The topic of business comes up a lot in IELTS Speaking, both in Part 2 and Part 3. Whether it is about
- running a business
- large companies you are interested in
- a successful business
- how you grow a business
In this IELTS Speaking lesson on the topic of BUSINESS, you will learn how to talk about the world of business including, starting and growing a new business.
IELTS Speaking Vocabulary: Business
IELTS Vocabulary: Business
Let’s look first at some essential vocabulary and collocations you need to talk about this IELTS Speaking topic of business. Remember, try and make your own example sentences using this vocabulary.
Business (countable noun) = a company
Example: We have a lot of new businesses in this city. / I want to start my own business.
Business (uncountable noun): Trade, or buying and selling
Example: Business is good at the moment
Now let’s look at the words used to describe different groups of people and businesses, starting from the smallest and becoming bigger.
An entrepreneur: someone who starts a new business
A freelancer = a consultant: someone who is self-employed but does work for other people or companies
A business = a company
We can also say,
- an enterprise = a firm
- A venture = a new business (emphasizing the risk)
- A start-up = a new business, often used to talk about technology firms
There are a lot of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley
- Primary (mining, fishing, farming)
- Secondary (car manufacturing)
- Tertiary (services; teaching, nursing…)
- Heavy (B2B; oil, shipbuilding)
- Light (consumer-oriented; B to C manufacturing of clothes, furniture, electronic gadgets)
A sector (contains several industries; Agriculture, Education, Retail, Financial services…)
A market (where a number of companies trade)
- To enter a market
- To break into new markets
- To discover and conquer new markets
- To corner a market = to dominate a market
Unemployment (n.) the number of people without a job
- The rate of unemployment has risen recently
- He is unemployed
- He is on the dole (Inf. UK)= He is unemployed
Debates and Discussions about Business
How to create a new business
Below are some relevant comments and language for each question.
Choose a sector (which and why?)
Creating a business in the education sector will help us reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Choose a business (which and why?)
- Set up a school
- Create a learning app
- Publish a magazine
With COVID more and more people are doing business online
I would create a learning app because education is digitalized nowadays
Choose a product or service
- Learn English
- Learn code
- Learn how to start a business
I think this is an essential skill for young people nowadays.
English is in high demand across the globe nowadays
Choose a market
Given the global nature of online businesses, it makes more sense to aim for a worldwide market.
Choose a Target Customer
- Old people (retirees)
- Married couples
Teenagers, because they are most in need of this skill-set
Many teenagers are unemployed and an online business will give them a better chance to survive
Choose a pricing strategy
- High-end price / Premium pricing
- Bundle pricing
- Economy pricing / Rock bottom prices/no-frills prices
Economy pricing is better because teenagers are not financially independent
People will be enticed to buy more with reasonable bundle pricing
I would start with rock-bottom prices to enter the market and build a customer base, then up the price to a premium one once demand has risen.
I’d opt for a bundle pricing strategy because people love discounts and always want to get a bargain
How small companies grow.
Here are some useful expressions and phrases you can use to discuss this.
- They can invest
- They can seek investment
- Find an angel investor =a rich person who will invest in a new company (usually become part-owner)
- Get venture capital =get investment for a new business
- Make a lot of sales
- Open more branches (for on the ground businesses / local business)
- By investing/engaging in the community
- Get repeat buyers = sell to existing customers
- Focus on a specific niche =a specific market segment
- Take on new staff=employ new workers
- Diversify = sell new (lines of) products
- Don’t put all your eggs into one basket = make sure you diversify
- Keep costs low
- Get a subsidy = a grant, money from the government to help you
- Improve the bottom line (your profit) =revenue (income) minus expenditure (costs)
- Do good market research
IELTS Speaking Idioms about Business
Idioms and idiomatic expressions are necessary to get a higher vocabulary score in IELTS Speaking. Here are some useful idioms you can use to talk about the topic of business.
