If you’re looking for some tips for IELTS speaking then you’re certainly in the right place. We’re going to give you the details you need to know about this English proficiency exam, including the IELTS speaking rubric, along with the best tips for improving your score.
How to Improve your IELTS Speaking Test Score
As the IELTS exam has become increasingly important internationally, there’s more and more information available on the Internet about the exam. It’s important to consider this information critically, and to consider the source of the information. Many people have their own opinions about how to perform well; some of these opinions come from direct experience, while some, unfortunately, amount to educated guesses that might not be informed.
Top 5 Tips for IELTS Speaking Tests
There are five things you should know specifically about the IELTS Speaking exam. Some may seem obvious; some might apply to other exams. Of course, you should arrive on time, well before your scheduled speaking test time, and pay close attention to your appearance. Being on time for all of the tests is vital, but your appearance isn’t as important in the other exams.
In the speaking test, you’ll be sitting one on one with the examiner. Your appearance isn’t an exam criteria and shouldn’t matter, but examiners are human and may occasionally be swayed subconsciously by your appearance. Being well groomed makes you look confident and serious, and this can only help you.
The five things that apply directly to the IELTS speaking exam are as follows. Read closely for the top tips you need to know to ace this exam!
Tip #1: Relax and Slow Down
First, if you feel nervous and start to rush as you talk, stop, relax and slow down. You should talk at a natural, comfortable pace, which is one of the exam criteria; if you talk too fast, you’re more likely to make mistakes. It’ll be more difficult for the examiner to follow what you’re saying and grade you accurately.
The most important aspect of the exam is how well you communicate your ideas; talking at a natural pace is central to this point. For more information on relaxing during the speaking test, refer to my book “Surviving IELTS Speaking” on Amazon.com (the paperback version). You can also find a Kindle version in the Kindle section of Amazon.com.
Tip #2: Can you Repeat that Please?
Second, if you don’t understand a question or didn’t hear it clearly, ask the examiner to repeat the question. You can say “I’m sorry, could you repeat that, please?” The examiner will repeat what they said; if you still don’t understand, they will (or should) rephrase the question or statement.
Some IELTS teachers and websites say you should ask for an explanation, but examiners won’t explain. The reason is that they aren’t allowed to explain; the officials who create the test materials presume that you should be able to understand what is being said. In fact, this is one of the criteria you’re being tested for.
You know that the exam is being recorded; the recordings are monitored afterwards. An examiner who is caught breaking the rules, such as explaining something to a candidate, can be fired permanently. This will generally never happen on an IELTS speaking test!
Related: TOEIC Speaking Mini-Tests
IELTS Speaking Sample Test
Tip #3: Stay on Topic
Third, stay on topic at all times during your IELTS speaking test. I’ve read some complaints on Internet blogs that staying on topic shouldn’t matter; candidates complain that their speaking ability is being tested, not the topic. I’m sorry to say that this isn’t true.
Candidates aren’t being tested just for their speaking ability, they’re being tested for their ability to communicate. This means that they have to be able to relay information that is relevant to the topic. If you asked someone “how are you today?” and they answered “I’m pleased to meet you, too”, you’d be quite confused. The answer is completely irrelevant to the question; there has to be a logical connection between the question and answer.
Tip #4: Don’t Correct Mistakes
Fourth, if you make a mistake, keep talking; don’t try to correct the mistake. This point is controversial and other examiners might disagree. Some will suggest that you should correct the mistake. There is no right or wrong answer here; what matters is how your actions are perceived.
Let’s look at a potential situation: you’re talking about your grandfather and without realizing it, you refer to him as “she”. This is a common, very normal mistake people make when learning English. Stopping to correct yourself and say “he” would be smart, as you’ve shown that you’re aware of the mistake and what the correct word is. You’ve demonstrated that you have the correct knowledge, even if you occasionally slip.
What about Complicated Mistakes?
But what if you make a more complicated mistake on your IELTS speaking test? In another potential situation, you’re talking and use the incorrect word: you say something like “I was told from the man…” instead of “I was told by the man…”. If you stop and correct it and move on, continuing to speak smoothly, no harm has been done.
If, however, you stop to correct the mistake and then struggle to continue, this will harm your score. In a mistake like this, the listener (examiner) knows what you meant to say and the word you should have used, so it doesn’t interfere with the listener’s comprehension. It’s a small mistake and won’t affect your score unless you start to repeat the mistake with different words.
If you begin to struggle, if you are starting and stopping, saying sentence fragments and repeating yourself, this will affect your score for coherence. It makes it more difficult for the listener to understand you. There is no right or wrong answer, but I would strongly suggest not correcting the mistake and moving on.
Tip #5: Avoid Memorized Answers
Fifth, avoid memorized responses like the plague. Seriously. Especially in Part 3. I read one website while I was researching and writing this article that suggested examiners are predictable in their questions. It said it’s ok to have some fallback phrases. This is one of those rare moments when I become a little angry because this is bad advice.
