How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: Individual sounds and syllable stress
Speaking
How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: Individual sounds and syllable stress

In my last blog post, 'How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS', we looked at what we mean by ‘good’ pronunciation in the context of the IELTS Speaking test. We looked at the criteria IELTS examiners use to assess pronunciation, and identified two scales: pronouncing words and sounds correctly (clear pronunciation), and using a range of pronunciation features (effective pronunciation). In this blog post, we are going to look in more detail at the first scale – clear pronunciation of words and sounds. This depends on two features: Your pronunciation of individual sounds (phonemes) Syllable stress Two examples To understand how phonemes and syllable stress affect your pronunciation, I’d like you to watch two videos – the first is Tina, who we also saw in my first blog post.  Start by watching the first part of the videos and answer these questions: What hobbies has Tina chosen? Why does she like shopping? {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/m0UGhSufSJk.jpg?itok=GRAh6L9z","video_url":"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0UGhSufSJk","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   What kinds of people does Xin say become famous in China? {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/lBkffRImTwE.jpg?itok=EOzE4HfE","video_url":"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBkffRImTwE","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   Tina likes shopping, picnics and volunteering, and she likes shopping because it helps her relax when she feels stressed out. Xin says actors, sports stars and rich business people become famous in China.  Now, you probably found Xin easier to understand than Tina, but why is this? Watch the first part of the videos again. What do you think makes Xin easier to understand than Tina?     The first difference between Tina and Xin is that Tina mispronounces sounds quite frequently. Firstly, the accent of her first language (L1)  affects the pronunciation of vowel sounds, so ‘time’ sounds more like ‘tam’, and ‘picnic’ sounds more like ‘peekneek’.  Secondly, Tina makes frequent errors with the pronunciation of consonant sounds: ‘interest’ sounds like ‘idrisde’; ‘shopping’ is pronounced ‘sopping’; ‘stressed’ sounds like ‘stret’. Also, like many Vietnamese speakers, she often misses the consonant sounds at the end of words: ‘clothes’ is pronounced ‘clo’; ‘think’ is pronounced ‘thing’; ‘friends’ is pronounced ‘fren’. The examiner calls this ‘systematic omission of word endings’. In contrast, Xin’s pronunciation is generally accurate and clear. He does mispronounce some sounds – for example, ‘rich’ sounds like ‘reesh’ -  but these mistakes are only occasional, and the majority of sounds are accurate.  But there is another important difference between Xin’s and Tina’s pronunciation: Xin’s stress is much clearer in words with more than one syllable. For example, the first syllable is clearly stressed in the words ‘actors’ and ‘famous’, and the second syllable is clearly stressed in ‘because’.  On the other hand, Tina’s stress in words with more than one syllable is not as  clear: in the words ‘hobby’, ‘shopping’ and ‘relax’, the syllables are evenly stressed. This is a problem because we recognise words partly because of their sounds (phonemes), but also because of their stress patterns (syllable stress). If the stress patterns of words are not clear, we have to concentrate much harder to understand what someone is saying.     Based on this performance, an IELTS examiner would say that Tina frequently mispronounces words and sounds, and this ‘cause[s] some difficulty for the listener’ (Band 4.0). Meanwhile, Xin ‘can generally be understood throughout, though mispronunciation of words or sounds reduces clarity at times’ (Band 6.0).  ‘Clear’ pronunciation (Click image to enlarge) Your pronunciation of individual sounds. If you make occasional errors with the pronunciation of vowels and consonants – like Xin – they will not have a significant effect on the clarity of your speech. However, if these errors are frequent – like Tina – the examiner is likely to find you difficult to understand.    Your syllable stress. If your syllable stress is not clear, like in Tina’s speech, the listener has to work much harder to understand what you are saying. This makes your speech unclear, even if individual sounds are accurate.  Developing ‘clarity’ (Click image to enlarge) To improve the clarity of your pronunciation, take the following steps: 1. Learn English phonemic script – the characters that represent the sounds of English. There are several apps available that will help you to do this. Learning the phonemic script has two benefits: You will be able to identify important differences between the 44 English phonemes and those in your first language. This will help you to identify the sounds you are likely to mispronounce if you are not careful. For example, the difference between ‘I’ as in ‘rich’ and ‘i:’ as in ‘reach’ does not exist in Chinese, and this may be the reason why Xin says ‘reesh’ and not ‘rich’.  You will be able to ‘read’ the correct pronunciation when you look up a word in the dictionary. Unlike many other languages, the pronunciation of English words does not follow how they are spelt. For example, the spelling of the word ‘knowledge’ – which we heard Tina pronounce correctly – tells us very little about how it is pronounced.           2. Make a note of the pronunciation – phonemes and syllable stress – when you record new vocabulary. For example, if you are recording the word ‘knowledge’, make sure you make a note of the phonemic script /ˈnɒlɪdʒ/. The ˈ symbol tells us that the first syllable /nɒ/ is stressed. You can mark the stress in the same way. Unlike many other languages, syllable stress does not follow regular patterns in English, so you have to learn it for every word.    If you are using an online or electronic dictionary, there is usually an audio recording modelling how the word is pronounced. In the example below, there are examples of both American and British pronunciation. Listen carefully and copy the variety of English you want to learn.    (Click image to enlarge) 3. Learn how to stress syllables. If we listen to the word ‘knowledge’ in the Cambridge Learners’ Dictionary, the first syllable is stressed. But how do we know it is stressed? What does the speaker’s voice do in order to create stress? If you can’t tell, try clapping the rhythm of the word. What do you notice?  You probably noticed that your first clap was loud and slow, and the second was quieter and faster. This tells us that stressed syllables are louder and longer than unstressed syllables.   However, there is one further way in which syllables are stressed: a higher tone. If you listen to the two recordings for the word ‘knowledge’, you will notice that the unstressed syllable - /lɪdʒ/ - is said with a low and flat tone. In contrast, the stressed syllable - /nɒ/ - has a higher tone. So, stressed syllables are louder and longer with a higher pitch.       What’s next? As we saw in Blog 1 in this series, the clear pronunciation of words and sounds is only one of two scales used to assess your pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test. In the next three blogs in this series, we will focus on the second scale – effective use of a range of pronunciation features - starting with word stress.   Paul  