1. To take a hammering = to suffer economically
The F&B (food and beverage) industry has taken a real hammering recently.
In the recent recession, many businesses have taken a hammering
2. To keep your head above water = to survive
With the lockdowns, many small businesses can’t keep their head above water
3. To be hard hit (by…) = to suffer, be badly affected by…
Businesses have been hard hit in recent times
4. Cut-throat competition = very strong competition
There is a lot of cut-throat competition in the mobile phone market
- Many companies will need to go back to the drawing board / to start from scratch = to begin again (from the beginning)
- This product is a cash cow = it makes a lot of profit
- Samsung has the lion’s share of the market (= the biggest part)
- With Covid, many companies have been hard hit, but they have to bite the bullet (= resist, wait, put up with it)
Common Words & Phrases
Macroeconomic (adj) Related to the study of large economic systems, such as those of whole countries or areas of the world
Example: The government strategy is to maintain stable macroeconomic factors.
Market economy (noun) An economic system in which salaries and the prices of goods are determined by supply and demand rather than by the state
Example: The company has played a leading role in helping to educate managers from the emerging market economies of Eastern Europe.
Monopoly (noun) The complete control of trade in particular goods or the supply of a particular service
Example: There are laws to stop companies becoming monopolies.
Predatory pricing (noun) The fact of a company selling its goods at such a low price that other companies can no longer compete.
Example: The airline has reduced its prices so sharply that it has been accused of predatory pricing.
Privatisation (noun) The act of selling a business or an industry so that it is no longer owned by the government
Example: There were fears that privatisation would lead to job losses.
Recession (noun) A difficult time for the economy of a country.
Example: Many economists are worried that Covid 19 could cause a deep financial recession.
Recovery (noun) The process of improving or becoming stronger again.
Example: The government is forecasting an economic recovery
Regulation (noun) An official rule made by a government or some other authority
Example: Under the new regulations spending on public services will be strictly controlled
Revenue (Noun) The money that a government receives from taxes or that an organization, etc. receives from its business
Example: The government may face a shortfall in tax revenue in the future
Risk (Noun) A person or business that a bank or insurance company is willing/unwilling to lend money or sell insurance to because they are unlikely/likely to pay back the money.
Example: With five previous claims, he’s now a bad insurance risk.
Shares (Noun) Any of the units of equal value into which a company is divided that are sold raise money.
Example: People who own shares receive part of the company’s profits.
The public sector (noun) The part of the economy of a country that is owned or controlled by the government
Example: Jobs in the public sector can be more stable than those in the private sector.
The private sector (noun) The part of the economy of a country that is not under the direct control of the government
Example: The private sector runs the vast majority of rail services in the UK.
Stock exchange (noun) A place where shares in companies are bought and sold; all of the business activity involved in doing this.
Example: The London stock exchange is one of the most famous in the world.
Stock market (noun) The business of buying and selling shares in companies and the place where this happens
Example: The stock market crash of 2008 was a very tough time for banks and the financial markets.
Supply and demand (noun) The relationship between the amount of goods or services that are available and the amount that people want to buy, especially when this controls prices
Example: Oil prices should be set by supply and demand, and not artificially regulated.
Takeover (noun) An act of taking control of a company by buying most of its shares.
Example: The attempted takeover of the company was stopped by the competition commission.
Tariff (noun) A tax that is paid on goods coming into or going out of a country
Example: A general tariff was imposed on foreign imports
Tax avoidance (noun) Ways of paying only the smallest amount of tax that you legally have to
Example: The Inland Revenue estimates that it is losing at least £10 billion a year because of tax avoidance.
Tax Evasion (noun) The crime of deliberately not paying all the taxes that you should pay
Example: Tax evasion schemes were responsible for over £16m of frauds last year.
Tax-free (adj) (money, goods, etc.) that you do not have to pay tax on
Example: The country created a tax-free allowance for imports coming into the country.
