IELTS test takers often worry the most about the speaking test (11-14 minutes), since English is not their first language. They also fear losing points even when they have done well on the other three components because of the subjective nature of the speaking test.
While this test can be daunting, I have compiled 10 things that helped me achieve a perfect score (9 out of 9) in speaking:
1. Talk a lot
Short and sharp answers are not welcome even to Yes/No questions. The purpose of the speaking test is to evaluate if you can speak properly for a relatively long period of time and express your thoughts clearly. The more you talk, the more you get the opportunity to show your skills. It will also allow the opportunity to clarify any vagueness left previously. As you speak, the brain cells responsible for speech also become more activated. Remember to avoid repeating yourself, and share more information.
2. Develop your answers
Speaking for even two minutes at a stretch is not easy, as your practice will reveal. It is imperative, then, to be able to take your ideas and responses deep and elaborate on them. Explain your answers in more detail, arranging your ideas in a natural flow just as a good story would. Use the piece of paper to make a note of things that you want to speak about. This is only applicable for the 2 minute speaking window. For the rest of the test, you need to respond to the questions asked by your evaluator.
3. Speak fluently and spontaneously
Fluency in speech is key in the test. Fumbling for words can throw you off your chain of thoughts and cause a snowball effect. You are aiming for native fluency and spontaneity. Do not overthink about what you want to say, as that will show you are trying to recall words to express your thoughts. Your thoughts should “flow” into words you speak. This is easier said than done. Only practice can help you to build this skill.
4. Avoid filler words
We do not often really hear ourselves talk, and hence do not realize how many filler words (the “ahs” and “ums”) we use. Record yourself talking for two minutes, and listen to it. If you indeed use a lot of these, you have to consciously force yourself to omit their usage. Filler words show to the listener that you have lost your train of thoughts and are now trying to put your thoughts together. This “attempt” will reduce marks.
5. Take pauses
Avoiding filler words and speaking a lot fluently does not mean talking continuously. Never speak without taking pauses. The use of pause is crucial in communication as it allows the listener to process the information just shared and make it easier to transition into the next idea. Beware, the pause is to show that you are in command and it should not, instead, show you are lost.
6. Control your vocabulary and style
The purpose here is to send the appropriate message to the listener. Speak like a native would speak. Showcasing vocabulary does not mean you use over-the-top words, but that you use the appropriate ones. Avoid the beautification one may find in works of medieval novelists. Correct sentence structure, appropriate words, and fluency are key. Your purpose is to showcase your command over grammatically correct verbal communication and relatively rich vocabulary.
7. Do not memorize and recall
The speaking test is designed to be a conversation, only with the condition that here the candidate is expected to speak disproportionately more. This is not a test for getting the “correct” answers, it is a test of how you formulate your speech. If you are found trying to recollect memorized information (it is evident if someone is), you are losing points as it undermines your ability to express your thoughts. So, when you practice, do not try to memorize answers or responses.
8. Confidently ask for clarification if needed
Mostly, listen well to understand the questions. If at any point, you did not understand what was said to you, confidently ask the interviewer to repeat himself/herself. Understanding the question correctly will allow you to respond appropriately. This is a crucial weapon, but be mindful not to use it more than once or twice.
A score is at stake, but this is no reason to be overly nervous. Being calm and confident during those few minutes is vital to your success as this will allow you to properly channel your thoughts into words. Relaxing will not only allow you to keep track of your ideas, but it will also allow you to recover from any possible fumbles or errors.
10. Practice (with official tests)
There is no alternative to preparation. When it comes to IELTS, speaking is often practiced least, if done at all. Practice answering previous IELTS questions, and record yourself doing so (this works wonders). You will discover the shortcomings, which you may overcome. The more you practice, the easier you will find to implement the previous nine points in the final.