Advice for the Speaking Test

The IELTS Speaking test is just like a job interview; you enter, exchange pleasantries, have a serious conversation, exchange pleasantries then leave. A job interview is to prove to the employer you deserve the job, a Speaking session is to prove you deserve a certificate. It’s purely business; you are not there to be the listener’s best friend. You need to show them you’re a serious person, you know what you want and you will do your best to win it.

Speaking isn’t just about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. You might get a question on a topic you know a lot about. This is great, but your answer won’t help you at all if people don’t understand what you’re saying. You need to get your voice to volume between whisper and shouting; in other words a moderate level. You need to keep your speed at a moderate pace; no-one (aside from friends and family) can understand you when you speak too fast. This applies to IELTS examiners. It is better to be too slow than too fast, but you will improve your chances if your speed is at a middle rate. Fluency is important; don’t give long pauses, too many pauses, or run the words together. This damages the flow of the speech. Pausing is good when you’re not sure what to say, but the time and amount of the pauses should be as low as possible. Try not to repeat sentences or standout words, this will look unoriginal. When you pronounce words, remember they do not always sound as they look.

“kn”= sounds like “n”

“h”= is silent when next to “o” sometimes. For example hour and honour. Other times it isn’t in words such as “home”, “house” and “horse”.

There is no problem if you want to use big words, fancy words, or academic words, that is a decision for you. Your marks will not go up for the words, the marks will go up because you say the words correctly. However you can still achieve good results if you give a basic answer as long as it is spoken well. Speaking is about QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY.

If you receive a speaking topic you don’t like but know about, give an answer. Don’t ask for a new set of questions just because you don’t like it or you may receive a topic you know nothing about. The test is not a knowledge test, but you will benefit if you have information on the subject. You should only change the questions if they are genuinely difficult. You should have an idea on whether a subject is too hard or not.

A good way to answer each question is to give a statement (“Yes I do”, “I’m not sure” etc) an explanation (“I did it in…”), and maybe an example (“For example when I needed to look for essay information..”). The statement and explanation are the most important parts however an example could help.

It isn’t just about what you know, it’s using what you know. Speaking is also about presenting the words, and managing the words.

-Nicholas John Gysi

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