Top Tips for IELTS

Voxopop speaking practice

This is something I have tried before, but it didn’t really work out. But I would like to give it another go. The central idea is that the very best speaking practice is when you get to hear yourself. Often what we say and what we think we say are two quite different things. So this means recording yourself. What would be even better, however, is if you got the chance to listen to someone else answer the same question – listening to others is a great way of learning. Interested? I have a possible solution.


Voxopop is the perfect tool for this exercise. It’s a website where you can record yourself and listen to other people speaking about the same question. A while back I set up a group called “Dominic Cole’s IELTS Speaking Practice”. The only problem was almost no one used it. I think it  might have been a little geeky for the typical IELTS candidate. But I went back there yesterday and discovered that there are now several other groups there too. So maybe it’s worth another go – it might just have been ahead of its time.

step 1: find voxopop

step 2: register (it’s simple enough)

step 3: navigate to Explore Talk Groups

step 4: search IELTS

step 5: find either my group or another that is open access.

step 6: do the speaking and listening practice (provided more than one of you gives it a go).

The questions and three speaking tips

The first set of questions I have posted are typical part 1 questions on the family, your home town etc. There are two tips here.

Tip 1 – listen to the question, don’t learn answers

The questions are easy: don’t even attempt to learn an answer. If you can’t answer these questions, you’re not really ready for the exam yet. Also, since these are easy questions, the “that’s an interesting question” language is quite wrong. The questions are not going to be interesting!

Tip 2 – think tenses

Listen to the question carefully. If the question is:

“What were your hobbies when you were young?”

This cannot be a good answer:

“I enjoy going to the gym.”

So the second tip is to use the right tense. This will almost always be the same tense as the question. The trick one here is if you get a present perfect/”have” question, you may need to use past tenses in your answer.

Tip 3 – relax yourself with short answers

You’ll be nervous at the beginning of the exam. Be easy on yourself and don’t try and say too much. Say something that answers the question. Breathe in. Relax. Right at the beginning of the exam a few sentences for each answer is fine – although as you go through the exam you do need to expand your answers more and more.

A demonstration

It’s not good or clever to laugh at learners of other languages. I know this because I speak Romanian as a second language myself – very badly, even after having lived there for 9 years. I hope, however, you found my other video funny, it was certainly meant to be. But it is also I’m afraid sadly true. Y-E-S made all the mistakes mentioned above.

Here is a remastered version of that video as it should have happened. It isn’t perfect, I could work on my pronunciation, but it is at least a good start.


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13 Responses to Voxopop speaking practice

  1. forex robot December 4, 2009 at 8:31 am #

    Great post this will really help me.

  2. Ivan December 16, 2009 at 11:33 am #

    Hi, Thank you! I would now go on this blog every day!

  3. Truden December 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    Hi, Interesting, did you plan to continue this article?

    • Dominic Cole January 3, 2010 at 10:04 am #

      I have just posted a new article on using Voxopop – this time for part 2

  4. ALiCe__M December 30, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    The robotic pronunciation is awful, that’s the problem with Xtranormal. But I thought it was possible to record our voice with it now?

    • Dominic Cole December 30, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

      Yes, the pronunciation does need work – not least because it’s 25% of the overall score of course. Just checked back with Xtranormal and unless I’m missing something there’s no record yourself facility there. it’d be great if there was.

  5. Name May 15, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    its very helpful…thanks to you.

  6. Lin May 25, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    Hello Dominic,

    I am lin, I am from China and currently living in Australia. I really enjoy your website, and I have studied with your website for 1 month. I am going to take IELTS exam on 29th. I really appreciate what you have done for us.
    I got 5.5 last time, but I do need 7 to pass. I hope it work out this time.
    you are such a great teacher I have ever know!!!!!


  7. Roseann May 1, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Hi Dominic,
    I have just tried out the Voxopop recording facility and have attempted a few of the questions that you have posted on this site. Is their any way that you can give feedback on my answers?

    • Dominic Cole June 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

      I’m just getting back into the site. I will have a look and see what I can do.

  8. Shashikala June 3, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    Hi! It is really interesting and helpful. It helps me a lot to improve the skill pretty well. thousand thanks .

  9. Kay September 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    If we can make comments on Voxopop, it would be better. So that we can get a feedback and be able to know how to improve.

  10. Ahmed Abdeen September 18, 2011 at 2:50 am #

    And i come from Egypt ^^ hehe

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