Phrases for Answering Difficult Questions: IELTS Speaking Test Tips

IELTS Speaking Test Answering Difficult Questions

Answering Difficult Questions: IELTS Speaking Tips

Luckily, the IELTS isn’t a knowledge test,  so you don’t have to know everything, but you do need to express yourself in the best way possible using your speaking skills. That said, IELTS topics can range from chocolate and flowers, to globalisation and climate change. That means it’s hard to prepare for every single topic (unless of course you spend months and months preparing for every possible question, and even then you still might get surprised by a new topic.)

There’s two major benefits to using these new phrases:

  1. You can give yourself a few extra seconds to think of an answer (also called a ‘hesitation device’)
  2. You can show the examiner your control of natural expressions and vocabulary, even when the topic is hard for you to talk about (coherence and accuracy).

Use our IELTS Speaking Practice clip, and 4 IELTS Answers to practice these new phrases for the next time you come across a difficult question:

Phrases for Answering Difficult Questions

  • I’ve never thought about that before…
  • That’s an interesting question…
  • I’m not the right person to ask, but…
  • Well…if you ask me…
  • If you really want my opinion…
  • That’s hard to say… if I had to choose I’d say… 

Example Questions and Answers for the IELTS Speaking Test:

Q – How can a manager keep their workforce motivated?

A – Well, I’m probably not the right person to ask… I’m still a student at university. But, I could say that my professors keep us motivated by giving us a lot of support and giving us a pat on the back when we do well. That certainly helps me stay focused and keeps me going when things get tough.

Q – What do you think about people who hide their emotions?

A – Hmm… people who hide their emotions, that’s an interesting question. I think it’s hard to get to know someone when they keep their emotions bottled up, and for me, it doesn’t seem natural because I’m quite an expressive person.

Q – Are flowers important in your culture?

A – Well, I’ve never thought about that before. I suppose, other than as a romantic gesture, I don’t think they are especially important. Men usually give their wives or significant others roses on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, but besides that, I can’t think of another example where flowers are symbolic of anything else.

Q – What would you say are the most popular kinds of attractions in your country?

A – Hmm, it’s hard to say… there are so many. If I had to pick a few, I would say that it depends on what you want to see. If you enjoy shopping and going out, then there are lots of shoppers in the malls and restaurants in the centre of Bangkok, but if you’re more interested in history and culture then our museums and temples are usually packed with tourists as well. So I would say those two are probably the most popular.  

IELTS Speaking Test Tips

Show them your Language skills

Answering difficult questions doesn’t have to be scary. After all, the IELTS is a language test first and foremost, so even if you don’t have much experience or expertise on a particular subject, there are phrases in English to help you express that. Again, the examiner is only interested in your language, not your actual ideas or opinions. This is a chance to demonstrate your fluency, grammar (I’ve never thought about…) and lexical range (the right person…) so instead of struggling in silence while you think of an idea – be honest, and admit you’re not an expert!


Mark is our IELTS expert here at High Level Listening, and he’s spent the past year researching and developing ways to help students achieve their best scores in the IELTS Speaking Test. If you’d like to take some IELTS-focused lessons with Mark, he’s available to teach both the IELTS Speaking and Writing Test online here:

Mark Verbling Online IELTS Teacher

Check out our other IELTS Speaking Test posts here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Speaking Tips and Tricks

Get 49 Example Questions and Answers with MP3 Downloads and Workbook

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