Top Tips for IELTS

Talking about likes and dislikes in part 1 speaking

You can expect to get asked questions in part 1 speaking about what you like and dislike and it is important to be prepared for them. In this lesson I show you

examples of the types of question you’ll be asked

useful words and phrases for talking about preferences

ways to extend your answer when talking about likes

Identify the questions where you can use like words

The point to note here is that you can talk about what you like/dislike even when the question doesn’t use those exact words. The idea is that you need to listen to the meaning of the question to understand if you’re being asked about what you like in an indirect way.

You should also note that it’s also quite possible to use like words when you’re extending your answer to another question – this works especially well for opinion and habit questions.

Direct preference questions

These questions are quite easy to spot. The examiner will ask direct questions about your likes using words such as like, dislike, prefer and enjoy

Do you prefer to study by yourself or with other people?

Which room in your house do you like most?

Do you enjoy going to the cinema?

Are there any sports you dislike?

Indirect preference questions – favourite

These questions are slightly less easy to spot. The examiner may ask you a question about what you like without using like words. A typical example here is the word favourite:

What’s your favourite subject?

You should see that if you’re going to talk about  your favourite thing, then you’ll almost certainly also talk about what you like too.

Don’t just listen to words, listen for the meaning of the question

Extending your answer by talking about what you like

Look at these questions that ask you for your opinions or about your habits and see how I extend my answer by talking about what I like/enjoy:

opinion question

Do you think birthdays are important?

Yes and no. I have a child and her birthday is really important to her – perhaps the biggest day in the year. But for me I don’t really care about my birthday any more – I don’t even enjoy getting presents as it seems a bit of as waste of money.

habit questions

Where do you usually walk?

Oh I normally walk in the park near to where I live. It’s an extremely beautiful place and I really enjoy walking there in the evenings and watching the sun set over the trees. It relaxes me no end.

Think about talking about what you dislike and like when you are answering other types of questions

Some useful phrases for talking about likes and dislikes

The basics

The key words you need here are mostly




Don’t be worried that they seem simple – simple works in speaking. Be careful of using “idiomatic” phrases and trying to vary your language too much. It’s quite ok to answer a question about what you like with the word like.

One tip is to use the word in the question right at the start of your answer and then try and vary it later if you can. Look at this example where I borrow the word like from the question and then change it to favourite later – when I’ve had a little thinking time.

Which room in your house do you like most?

I guess it’s the kitchen. I like it because it’s the cosiest room – it’s nice and warm even in winter. And another reason it’s my favourite room is that it’s where we sit down together as a family.

Keep it simple – don’t try and use too much variation – start off by mirroring the words in the question
See if you can vary later as you expand your answer

Think adverbs – how much do you like it?

One way to get variation is to use adverbs of degree – these are a great feature to add to your spoken English. Simple as they are they can make you sound much more natural. Some good ones to use are:

I quite like 

I really enjoy

I much prefer

I mostly prefer

A benefit of these words is that they can give you something more to say. You simply explain why you like it so much or so little.

Do you prefer to study by yourself or with other people?

Oh I mostly prefer to study with other people. It’s normally better to work together so you can share ideas and notes and things like that. But there are times when I prefer to work by myself so I can do exactly what I want. 

Do you like flying by plane?

I quite like it. It’s not exactly a pleasure for me but I’m not scared of flying or anything like that. It’s great when you have the window seat and can see the mountains down below but it isn’t so much fun when you’re stuck in the middle seat or on the aisle.

Adding adverbs can make you sound more natural and give you more to say

Other variations

There aren’t actually that many direct variations of like. The closest is be fond of. It’s a useful word as you can use a range of adverbs with it to show how much you like something

be fond of – I’m extremely/quite fond of my computer

Another possible one if you feel strongly is love

love  I absolutely love the kitchen – it’s where I feel most at home

A useful word is pleasure for talking about what you enjoy.  Look at these phrases and the prepositions

real pleasure – walking is a real pleasure for me

a great pleasure in life – reading is one of my great pleasures in life


Sometimes you can talk about how interesting something is. This allows you to use

be interested in – Yes, I am interested in new technology. Whenever Apple bring out a new gadget i must have it – i suppose you could say I’m a bit of a gadget freak.

be fascinated by – In fact I’m truly fascinated by traditional dancing surprising as it may sound and I always have been since my mother took t=me to dance classes as a child

Don’t forget that you can also say you don’t like something or say you are unsure. This allows more variations

not care for – I don’t really care for the cinema. i much prefer to stay at home and read a book – I’m very much into the great Russian novels

be ambivalent about- I don’t like or dislike the cinema – I’m fairly ambivalent about it in fact. If there’s a really good film on I’ll go and see it but otherwise not.

Extending your answers

There are  a number of natural ways to extend your answer when you talk about likes and dislikes. Here are a few brief examples.


Do you like singing?

Actually I don’t. That’s because I have a terrible voice and can’t sing in tune and I get embarrassed when I sing in public. I feel I ought to be able to sing but I just can’t and so I often just mime the words.


Do you like where you live?

Yes I do – very much indeed. In fact I like it so much that I can’t imagine ever living somewhere else – I certainly wouldn’t want to go and live abroad. So it’s quite likely that I’ll spend my whole life there – or nearly all of it anyway.


Do you enjoy visiting museums?

I do yes. I went to the Natural History Museum just last week and I was absolutely fascinated by all the exhibits there. The dinosaurs were simply amazing – much much bigger than I’d imagined them to be

Both option with preference questions

Do you prefer to travel by bus or train?

They both have their advantages I suppose. I like trains because I can move around and I’m not stuck in one seat. But buses have their advantages too of course. I guess the biggest one is that they run more reguaklr services and you often end up getting there more quickly.


Do you like playing sport?

Not any more no. I’m just not fit enough any longer and I don’t enjoy basketball as I once did. But when I was younger I’d spend all day on the basketball court if I could.

Other lessons to help you

You’ll find a similar lesson to help you with habit questions here

Talking about habits in part 1 speaking

And you’ll find more ideas about how to extend your answers in this lesson

How to extend your answer in part 1



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2 Responses to Talking about likes and dislikes in part 1 speaking

  1. Natividad Laconcha October 10, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    I would like to ask what score will be the above speaking examples.
    Thank you.

    • Dominic Cole October 10, 2016 at 10:02 am #


      It depends of course on pronunciation and what happens in the rest of the test. In part 1 you don’t need to show off much – relatively short and straightforward answers can get a good score. Some high scoring features you should note are:

      grammar range: But when I was younger I’d spend all day on the basketball court if I could.
      vocabulary range with natural collocations: That’s because I have a terrible voice and can’t sing in tune and I get embarrassed when I sing in public. I feel I ought to be able to sing but I just can’t and so I often just mime the words.

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