IELTS Speaking: Structure, Tips, Strategies (Academic & General)

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IELTS Speaking tips and strategies

IELTS Speaking: Structure, Tips, Strategies

IELTS Speaking tips and strategies
IELTS Speaking tips and strategies

Speaking section of the IELTS test is quite different from Listening, Reading and Writing parts.

  • Firstly, it is the shortest section: it takes no more than 15 minutes.
  • Secondly, the Speaking test can be taken up to 3 days either before or after the test day (it depends on the test centre).
  • And finally, you will have to talk to the examiner directly at this part of the exam. It seems to be quite challenging, isn’t it?

In this article, IELTS Game will cover general information about the Speaking section and assessment criteria for this part.

Also, we will discuss the peculiarities of each Speaking task, and I will give you useful tips and strategies for completing this section.

General Information about IELTS Speaking exam

The IELTS Speaking module assesses a candidate’s communicative and linguistic skills necessary for effective oral communication between native and non-native speakers of English in social, educational and training contexts.

Test-takers are assessed individually by one trained examiner.

All the answers are being recorded.

There are three parts in the Speaking module.

The activities in each part are designed to collect samples of your speaking performance.

All parts of the Speaking test are in the same format for both Academic and General Training candidates.

On the whole, this part takes about 11-14 minutes.

Assessment Criteria in IELTS Speaking

The performance of test-takers is assessed according to four criteria:

  • Fluency and Coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Pronunciation

1. Fluency and Coherence

The first criterion, Fluency and Coherence, assesses your ability to express ideas clearly and coherently without long hesitations.

The key markers of fluency are speech continuity and speech rate.

Coherence refers to logical sequencing of ideas, clear marking of stages in a narration, and the use of cohesive devices.

2. Lexical Resource

Lexical Resource evaluates the range of vocabulary used in your speech and whether it was used appropriately.

So, you must use a variety of words and expressions and avoid repetitions and common vocabulary.

Moreover, you must be sure in the meaning of words you use.

3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy

The next category, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, refers to the accurate and appropriate use of various grammatical forms and structures.

You’d better use complex sentences with subordinate clauses in your speech and avoid mistakes. So, if you are not sure in this or that grammar construction, do not use it.

4. Pronunciation

The last criterion, Pronunciation, assesses your ability to use features of English pronunciation, such as intonation and stress.

Also, the examiner will rate whether it is easy to understand what you are saying or not. Pay attention that your accent will not be taken in consideration.

So, it is not obligatory to have a perfect British accent to get a high score.

Each criterion is assessed on a 9-band scale. You can familiarize yourself with the detailed band description of the Speaking section on the official IELTS website.

Parts of IELTS Speaking test

Now, let’s look at three parts of the Speaking test in more detail. IELTS Speaking consists of three parts:

Part 1

Part 1 of the Speaking test lasts about 4-5 minutes.

First of all, the examiner introduces himself/herself, and then asks you questions about two general topics.

The topics usually relate to everyday situations. For example, your home country or city, your work or your studies, friends, hobbies, animals, food, sports, music, etc.

Topics may be similar from one test version to another, but the questions included in the test are always different.

Speaking Part 1 Sample:

Introduction:

  • Hello, my names is … . What is your name?
  • Can I see your ID?
  • Great. Where are you from? Do you work or study?

Let’s talk about accommodation.

  • Do you live in a house or a flat?
  • Is it a large flat/house?
  • How long have you lived there?
  • If you could change anything about your flat/house, what would you change?

Now let’s move on to talk about music.

  • Do you listen to music?
  • What kind of music do you listen to?
  • Have you ever been interested in singing?
  • Can you say that music is a very important part of your life?

Part 2

Part 2 is a monologue on a given topic. You will be given a card that contains a topic and some bullet point prompts.

The examiner will give you one minute to prepare and make notes on a sheet of paper.

