What To Do If You Are Asked A Question About An Unfamiliar Topic? - IELTS University (Singapore)

What To Do If You Are Asked A Question About An Unfamiliar Topic?

The IELTS speaking test assesses a candidate's ability to produce natural-sounding speech, that is coherent, well structured, and easily understood by native speakers.

In order to assess these skills, the IELTS examiners ask a number of questions based on a set of common core topics like work, study, family, or travel etc.

To prepare for the exam most students learn words and phrases related to these topics as well as practice speaking about them, but what happens when you are asked a question about a topic that you are unfamiliar with?

In this article, we will deal with the issue and offer you some valuable guidance on what to do in such a situation.

Don’t Panic

Don’t panic, stay calm and collected. It is important to remember that during the speaking test you are not being tested on how knowledgeable you are on any particular topic, but rather on how well you communicate whatever knowledge you have.

Buy Time To Think

Buy time to think using certain phrases. It is not good to show that the examiner that you don’t know how to answer. Often when we are unsure we use pause or use fillers or pause for too long, and this can give the examiner the impression that you lack the vocabulary to answer the question. To give yourself time to think you can use phrases like:

  • That’s a difficult question, let me think for a second.
  • That’s a very interesting question, let me think.
  • It’s very difficult to know exactly, but I think/but I believe/perhaps….
  • It’s difficult to say, I think….
  • I don’t really know for sure, but I would say….

Alternatively, you could just be honest with the examiner and let them know that although you know very little about the topic, you will try your best to answer as best as possible. you should also explain why you are not familiar with the topic. Again, whatever you say will be assessed on how you say it, so make sure you use sufficient grammatical structures, a good range of vocabulary, and give well-structured answers.

Make Up A Good Example

If you really don’t have much to say you could always make up a related example or story. The examiners do not fact-check the validity of whatever you say during the exam. as mentioned before it's more about how well you express your ideas. However, if you are not comfortable with making up a story, then you might not end up sounding more nervous, and this would negatively affect your score.

An effective way to overcome this is to practice daily by speaking on a wide variety of topics, especially those that are outside your comfort zone.