APTIS Speaking Test: Sample Questions, Tips and Strategies

In this article we will provide you with sample questions, model answers, general tips and strategies to prepare for APTIS speaking test.

The Aptis Speaking parts 1, 2, 3 & 4 tests your ability to communicate in English in real-life situations.

The test takes about 12 minutes and it is divided into four sections. Your responses will be recorded and marked by examiners.

If you are taking Aptis Advanced, you will have 10 minutes to complete this part.

This article will:

  • Briefly explain the nature of the test
  • Look at example questions
  • Discuss the Speaking skills required
  • Discuss common problems
  • Give you tips and advice
  • Provide your with strategies to use preparing for your exam and on exam day

Part 1: Sentence comprehension

You will be asked three questions about yourself and your interests. You are expected to speak for 30 seconds for each question.

Example questions:

1. Please tell me about your best friend.

2. What do you like to do in your free time?

3. Tell me about your country.

Please visit our exam library to access free simulated APTIS speaking tests database.

Part 2: Describe a picture, express an opinion, and provide reasons and explanations

You will be asked to describe a photograph, then answer two questions on the topic of the photograph. The questions are about you and the examiner will ask you to talk about your own experience of the topic. You will also be asked to comment on some more general aspects of the topic. In this part you are expected to speak for 45 seconds for each response.

1-    Tell me about a time you learned something online.

2-    Do you think people learn better online or in classrooms?


Part 3: Describe, compare, and provide reasons and explanations

You will be asked to describe two photographs. After that you will be asked to answer two questions on the topic of the photographs. The questions will ask you to compare some aspect of the topic and to express an opinion on or speculate about the topic. Again, you are expected to speak for 45 seconds for each response.

Tell me what you see in the photographs.  

1-    What do these people have in common?

2-    Which of these achievements is more special? Why?


Part 4: Discuss personal experiences and opinion on an abstract topic

You will be asked three questions on a single topic and given one minute to prepare an answer. You can take brief notes and use these to help structure your answer. You are expected to talk for two minutes.

1.     Tell me about a time when you were stressed out.

2.     What made you feel that way?

3.     What are some ways of coping with stress?


How are the APTIS results presented and scored?

There are four marking criteria which will be used to assess your speaking: 

  • Fluency an Cohesion (25%)
  • Vocabulary (25%)
  • Grammar (25%)
  • Pronunciation (25%)

Speaking is given a numerical score between 0-50, contributing to a Final Scale Score out of 200. Each of these are aligned to a CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). Level of A1-C for each skill as well as one for the Final Overall Score.

For further information, please visit British Council website here.

Top Tips and Strategies for The APTIS Speaking Test

Tip 1: Understand the questions and respond appropriately and fully

Make sure you understand the questions and respond appropriately and fully. Try to explain or expand your answers. Listen carefully to the question and listen for the stressed words which give you the meaning. When you answer a question, you can expand by giving examples and reasons. Practice by first answering the question and then explaining the when, where, and why.

Tip 2: Use your preparation time in section four efficiently

Again, you must make sure you understand the questions and respond appropriately and fully. You are expected to talk for two minutes and you have three questions. Remember that is only 40 seconds a question and practice this with a timer before the exam. You can use the same technique for all your answers. Give a general answer and then be more specific. Give examples, reasons, and results.

Tip 3: Keep your notes short and simple

Keep your notes short and simple and think about how to structure your ideas logically. Look at the keywords in the question and make sure that you answer the question word used, i.e. If the question is ‘When’ talk about a time. It it is ‘Where’ talk about a place.

Tip 4. Practice speaking as much as you can

Practice speaking as much as you can, do not worry too much about mistakes. Instead, focus on whether your message was successfully communicated. Practice ways of saying things again in another way. This will help the examiner understand and heve the benefit of using more time. BE CAREFUL, only do this occasionally.

Tip 5: Record yourself speaking

Record yourself speaking and try to improve your vocabulary and pronunciation.

To prepare for speaking test, record yourself speaking as fluently as possible for a minute or two. 

Try the following topics:

- introducing yourself;

- talking about your personal experiences & preferences;

- comparing two different things - perhaps two cities or two houses.


When you listen to your recording the key things to note are:

 - grammatical accuracy.

- appropriacy of vocabulary.

- effective pronunciation.

- hesitation.

- well-sequenced ideas properly linked together.

Tip 6: Don't memorize answers

Don't memorise answers, especially in Part 1. Memorised language doesn't give the examiner an accurate measure of your English-language skills. The examiner will be able to tell if you have memorised your answers because they will sound unnatural and will probably be inappropriate to the question. This may influence your final band score.

