There are lots of benefits to having an IELTS speaking partner and Skype is perhaps one of the natural ways to do it. Although quite a few people have left their details on posts on this site I’m not sure that that is the best way. Try this instead
English Arch’s Skype Buddies is a free online service that matches English learners so that they can practise their English together. All you need do is tell them:
- your English level
- when you are free
and they’ll match you with someone similar. They’ll also send you a set of IELTS questions so you and your new buddy are ready to go from day one.
Suggestions about how to work with your IELTS speaking partner
I’ll be posting regular suggestions on this site about how you can practise. Here are some general suggestions to start you off. Some are about how you can work together and others are more about what you can work on.
Practise the questions of course
One thing you can do of course is simply practise doing IELTS questions and Raoul of English Arch is generously offering some to use. Do do that. It helps to become familiar with the format and the type of topics you need to discuss. Don’t get obsessed by timing. You’re mostly working on your skills and not testing each other. Timing may be important for the test but it’s less important before the test.
Get to know each other a bit first
Even if you may be busy and have limited time online, the system will work best if you know you are talking to. Partly it will help relax you and help you speak better, but more than that you’ll of course be doing the things you do in part 1 speaking. Talk to each other a bit about where you’re from and what it’s like. It also just makes sense to talk about why you’re doing IELTS, how much you’ve studied and what problems you may be having. Decide on your needs.
Really be buddies – establish an etiquette before you start
Etiquette is “rules of politeness”. This can vary a lot from culture to culture. One thing you need to consider and discuss is how and when you interrupt and correct each other. You may want to do this more than you would do naturally in conversation.
Do your home work! Decide the topic first
Decide beforehand what you want to do and prepare it. You’ll learn much more that way. Sometimes you can just test each other by giving your partner a question they haven’t seen, but most of the time you’ll probably want to work on a certain topic or question type. You’ll simply learn more if you have done a little work before.
Don’t forget to practise your general conversational skills too – chat a bit
The equation here is easy. IELTS measures your general conversational skills. The better your general conversational skills are, the better you’ll do in IELTS speaking.
Do a warming up exercise
A very simple idea here is just to chat a bit about your day before you start. Warm up your speaking skills. Get your brain and tongue moving in English. Confidence is an important part of speaking better – but it sometimes needs to be built up gradually.
Listen to and learn from each other
This is a key. The best speakers are also typically people who listen well. Even though you are both learners, you can still learn from each other. If you want to see how this can work, try this lesson on reflective listening. In short this means listening to and repeating words/phrases structures you have just heard – it works best in conversation!! One reason why “just chatting” can be good for you.
Think about fluency
Fluency is a large part of your spoken score. Practising with a partner can really help it. It’s not all about speed! It’s as much to do with how long you speak, rhythm and pausing in the correct places. It can often help just to do the same topic again but maybe in a slightly different way. Each time you repeat it, you’ll say it more fluently. One very simple exercise is just to do practise speaking about the same topic for different lengths of time.
Think about coherence
This is graded with fluency in the test. What it really means is “Did I understand that?”. This is definitely something you can work on together. It can involve practising strategies for each part of the speaking – which you’ll find here and on other sites. Discuss what strategies you want to try and listen to see how well they work.
And grammar of course
Hmmmmm. One thing you need to discuss is when and where you correct each other. I don’t suggest you correct every mistake – that will mean much less fluency and you’ll always be interrupting each other. This is where you may want to play teacher and just note down a few mistakes you hear and then discuss them at the end. It’s a mistake, however, not to correct each other at all. You will hear mistakes and you need to help each other correct them.
This is where you can help each other a lot. Decide on your topic beforehand. Find the words and phrases you want to learn and then share them. It’s very easy for even quite advanced speakers to get stuck on using the same words all the time – it’s actually a natural part of the way we use language – your job as a learner is to fight to use more variety.
This may be the hardest thing to work on without a teacher – a lot of it is quite technical. It is though quite possible to just practise saying new words together – copying each other until you think you have the pronunciation right.
Do some writing!!
Okay speaking is the natural thing to do on Skype but you may just be able to help each other with other skills too. IELTS can be very lonely -especially if you’re doing it by yourself – and it can just help to chat to someone about the problems you’re having. They may well have had the same problems. They might have even found a solution.
If you didn’t click the link above, here is English Arch’s Skype Buddies service.