Speaking Part 1 Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

In this free lesson, we look at a common type of question that examiners ask in Part 1 of the speaking test: Your abilities.
​In order to effectively answer this type of question, it is important that you can accurately speak about what you can and can’t do.
​Let’s talk about musical instruments:

  • Can you play any musical instruments?
  • Should all children study music at school?
  • What traditional instruments does your country have?
  • Is it popular to learn to play a traditional musical instrument in your country?


​Exercise 1

​Listen to Sam answer the question Can you play any musical instruments? Are the following statements True or False?

Speaking Abilities.mp3
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True or False?

1. Sam isn’t interested in the topic.
2. Sam can play more than one musical instrument.
3. Sam learnt the guitar easily.
4. Sam bought his drum kit when he was 12.
5. Sam played in public when he was a teenager.
6. Sam thinks his band sounded really good.
7. Sam has played the violin for a long time.
8. Sam wants to join an orchestra when he can play well enough.

Unsure about the answers? Check them with this script.

Examiner:
I’d like to ask you some questions about musical instruments. Can you play any musical instruments?

Sam:
​Yes, I can. I’m really keen on music and I have learnt to play several instruments. When I was young I wanted to learn the guitar but I tried and I couldn’t really get the hang of it. As a result, I moved on to the drums. Amazingly really, my parents bought me a drum kit when I was 12, they are very patient people! I was able to play the drums quite well and when I was 16 I formed a band with some school mates and we played a few small shows together – it was great fun, but I don’t know how good we were! More recently I have got into playing the violin. I like a lot of classical music and I think the violin has a beautifully clear quality to its sound when it is played well. I hope I will be able to get my grade 7 this year, and when I am good enough, I’ll be able to join the local orchestra.


Exercise 2

Read the script from the previous exercise. Focus on the language Sam uses to talk about present, past and future abilities.

Examiner:
I’d like to ask you some questions about musical instruments. Can you play any musical instruments?

Sam:
​Yes, I can. I’m really keen on music and I have learnt to play several instruments. When I was young I wanted to learn the guitar but I tried and I couldn’t really get the hang of it. As a result, I moved on to the drums. Amazingly really, my parents bought me a drum kit when I was 12, they are very patient people! I was able to play the drums quite well and when I was 16 I formed a band with some school mates and we played a few small shows together – it was great fun, but I don’t know how good we were! More recently I have got into playing the violin. I like a lot of classical music and I think the violin has a beautifully clear quality to its sound when it is played well. I hope I will be able to get my grade 7 this year, and when I am good enough, I’ll be able to join the local orchestra.


Now complete the grammar information below using words from the box.
will be able to   ·  can   ·  won’t be able to   ·  couldn’t   ·  could   ·  can’t  
Click or touch a word above
1. To talk about your present abilities, (positive) and (negative) are used with the present simple tense verb.
For example:
Sam: I play the violin but I still play the guitar.


2. To talk about your past abilities, (positive) and (negative) are used with present simple verb.
Sam: When I was a teenager, I play the guitar but I play the drums.


3. To talk about future abilities, use (positive) or (negative) with the present simple tense verb.
Sam: I join an orchestra when I’m good enough but I play guitar because I have stopped learning it.


Exercise 3

Listen to Sam one more time and read the script as you listen. 
Click or touch a word above
Select a word in the tapescript, then select a box below that matches the meaning.
1. Adjective + preposition – interested in something
2. determiner (used before a countable noun) – a small number of things
3. 6 or 7-word phrase – unable to learn how to do something
4. verb – create or bring together
5. adverb – a time not long ago

Use the language above to answer these questions:

  • Can you play any musical instruments?
  • Do you have any other talents?
  • What hobbies did you have as a child?
  • Are there any skills that you want to learn in the future?

How did you find this lesson? Now you must practice using this vocabulary and abilities grammar frequently to make sure that you can use them confidently in the speaking test.

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