Personally, the IELTS speaking test is one of the most intimidating experiences I have ever encountered while giving a test. Being in a room with an interviewer and having to speak on a topic that I was not familiar with made me sweat. A candidate has only between 11 to 14 minutes to convince your interviewer that you can speak your mind in English. Yikes! But you can be better prepared than me to deal with the speaking tasks by simply being aware and following these tips.
1. So, what is really being tested?
Surely not knowledge
Yes, it’s a bonus to know a subject well but even if you don’t take the chance to express your thoughts, views, opinions, experiences freely. The examiner wants to test your language abilities, that it. The pressure to know a topic isn’t really what you should you be worried about because no matter how much you prepare there are bound to be topics you haven’t heard of or prepared for.
The test is for your language skills
Your ability to communicate in English will determine your score. It’s as simple as that. So here are some tips that should help you relax during the examination.
Be loud and clear
We don’t advocate shouting at the examiner but being clear also means being audible. Speak up if you find yourself mumbling too often during your practice session. Use miniature pauses between words to avoid running through a sentence. The way you punctuate in a sentence should also reflect in your way of speaking. If you are presenting a complicated idea pause where you would have put a comma or a full stop.
Use your own language to talk
It isn’t compulsory to use complicated words or long sentences to appear like someone knowledgeable. Speak the way you are comfortable with, the way you speak generally. Your discomfort can permeate through your body and make you nervous. This can be interpreted as a sign of discomfort with the language by the examiner. Don’t try and use language that makes you nervous, this can affect your state of mind immensely leading to unforced errors.
Form grammatically correct sentences
Keep it simple, keep it right. A grammatically wrong sentence will definitely lead to a deduction but using simple language may not. For example – ‘The advent of technology has changed the business world’ can be replaced with ‘Recent developments in technology has changed the business world’. Making these small changes can help you sail smoothly through the speaking test.
Pronounce words properly
Don’t be bothered too much by your native accent. This isn’t an accent test. It is only natural to have a local accent if you are from a particular country. Focus more on pronouncing well and clearly. Its ok to say ‘right’ instead of ‘raaight’, but not ‘write’ instead of ‘right’.
2. Know the question pattern
So whether it be normal exam or IELTS you need to understand that having a quick information about the question pattern can help. It can help you to allot your resources and time to think and create answers required for the skill easily.
- Time Taken – 4 to 5 mins
- Number of questions – 5 to 12 short questions
- Usual topics – Home, hobbies, profession, work, academic, family and friends, daily routine, your society and more such generic topics about your life.
- Time – 4 to 5 mins
- Number of questions – 1 cue card question asking you to describe something related to you for 2 minutes.
- Usual topics – Describing and sharing your opinion on any of these – Art, books, movies, marketing, music, old age, modern technology, the internet etc.
- Time – 4 to 5 mins
- Number of questions – Extension of part 2. The examiner will ask you a specific question related to task 2.
- Usual topics – Since it’s an extension, the topic remains the same as part 1. You can expect the examiner to try and dig deeper for more information on the topic from task
3. How to deal with
So there are three different parts with topics on various things we see and hear in our daily life. So, you can get to understand what kind of topics you would be dealing and the type of conversation that will take place as well.
a. Part 1 topics
Treat this like a warm up to more complicated topics and lengthier conversations. It is face-to-face and the examiner will ask you some basic questions about yourself. Try to be crisp, short and precise with the information. Speak to the point and keep your sentences short mostly.
b. Part 2 topics
This is mostly a monologue by the student for about 2 minutes. You will be given a cue card and the questions will look like this – ‘Describe a recent piece of art you liked’ or ‘Describe a recent holiday you took with your parents’. You will find a host of such topics online. Familiarise yourself but don’t mug it up. Examiners will often change the topic if your answer seems rehearsed. You also get 1 minute for preparation before you start. Here’s what you can do in that minute.
- Underlining important words in each cue to help you not lose focus of the original topic. For example, there’s a big difference between ‘describing a piece of art you liked’ and ‘artists that you like’. Don’t miss the original question by not focusing on keywords.
- Make a note of keywords that will help you answer completely. If you are asked to describe a recent family vacation, your keyword list could look like this – Dates, location, transportation, members, activities and remarkable memories. You could have a different way of understanding your clues. But write them down quickly in a minute.
- Speak within the time limit. Knowing how two minutes feel while talking is essential. remember how it would feel 2 hours instead of one while sitting in a lecture or 1 hour felt like 20 minutes when talking to your best friend? You can very easily fall prey to this effect and stop way before time. We suggest you practice with a stopwatch while at home and at the examination, don’t stop before the examiner tells you to stop.
Creating a structure very similar to writing can rescue you here. Have an introduction, a main body and conclusion to completely answer the question posed to you.
c. Part 3 topics
You will have to enter a discussion mode with the examiner here, sharing your views and opinions regarding the topic from task 2. This will feel like a continuation of the task but is, in fact, a new section where you will be marked on your ability to form an opinion or argument for or against a certain topic. For example, you could be asked to share what you think of using hoardings as a marketing tool.
In this section, it is best to freely express your opinion while clubbing them with examples to make it easier for the examiner to understand what you are saying
4. Update yourself with questions trending
The topics change every year and as an aspirant, you should stay abreast with the latest topics that are asked. Some of the most common ones are on the topics listed above.
5. Practice becoming fluent & confident
Practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter if the dialogue in your head sounds perfect. You can’t just walk into an examination like the IELTS and expect to ace it without intense real-life practice. To boost your confidence, speak to friends, teachers, colleagues as much as you can every single day. Your conversations with them can be treated as a fair test of your readiness. Watch or tune into BBC news, discovery and such channels to listen and improve your style of speaking.
Another great practice is to use technology. Make a video of yourself speaking. Study your body language, your pronunciation and how confident you look. Do this with the idea of getting better and not to criticize yourself.
For personal individual analysis, contact us and we will help you get in touch with an expert.