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Tips for IELTS Speaking

In: IELTS By: Ekjot Kaur

The IELTS speaking task is quite like an interview. It is a one-to-one session between the candidate and the examiner. The pattern is as follows:

Task 1: General Introduction. Here the examiner will ask general questions about the candidate to confirm their credentials. The questions may relate to family, home, studies and/or job, etc.

Task 2: Cure Card Section. Here the candidate will be given a cue card containing a topic and the information / points on which the candidate will be required to speak. One minute is given to prepare and 1-2 minutes to speak. The examiner will indicate when it will be time for the candidate to stop.

Task 3: Discussion. Here the examiner and the candidate will indulge in detailed/extended discussion over the topic from task 2. It assesses the candidate’s willingness to engage in lengthy often intelligible discussions.

The broad criteria for assessment in the speaking task is fluency, minimal self-correction, the least amount of hesitation, grammatical correctness, use of cohesive devices and appropriate use of a large vocabulary.

This article will focus on the body-language aspect of sitting for a speaking task as well as the grammar. Here are a few tips:

1.       Maintain a good posture: Don’t slouch, maintain an upright, comfortable posture. Sitting straight does not mean being mechanical. It means being alert, active, focused and concentrated. It emanates positive energy.

2.       Respect the distance: usually a large desk is placed between the examiner and the candidate. The distance is created for two purposes; to establish authority and to intimidate the candidate. Make sure that you respect the distance by avoiding sitting with your hands or elbows on the table. However, do not be intimidated /scared. Maintain your calm.

3.       Maintain eye contact: Maintaining eye contact is important to connect with a person while communicating with them. It helps break the ice and build a comfortable atmosphere. Look at the examiner while answering questions, but do not stare. It is very impolite to stare.

4.       Avoid slangs: Slang is an extremely informal language which is a large part of our day-to-day colloquial vocabulary. However, it is highly inappropriate for use in formal settings. Avoid them. For examples, instead of saying, “I am really into this sport”, say, “I am very fond of this sport”.

5.       Explain vernacular words: If your answer is such that requires use of words from your mother tongue because of a lack of proper translation in English, make sure that you explain that in English as well. For example, if the topic asks you to describe a traditional meal and you wish to explain about “matar-paneer”, after giving its name tell the examiner that it is a curry dish made with a kind of cheese.

6.       Use demonstrators, avoid manipulators: Demonstrators are hand gestures which a person makes while speaking. Using demonstrators is a natural phenomenon and does not take a conscious effort on the speaker’s part. On the other hand, ‘manipulators’ are conscious restriction of hand movements when we lie, or are scared or nervous. Demonstrators speak of a person’s level of confidence and honesty.

7.       Smile: even though it is an exam, smile. Don’t look as if the world is coming to an end. This is the first thing that you should do when you enter into the exam hall and face the examiner. Since you are going to spend the next 15 minutes speaking to them, you might as well start on a positive note.

8.       Expressions and Tonality: While speaking, your tone, voice, face, everything should correspond to the content. For example, while giving personal information or speaking from memory about a happy event, your face should light up with the remembrance of that experienced happiness. Similarly, the tone should rise or fall according to the content.

9.       Use international number system: if the topic is such which requires the use of statistical data, use the international number system and avoid talking in terms of ‘lakhs’ and ‘crores’.

10.   Fluency: Avoid repetition, self correction, hesitation: points are deducted for repetition, self-correction, hesitation, as all these hamper fluency. How can these be avoided? By keeping a normal pace. The human mind is very quick and the tongue cannot always keep up with the train of thought. Thus, it is important to pace yourself to maintain fluency.

10A. Fluency: Use connectors/cohesive devices: fluency is also achieved by using various words which link one thought with another. Here is a small list of those words:

a.       Personal pronouns: (nominative) he, she, it, we, they, you, I. (accusative) him, her, us, you, them, me. (possessive) His, her, our, its, theirs.

b.      Relative pronouns: who, whom, which, when, where, that.

c.       Demonstrative pronouns: this, that, these, those.

d.      Pivotal words: however, although, nonetheless, nevertheless, but, even though.

e.      Conjunctions: and, but, neither-nor, either-or, both-and, not only-but also

f.        Connectors: in order that, on condition that, even if, so that, provided that, as though, inasmuch as, as well as, as soon as, as if.

10B. Fluency: Fillers: fillers are those sounds/utterances which break up a conversation. Extensive use of fillers, such as, ah…, em…, give out a poor expression. Some filler are allowed but only so long as they are content related and not language related, that is, when you are trying to think of your next point, you may require a break.  

11.    Vocabulary: if you have a rich vocabulary, it will help as long as you know how to use it correctly. The problem with heavy words is that many do not know the correct context in which a word is to be used. If you are not sure of the correct usage in a sentence of a word, avoid it.

12.   Use simple as well as complex sentences: use a proper blend of simple as well as compound or complex sentences with accuracy. This will tell the examiner of your expertise over the language.

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  • Excellent article. Very useful tips. Thanks.


I hold a Masters degree in English and communication Studies from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Dwarka and I am currently pursuing a PhD program in English Literature from the same. I enjoy mentoring students, explaining the nuances and guiding them on the right path. my expertise lies in understading and explaining the underlying concepts and identifying the weak and strong points of a student so as to train them accordingly.

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