Paul Dixon

17 August, 2021

How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: Individual sounds and syllable stress

How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: Individual sounds and syllable stress

In my last blog post, 'How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS', we looked at what we mean by ‘good’ pronunciation in the context of the IELTS Speaking test. We looked at the criteria IELTS examiners use to assess pronunciation, and identified two scales: pronouncing words and sounds correctly (clear pronunciation), and using a range of pronunciation features (effective pronunciation).

In this blog post, we are going to look in more detail at the first scale – clear pronunciation of words and sounds. This depends on two features:

  • Your pronunciation of individual sounds (phonemes)
  • Syllable stress
Two examples

To understand how phonemes and syllable stress affect your pronunciation, I’d like you to watch two videos – the first is Tina, who we also saw in my first blog post.

Start by watching the first part of the videos and answer these questions:

  • What hobbies has Tina chosen? Why does she like shopping?

 

  • What kinds of people does Xin say become famous in China?

 

Tina likes shopping, picnics and volunteering, and she likes shopping because it helps her relax when she feels stressed out. Xin says actors, sports stars and rich business people become famous in China.

Now, you probably found Xin easier to understand than Tina, but why is this? Watch the first part of the videos again. What do you think makes Xin easier to understand than Tina?

The first difference between Tina and Xin is that Tina mispronounces sounds quite frequently. Firstly, the accent of her first language (L1) affects the pronunciation of vowel sounds, so ‘time’ sounds more like ‘tam’, and ‘picnic’ sounds more like ‘peekneek’.

Secondly, Tina makes frequent errors with the pronunciation of consonant sounds: ‘interest’ sounds like ‘idrisde’; ‘shopping’ is pronounced ‘sopping’; ‘stressed’ sounds like ‘stret’. Also, like many Vietnamese speakers, she often misses the consonant sounds at the end of words: ‘clothes’ is pronounced ‘clo’; ‘think’ is pronounced ‘thing’; ‘friends’ is pronounced ‘fren’. The examiner calls this ‘systematic omission of word endings’.

In contrast, Xin’s pronunciation is generally accurate and clear. He does mispronounce some sounds – for example, ‘rich’ sounds like ‘reesh’ - but these mistakes are only occasional, and the majority of sounds are accurate.

