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More Tips For The IELTS Speaking Test

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More tips for the IELTS speaking test To maximise your score, use specific techniques for each part of the test

The speaking module in the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam is challenging for most candidates.
Here are my tips for each part of the module.

Part 1: The interview

  • Look confident. To create a positive impression, greet the examiner in a friendly and polite way. Try to look relaxed, and don’t tell the examiner you’re nervous.

  • Paraphrase questions. You may reuse the language in questions (e.g., “What’s your favourite sport?” − “My favourite sport’s tennis as...”), but it’s more natural to use pronouns (e.g., “It’s tennis as...”).

Even better, use introductory phrases like: “I’ve really loved playing tennis ever since I was in high school as...”).

  • Avoid short answers. Avoid giving one-word or short responses. Instead, answer questions directly, and whenever possible, give a simple explanation or example.

As a general guide, aim for two-sentence answers in Part 1, and try to speak for 30 to 40 seconds.

  • Keep it simple. Only talk about what you know you can say in English, and answer questions clearly.

In other words, don’t make your answers complicated or too difficult to explain in a couple of sentences.

  • Respond appropriately. If asked what your favourite (something) is, or what the most popular (something) is, give just one example.

However, if you’re asked to list things, like what types of transport are available in your hometown, give more than one example.

  • Avoid hesitating. Don’t pause too much before replying. Instead, aim to answer questions within four seconds.

Usually, the first thing that comes into your head is what you should talk about.

Part 2: The long turn

  • Talk about what you know. Choose something you know well and will be comfortable talking about.

As with Part 1, the first thing you think of is usually what you should talk about.

However, don’t talk about someone or something you’re still sensitive about (such as the loss of a loved one). If you do, you risk losing control of your emotions and being unable to continue speaking.

  • Make notes. Always use the full one-minute preparation time to think about the details of your talk, and brainstorm very brief notes on the paper provided.

However, only make notes for the difficult items (usually, the very last of the three talking points listed on the task card, and the main discussion point that follows it).

  • Talk in a natural way. Once you start talking, look straight at the examiner.

If you need to remind yourself what to say, just glance at your notes or the task card. This will stop you from reading out aloud and so losing control of your rhythm, stress and intonation.

By looking at the examiner, you’re also more likely to add details that come to your mind while you’re speaking.

In addition, don’t read a talking point out loud exactly as it’s written on the task card before

answering it. The talking points are written prompts to guide you through the talk; it will sound strange if you read them out loud before answering them. 

  • Be coherent. It’s usually best to organise your reply in the same order as the talking points and the main discussion point that follows them on the task card. Even so, don’t be rigid. You can talk about the talking points in a slightly different order if that makes sense.

  • Speak for two minutes. Show you’re willing to talk by using the full two minutes allowed for the talk. The examiner will stop you when the time is up.

Give as much detail as you can by talking about your feelings as well as by giving examples related to the topic. However, stick to the topic, or you may lose marks.

There’s no marking penalty if you haven’t finished talking about all of the points on the task card.

  • Get your timing right. The first three talking points usually deal with facts, while the main discussion point that follows often asks you to describe your feelings on the topic.

I suggest you spend 15 seconds on the first two talking points, another 45 seconds on the third talking point, and the last minute on the main discussion point.

  • Use complex structures. Don’t give a string of simple sentences. Make an effort to use long, detailed sentences so that you’re more likely to use complex grammatical structures.

Part 3: The discussion

  • Link to the questions. Begin your answers with a clear statement that directly addresses the question and opens the discussion. Use phrases like, “Well, in my view, there’s one main problem with...” and “I think it depends on...”.

  • Avoid short answers. If you can, keep talking in response to an individual question until the examiner interrupts you.

To make your answer longer, give lots of ideas and details. Also, use a variety of expressions to link your ideas and examples (e.g., “while,” “because” and “so that”).

  • Explain opinions. Give clear reasons and examples to support your views.
  • Buy time. If you’re not sure how to answer a question, use a filler phrase like, “I guess it could be because…” and “I haven’t thought about that before...”. This will give you time to think about what to say.
This article was written by David Park, a highly experienced IELTS teacher. Ajarn David teaches at Paradigm Language Institute.

If you have any questions about IELTS that you would like Ajarn David to answer,
or if you wish to do an IELTS preparation course, write to:

IELTS is owned by Cambridge ESOL, the British Council and IDP: IELTS Australia.

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