Then, you will be asked to speak for one to two minutes. It’s recommended not to stop speaking before the examiner does it himself.

After you finish speaking, the examiner may ask you a couple of rounding-off questions related to your speech.

In this task, you can be asked about almost everything.

For example, the task can require you to talk about some precious item you have, or a special day you had.

Maybe, the question will ask you to describe a sporting event or a concert you visited, or people who influenced you.

Speaking Part 2 Sample (Cue Card):

Describe a city or a town you have enjoyed visiting. 

You should say:

  • when you visited the town or the city
  • what you did there
  • how long you stayed there
  • and explain why you enjoyed the visit.

Part 3

The last part of the Speaking section is a two-way discussion.

The examiner will ask you to discuss some abstract, non-personal topics usually somehow related to the topic in Part 2.

For example, in Part 2, you are asked to describe a teacher who influenced you. Accordingly, the topic for discussion in Part 3 will be Education.

You might be asked up to seven questions on a variety of topics.

The questions usually include such words as predict, analyze, compare, give opinion, etc. The themes for discussion can be the following: Technology, Environment, Education, TV influence, Leisure activities, Shopping, Sports, Transport, etc.

Part 3 Sample (Follow up Questions)

Skills and Everyday Life

  • Can you compare the skills that are important nowadays with the skills that were important 20 or 30 years ago?
  • What skills are valued most in your country?
  • What kind of skills might be important in the future?

Skills and Training

  • What qualities does a good trainer need to have?
  • Why do many companies invest a lot of money in training?
  • Do you think schools and universities prepare young people well for future employment?

Tips and Strategies to answer IELTS Speaking exam

Talking to the examiner directly and answering different questions immediately may seem to be quite challenging.

However, with proper preparation and training, you will be able to deal with the Speaking part of the IELTS test easily.

Let’s have a look at some practical tips and strategies for completing this part.

General Strategies

1. Don’t memorize long answers.

The examiner will notice you memorized the text and will not assess such answers.

2. Use imagination when answering the questions.

Keep in mind that the Speaking module tests your ability to speak English, but not your general knowledge or views.

That is why, you can make up the answer if you don’t know what to say. For example, you are asked to describe a sporting event, but you have never been to a sporting event.

In this case, you can remember a story, told by your friend, about a football match he went to last month and make this story yours. There’s nothing bad in this.

3. Use varied and advanced vocabulary.

Do you remember that one of the assessment criteria is Lexical Resource?

So, make sure you can use various words and phrases in your speech while discussing non-personal and abstract topics.

4. Don’t keep silent for a long time.

There might be questions that you will not be able to answer right away. In this case, avoid waiting too long before you speak because long silence may influence your mark for fluency.

Instead, try to ‘fill’ the pause with phrases like That’s a good question; I have never thought of this before…; or Let me think. 

By using this phrases, you will let the examiner know that you are thinking about the answer.

And at the same time, you will show your ability to use English in different situations. However, try not to use each expression more than once.

5. Be confident and speak clearly and loudly.

You should speak in a loud voice so that the examiner could hear you well, and the tape-recorder could capture what you are saying.

Part 1 Tips

This part of the Speaking test includes questions about yourself.

So, you shouldn’t face any difficulties while answering questions in this part. No one knows you better than you do.

1. Ask the examiner to repeat the question if you don’t understand it.

It is OK to address the examiner if you want to clarify the question you are asked. This will not affect your score if you don’t do it with every question. You can use the following phrases: Could you repeat the question, please? / I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the question.

2. Give direct answers to the examiner’s questions.

Don’t go off the topic and answer the questions you are asked.

3. Develop your answer.

Avoid Yes/No answers and try to give more details, examples or your opinions where it is possible.

For example, you are asked the following question ‘Do you like shopping?’ The answer ‘Yes, I do.’ will not bring you a high score.

It’s better to answer like this: ‘I do, but only for certain things, like clothes or books. I hate shopping for food or other things I need at home.’ 

