Essential tips for the IELTS speaking test

Essential tips for the 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 is fluency and very limited fillers or hesitation markers, such as 'mms' and 'ahs', 'um'. You want to minimise this as much as possible. It is natural to have some but it is far better to take a pause and think.

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 talking.

An easy one to remember with vocabulary is to avoid being repetitive, which implies a limited vocabulary. 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.

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 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 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?

  • Join an IELTS group to schedule calls so that you can practice together
  • Record yourself speaking and listen to it to see where you fall short
  • Book some sessions with an IELTS tutor

Top ten tips

  1. Practice Regularly: Consistent practice builds confidence and fluency, so engage in mock speaking tests and discussions.
  2. Familiarise with the Format: Understand the structure of the speaking test, including the three parts, and prepare accordingly.
  3. Expand Vocabulary: Enhance your vocabulary to express ideas precisely and convey your thoughts effectively.
  4. Pronunciation Matters: Focus on clear pronunciation to ensure your words are easily understood by examiners.
  5. Think Before Speaking: Take a moment to organise your thoughts before answering, ensuring your responses are well-structured.
  6. Provide Details: Offer specific examples and details in your answers to showcase your language skills and comprehension.
  7. Ask for Clarification: If you don't understand a question, don't hesitate to ask for clarification. It's better than guessing.
  8. Engage with the Examiner: Treat the speaking test as a conversation, engaging naturally with the examiner, rather than reciting rehearsed answers.
  9. Expand on Your Answers: Whenever possible, elaborate on your responses to demonstrate depth and coherence.
  10. Use a Range of Tenses: Show your command over different verb tenses to exhibit language proficiency.

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.