Tax haven (noun) A place where taxes are low and where people choose to live or officially register their companies because taxes are higher in their own countries
Example: Many companies choose to register their businesses in a tax haven such as Panama to avoid paying high domestic taxes.
Trade deficit (noun) A situation in which the value of a country’s imports is greater than the value of its exports.
Example: Brazil has run a $14 billion trade deficit with the US.
Treasury (noun) The government department that controls public money
Example: The Treasury estimates that the top 1% of earners will pay about 32.3% of all taxes this year.
Unstable (adj) Likely to change suddenly
Example: The unstable economy made investors cautious to invest.
Managing the economy
handle/run/manage the economy
stimulate demand/the economy/industry
reduce/curb/control/keep down inflation
create/fuel growth/demand/a boom/a bubble
encourage/work with/compete with the private sector
increase/boost/promote US/agricultural exports
ban/restrict/block cheap/foreign imports
the economy grows/expands/shrinks/contracts/slows (down)/recovers/improves/is booming
enjoy an economic/housing/property boom
push up/drive up prices/costs/inflation
damage/hurt/destroy industry/the economy
cause/lead to/go into/avoid/escape recession
experience/suffer a recessiondownturn
create/burst a housing/stock market bubble
cause/trigger a stock market crash/the collapse of the banking system
face/be plunged into a financial/an economic crisis
be caught in/experience cycles of boom and bust
cut/reduce/slash/increase/double the defence/education/aid budget
increase/boost/slash/cut public spending
increase/put up/raise/cut/lower/reduce taxes
raise/cut/lower/reduce interest rates
ease/loosen/tighten monetary policy
balance the (state/national/federal) budget
achieve/maintain a balanced budget
run a ($4 trillion) budget deficit/surplus
impose taxes/austerity measures
IELTS Speaking Sample: Business
Here is a list of Speaking part 1, 2, 3 questions that IELTS learners shared with us. Try and answer them to prepare yourself for the IELTS test.
Speaking Part 1
Why do some people decide to set up their own business?
Sometimes people set up their own business because they have new ideas to execute. Moreover they feel confident enough to understand the pros and cons of the situation. Some cases it’s just an emergency and in some it is just an experiment.
What are some of the dangers involved in starting a business?
There are many dangers one should keep in mind before opening a business. First and foremost is the probability ratio of how much the business will be successful. Because spending a bag full of money on a startup and failing it for lack of strategy is a waste of time and money.
What are some of things you have to do when running your own business that might not appeal to everyone?
One has to be selfish enough to not share their own strategies. Never start a business in partnership. Also, one should not keep any dues.
Speaking Part 2
Here is an audio of the sample answers given below. Please listen to it for more clarity on the Speaking Test.
Describe a small business that you would like to own/open
You should say
- what this business would be
- how you would start/open this business
- how you would run this business
and explain why you would like to run this kind of business
I’ve always been interested in different kinds of handcrafted jewellery, such as macrame, beading, Chinese Knot tying, and other kinds of knotting and stitching with cord or wire. So I’m thinking I’d like to go into business, selling and making that kind of jewellery.
It wouldn’t even have to be a big production, just a few people making and selling bracelets, necklaces, and other accessories. Maybe if we become popular and more people start buying our products we could even open a small shop and take special orders. We could also have classes, where we teach people how to make their own jewellery. I was thinking that my cousin could help me since she is quite good with her hands; I think she has some friends who are good at macrame so they could help also. We could put an ad in the newspaper or on the Internet and sell our wares that way. During holidays we’d travel around China and sell our jewellery at famous parks and places that tourists frequent. We’d each just make the things that we’re best at so that we get a bunch of quality products in as short an amount of time as possible.
The main reason I’d start a business like this is that it’s something that I enjoy doing, and I don’t think I could work at a job that I don’t like.
Vocabulary for Cue card
- Knot tying: tie ropes into knots
Eg: They are tying knotS for designing the clothes
- Handcrafted: handmade
Eg: She has passion for handcrafted articles
- Accessories: articles for makeup
Eg: She is carrying her accessories with her
- Macrame: the art of knotting string in patterns to make decorative articles.
