Essential tips for your IELTS speaking test

Essential tips for your IELTS speaking test

This post will explore the essentials of how to pass your IELTS speaking test.

There are a number of things you can easily do to ensure you have an interesting, and in-depth conversation to get you to the upper tier bands.

Lets go over some of the essentials first:

  • The GT and AT have the same speaking exam
  • Your test is recorded so you can ask for a remark if wanted
  • The test is informal; the more natural you are, the better
  • The test lasts between 11 and 14 minutes
  • The test consists of; questions and answers (4-5 minutes) [part 1], a talk for 1-2 minutes with follow up questions for a minute [part 2], a 3-4 minute discussion [part 3]

You are marked in the following categories:

  • Fluency and cohesion
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Pronunciation
  • 25% in all categories

How do I get to an upper band score?

Whilst it's good to know how you're marked, you need to know how to get the highest scores in each category. In other words, how can you score full marks?

To get a top band for fluency and cohesion, this means extending your answers. Don't hold back and provide short answers with no lead. Talk freely and give your examiner extended, interesting responses. Developing your answers= a higher band score.

Another one to look out for with fluency is 'mms' and 'ahs', otherwise known as fillers or hesitations. You want to minimise this as much as possible or not have any at all, or this affects your fluency and therefore how you are marked in this category.

Keep speaking naturally with a good flow. Some students get caught up in thinking about their answers and go into silence mode. The best thing to do is to keep it flowing, and keep it natural.

An easy one to remember with vocabulary is to avoid being repetitive. If you're range of vocabulary is repetitive it is therefore limited. The more words you have, the better your expression. Let's say food comes up and you are saying that something was tasty, but you want to emphasise this. Repeating tasty is going to suggest that that's the only word you know for such a description. Learn some others such as delicious, scrumptious, appetising, etc.

If you are paraphrasing a question or something the examiner has said, you want to paraphrase where you use your own language and not a direct echo of what was previously said. By paraphrasing well, you would automatically be scoring within the band 7 and 8 range.

For the grammar section, try and vary your tenses. Even if you are asked in the present tense this doesn't mean you are implicitly being asked to stick to this tense. Let's say you are being asked about what your hobbies are. You would of course discuss them as they are now, but you could also talk about whether they started when you were a child, and how they have changed and evolved since then, or even, what you hope to take up in the future.

Also look out for sentence structure and the grammatical errors you might make. Perhaps your word formation or use of sentences are incorrectly formed. When listening back, look out for these errors so your grammar is concise and clear.

For pronunciation, the first and most obvious thing examiners will look for is how you pronounce the word and whether its correct pronunciation. As well as this, is the correct use of individual sounds, such as 'th', 'sh', 'ch'.

Finally, intonation is important. Intonation is about the stress and feeling behind words. If you sound flat and uninterested, then it will be difficult to score highly. If you are behind your own words, then the examiner is far more likely to be as well.

How can I practice to get the highest mark?

The best way to practice is to practice! It may feel strange but record yourself with IELTS practice speaking questions. The British Council have lots of samples to practice with. When listening back to your recording, note down your mistakes and try to mark yourself within all of the categories.

It's also great practice to speak with someone, preferably a tutor who works with IELTS materials, and get immediate feedback. This way you can immediately work on your errors and begin improving straight away.

The more practice you do, the less errors you'll have and the stronger your strengths will be!

Good luck practicing and if you would like to practice the IELTS speaking test with me, I would love to help you improve and reach the highest band score.

Emma