Top Tips for IELTS

Speak more coherently – speak in circles

Coherence is a large part of your speaking band score and it is a skill you want to work on. This lesson shows you one way you can do that and avoid one of the more common problems – knowing how to finish your answer.

The problem – “and that’s all”

A common problem I hear when listening to people try IELTS speaking tasks (especially in task 3) is “and that’s all”. The candidate starts out well, goes on for a little bit and then has no idea how to finish speaking. This is poor for coherence – when you finish speaking, the examiner isn’t sure what you were trying to say.

Seeing a solution – think about writing – go in circles

The easiest way to explain the solution is to think about writing. In writing, we start in our introduction by identifying the question and outlining our answer and we finish in the conclusion by restating our answer. Try the same in speaking : it’s surprisingly easy to do. It’s just a question of thinking in circles – remembering how you started and trying to finish in the same way. The basic pattern is:

start – identify the question/give your immediate answer

end – go back to the question and give your final answer

The big difference with writing though is that you don’t have thinking time – you need to start speaking immediately. This means that “the structure” of your answer may be less organised. It can even be a mistake to organise your answer too much as that may mean you speak less fluently. That makes this simple idea a very practical exam solution for both fluency and coherence.

Some useful vocabulary to end your speaking

These phrases are just a guideline. There is nothing “magical” about them. Rather you should see that they all do the same thing – return to the question.

As I was saying

So to get back to the question

So my final answer is

I don’t really have a complete answer but I’d say…

Read and listen to some examples

Here you can listen to me answer this question in three different ways. Each time I answer the question, though, I use the same “speaking in circles” technique. It can work almost every time.


How important is the family in your culture?



A direct answer with example

The family’s really important where I come from. It’s the centre of most people’s lives. We tend to be really close to each other. I guess the best example is that it’s still the tradition for people to go home to their family for all the major festivals – in fact you could say that Christmas and Easter have almost become occasions when you get together with your family. They still have their religious significance of course but well – it just wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t go home then.  So, yes, I’d say that the family is still exceptionally important.

Here all I do is remember how I started and then repeat my answer at the end. This works when you know how you want to answer the question immediately.

The comparison

The family? I guess it’s true to say that it’s less important than it once was. In the past the family was the centre of everything. Now though I’m not so sure. Society has changed. Kids leave home much earlier than they used to and they certainly don’t live with their parents until they get married as they once did. And there’s also the fact that people move around the country so much now – it’s a much more mobile society. That means we just don’t see so much of our families. They still matter of course but as I was saying the idea of the family is less important now than it was in the past.

This is a slightly more complex answer. I give an indirect answer by comparing families in the present and the past. This can be a good approach, but you do want to come back to the question at the end and answer it directly.

The anecdote

Hmm. Hard to say.  I suppose it’s really different for everyone. Where I live the idea of the family is still really strong, If for example anyone is sick in hospital – even if they’re not a close relative – everyone will go and visit them in hospital and take them flowers. I think I had over 20 people from the family come and visit me when I had my tonsils out. But my girlfriends family is completely different. Even her immediate family don’t talk to each other much – they can go for weeks on end without seeing each other. They just have a different culture I guess. So to get back to your question – it just depends on the family – it’s impossible to generalise.

This is another slightly more complex approach. My answer is really just to give a long example/story that illustrates my answer. Again this can be an excellent technique, but to make it work best you need to give a direct answer to the question at the end.



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