Top Tips for IELTS

Qualifiers – learn how to use words like pretty and slightly

This is a quick lesson to show you some of the most useful words in IELTS speaking. The topic is bad weather and you’ll find lots of good rain phrases in my sample answer. The words I want to highlight though are the little words – qualifiers. Why? These are words and phrases that you can use in almost any topic. Rain words you can only use when you get a question about rain!

Don’t just concentrate on learning content words for your speaking

Learn to qualify what you say

I’m not going to get technical here. I’m just going to ask you to notice the difference between these pairs of sentences. Which one sounds better and which one says more?

It’s fairly easy for me to talk about the weather

It’s easy for me to talk about the weather

There was no real point in waiting for the rain to stop

There was no point in waiting for the rain to stop

I had to go to the local high street to get one or two things for the house.

I had to go to the local high street to get things for the house.

I hope you see that in each case the first example says a little more – qualifies the idea. You can do this using adverbs (fairly), adjectives (real) or phrases (one or two). These words may look simple but they can make you sound much better. Why? Because when we speak we tend to use simple phrases.

Some of the best words and phrases to learn for speaking are quite simple

Read the transcript and listen – what words are missing?

This is a good answer below. But if you listen you’ll find a much better one! The little words make a difference.

Talk about a time you had a bad experience caused by the weather. You should say

where you where

what you were doing

what the weather was like

And explain why the experience was so bad

It’s _____ easy for me to talk about the weather because I’m living in Liverpool ______ and it’s _______ the rain capital of the UK. It always seems to be raining here and _________ every time I go out I get caught by a shower.

The ________ time I’m going to tell you about is the last time I went shopping. There was no ________ point in waiting for the rain to stop as it was one of those days when you just know it’s going to be wet no matter what the forecast says. I use a weather app on my phone for the forecast – it’s normally _______ reliable but _________optimistic! In any event I get wet more often than it says I should.

As I was saying I went out shopping. I had to go to the local high street to get ________ things for the house. I thought it would_______ take ____ minutes as I just needed to pop into __________ shops. As I set out it was overcast and __________ damp with _________ drizzle in the air but nothing to worry about, but while I was the hardware store it ________ started tipping it down – it was coming down in stair rods if you know what I mean. It was torrential even for Liverpool.

What happened? How did I get so wet? Well, the rain was so torrential that puddles had formed by the side of the road and as I was walking down the pavement a car drove through some standing water and splashed me. I got soaked to the skin. The worst thing was that the water was cold and muddy and went through my clothes. It was a ______ miserable experience.

Now see the qualifying words

Read through the complete transcript. One thing I hope you notice is how often I use these phrases. This is 100% natural – native speakers use them a lot. The other point to notice is how much variety I have – that takes a bit more practice!

Remember to vary the ways you qualify things – don’t keep repeating the same word/phrase

It’s fairly easy for me to talk about the weather because I’m living in Liverpool for the time being and it’s probably the rain capital of the UK. It always seems to be raining here and more or less every time I go out I get caught by a shower.

The particular time I’m going to tell you about is the last time I went shopping. There was no real point in waiting for the rain to stop as it was one of those days when you just know it’s going to be wet no matter what the forecast says. I use a weather app on my phone for the forecast – it’s normally pretty reliable but a little optimistic! In any event I get wet more often than it says I should.

As I was saying I went out shopping. I had to go to the local high street to get one or two things for the house. I thought it would only take a few minutes as I just needed to pop into a couple of shops. As I set out it was overcast and slightly damp with a bit of drizzle in the air but nothing to worry about, but while I was the hardware store it really started tipping it down – it was coming down in stair rods if you know what I mean. It was torrential even for Liverpool.

What happened? How did I get so wet? Well, the rain was so torrential that puddles had formed by the side of the road and as I was walking down the pavement a car drove through some standing water and splashed me. I got soaked to the skin. The worst thing was that the water was cold and muddy and went through my clothes. It was a truly miserable experience.

Learning the skill

Step one is to know that this is a skill. It really isn’t enough to learn a list of words. You need to learn how and when to use those words. Here are some ideas to help you:

notice the words

The first step is to hear other people use these words and phrases – native speakers use them all the time. Typically the words are quite easy to learn and use. You want to see how often they get used. Just listen. If you have no one to listen to then try some of the sample speakings here.

choose the words you want to practise

This is key. Don’t try and do it all at once. Find a few words that you want to use and try and get those right. Then when you feel good about them, move on to some more. A little but often.

record yourself – find your problems

This is something you should be doing anyway. It can help you here as if you listen to yourself (and perhaps write down what you say) you should notice which words you use too much. Your goal is to add variety.

just speak – don’t only concentrate on 2 minute practice

Remember that you’re learning a skill here. It can be much easier (and quicker) to learn it if you speak for different lengths of time – trying to use the words. One possibility here is to look through some of your photos and simply talk about them (how you felt, what you were doing etc). You’ll still be using the language you need for IELTS.

do the same exercise again and again

Repetition is a key part of learning language. One possible idea is to speak about a question once (and record yourself) and then listen back and try and speak about it again but this time with more variety – adding in more qualifying words and phrases. It really does work.

start with pictures 

Sometimes it’s easier to speak about picture. You can see what you need to talk about and words can come more easily. So when you’re training why not start with a photo? Here’s how I started:

Did I get splashed by a car? Well no. I looked at the picture and my imagination started working.

Other recommended speaking lessons to help you

Not very but really quite pretty – using adverbs more flexibly: this lesson shows you how some of the most common adverbs are used

How to improve fluency in IELTS speaking: this is an overview lesson of different ways you can learn to speak more fluently. You’ll find links to plenty more lessons there

Using the cue card to structure your answer: if you find it difficult to structure your answer in part 2, this lesson shows you a very simple technique to help you

   

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3 Responses to Qualifiers – learn how to use words like pretty and slightly

  1. Shubh March 21, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    It is very helpful for me as i m preparing for ielts. Keep on sending mails to help others . Thanks

  2. Jamilya March 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    Great thanks. These words are pretty convenient to me and i added them to my lessons.

  3. Tarek March 24, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    Pretty impressive indeed

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