But there is another important difference between Xin’s and Tina’s pronunciation: Xin’s stress is much clearer in words with more than one syllable. For example, the first syllable is clearly stressed in the words ‘actors’ and ‘famous’, and the second syllable is clearly stressed in ‘because’.

On the other hand, Tina’s stress in words with more than one syllable is not as clear: in the words ‘hobby’, ‘shopping’ and ‘relax’, the syllables are evenly stressed. This is a problem because we recognise words partly because of their sounds (phonemes), but also because of their stress patterns (syllable stress). If the stress patterns of words are not clear, we have to concentrate much harder to understand what someone is saying.

Based on this performance, an IELTS examiner would say that Tina frequently mispronounces words and sounds, and this ‘cause[s] some difficulty for the listener’ (Band 4.0). Meanwhile, Xin ‘can generally be understood throughout, though mispronunciation of words or sounds reduces clarity at times’ (Band 6.0).

Clear’ pronunciation

Summary of factors that contribute to clarity of words that you say

(Click image to enlarge)

  1. Your pronunciation of individual sounds. If you make occasional errors with the pronunciation of vowels and consonants – like Xin – they will not have a significant effect on the clarity of your speech. However, if these errors are frequent – like Tina – the examiner is likely to find you difficult to understand.  
  2. Your syllable stress. If your syllable stress is not clear, like in Tina’s speech, the listener has to work much harder to understand what you are saying. This makes your speech unclear, even if individual sounds are accurate.

Developing ‘clarity’

Summary of how to improve clarity of pronunciation

(Click image to enlarge)

To improve the clarity of your pronunciation, take the following steps:

1. Learn English phonemic script – the characters that represent the sounds of English. There are several apps available that will help you to do this.

Learning the phonemic script has two benefits:

  • You will be able to identify important differences between the 44 English phonemes and those in your first language. This will help you to identify the sounds you are likely to mispronounce if you are not careful. For example, the difference between ‘I’ as in ‘rich’ and ‘i:’ as in ‘reach’ does not exist in Chinese, and this may be the reason why Xin says ‘reesh’ and not ‘rich’.
  • You will be able to ‘read’ the correct pronunciation when you look up a word in the dictionary. Unlike many other languages, the pronunciation of English words does not follow how they are spelt. For example, the spelling of the word ‘knowledge’ – which we heard Tina pronounce correctly – tells us very little about how it is pronounced.

2. Make a note of the pronunciation – phonemes and syllable stress – when you record new vocabulary. For example, if you are recording the word ‘knowledge’, make sure you make a note of the phonemic script /ˈnɒlɪdʒ/. The ˈ symbol tells us that the first syllable /nɒ/ is stressed. You can mark the stress in the same way. Unlike many other languages, syllable stress does not follow regular patterns in English, so you have to learn it for every word.  

If you are using an online or electronic dictionary, there is usually an audio recording modelling how the word is pronounced. In the example below, there are examples of both American and British pronunciation. Listen carefully and copy the variety of English you want to learn.  

Definition of the word knowledge

(Click image to enlarge)

3. Learn how to stress syllables. If we listen to the word ‘knowledge’ in the Cambridge Learners’ Dictionary, the first syllable is stressed. But how do we know it is stressed? What does the speaker’s voice do in order to create stress? If you can’t tell, try clapping the rhythm of the word. What do you notice?

You probably noticed that your first clap was loud and slow, and the second was quieter and faster. This tells us that stressed syllables are louder and longer than unstressed syllables.

However, there is one further way in which syllables are stressed: a higher tone. If you listen to the two recordings for the word ‘knowledge’, you will notice that the unstressed syllable - /lɪdʒ/ - is said with a low and flat tone. In contrast, the stressed syllable - /nɒ/ - has a higher tone. So, stressed syllables are louder and longer with a higher pitch.

If you follow these three steps, you will have a good chance of getting a good score for clarity in the IELTS Speaking test.

 

What’s next?

As we saw in Blog 1 in this series, the clear pronunciation of words and sounds is only one of two scales used to assess your pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test. In the next three blogs in this series, we will focus on the second scale – effective use of a range of pronunciation features - starting with word stress.

Paul

Paul Dixon

Originally from the UK but now living in New Zealand, Paul has been helping people prepare for the IELTS test since 2005. His main teaching interests are helping learners improve their pronunciation and develop their reading skills.