However, avoid giving too long answers: two or three sentences will be enough.

Part 2 Tips

1. Read the card with the task carefully.

Don’t be in a hurry and don’t skip this important step. If you misunderstand the task, your whole answer will not be correct.

So, take your time and read the questions and bullet points attentively.

2. Take advantage of one minute that you have for preparation.

Some people advise to make notes on a sheet of paper during this minute.

Others say that making notes is a waste of time, and it’s better to make a plan of the answer in your head.

You must choose the way that is the easiest for you. Try both techniques of preparation before the exam and find out which one you like more.

If you decide to make notes, don’t write full sentences as there is not enough time for this. You need to write only key words for the bullet points.

3. Keep to the time limit.

In this part, you will have to talk without stops for up to two minutes. When you prepare for the test, practice a lot in speaking for two minutes.

Firstly, you will get the idea of how much you can say in two minutes.

Secondly, you will get rid of the fear to talk for two minutes without stops.

It’s not advisable to stop speaking before the examiner tells you to do this. So, make sure you have enough ideas to talk about for this period of time.

Part 3 Tips

1. Speak at length, but keep to the topic.

In this part, you are expected to give more extended answers than in Part 1. So, always try to make your response as detailed as possible. However, pay attention to the information you provide: it must be relevant to the question and don’t go off the topic.

Look at the sample question from Part 3 of the Speaking test and three answers. Which one is the best?

– Do you think people will continue going to the cinema in the future?

A: Yes. In my opinion, people will go to the cinema in the future.

B: I think they definitely will. Cinema nowadays is as popular as computer games. I believe people will play a lot of computer games as well in the future. They are becoming more and more advanced and interesting. So, I would like to see computer games of the future.

C: It seems to me that they will. For many cinema goers going to movies is some kind of a social event. They won’t want to give it up and stay in to watch a movie. But you never know – technology might be developed in the way that allows people to have a true cinema experience at home.

  • The first answer (A) is on the topic, but it is too short.
  • The second response (B) has a good beginning, but the author switches the topic of discussion. It is not appropriate.
  • The best answer to the given question is C as it is quite long and full and stay on the topic.

2. Use linking devices to connect your ideas.

Your speech must be easy to understand and follow. Otherwise, your score for Fluency and Coherence will be lowered.

You need to use special expressions to introduce and connect your ideas.

For example, you can use the expressions Personally; It seems to be; I am convinced that; As far as I know to present your point of view.

To explain something or give reasons, use “That’s why; One of the reasons for this could be. When you want to move to the next point of your discussion, you can use Anyway; So, to move on.

3. Support your ideas.

In this part of the Speaking test, you must give long and extended answers if you aim to get a high score.

If you present your point of view on the topic and justify it with some arguments or examples, it will be just enough for a well-developed answer.

Look at two examples.

– Why do you think a lot of companies invest a lot of money in training?

– I suppose those companies that want to stay competitive need to invest in training their staff. Businesses are changing so fast nowadays that it’s essential to provide employees with the training necessary for them to do their jobs efficiently. Another reason might be that people like to feel valued, and giving them training is one way for a company to show that.

– What can one learn from travelling to other countries?

– I think people can learn such things as different cultures, customs and traditions while travelling abroad.

In the first example, the candidate presents his idea and supports it with two good arguments. He is likely to get a high mark for his answer.

In the second example, the candidate answers the question in a very simple way without giving any examples or arguments.

He will not get more than band 6 for this part of the test.

Summary

Being able to speak English freely and fluently is highly important not only for the IELTS test, but for you future studies or life in the English-speaking environment.

So, I highly recommend you to prepare well for this module and practice answering questions on different topics.

Also, it would be useful to find out how this part of IELTS is actually taken. You can find the examples of the Speaking test on YouTube.

When you watch the video, pay attention to vocabulary and grammar that a candidate use and the mistakes he makes. Good luck!

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