1. Learn how IELTS speaking is scored
This only makes sense. IELTS speaking is scored according to strict grading criteria and if you want to impress the examiner, you need to know what the examiner wants! In brief, pronunciation, fluency and coherence, grammar and vocabulary all count for 25%. To get more details about what each of these criteria mean, visit my page on this:
2. Before the exam – practice – and listen
3. Understand what you will be asked about – everyday ideas
Typically you will be asked to talk about everyday topics and ideas. As the test goes on though the questions do become harder and more theoretical. One simple suggestion is to just to look at the types of questions you will get. You may be surprised at how easy the questions are! IELTS speaking is not an academic test at all – it’s just a test go your language. Sometimes people can go wrong because they treat it like an intelligence test and forget to use good English.
4. Use natural spoken English
The best form of English to use in the test is natural spoken English. This will help you to speak more fluently and improve your pronunciation. Here are some examples of what works:
short forms like it’s and not it is
words like quite that we use a lot in speaking
common spoken phrases like I guess and I suppose
The best way to learn this type of language is often to listen to native speakers. If you don’t have a native speaker to listen to, I suggest you visit my collection of sample questions where you will find recording and transcripts of my answers. Look at the sort of language I use and try and borrow it for yourself. To help you I have highlighted the sort of language you need:
5. Extend your answer
6. Sometimes give short answers too!
Not all IELTS speaking questions are equal. For some you may have more to say about and some less. That is only natural. If you get a question that you don’t know very much about do NOT try and talk and talk about it. If you do you will probably become incoherent. Much much better is just to give a shortish answer saying that you don’t know very much about that and then wait for the next question – there’s always another question.
Naturally you can’t do this all the time and in part 2 you do need to keep speaking for at least one and a half minutes.
7. Give yourself time to think – repeat/reformulate the question
8. Correct yourself – if you can do it immediately
9. If you don’t understand the question – ask
10. Learn to use a range of functional vocabulary such as opinion language
One thing that you will do a lot in the test is give opinions and talk about what you like and dislike. The examiner will be listening to see whether you can say I think and I like in different ways. This can be a tough skill to learn as you may need to learn new speaking habits.
11. Discover the best way to use your preparation time in part 2
The one scary part of the test is likely to be part 2 where you need to speak for up to 2 minutes. This is a slightly unusual task and you want to use your preparation time well to help you spek enough. There are a variety of different ways you can use this time and the best advice is to find one that suits you. Try some of these ideas and work out which one or ones work best for you:
12. Listen to the grammar in the question
13. Don’t worry too much about using clever language – think fluency
When we speak a language we don’t have much time to choose our words and that means that we often use far fewer words when we speak than when we write. In IELTS speaking candidates sometimes go wrong because they try and use “clever” words that they think will impress the examiner. This can be a mistake for a couple of reasons:
the words may in fact be wrong!
if you spend too much time trying to think of words your fluency may suffer
14. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself – think coherence – the “as I was saying” trick
Part of your score in speaking is fluency and coherence. One way to make yourself more coherent is in fact to repeat yourself. This is something professional speakers do a lot. They say something once and then they say it again. The one trick is not use the sam words both times!. A practical suggestion is to think about finishing your speech by referring back to something you have already said. A key phrase here may be
As I was saying/As I said before
If you use this it helps show the examiner that you are linking your ideas together and that in fact is what coherence is!
15. Speak about what you know and what you think
This perhaps should be point number one. One of the best ways to impress an examiner is to talk personally about what you think and what you know. Examiners just HATE answers that they think are learnt. In contrast, if you talk about something that you know about then they will be much more interested in what you say.
16. Give examples
If you are the sort of person who finds it difficult to explain things or tends to give short answers, then it may help you to try and give examples. Examples are great for explaining ideas and it is much easier to say for example than because. If you give an example, you are just describing something you know about and that takes very little mental effort. If though you say because that is much harder as you now need to think! Be easy on yourself.
17. Think about detail – that’s interesting and good for your vocabulary
Another way to learn to say more is just to add detail. You should remember that this is a language test and there more language you use the better. That means if you are asked a question such as
When did you first start to learn English?
The smart thing to do is give detail about when.
I first started to learn English when I was in primary school. We had around 4 classes a week with our form teacher and sometimes a native speaker came to help her out and talk to us in English. It was quite funny because we didn’t understand a word he said. At first I hated it because my teacher was very strict and forced us to write in English every day.
Why does this work? Well if you can give an answer like that you get to use interesting language such as “native speaker” “help out”. You can only do this if you add detail.