Eg: She is good at macrame
Speaking Part 3
What challenges and difficulties do people face when they try to open a small business?
One of the main challenges for small businesses is just staying open. Most small businesses close within a year after they’re open, so if they get past that hurdle the next most important thing that they’ll have to tackle is getting long-term customers. Depending on what kind of business they’re starting, they’ll also have to advertise their products and services. A good advertisement is really what makes the difference between the success and failure of their business.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of small businesses compared to large companies?
One advantage of having a small business is that you don’t have to be lied down by company rules, regulations, and protocols. You are free to operate as you please and don’t have to worry about getting the approval of the CEO or some other person higher up on the ladder than you. There are some disadvantages, though, to having a small business. The main one is that if you’re not careful, the big businesses will put you out of business by slashing their prices or advertising heavily. You see, they can afford to make their prices lower than yours simply because they have more money.
How can small businesses benefit the people in their community?
Small businesses can cater to the whims and wishes of the people that they are near. They get to know their customers and can specialize in taking care of them. Small businesses can even watch out for community members: if they are used to seeing them and they notice a change in their routine, the business could report this to someone who would lie concerned about them. Having a small business, like a restaurant, for instance, creates a family-like feeling in the neighbourhood, as opposed to going to McDonald’s for instance, where they don’t know you from Adam.
Compare small shops with big international department stores and supermarkets.
I really don’t think there is any comparison. Small shops retain a personal touch and give you the feeling that the owners are more than people who just want to make money. Small businesses make you feel that you are contributing to keeping the community going by shopping there. Of course, the big stores have a lot more variety and are able to have sales and cut their prices when they need to.
What kinds of small business are the most popular in China?
Well you see them everywhere and new ones pop up almost daily, what are they? Well, you guessed it, beauty salons and hairdressers and haircutters. If you walk down any given street you will see one or two on each corner. People are much more interested in style and being in fashion, so that is why these businesses are so popular. If you look around you will see so many new hairdos.
Why do some people open their own business?
People want to be able to say, “this is mine.” They want to be able to do something on their own. They want to see something grow that they had a direct part in. People also want to make money, of course, and this might even be the main reason.
What qualities does a small business owner need to have?
A small business owner would have to be diligent with his business, wanting to make sure that things are done right, he would need to have patience, the ability to wait until the business starts succeeding. He would have to have plenty of capital to get his business off the ground. A small business owner would also have to have a sense of humour, to laugh when he feels like crying.
How have small businesses changed in recent years in China?
There is a lot more freedom here in China to start your own business and make it succeed. There are a lot more small businesses than in the past. Because of China’s entry into the WTO, there are a lot more products and therefore more businesses. As I mentioned before, style is becoming more popular so more businesses open to keep up with it.
How do you think small businesses will change in the future in China?
I think that people are working together more and want to get their small businesses going and progressing so that they can branch out and grow. You will see small businesses flexing their muscles in the rural areas and expanding their support base. You will see small businesses affecting life much more than they do now. Small businesses are the future of China and will continue being so as time goes on.
Compare owning and running a small business to being an employee in a large company.
I think that I am passionate about this. I feel that owning and operating a small business is everything good and working as a cog in a wheel for a large company is everything bad. Maybe it’s just me, but I like to experiment and try new things and when you have your own business you can do this. I’ve got to feel like I am making a difference; owning a small business would do this for me.
Vocabulary for Speaking Part 3
- Hurdle: Difficulties
Eg: You must overcome the hurdles to succeed
- Tackle: make determined efforts to deal with (a problem or difficult task).
Eg: She is tackling difficult issues
- Long-term: very long time
Eg: It’s a long-term project
- Protocols: Rules
Eg: Follow the protocols
IELTS Speaking Practice: Business
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 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 delighted 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 the 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 the 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’)
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