Before you go to the IELTS speaking test it helps to know how the test works. If you know what to expect, then you have a better chance of doing better. For me, the best place to start to see how the test works is Australia Network – Passport to English. These videoclips are not exactly in exam format as parts 1 and 3 would last longer in the real test. However, the clips do show you the types of questions that are asked and give you excellent tips on what to do and what not to do.
The only real problem with these videos is that the part 2 questions do not show you the cue cards. The advice is still excellent, however.
He says that part 1 is easy and so it is as the questions are general everyday topics. However, as the video says he does need to say a bit more sometimes. This can be difficult to do as the test moves at this point. Other advice given for part 1 is
- compare (see the language of comparison)
- begin your answers with the same words as the question
- give reasons for your answer
In part 2 Lester tells a story, this is a good technique to be able to use but will not work every time and can be difficult to do in practice. The danger is you become incoherent. If you do try this, make sure you make the story relevant to the question and do what Lester does and link the story to the topic. He finishes by saying “and that’s why the visit was so special”.
This is an excellent technique to learn and you can use it in parts 1 and 3 too. One tip is to make sure you start off by repeating or reflecting the words of the question. if you do this, you will find it is easier and quite natural to come back to the question at the end. If you think about it, this is very similar to essay writing in structure: as so often, you can improve your speaking by thinking about writing.
In part 3 Lester does well, but again he could extend his answers a bit more. He does the right thing by giving reasons and opinions but the language he uses is sometimes limited. This is where you need different ways of saying “because” and “I think”. For more help on this see IELTS speaking – opinion vocabulary.
One excellent tip here is to look at both sides of the question. This gives you a little more thinking time and is a natural way of extending your answer.
Note also how he uses a conditional to explain his answer/give examples. For more on this, see IELTS writing – conditionals and coherence. Another example of using writing skills to improve your speaking.
Sujatha does well here and gives just the right length sort of answer. The important tip here is to listen to the question and use the right tense in the answer:
question “What subjects are you studying?’
answer “I am studying“
question “What will you do when you finish?”
answer “I’m thinking of going into management“
For more on this, see IELTS speaking – focussing on the question
Sujatha uses the technique of moving from the general topic to the more particular. This is almost always a good technique to use as it is good for coherence. She also talks about her own experience which is similar to Lester’s technique of telling a story.
Sujatha has some excellent speaking habits. Note how she uses “Well” at the beginning of each answer. It is a small word but used naturally it sounds excellent. Also note how she normally starts off her answers by directly looking at the question and reusing its language:
Question: “Should everyone go on to further study”
Answer: “Yes, think everybody should go on to do further studies..”
This technique takes the pressure off you and gives you a little thinking time. For more on this, see IELTS speaking – giving yourself thinking time
Think about the tenses again. She gives short but simple answers and she gets her key grammar correct using the past and the present perfect.
Points to note here include:
- her clever use of a comparison to compare badminton to soccer, tennis and volleyball
- small phrases such as “The funny thing is“
I disagree with the point about showing off your knowledge as it can be dangerous. The danger here is that you start using other people’s language and not your own. Normally examiners hate that. It would be better to speak more personally, in my view.
Once again note how her long answers have a structure.
- She makes the main point: sport is more commercial
- She gives an example: cricket (in Indonesia!)
- She gets to a conclusion by coming back to the question
This may look complex but with a little practice is fairly straightforward to do. You just need to practice.