Part 1 of the IELTS speaking test some of the topics are more predictable, for example, the examiner normally asks you about yourself, your work, your studies, and where you live – but there are many other possible questions which could be asked.

In Part 2 and Part 3 of the IELTS speaking test there are also hundreds of possible topics. It is not possible to prepare an answer for each topic – and memorized answers will normally result in a lower score for speaking because they will sound unnatural to the examiner.

If you want to improve your IELTS speaking score – then learn how to use FUNCTIONAL LANGUAGE.

Learn how to do this correctly and you can apply it to almost any topic that appears in the IELTS speaking test – and it will make your answers much better than trying to memorize example answers for each topic.

What is functional language?

This is the grammar (structures) which allows you to say certain things.

For example:

In the next post we'll look at some examples of this, and show how learning functional language can be used to give better answers for all IELTS speaking topics. It is an easy way to improve your IELTS speaking skills - and your IELTS speakig score without worrying about which topic might appear in the test.

Talking about opportunities in the past

I could have studied [subject/major] but decided to study [alternative subject/major].
I would have gone to university in the USA but I couldn’t get the visa organized.
I had the chance to travel to Canada last year.
I was offered a position as a research assistant.

Talking abour opportunities in the future

I might apply to [study abroad] next year.
He's thinking about the possibility of [studying abroad] next year.
I’m considering [studying abroad] at the end of my degree.
She would like to [study abroad] if it’s possible.

Use may (not), might (not), and could (not) + infinitive without to when talking about possibility in the future:

The government could build wider roads to ease traffic congestion.
Children might play less sport in the future.
It might be a good idea if schools included more interactive learning.

Use may (not), might (not), must (not), can’t, + be + -ing to talk about things possibly happening at a time in the future:

I might be studying in Australia this time next year.
The government can’t be planning to change their environmental policy this year, there isn’t enough time. They must be planning to do it next year.

Cause and Effect

To describe an effect and its cause, you can use these expressions:

because, since, as, due to, owing to

  • The government has introduced new traffic restrictions because traffic congestion in the city has become a serious problem.
  • He was denied entry into Australia since his visa was not in order.
  • She can't study in Canada as she didn’t score enough in the IELTS exam.
  • Owing to her previous academic experience, she managed to get a job as a research assistant in an Australian university.
  • Due to tighter UK immigration controls, fewer foreign students are studying in the UK this year.

Speculating about the present and future

In English there are various modal verbs of speculation:
These are modal auxiliary verbs used to express the degree of certainty or uncertainty about something. So they are basically used to say if something is impossible, possible, probable or definite (based on the opinion of the speaker).

  • I may go to Australia this winter, if I can organize everything before then.
  • She might study for her master’s degree in Canada, but she hasn’t made her final decision yet.


Subject + modal verb + (negation ) + main verb + object/complement

Examples of structure:
  • She must (not) be very happy.
  • He may (not) go to Australia next year.

NOTE: the main verb is always in simple form: be, go (in the examples above).

How to use modal verbs of speculation

You can use the following modal verbs of speculation to describe present events and future events:

  • Must / will = definite situation
  • Must not / will not = impossible situation
  • May / might / could = not clear if situation is possible or impossible (there is a possibility)
  • May not / might not / could not = not clear if situation is possible or impossible (there is a possibility)

In spoken English, intonation can actually affect the meaning. But (1) may and (2) may not are more certain than (3) might and (4) might not and (5) could. (3) (4) and (5) express the idea of weak probability that something is happening / will happen.

More Examples | Modal verbs of speculation

  • She must really enjoy living in Australia because she’s always smiling.
  • She must not (mustn't) be very happy if she was not accepted for the PhD program in Canada.

  • If he achieves band 7.5 in his IELTS, he will study for his master’s degree in the USA.
  • This is her third attempt; she will not (won’t) stop trying to get a better score in the IELTS test so she can study in Australia.

  • Angela may study in Australia this summer, but it depends on her IELTS test score next month.
  • If Angela doesn't achieve a good IELTS test score next month, she may not study in Australia this summer.

  • We might not have a perfect environment in 25 years, but it will be better than it is now.
  • Cars powered by gasoline might not be in existence 25 years from now. We might drive electric vehicles.

  • I could emigrate to the UK next year if I get a good score in my IELTS test.
  • My father is very traditional. He could not (couldn't) ever go and live in another country.

NOTE: Always use modal verbs + verb (in simple form)

NEVER try and use modal verb + to + verb

  • Peter could to be late for dinner because he has a lot of work.
  • Sarah might to spend next summer studying in Canada.