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Giving coherent answers in IELTS speaking

The language of academic caution can be extremely helpful in IELTS in two ways. Naturally, it can help extend the range of your writing and speaking vocabulary by being more “academic”. More importantly, perhaps, it can help improve coherent answers in part 3 speaking especially when you have a difficult question to answer.

How to use academic caution in IELTS for coherence

One way to use cautious language in IELTS is to allow yourself to extend your answer in a logical and natural way. This matters because this will make your speech more coherent. Let me explain this with a brief example. Look at these two statements and decide which one is easier to extend:

  1. “Young people watch too much television.”
  2. Most young people tend to watch too much television.”

For me, it is much easier to extend B because I have the natural next sentence of: “But some don’t and prefer to go out with their friends”. By using the cautious “most” I almost automatically get to “some” and achieve coherence. If you choose option A you may find it difficult to think of the next thing to say.

What language do you need?

To make this work you need three areas of language.

opinion language: it helps to have a range of opinion language, especially for weak opinions. You use this to introduce your view (see IELTS speaking – opinion vocabulary)

concession language: this is the language of “although” but” “however” and “on the other hand”. You use this to introduce the next sentence/point of view.

cautious language: see the download for some suggestions here.

Cautious language download

Academic caution vocabulary (64918)

How to deal with difficult questions in speaking part 3 by being cautious

In part 3 speaking you can expect to be asked questions that you have not thought about before. There is no problem if you know what you want to say and you can follow the normal pattern for a coherent answer:

  • make your statement
  • explain it a little
  • explain a bit more or give an example
  • come back to the question

Example 1 – you know what you want to say

Here is the direct approach with no cautious language.

“How do you think your city will change in the next 20 years?”

I guess it will be about twice the size it is now because the population is growing rapidly. There are a lot of new industries that have been set up there recently, so people want to move there. Just to give you one example: in my own street at least 10 new houses have been built in the last 2 years alone. So, as I was saying, I’d say it’ll double in size in the next 20 years.

But could you do this, if you didn’t know what you wanted to say? Quite possibly not. What you may need to do is give yourself some thinking time.


Example 2 – you don’t know what you want to say – be more cautious

Now look at this example. Here the speaker doesn’t know what to say at the beginning of the answer but still makes a coherent response. I have highlighted the key language in red. There are 4 points to note:

  1. repeat/reflect the language of the question at the start to give thinking time and to get the language in your head
  2. the use of a weak opinion word (“suppose”) allows you to change your mind later
  3. the use of might/may allows you to change your mind half way through and stay coherent
  4. the use of “although” coherently links the two different ideas together

“How do you think your city will change in the next 20 years?”

How do I think it will change? That’s a tough question and one I haven’t thought about before.I suppose it might be pretty much the same as it is now. Although now I come to think of it, there are a lot of new industries that have been set up there recently and people want to move there. Just to give you one example: in my own street at least 10 new houses have been built in the last 2 years alone. So, I suppose it may grow substantially in the next 20 years.

This is the basic pattern used. Please note that it is just one alternative and should not be learned by heart.


Part 3 speaking practice

Here are some direct opinions. See if you can make them more cautious and think of ways to extend your answer:

Q: “What factors influence people’s choice when they decide on a career?”

A: “People choose their careers because of the salary”

Q:  “Do you think students should get some work experience before deciding on a full-time career?”

A: ” Yes I believe that students should get some work experience first.”

Q: “What sort of jobs do young people choose in your country?”

A: “Law is the most popular choice.”

Q: “Do people in your country often change jobs?”

A: ” People in my country don’t like to change their job.”

Q: “Is there much unemployment in your country?”

A: “Unemployment is not a big problem in my country.”

Q: “When people write a CV what should they highlight?”

A: ” The most important thing to highlight in a CV is work experience”

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8 Responses to Giving coherent answers in IELTS speaking

  1. Adim Milad June 7, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    Hi Dominic.

    I hope that you still remember me (BEC student 2008)
    anyway i got 6.00 at IELTS and i wouid like to study busniess
    they want 6.5 do you think that my grade is acceptable??
    many thanks.

    • Dominic Cole November 14, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you Adim – I took a few months off. Congratulations on the 6.0. The answer is probably yes – they’ll want your money. Sad but true.

  2. ielts_trainer October 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    We are using a lot of your ideas and avices in preparation for IELTS of our students here in Russia. Thanks a lot for sharing it! Your blog is a great source of inspiration for us!

  3. Challenger November 11, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    I am fully agree with you. Also, I would like to clear up where my essays can be checked, desirable free of charge.

    • Dominic Cole November 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

      Having taken some time off I am now working on this website full time and I will soon be launching an essay marking service. If you send me an essay via the Contact page (bottom menu), I will have a look at it on condition that I can use it on the site.

  4. shiju george November 16, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    it is good that you opend an essay marking service. Can I write an essay and send to you for correction?

    • Dominic Cole November 16, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

      The service isn’t open yet! The plan is for the new year – and sadly I will of course be asking for money. However, for the time being, if you use the contact form to get in touch, I will see what I can do – no guarantees.

  5. Maria June 5, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    Hi Dominic, Just wanted to say Thanks alot for everything you do.
    Best regards

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