One very important skill in IELTS speaking is to expand your answer. If you give very short answers to questions, your band score for fluency and coherence will fall. To get this right you need of course to practise. It is also important to practise in the right way. In this lesson, I show you one simple technique that most students are able to learn quite quickly.
How can you expand your answer?
One way to do this is to see your answer as coming in 3 possible parts:
1. Answer the question directly: possibly give yourself some thinking time first by reformulating the question
3. An example
This is in fact very similar to my PEE model for writing. It works in the same way and has the same effect – it makes you sound more coherent as you link ideas together.
Being practical – ask yourself simple questions
Speaking is not the same as writing – you don’t really get any time to plan what you say. This means you need simple techniques that can work in real time in the speaking exam to expand your answer. This is the suggestion:
- answer the question
- ask yourself WHY or HOW– this gives you a reason
- ask yourself WHO WHAT WHERE WHEN – this gives you an example
Listen to an example
Here I have a simple question:
Do you listen to the news?
I give an expanded answer and get to use some good speaking vocab at the same time. I suggest you listen first and then read the transcript below where I explain what I am doing and show you some of the good vocab I use.
[repeat word from the question to give myself time and make sure I’m on topic] The news erm
[directly and clearly answer the question] Yes I do listen to the news erm
[ask myself HOW] Like most people I guess I listen to it on the radio but more and more I use my computer and the internet as well erm
[ask myself WHEN and WHY] I don’t listen to the news that regularly erm normally when there is something erm particular I want to find out about I suppose.
[Let’s give an example] So for example this week I wanted to know what was happening in Norway so erm yesterday I did tune in on the radio
[time to get back to the question] but I suppose that’s probably the only time I have listened to the news this week. Otherwise I just read the newspapers.
Note on pausing
I use “erm” a lot. This is not a problem. It is a normal English speech habit. You should note I use it at the end of sentences so it works like a full stop. It is only a problem if you use it in the middle of sentences and you pause in the wrong places.
The vocabulary I use is simple but effective. You don’t need long words or many special words. You just need words that are clear and show you have some range of vocab
The news erm Yes I do listen to the news erm Like most people I guess I listen to it on the radio but more and more I use my computer and the internet as well erm I don’t listen to the news that regularly erm normally when there is something erm particular I want to find out about I suppose. So for example this week I wanted to know what was happening in Norway so erm yesterday I did tune in on the radio but I suppose that’s probably the only time I have listened to the news this week. Otherwise I just read the newspapers.
I guess – good spoken way of giving your opinion
on the radio – simple but correct
that regularly – nice time phrase
to find out about – simple phrasal verb – perfect for speaking
tune in – excellent idiom
I suppose – another useful opinion word for speaking
This is a skill that will need a little practice to get right. This is what I suggest you look at these practice questions on the news and record yourself – you can do this on most mobiles nowadays. Try to keep going for around 30 seconds each time and ask yourself the WH questions:
- When did you last watch the news on TV?
- Are you interested in the news?
- Do you think that we will use only use the internet and not newspapers to get the news in the future?
- Can you tell me about a recent news story in your country?