Ten tips for taking the IELTS speaking test

consejos examen ielts speaking

There are many sources now, both online and offline, for students who are preparing to take the IELTS exam. While many of them are legitimate, there are unfortunately some people who present themselves as IELTS experts but aren’t as qualified as they claim. When taking the exam, follow these ten simple rules to guarantee that your speaking exam performance is the best that it can be.


1.       Use words that have a very specific meaning.

Most daily English vocabulary focuses on words that have a variety of meanings and uses (such as “sure” and “right”). Replacing “for sure” with “certainly”, or “right” with “correct”, will demonstrate (not “show”) that you are able to speak and explain your ideas with a high level of accuracy.


2.       Learn to use prefixes and suffixes to create new words.

You know what a photo or photograph is, so why not expand your vocabulary with words like “photographic”, “telephoto”, “photogenic”, and so on. Do that often enough and your 1,000 to 2,000 word personal vocabulary will double or even triple in size.


3.       If you can’t remember a specific word, paraphrase (or describe) the idea you want to express.

Native speakers do this all the time, so it is a perfectly valid tool at your disposal.


4.       Don’t use the same word repeatedly.

It sounds like you only know the one word (not a good mistake). Try to use a synonym once or twice, then repeat the word after that. Native speakers avoid doing this, and so should you.


5.       Unless it is necessary, use the active verb tense rather than the passive tense.

Many English as a Second Language students do this because their first language uses the passive tense quite often (especially Spanish). The active verb tense uses fewer words, making it easier to listen to and understand, and it sounds more confident.


6.       Whenever possible, use complex grammar to express your ideas.

Using compound and complex sentences, noun and verbal phrases, dependent clauses, and other higher level grammar structures will improve your score. Even if you use them and make many mistakes, you will get credit for trying. Using only simple sentence structures so you can produce them perfectly will limit your score.


7.       Don’t ask the examiner questions.

Other than “Can you repeat that?” or “Can you say that again/differently/a different way?”, the examiner is not allowed to answer your questions. Asking them to explain a word or phrase, or to share their opinion, will only result in silence. That silence is a pause or gap in your speaking and it could lower your score.


8.       Keep your answers the correct length.

In part 1, the examiner must ask you a large number of questions in a short space of time; if your answers are too long, they can’t do their job. In part 3, each answer can be longer but if you continue to talk about only one answer, this also interferes with the examiner’s duties. Going to the other extreme (answers that are too short), “yes” and “no” answers, and answers containing fewer than half a dozen words, is a death sentence for your result.


9.       Make sure you understand the question and are answering it correctly.

If the examiner repeats a question, it means your first answer wasn’t related to the question (listen carefully for past, present and future verb tenses, which you must match with your answer). In part 2, if the examiner taps their finger on the question card’s question, it means you are off-topic (not answering the question properly). If you don’t answer correctly, the answer you gave may be excluded from your test score results.


10.     Always follow the examiner’s lead.

IELTS examiners are highly trained professionals who are very good at their job. They are not allowed to help you or to influence the test, but they will create a situation that allows you to perform to the best of your ability. If they interrupt you to ask another question, allow them to do so and focus on the next question. This will help, rather than hinder, your performance and your final score.

These ten simple rules cannot guarantee that you will get a high band score; only studying and working hard will do that. These rules will, though, guarantee that your overall performance is clear, easy to listen to and represents your best ability, whatever that may be. A high quality performance will help you much more than a series of elaborate tricks and shortcuts, and is your best bet in the long run to getting the best score you are capable of.

Author: Johnny on the Spot



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