IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is designed to assess the language ability of candidates who need to study or work where English is used as the language of communication.
There are two types of IELTS test:
- IELTS Academic (suitable for students who want to pursue higher studies abroad).
- IELTS General training (suitable for people who wish to migrate to English speaking countries).
NB: The Listening Test and Speaking Test sections are the same for both the IELTS Academic and IELTS General, whereas Reading and Writing sections vary slightly.. It is structured in such a way that does not allow test takers to rehearse set responses beforehand.
The IELTS SPEAKING Test lasts between11–14 minutes in a face-to-face interview with the IELTS Examiner. The Test includes short questions, speaking at length about a familiar topic and a structured discussion
My advice to my students is to:
- Feel confident and remind them to relax and enjoy the conversation with the examiner.
- Listen carefully to the questions.
- Use fillers and hesitation devices if they need ‘thinking time’ before answering.
- Realise, it is their language level not their opinions which are being evaluated.
The Speaking Test is divided into three parts: .
Part 1 – [Introduction and interview] Test takers answer general questions about themselves and a range of familiar topics, such as their home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between four and five minutes.
Part 2 – [Individual long turn] Test takers are given a booklet which asks them to talk about a particular topic. They have one minute to prepare before speaking for up to two minutes. The examiner may ask one or two questions on the same topic to finish this part of the test.
Part 3 – [Two-way discussion] Test takers are asked further questions which are connected to the topic in Part 2. These questions give the test taker an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas. This part lasts between four and five minutes.
There are four evaluation criteria on the Speaking Test:
- Fluency and Coherence = how clear and structured is your speech.
- Lexical Resource = how good is your vocabulary.
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy = how good is your grammar.
- Pronunciation = how naturally you sound.
The 18 Don’ts For The IELTS Speaking Test
1. Don’t Ever Think That The Speaking Test Is The Easiest part of the exam.
Because the examiners are friendly, this section may appear to be simple. You are on your own for the rest of the exam, so it may appear that you have someone to assist you in this section.
However, in order to ensure fairness, the examiner must adhere to extremely strict rules. They evaluate all candidates using the same set of criteria.
Remember that all the four sub-tests have the same level of difficulty, but you may find one part of the exam easier than others depending on your language skills.
2. Don’t Memorise Answers
Many people believe that the best way to perform well on the Speaking Test is to memorise scripted answers and simply use them during the test. This is a bad idea because memorised answers are obvious, and examiners are trained to detect them. Not only will you lose marks, but the examiners may also ask you more difficult questions in order to test your English competency and determine your true level.
3. Don’t Worry About The Examiner’s Opinion
According to some students, you can only do well on the Speaking Test if the examiner agrees with your point of view. Nothing could be further from the truth. Examiners aren’t interested in your thoughts; they simply want you to demonstrate your ability to speak. Concentrate on responding to the question in a fluent, grammatically correct manner.
The truth is that only your pronunciation is evaluated, not your accent.
4. Don’t Insert Lots Of ‘Big’ Words
A common misconception is that in order to get a high score on the test, you must use very long, ‘complicated’ words in every sentence. This is not true. However, you should try to demonstrate to the examiner that you have a diverse vocabulary, so avoid using words you don’t fully understand. If you try to use ‘complicated’ words that you don’t fully understand, you will almost certainly make mistakes and lose marks.
My 100% rule is that if you aren’t certain about the meaning and form of a word, don’t use it.
Here are some connectors you can use to structure your speech in an organized manner:
- Firstly, secondly, last but not least
- Moreover, furthermore, in addition
- Consequently, therefore, as a result
- In order to, so as to, so that
5. Don’t Take Notes While Preparing For Part 2.
You may want to take notes, but sometimes it is better to simply think about the subject. You have one minute to prepare. If you spend that time writing, you may be wasting valuable thinking time.
Every topic card contains a few ideas that you should incorporate into your speech; therefore, organise your speech around these ideas. Spend one minute thinking about brief responses to each sub-question.
Once you have a brief response in mind, you will be able to expand on it while speaking by providing examples and discussing how those answers relate to you. Most people have no qualms about talking about themselves because it is a topic they are familiar with.
The truth is that you might want to take some notes, but since you only have one minute, you might be better off just thinking about the topic in Part 2.
6. Don’t Show Off Your Grammar
Many candidates believe that in order to receive a high grade, they must show the examiner how fantastic their grammar is. Again, the risk here is attempting to use grammar that you are unfamiliar with and then losing control of the sentence. Consider the tense you’ll need to use when practising, as well as functional language for expressing opinions, contrasting points, emphasising, and so on.
It’s actually preferable to experiment with complex grammatical structures and make a few errors than to use very simple sentences.
Even if they make mistakes, a candidate who only uses short and simple sentences, for example, will receive a lower score than a candidate who attempts to use a conditional clause.
7. Don’t underestimate any of the four parts of evaluation criteria.
Grammar is only one of four evaluation criteria used to determine your score on the speaking test. The others are Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource (vocabulary range), and Pronunciation.
They are all equally significant.
As a result, if you excel at grammar, one-fourth of your final score will almost certainly be high. However, if you want to get a high overall score, you must also show a wide vocabulary range. If you can use a lot of words to correctly express what you want to say, you’ll do well here.
