During the IELTS Speaking exam you may be asked to talk about the subject of business. This might involve describing a business you know well or talking about your own ambitions. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.
Part 1-style questions
Examiner: Do you work or are you a student?
Hati: I run my own business actually … I have an online business selling cosmetics … I set up the business 5 years ago and I’m really enjoying working for myself …
Examiner: What is your ideal job?
Kaori: I don’t think I’d enjoy working for a big company … I think I’d like to go it alone and be self-employed … I’m not sure what area of business it would be but I think I’d enjoy the process of drawing up a business plan and seeing if I could be successful …
Examiner: Is your town a nice place to live?
Monique: It’s OK … the main problem we have is our local high street … it used to be a busy center but lots of shops have gone bust … it must be very difficult to make a profit when you have huge supermarkets in the area and a lot haven’t been able to survive with such cut-throat competition…
Part 2-style task
Describe a business you know that you admire. You should say
- what this business is
- what the business sells
- how long you have known about the business
and say why you like it so much.
Magda: Actually I discovered a business very recently that I like so much I’d like to do something similar in the future … it’s a small niche business that runs courses in how to cook … especially bread … the owner uses his kitchen for the courses and went into business with a local community shop and sells a lot of the bread and cakes they make in the shop … I first got to hear about the business last year … my wife paid for me to do one of the baking courses and I got to know the owner during the training … it’s a lifestyle business really … he doesn’t have plans to take on employees or expand into new areas … he’s happy earning a living doing the thing he loves … I really admire what he does and I’m sure a lot of people would love to do something similar … he has a web presence … in fact that’s how we got to find out about his company … and he uses social media to raise the company profile … but he’s the only person involved in running the business so he’s in complete control of where the business goes … that’s something that must make it really satisfying … as long as he’s managing to balance the books and the cash flow is healthy I’m sure he must be very pleased with what he has achieved …
Part 3-style questions
Examiner: Why do some people decide to set up their own business?
Marion: I suppose it’s the idea of being in control of your own destiny … or of believing in a product or service idea you may have … plus it must be very exciting … launching products … winning contracts … and seeing your sales figures improving must be wonderful …
Examiner: What are some of the dangers involved in starting a business?
Hiro: Well … obviously you need to have a good idea … some people say you need to do market research beforehand so you know what the market wants … if you don’t do this you could go under … and if it is a good idea the chances are someone else is doing the same thing so you could end up facing stiff competition …
Examiner: What are some of things you have to do when running your own business that might not appeal to everyone?
Katy: Personally i don’t like being in debt so taking out a business loan wouldn’t suit me at all … and I know a lot of companies do cold calling to try and drum up business … that’s something I’d hate to do … and laying people off if the business gets into trouble … that would be horrible …
- to balance the books: to not spend more money than you are earning
- to be self-employed: to work for yourself/to not work for an employer
- to cold call: to make a sales call to someone without asking them for permission first
- cut throat competition: when one company lowers its prices, forcing other companies to do the same, sometimes to a point where business becomes unprofitable
- to do market research: to do research into what potential customers would or wouldn’t buy
- to draw up a business plan: to write a plan for a new business
- to drum up business: to try to get customers
- to earn a living: to earn money
- to go bust: when a business is forced to close because it is unsuccessful
- cash flow: the money coming in and going out of a business
- to go into business with: to join another person to start or expand a business
- to go it alone: to start your own business
- to go under: (see ‘to go bust’)
- to have a web presence: to have a website or social media profile that showcases your business
- to launch a product: to start selling and promoting a new product
- to lay someone off: when a company ends an employee’s contract of employment
- lifestyle business: a business that is set up to bring in a sufficient income and no more
- to make a profit: to earn more money than it costs to run the business
- niche business: a business that serves a small, particular market
- to raise a company profile: to make more people aware of a business
- to run your own business: to have a business of your own
- sales figures: a report of the income a company generates through sales of products or services
- to set up a business: to start a business
- stiff competition: strong competition from other companies in the same area of work
- to take on employees: to employ people
- to take out a loan: to borrow money
- to win a contract: when a business gets legally-binding work with an individual or company
- to work for yourself: (see ‘to be self-employed’)