It’s true in Part 1 of the IELTS speaking exam that examiners have to choose between a selection of pre-written questions and aren’t allowed to alter them in any way; the questions must be asked exactly as they are written. If you use a memorized sentence, it might not be noticeable at first; but you should try to expand each answer.
You don’t want to reply each time with a single sentence answer because it’ll look like you don’t have much to say. You don’t want to talk at length in Part 1. Two to three sentences per question are perfect, but one sentence every time will hurt your score.
How to Get a High Score on Task 1 for IELTS Speaking
In Part 2 of the IELTS speaking test, you’ll do all the talking and the examiner won’t talk at all. If you think you can memorize two-minute speeches on every topic you might be asked, go for it. However, I’d be surprised if someone could do this. And if the answer you give and expand on is off-topic, your entire Part 2 answer won’t be acknowledged. That’s right, you’d lose everything you said in Part 2, as if you hadn’t said anything. You can see where I’m going with this, yes?
Examples and Skills for Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Exam
And in Part 3 of the IELTS speaking test, the examiner will ask a question related to the Part 2 topic, and then create more questions spontaneously. There’s absolutely no way to know what questions the examiner will ask, and memorized answers would almost certainly be unrelated to the questions being asked.
The examiner in this part is testing your ability to communicate naturally at higher levels of English, on topics that are much more complicated. They’ll raise and lower the complexity of the questions as they determine what you’re able and unable to do. Your answers must match the grammar of the questions for verb tense, sentence structure and so on. Trust me, it is almost impossible to do this with memorized phrases.
More IETLS Speaking Test Tips
If you’re looking for even more solid advice for how to improve IELTS speaking scores, then here are some more good ones to consider:
- Speaking fluently is more important than using complicated grammar or vocabulary.
- Practice lots!
- Don’t be shy about asking the examiner to repeat the question. There is no penalty for this.
- Use emotion and feeling in your answers.
- Avoid very short answers. Always give 1-2 more details or an example to support what you said.
- Coherence is key so use lots of linking words to join your thoughts together.
- Don’t panic if you make a mistake.
- Consider getting a private tutor or joining an IETLS speaking test preparation class.
- Avoid memorizing answers.
- Smile and give a good first impression.
Basic Information about the IETLS Speaking Test
It’s always good to know what to expect on test day, right? Here are some basic facts about this test that you’ll want to know:
- It’s face to face with the examiner in the same room.
- Everyone takes the same speaking test (general English or academic)
- It’s recorded.
- Between 11 and 14 minutes and the length of time is controlled by the examiner.
- There are 3 parts.
- It’s informal and you’ll mostly be talking about your life experiences and opinions on common topics.
IELTS Speaking Rubric
Here is how your exam will be scored. Each part is worth 25% of the final score:
- Fluency and cohesion
IELTS Speaking Practice Exams
If you’re looking for some practice opportunities for IELTS speaking, here are some of the best practice exams online:
IELTS Speaking FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people about taking this popular English proficiency exam. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
How can I get a 9 in IELTS speaking?
To get a 9 in IELTS speaking, check out the following tips:
- Don’t be shy and enjoy the chat with the tester.
- Ideas are important too.
- Make sure you have a good working knowledge of grammar and vocabulary.
- Understand the format of the test.
- Practise sample questions with a partner or teacher.
- Speak with confidence.
Do IELTS speaking questions repeat?
If you ask an examiner to repeat a question in an IELTS speaking test, they will do so once. If you ask them a second time, they won’t repeat it but will instead move on to other portions of the interview.
Is IELTS speaking difficult?
Among the IELTS exams, no one part, including speaking is considered to be more difficult than the others. However, you may have specific strengths and weaknesses which make it appear that way. Spend time working on your weakest section to get the best possible score.
How long is IELTS speaking?
The IELTS speaking test is 11-14 minutes long. The length of time depends on your answers and follow-up questions and will consist of a few different topics.
What are the common topics in the IELTS speaking test?
Some common topics in the IELTS speaking test are people, places, experiences, feelings, habits, preferences, and things. Of course, other topics are also possible so don’t limit your studying to only these ones.
About the Author: John Kenmuir
Bio: John Kenmuir is a former IELTS speaking examiner, having examined thousands of students through the Shanghai Branch of the British Council, and has also been an ESL/EFL teacher since 1995. He has taught in his native Canada, South Korea, China and Saudi Arabia, and is the author of the new book “Surviving IELTS Speaking: Improving the Experience”, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions. He is a published writer, author & poet, currently residing in Merida, Mexico, where he continues to write and author new books.
Have your say about these IELTS Speaking Test Tips
Do you have any go-to tips that you’d like to share about the IELTS speaking test? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. It’ll help other test-takers like yourself find this useful study resource.
Last update on 2021-02-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API