Tip 7: Don't use long and unfamiliar words

You may want to impress the examiner with long and complex words in your speaking test. But to be safe, avoid using words you are not familiar with. There is a higher chance of making mistakes by either mispronouncing words or using them in the wrong context. Mistakes can affect your final band score.

Tip 8: Use a range of grammatical structures

When APTIS examiners asses your speaking skills, they mark you against the following assessment criteria:

•         Fluency and coherence

•         Lexical resource

•         Grammatical range and accuracy

•         Pronunciation

Try and use a range of grammatical structures using complex and simple sentences to express what you want to say. You can improve cohesion by including linking words that give sequences, reasons, results and contrasts.

Know your own errors and practice speaking to friends in English. Try recording yourself to see if you can spot errors. If you hear an error, make sure to correct yourself. To learn something properly you must review it. Look at errors regularly to check you aren’t making them.

You are assessed on your ability to use different grammatical structures accurately, so it is important to practice speaking about the past, the present and the future using correct tenses. If you have difficulty with a tense or structure, try to find another way to express the same idea.

Tip 9: Don't worry about your accent

With a face-to-face Speaking test, the examiner understands a wide range of accents so he or she will be able to understand what you say, unlike an AI machine. You are aren’t expected to sound like a native speaker. If you can communicate well, then there is nothing to worry about. But do be aware of sounds that you have difficulty with and make sure to use stress and intonation as English is a stress-timed language and you should try to mimic it. Practice with friends and they will tell you if they can't understand what you are saying.

Tip 10: Pause to think

There is no harm in taking a brief pause to think about what to say. We all do it to process questions. You can use phrases to give you time to think during the Speaking test - phrases such as:

•         That's an interesting question

•         I have never thought about that, but...

•         Let me see

•         That's a good point

•         That's a difficult question, but I'll try and answer it

•         Well, some people say that is the case, however I think...

•         Let me think about that for a minute

Don’t overuse them because this can make your English sound unnatural.

Tip 11: Avoid using fillers

Speak confidently and avoid using filler words. We generally use fillers when we don't know what to say, however, this shows the examiner that you can't access the appropriate language or ideas so it's important to avoid them and to use the phrases we gave you in

Tip 5.

Avoid the following fillers:

•         Like

•         You know

•         Umm...

•         Ahh...

•         Ehh...

•         Yeah...

Tip 12: Try not to stop recording and skip to next question re-utilize given time in full

APTIS allows you to skip recording your voice when the time is up. However, try not to stop recording and skip to next question. Instead use the given time in full and show case your language skills to the full.

Tip 13: Extend your answers

Yes’ and ‘No’ are NOT satisfactory answers in your APTIS Speaking test – you need to show the examiner how good your English is.

If you give very short answers, there is no way the examiner can know how good you are. Therefore, you should try to extend your answers with explanations, examples, results, contrasts and examples.

If the examiner says 'Why?', they are prompting you to give a reason for your answer and to extend more fully.

Tip 14: Smiling helps pronunciation

Most of APTIS speaking tests are computer based but still smiling can help calm your nerves which in turn helps your pronunciation. Make sure you enunciate clearly, opening your mouth wide enough so that sounds come out clearly. When we smile, our mouth is bigger, and the tone of our voice is more friendly. Using clear enunciation and tone will show the examiner that you can use a range of pronunciation features.

Tip 15: Don't speak in a monotone

Sometimes when we speak, we produce a flat sound, a monotone, with little variation. This makes it more difficult to express what you say and makes it more difficult for the listener to identify what parts of your message are important. Putting emphasis on certain words and pausing at sections in your speech can make your conversation with the IELTS examiner more engaging. When we emphasise certain words it makes it easier to compare and contrast ideas by stressing key words. It also increases the flow of conversation, so remember:

•         Don't speak in a monotone. Listen to how native speakers speak and try to mimic it.

•         Vary your stress and intonation to add emphasis.

•         Don’t speak too quickly.

•         Use your hands to gesture and help the rhythm of the conversation.

Tip 16: Practice common APTIS topics

Part 3 of the APTIS Speaking test requires you to speak on a given topic for about 2 minutes. Practice common APTIS topics with friends, family or colleagues to improve and to learn vocabulary associated with each topic.

