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Top Tips for IELTS Speaking Test

Apart from good preparation, there are things you can do during the test to improve your mark

From what I’ve seen, the speaking module in the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam would have to be the one that raises the most anxiety among candidates. A lack of preparation, a fear of speaking in English for an extended period, and a lack of awareness of how the scoring scheme works contribute to this anxiety. The impact on a test taker’s score for the speaking module can be significant.

Obviously, doing sufficient and proper preparation before the day of the exam will help to minimise the stress associated with the speaking test. However, I always recommend that candidates only do preparation courses with English teachers who are expert in the exam.

Certainly, these teachers can give guidance on how to improve a test taker’s language skills. Because of their deep understanding of IELTS, however, they can do some thing that most teachers can’t.

What is that? They can point out the particular areas in which a test taker needs to improve in order to get a higher score in the speaking module.

Sometimes, only small things need to be either avoided or improved to see a significant effect on the score that a candidate would get in the IELTS test.

Apart from good preparation, there are also things that can be done during the test itself. Here’s an introduction to some of the things you should do throughout the test to improve your chances of getting the best possible score.


Appear confident. Try hard to look and sound polite, friendly and − most importantly − relaxed.

Looking nervous or, worse still, telling the examiner that you’re feeling nervous only creates a bad impression. Why would you want to let the examiner think that you are not confident?

Remember, one of the areas assessed in the speaking module is fluency and coherence, which is effectively a measure of your confidence in using English.


Ask if you don’t hear. If you don’t hear something, ask the interviewer to repeat it. Don’t try to guess what the examiner has said. Simply say, “I’m sorry, could you repeat that, please?” or, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

Asking the examiner to repeat a question is a sign of effective communication. Unlike what many candidates wrongly believe, you will not get a marking penalty if you ask the examiner to repeat a question.


Ask if you don’t understand. On the other hand, if you don’t understand a question, ask the examiner to explain it.

It’s better to ask the examiner to explain than to guess what he or she is talking about and give incorrect information. Just say, “I’m sorry, I don’t quite follow” or, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand” or, “What does [word you are unsure of] mean?”

Remember, you’re not penalised if you ask the examiner to explain a word or a question.


Don’t try to be perfect. A fluent speaker of English can speak smoothly and continuously, i.e., with little or no pauses (or breaks), repetition and corrections when speaking.

Therefore, don’t worry about making grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation mistakes.

Why? If you concentrate on avoiding grammar errors, for example, in order to get a high grammar score, your fluency will suffer. You’ll probably speak slower than normal; you might also repeat or correct words, or you might include pauses in your speech. Any of these will result in a lower score for fluency.

In other words, during the test, just relax and think about the message you want to communicate. Don’t try to be perfect. Speaking with little or no pausing (or breaks) will have a greater influence on your score than grammar and vocabulary errors.

The only grammar point you should really pay attention to during the test is the need to form longish, complex sentences.

Do this by combining a number of ideas into the one sentence, rather than saying the same ideas in a number of shorter sentences.


Talk a lot. Show that you’re willing to talk by answering questions as fully as you can. This will certainly improve your score for fluency and coherence.

In turn, your score for pronunciation will improve if you can speak smoothly and establish some rhythm in your speech.

Similarly, your grammar and vocabulary scores will be higher if you take the opportunity to use longer sentences and show off your range of vocabulary.

In other words, quantity − how much you say − can have a major influence on your final score.


Stay calm. Your fluency will drop off rapidly if you’re anxious. Keep it simple. It’s better to be simple and clear, rather than complicated and unclear.

The four areas assessed by the examiner are fluency and coherence, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. However, one area that’s not directly assessed is the quality of the ideas that you present.

Therefore, make it easy on yourself by keeping your ideas simple and uncomplicated. As well, always talk about something that you have the vocabulary for.

Use less common words. Provided it won’t affect your fluency, try to use some less common vocabulary.

To get a 7.0 for vocabulary, you only need to use maybe a dozen or so less commonly used words and phrases as well as show that your word choice is generally accurate.

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