All IELTS Test candidates should print out a copy of the IELTS Test Band Descriptors and place them in a position where they can be studied easily.
Looking at the IELTS band descriptors for the Speaking test, the criteria Task Response, Fluency and Coherence are the ones that require a lot of practice on the candidate’s part. Speaking constantly is essential to put together all the learning and improvements throughout the preparation period.
Grammatical Range and Accuracy and Pronunciation can be improved upon in other lessons or sessions. However, once a good foundation of these relevant skills is achieved, candidates should apply the skills and knowledge gained to the speaking practice – throughout the preparation period. The reason is simple: candidates need to gear up before facing the real test!
8 Steps to better IELTS Speaking
IELTS Speaking 101 is designed to get you up and running with the basics of speaking for the IELTS Test in eight easy lessons. Read each of the sections below for more information. There are further recommendations for professional training, plus links to tutorials on IELTS Speaking Test preparation:
- What is in the IELTS Speaking Test?
- Paraphrasing is the key to success in the IELTS Speaking Test
- Learn and Follow a Structure in Answering
- Context clues help you understand unfamiliar words
- Synonyms increase your comprehension
- Don’t ignore the value of Pronunciation
- How to prepare for the IELTS Speaking Test
- What IELTS Speaking Skills do you need?
What is in the IELTS Speaking Test?
IELTS Speaking Test Part 1
The exam is approximately 14 minutes in length and there are three parts to the exam. Part 1 is between 4-5 minutes in length and is designed to help you settle in to the exam. The examiner begins recording and will ask you to confirm your name and IELTS number. He or she will also ask you to state your nationality. Then the examiner will ask questions about you. These may include; where you live, your country of origin and the country in which you study. They may ask what you do, whether you work or study (approximately 2 minutes). You will then be asked questions on one or two topics, which lasts approximately 3 minutes.
IELTS Speaking Test Part 2
Initially, you are given a topic to talk about. You are given the topic question and then one minute to prepare and make notes. Typically for a question you have the introductory question, which forms your introduction, then three points to mention and should develop a concluding sentence from the final part of the question. In Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Exam you then have a maximum of two minutes to speak.
IELTS Speaking Test Part 3
Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking Exam lasts 4-5 minutes and the examiner asks you a selection of global topics related to your presentation.
Paraphrasing is the key to success in the IELTS Speaking Test
In answering each question, the topic contained in the question is naturally paraphrased as a sort of introduction. This is the case when a specific question contains a content phrase (imagine a lengthy question).
To demonstrate a full understanding of the topic and to kick off with confidence, candidates must learn to quickly reference the topic or issue by simply paraphrasing the question.
This is even more helpful in the sense that there should not be any pause or deadtime after the question is asked by the examiner. Paraphrasing the question saves the candidate from the low band score doom of merely repeating what the questions says verbatim.
Learn and Follow a Structure in Answering
The IELTS Speaking tasks especially Part 2 contain more than one question. The most common trouble is when candidates fail to cover one or more aspects of the whole task. When this happens examiners have no choice but to make a deduction of marks in the Task Response score.
Additionally, this could also affect the confidence – eventually compromising the other aspects of the entire Speaking performance.
Adopting a structure: what to say first, next, and so on will help the candidate to answer the question fully and avoid losing marks unnecessarily.
During your IELTS Test preparation period, establish a response structure that is most comfortable for you (a teacher or expert’s recommendation would help here). This should be strictly followed in the IELTS Speaking test. As with athletes, you show in the actual match what you have practised in the training.
Familiarising and Understanding Words through Context Clues
Students of English rely on a good dictionary to look up words and phrases. In the IELTS Speaking test, since dictionaries are not allowed, context clues are used as an alternative.
Although some books have tackled this concept, everyone is unique at being receptive with words and ideas.
Context clueing is the art of understanding a term based on what terms, phrases, or sentences come before and after it.
However, use of context clues involves more than this simplistic approach. It also includes prior knowledge, especially of vocabulary, where it improves the ability to grasp the question automatically and answer it – at the same moment it is asked.
Skill at using this technique is polished over time and with constant use. In the case of IELTS Speaking, context clueing helps when some of the words in the question or questions are not familiar.
Enriching Vocabulary through Synonyms
Many words and ideas are similar – just expressed in different ways.
Literary writers though, do not just pick the right word for the purpose of achieving variety in their prose. They pick the right word or phrase that succinctly captures the essence of what they are trying try to express.
For IELTS students, although synonyms are not 100% identical in meaning, they still help in building vocabulary through association. In IELTS Speaking, synonymous words and expressions are the ones that give your Lexical Resource (criterion) a boost. Repetition of terms is a sign of weak vocabulary.
Don’t ignore the value of Pronunciation
Pronunciation comprises a quarter of your total band score in Speaking.
Let me just let that sink in for a while, before I repeat it:
Pronunciation comprises a quarter of your total band score in Speaking.
During your IELTS Speaking preparation, while you are busy practising (with all those repetitive and constant mock interviews) and listening to lectures, reading those helpful tips, try to spend the same amount of time improving your pronunciation.
While this is not the easiest thing to do, invest time and patience in doing drills and phonetic exercises with a good teacher, and rest assured you will enter the exam room at a real advantage.
Task Response, Fluency and Coherence, Grammatical Range and Accuracy are aspects that you cannot be certain to ace all the time. With good pronunciation, you will not only secure a good portion of your band score, but will also have the confidence and eagerness to answer questions – not to mention how this will accompany you in each step of your journey in the real world.
How to prepare for the IELTS Speaking Test
Just as with Writing, every candidate needs some professional assistance to get those productive skills polished.
Do you know – really know – how good your speaking is? Who told you?
Apart from knowing the concepts and methods involved in the IELTS Speaking tasks, you need to practise with an expert – someone who does not only speak English fluently but understands how to improve your grammatical range and pronunciation.
What IELTS Speaking skills do you need?
To improve your IELTS Speaking band score there are 9 essential IELTS Speaking skills with which candidates should familiarise themselves:
- Understanding the question
- Format: planning and outlining your presentation
- Brainstorming for good ideas and opinions
- The introductory sentence
- The three points of the body: topic sentence; major and minor details
- Time Management
- Linking Devices and Expressions
- The Conclusion: restatement or summary
- Common mistakes: syntax and lexis
All the best practitioners of English – native speakers or non-native speakers – have honed their skills by practice. We have employed some of the best English teachers, examiners and exponents of the English language at www.passieltshigher.com to develop the IELTS Speaking lessons that will get students on the road to success in the IELTS Speaking Test.
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