Common topics you can practice for the Speaking test include:

•         Tourism and travel

•         Education

•         Transport

•         Environment

•         Family life

•         Sport and recreation

•         Crime and punishment

•         The internet

•         Advertising and retail

Tip 17: Don’t be shy

It is stressful doing a speaking exam but the best way to reduce the stress is by preparation and practice. Having a plan of how you are going to answer the questions will make you more confident. Practicing with other people will get you more familiar with speaking in different situations. The exam situation is designed to make candidates feel comfortable.

Tip 18: Made a mistake? Don't panic!

You cannot pause or stop the audio reading the questions. So be prepared. Don’t panic if you don’t hear or misunderstand something. If you made a mistake - don't panic! Try to correct yourself as smoothly as possible (learn a few phrases that correct yourself). If you can't - just continue speaking, you won't lose many points for a few mistakes.

Tip 19: Your ideas aren’t important

Your ideas aren’t important as your knowledge isn’t’ being tested. You are not expected to be an expert, or a ‘William Shakespeare’. In this case, it’s not what you say but how you say it.

Tip 20: Think of your experience relating to the topic

If the topic is museums, then think of museums you have been or would like to go to. When you are preparing for the exam, think about the situations given in Tip 15 and practice things you could say about them.

Tip 21: Speak from the heart and show confidence

Speak from the heart because your English is better when you do that. Also speak your ideas with confidence to showcase your language skills.

Tip 22: Learn to express yourself using your own language

Simple ideas explained using excellent English can get you a top APTIS score.

Tip 23: Give yourself time to think

If you are unsure how to answer the question, you can give yourself a bit more time to think by using this tip.

First, you can say: "That's a tricky question...", "I've never thought about that before..." or "That's an interesting question...".

This way you'll have some extra time to plan your answer.

You can also reformulate the question:

Examiner: What was your favourite book in the childhood?

You: What book did I like as a child? Let me see...

These techniques work well when you use it occasionally. Don’t use them with every question or it will sound strange.

For more detailed information, please download a copy of the Candidate Guide.

Tip 24: Be coherent and use linking words

Use linking words and structures. Words and phrases like however, nevertheless (for contrast). All in all, to sum up (for conclusion). In addition, moreover (for addition). Therefore, as a result (for result). Because, so (for reason). Such as, for example (for example). Will all enrich your speech.

Tip 25: Speak some English every day

It is better to practice a little bit every day and improve your skills gradually, than to try to learn everything at the last minute.

Tip 26: Do a 24-hour English warm up

It takes most APTIS students 10-15 minutes to ‘warm-up’ and perform to the best of their ability on test day. Just like an athlete needs to warm up before a sporting event, you also need to warm up before your APTIS exam.

Therefore, you should speak, write, read and listen to English for 24 hours before your APTIS Speaking test. Your family and friends might think you are crazy, but it will make a huge difference to your score!

Tip 27: Correct your mistakes

People make small mistakes when they speak all the time, especially when they are nervous in an exam. By correcting your mistakes as you make them, you can show the examiner that you really do know your grammar and vocabulary.

However, don’t try to be 100% accurate or you could end up not saying anything.

When you make a small mistake, simply say sorry and repeat the sentence correctly. Learn expressions for correcting yourself like ‘’Sorry, let me say that again’’.

Tip 28: Practice your English with your speaking partner

Practice your English with your speaking partner. This will not only enable you to improve your speaking but enhance your listening skills too. Make a note of their mistakes and discuss them. Ask your partner to do the same for you. 

Tip 29: Think in English

This is not easy if you live in a country that is non-native English speaking, but you could change the operating system on your phone, tablet or laptop to English. Play a game with your friends where everyone has to speak English for an hour (try to make it funny by trying to sound as English as possible). Have a day when you only listen to or watch things that are in English. Practice situations or dialogues when you are travelling or don’t have anything to do. 

Tip 30: Try as many as practice APTIS tests

Doing practice tests will help you build your concentration levels and your instinct. More than that, practice will improve your English and help you with the timings you need to complete the test with the best result. If you would like to increase your APTIS score by practicing more speaking practice tests then please check the exam library in our website here. There you will find largest simulated APTIS test database. Totally free with no registration (we won't even ask for your email).

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Hey! My name is Celine and I’m a Native English speaker from Toronto, Canada. Helping students learn is my passion. I’ve been teaching English as a Second/Foreign language for 5+ years in Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom, to students from all around the world. In addition to this, I’ve worked as a freelance consultant and a curriculum developer for international education companies such as Kaplan Test Prep and Pearson English in the UK, and many others in China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and more! I have designed these practice exams to better prepare you for your APTIS Test and your future goals. Hope they help!

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