This posts will explain to you IELTS speaking tips about not only the things to avoid but also the thing you should do in the speaking test.


IELTS Speaking Tips











1. Giving a half-completed answer

Although it seems natural to respond to many of the IELTS questions with a "yes" or "no" answer or with half-completed sentences, this does not give examiners the opportunity to truly assess your language skills. The purpose of this exam is to test your English and thinking abilities. Therefore the more you speak out, the easier it is for the examiner to measure your level. 

For example, if the examiner asks you "Do you think it is a good thing to consume fast food?", don't answer with "No" or "No, it is not". Instead respond with "No, fast food is pretty bad to our health as it is full of artificial flavoring and additives."

Another example that asks you "What is the cause of air pollution in your hometown?". Don't just reply "motorcycles", but rather, say "In my opinion, motorcycle generates significant air pollution around our neighborhood". 

It is recommended that you use the 10 skills listed in our speaking eBook and many more IELTS speaking tips to expand and enrich the content of your answer. 


2. Repeating the same phrases

Usually, we use the same words and structures when we speak; this is even more common if we speak in a foreign language. However, in the IELTS exam, the examiner will be listening if you use a variety of phrases and grammar. This is actually in the "lexical resource" marking criteria. 

Candidates sometimes repeat the words such as "I", "I think" or "My". There are many substitutes we can use:

  • There is no doubt that…
  • From my perspective…
  • From my point of view…
  • As far as I am concerned…
  • In my mind…

Although it is advised that candidates use some set phrases to fill in the thinking time, they need to be selective and ensure not to overuse them.

To demonstrate, it is weird to say "That's an interesting question." when the question is "What subject did you study at school?". 

One IELTS speaking tip for you is to avoid these phrases as they have been overused recently:

  • I have never thought about that.
  • I was talking to my friends about this recently.


3. Parroting the question

Quite often, the candidate tends to parrot the question, especially when he or she is taking the time to come up with answers. 

To illustrate, if the question is "What is your favorite food?", the candidate might respond with "Hmm…What is my favorite food? Let me think. My favorite food is beef noodle"

As stated before, IELTS values paraphrasing. That is using different words or sentences to express similar ideas. If you need more time coming up with the answer, try paraphrasing the original question. This way, you can both buy time and gain extra marks by using new expressions. 

To replace "my favorite food", we can use vocabulary such as "my best-loved or dearest cuisine; my choice of cooking; and my preferred nourishment". Let's add these words into the response for the above example:

  • Are you asking me my dearest cuisine? For me personally, nothing tastes better than a bowl of beef noodle.
  • Ok, let me think about my choice of cooking. Honestly, I could never resist the smell of beef noodle. 
  • My preferred nourishment? This is a difficult question as I relish a lot of different cuisines. If I have to choose, I would go for beef noodle. 


4. Pausing too long

It is natural to come across questions that demand more time to think. This even happens to native speakers much of the time. The difference is that during a normal conversation, a good speaker will communicate that he or she is taking the time to think.

It is much better if you let the examiner know that you are contemplating the answer. The worst is complete silence and a confused look on your face. If you don't understand the word or simply didn't hear it properly, just ask with a full sentence like "Pardon? Would you mind repeating that?" or "Would you mind explaining that word?".

Also, pauses in the beginning of the sentences are way better than those in the middle. 

In our IELTS speaking eBook, there are many pages that explain the skills and set phrases you can use to buy time and expand your response. 


5. Not asking questions

Many candidates are worried in the exam room and they rush to speak with little understanding of the question as soon as they hear it. Note that you are allowed to ask one explanatory question in part 1 of the speaking exam and few more in part 3, which is to emulate a conversation. The important thing is to ensure your understanding of the question is precise.

For example, if you don't understand the word "vehicle" in the question "What kinds of vehicle do people prefer in your country?", avoid saying "I am sorry?". If the examiner hears this, he or she will simply repeat the question. A much better way of asking is "I am sorry, I don't understand the word vehicle". 

Also, you are allowed to ask the examiner to repeat the question when you don't hear it clearly. Though do not abuse this privilege as you will be get a lower score. 


 6. Using Memorized phrases

Although our IELTS speaking tips recommend that you learn the "topic language" to address questions under various topics, this needs to be guided professionally with instructors checking the usage of words and phrases in your answers. It is fine to use words learned from reading various texts, but without knowing the form, collocation (words that go together) and all the meanings of a word, it is risky to apply them in your answers. 

The examiner is likely to notice it if you use memorized phrases in the exam, particularly if they are too formal or pronounced incorrectly. In speaking, we usually don't use a lot of formal languages. For example, transitional words such as moreover, in addition, furthermore, in conclusion, the principal reason among others are not suitable for spoken language. 

Take the word "symposium" as an example. It is a high-level vocabulary that works great under the topic of museum or events. Nevertheless, repetitive usage of this word in your responses which main contain basic level vocabulary shows that it was memorized.


7. Sounding like Shakespeare

We often see candidates trying hard to use complicated words in an attempt to get higher marks in the exam. A better strategy is to "keep it simple", rather than memorizing big words. Try including set phrases or sentences as oppose to words by themselves in your answer as the former would sound more natural.  

In the following examples, the candidate tried to use complex word instead of set phrases:

  • I relish water as it rehydrates my body and refreshes my conscious mind 
  • I think exotic cuisine is the way to satisfy the most demanding palate

8. Not knowing the exam structure

Surprisingly, a lot of candidates walk into the exam room without clearly knowing the format of the speaking test. Not being aware of the way the exam is conducted means that you would be more wary and anxious, and thus your performance might suffer.  

Some basic understandings of the exam are:

  • There are 3 parts in the speaking test and each has its unique format. 
  • There are 10 topics surrounding the candidate's life in part 1 of the speaking test.
  • Part 2 involves questions about your experience and memories of objects, people or activities
  • Part 3 includes discussion questions that are run like dialogues between you and the examiner 
IELTS Speaking Tips

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