In your preparation for the Speaking test, the first questions that you should prepare for are the 4 introduction questions. This is because every candidate is asked these questions  you will definitely have to answer these questions.

After you are sure that you can answer these first four questions of the test with no major errors, you should then prepare to answer questions for the topic of, 'Your Work or Your Studies.' This topic is almost always one of the Part 1 topics in the examiner's question book and there is a 50% chance that you will get this topic.

If the examiner chooses to ask you questions on this topic, he or she will probably ask you 3 to 5 different questions.  Of course, most of these questions change every 4 months even though the topic itself, 'Your Work or Your Studies' is included as a possible topic for almost every test. Although most of the questions change, there are a few questions that do not change or only change a little. In the notes below, I will discuss these highly probable questions and how you should answer them. I will also mention several common errors that you should avoid.


After the 4 introduction questions, the examiner usually says something very similar to the following words: "Now I'd like to ask you a few more questions about yourself." Then the examiner will choose your first Part 1 topic. If the examiner chooses the topic of  'Your Work or Your Studies', he or she will usually say something very similar to these words: "Let's first talk about what you do. Do you work or are you a student?"

You must choose to talk about one of these; your work or your studies. If you are working or you usually work, you choose the 'Work' topic; if you are a student now or if you don't usually work, you choose to talk about being a student.

If you are not a student now and also don't usually work, then you will have to talk about the last time you were a student, either at high school or university or some college. In this case, the topic is your past studies so the questions will be in the past tense and your answers should also be in the past tense.

It is not critically important which one you choose  C   after all, this is an English test, not a job interview or a police interview.  For example, if you've been working for just a few weeks in a job that is still new to you or if you've been working for a short while in a job that is just temporary, you could choose not to talk about it and just tell the examiner that you don't work, i.e., you choose to talk about your previous studies. In general, it is best to tell the truth because you will speak more convincingly when your answers are true. 

If you go to English classes for just a few hours a week and that is the only class you are attending, it is not 'wrong' to say you are a student but I suggest that you do not include that as being a student because some of the questions will probably not be suitable for you. Usually, the questions are suitable for high school and university students, either current students or graduates.

It is suitable to say you are a student if you are a part-time student, studying one or more classes that are part of a degree course or something similar. If you also work, part-time or full-time, as well as attend university part-time, you could choose to answer either the questions for a student or for a working person. Alternatively, you could tell the examiner your situation and allow the examiner to choose which topic to use for you. But try not to make your explanation too long and complex. This question is more or less just an introduction to the questions that will follow.

If you are now or have been studying an IELTS 'foundation course' at a university for a year or more, it is suitable to choose to talk about being a student. These foundation courses are mostly courses in studying general English but it is inaccurate to say that you are 'an English major' or that your 'major is English' since these foundation courses don't lead to a degree in English. On the other hand, to say that your 'subject is English' is accurate.

It is not suitable to talk about being a student in a short-term IELTS preparation course.

If you are (or were) a university student, it is extremely important that you know how to correctly say what you are studying (or were studying). Similarly, if you work, it is extremely important to know how to correctly state what your job is. Why is it so important? You might think that making one mistake is not so bad. It is perhaps not so bad to make a mistake when talking about someone else's area of study or job but IELTS examiners feel that such a mistake when talking about yourself is a serious weakness. After all, you are doing the IELTS test because you claim to know some English and that should include knowing how to correctly state your job or what you are or were studying. To repeat: if you make a (serious) mistake in stating what you study or what job you do, you will give the examiner a very poor impression. If you are not sure that your English is correct for this question, try to check it with a native English speaker or a Chinese English teacher whose level is very good. At least check it in a dictionary if you are not 100% sure.

Click on one of the links below to go to the one you choose. Note that the typical answers that I will discuss are answers to the question, 'Do you work or are you a student?' It is possible that the question is worded differently and you will have to adapt your answers to best fit the wording of the question. For example, it is possible that the examiner will say something such as, 'Are you working or are you studying?' But the question is usually as highlighted in yellow, above.