You must also be very good at pronouncing words. This refers to your ability to correctly pronounce individual sounds as well as use appropriate intonation and word stress.
8. Don’t Answer A Question If You Don’t Understand It
If you don’t understand a question, it’s fine to ask the examiner to repeat it or ask it differently.
You could use some of the following phrases to accomplish this:
- I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. Could you please repeat the question?
- I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. Would you mind repeating the question?
Before responding to a question, it is best to clarify it. If you do this a few times, you will not lose points; however, if you ask the examiner to repeat every single question, the examiner may believe you have a problem understanding spoken English, and you will receive a lower score.
The truth: If you don’t understand a question, you should ask for clarification.
9. If You Don’t Know The Answer To A Question, You Cannot Get A High Score.
This exam does not assess your understanding of specific topics. Examiners care more about how you say things than what you say.
Remember that there are no right or wrong answers. If you don’t know what to say when asked, “How do teenagers have fun in your country?” you can explain why. “I’m not sure I can accurately answer the question because I’m no longer a teenager, but I could tell you about how I used to have fun when I was a teenager.” I anticipate that this will have changed significantly because…”
This shows the examiner that you can speak and develop responses even when you are not in your comfort zone.
10. Don’t Say Nothing
This may appear to be obvious advice, but you’d be surprised how many students would rather say nothing than provide an answer. It is always preferable to make an attempt to respond rather than simply saying nothing. Many students believe this because their previous teacher told them not to say anything or chastised them if they didn’t know the answer.
In the IELTS Speaking Test, you are not expected to give a perfect response to a question or to be an expert in many different areas. The most important thing is to show that you can speak. If you don’t know the answer, you can always say something like ‘I don’t know much about this subject, but I believe…’ or ‘I’m not really sure, but if I had to guess….’ and then try to answer.
11. Don’t Run Out Of Ideas In Part 3.
Part 3 assesses your ability to distance yourself from the topic of Part 2 and speak more abstractly about topics of general interest. You must demonstrate your ability to describe things in detail, compare and contrast concepts, generalise, and draw conclusions.
So repeating your ideas from Part 2 is unlikely to provide an answer to the questions in Part 3.
12. Don’t Prioritise Grammar Over Fluency
You will receive separate marks in the exam for grammatical accuracy and fluency. Most students are more concerned with their grammar than their fluency, and as a result, the latter suffers. It is critical to give equal weight to all parts.
13. Don’t Worry About Your Accent
Your accent is not an evaluation criterion. Although you will be graded on your pronunciation, you will not be expected to have a native accent.
When evaluating candidates’ pronunciation, examiners pay close attention to individual sound pronunciation, word stress, and intonation.
In fact, as long as your ability to communicate is not hindered by your accent, it is irrelevant in the speaking test.
14. Don’t Get Too Nervous
Nervousness is a natural reaction to a test, but it can lower a person’s score in a number of ways. People who are nervous tend to speak at a very low volume, making it difficult for the examiner to understand them. When people are nervous, they mumble, which is obviously inappropriate in a speaking test. The key is to properly prepare, and as a result, you will feel more confident.
15. Don’t Be Late
Allow plenty of time to get to the testing centre and find out where your speaking test will be held. Arriving early allows you to become acquainted with your surroundings and focus solely on the exam. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff any questions you have; they are there to help.
16. Don’t Cover All The Parts Of The Task In Part 2
In Part 2, your topic card will have a main topic and four questions on it. You must actually speak about all of the questions and devote roughly equal time to each of them.
If you have four questions on the topic card, you should spend about 30 seconds on each of them, for a total of two minutes speaking.
After giving several such brief presentations, through practice, you’ll get a sense of how long 30 seconds are and when you should move on to the next point.
The truth is that you must answer all of the questions in Part 2 in an equal amount of time.
17. If You Don’t Hesitate When Speaking, You’ll Make A Good Impression.
The importance of coherence is equal to that of fluency (being logical, and making sense). Avoiding hesitation is a good idea, but you also need to keep your response logical and organised.
If you keep talking and talking without making much sense, you are fluent but not coherent. The overall impression will be one of dissatisfaction.
Keep in mind, however, that some hesitancy is normal. It is unacceptable to speak without first taking a breath or thinking.
Try using some of these filler phrases to make your hesitations sound more natural:
- To put it differently…
- What do you call it…wait a second…I have it right there.
- You see…
The truth is that fluency (speaking smoothly and without hesitation) will not make a good impression on its own. You must also be able to speak clearly (logically, organized).
FINALLY . . .
18. Don’t Rely On The Examiner
Some students believe that the speaking examiner will prompt you if you are talking too much or too little, not speaking loudly enough, or not staying on topic. In reality, the examiner is under no obligation to do any of these things, and she or he will let you make mistakes without notifying you.
Take control of your own speaking and don’t look to the examiner for cues or assistance.
By word of mouth, this appears to be simple and doable. That is not the case! Only after enrolling in the course and completing the IELTS General Course will you appreciate the work I do and carry out with you.
Good luck in all your endeavours.