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The interview: section one

Task description
Section One of the interview is an introduction in which the interviewer will ask you some general questions about yourself. The questions are often, but not always, based on the CV that you filled out before the test. This section of the interview aims to be like a friendly conversation in which the interviewer asks questions that are not too difficult, to try to get to know you and relax you.

Sample questions


Prior to the test, you will be asked to fill in a CV (Curriculum Vitae) which will ask for general information about topics such as the following:

  • Your country of origin
  • Where you learnt English
  • How long you have been learning English
  • Level of education achieved
  • Interests and future plans

The first section of the test will go something like this:

  • The interviewer greets the candidate and introduces himself or herself.
  • The interviewer asks the candidate to state his or her name clearly for the cassette.
  • The interviewer asks to see the candidate’s passport and CV form.

Typical questions for this stage of the test might be:

  • It says on your CV that you are interested in … Could you tell me why you like it?
  • How often do you … ?
  • With whom? Where?
  • Why are you taking the IELTS test?
  • Is this your hometown?
  • If not, tell me about the place you come from.
  • Would you rather live here or there?
  • Tell me how the public transport system in your hometown compares with here.
  • If yes, what do you like about living here?
  • Are there any bad points about this place?

Strategies for approaching the task


Firstly, you should be very careful what you write on your CV as this could be the basis for the discussion in this part of the test and may influence the interviewer’s choice of topics for the second part of the test as well. Remember that one of the aims of this section is to get you talking freely so that the interviewer can assess your level of English. The interviewer wants you to talk about something you are interested in so that you will perform your best. It is for this reason that you are asked to write down some information about yourself that the interviewer can use as a basis for the questions.

One question on the CV asks you to write down your interests. Make sure that you are prepared to talk about the interests you write down here. For example, if one of your interests is scuba diving, make sure that you learn the vocabulary you need to discuss this topic in English before the test. And check the pronunciation with a native speaker of English if possible.

One candidate wrote down that she was interested in the environment, though in fact, she knew nothing about environmental issues. The interviewer, thinking that this would be a good topic to get the candidate talking freely, began to ask question after questions about the candidate’s views on various issues related to the environment. The candidate didn’t have the language to cope with the questions and also didn’t have any ideas to express about the issues. So instead of the candidate feeling relaxed from the beginning of the interview talking about a familiar topic, she felt very uncomfortable and may not have performed as well as she could as a result.

So choose carefully what you write down on the CV and prepare the language you will need to discuss these topics before the test. This does not mean that you should memorise a speech as the interviewer will immediately change the topic if s/he thinks that what you are saying is rehearsed. It would be more useful to find people with whom you can practise speaking about the topics.

You should also be prepared to use the past, present and present perfect tenses to describe your current situation. For example, ‘I have been studying English for two years since I moved to the city’.


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