More about the author

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Recommended For You

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Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: 1: ‘Good’ pronunciation
Speaking
How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: 1: ‘Good’ pronunciation

This is the first of a six-part blog series focusing on pronunciation: what 'good' pronunciation is, why it's important, and how to improve your pronunciation in preparation for your IELTS Speaking test. What is ‘good’ pronunciation? Why is it important? Before we begin, I want you to think about someone you know who you think has ‘good’ English pronunciation. Answer these two questions:  What does it mean to have ‘good’ pronunciation?  Why is ‘good’ pronunciation important?  Most people would probably answer these questions as follows: 1. ‘Good’ pronunciation means pronouncing the words and sounds of a language correctly and clearly. 2. ‘Good’ pronunciation is important because it makes it easier to understand what someone is saying. If you answered the questions in this way, then you are partly correct: ‘good’ pronunciation is important because it affects how easy it is to understand what someone is saying. However, pronouncing words and sounds correctly and clearly is only one part of ‘good’ pronunciation.   Two examples To understand why ‘good’ pronunciation means more than pronouncing words and sounds correctly, I’d like you to watch two videos. First, watch the start of the videos and answer these questions: What hobbies has Tina chosen? {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/m0UGhSufSJk.jpg?itok=GRAh6L9z","video_url":"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0UGhSufSJk","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   What kind of people does Anuradha say become famous in Malaysia? {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/6IeEgRkpIvU.jpg?itok=GmcwZHMV","video_url":"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IeEgRkpIvU","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   Tina likes shopping, picnics and volunteering; Anuradha says politicians become famous in Malaysia now.  You probably thought that Anuradha’s pronunciation is ‘better’ than Tina’s, but why is this?  Watch the first part of the videos again. What do you think makes Anuradha’s pronunciation ‘better’?   Perhaps the first thing you noticed about Tina’s speech is her strong L1 accent (an accent from her first language), which affects her pronunciation of individual words and sounds. ‘Interest’ sounds like ‘idrisde’; ‘shopping’ sounds like ‘sopping’; ‘stressed’ sounds like ‘stret’; ‘clothes’ sounds like ‘clo’ - she often misses the sounds off the end of words, in fact. The examiner comments, ‘She has a strong accent with a number of poorly formed sounds and systematic omission of word endings’.  In contrast, Anuradha does not have a strong L1 accent, which means all words and sounds are clear and easy for an English speaker to understand. The examiner comments on her ‘clear pronunciation of individual words and sounds’ making her ‘effortless to understand’.      So Anuradha’s pronunciation of words and sounds is more ‘correct’ than Tina’s, and the examiners commented on this. This is one of the reasons Anuradha achieved a Band 9.0, and Tina a Band 5.0. But is this the only reason Anuradha’s pronunciation is ‘better’? Did you notice any other differences? Use of ‘features’ If we look at the examiner’s comments on Tina’s pronunciation, they also say: The ‘rhythm’ of her speech is often ‘syllable-timed’ She speaks ‘too rapidly’ In contrast, the examiner says that Anuradha: Uses a ‘range’ of ‘features’ Has a ‘sustained’ ‘rhythm’ Uses ‘stress’ and ‘intonation’ to ‘good effect’ These are all quite technical words, so don’t worry if you don’t know what they mean at this stage – we will be looking at these terms in detail in Blogs 3-5.  However, what these comments tell us is that IELTS Speaking examiners are interested in more than your pronunciation of words and sounds. In fact, if we look at the IELTS Speaking descriptors, we can see that candidates’ speaking is assessed on two scales:     1. Pronouncing words and sounds correctly. This is closely connected to not having a strong L1 accent, and how easy a candidate is to understand. At Band 6.0 and above, candidates pronounce most words and sounds correctly, and they are generally easy to understand.   2. Using a range of pronunciation features. This is related to the terms – stress, intonation and rhythm – that we saw in the examiners’ comments about Tina’s and Anuradha’s pronunciation. At Band 6.0 and above, candidates use a range of features effectively.    ‘Good’ pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test Putting all this together, we can summarise the meaning of ‘good’ pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test as follows:    (Click to enlarge) ‘Clear’ and ‘effective’ pronunciation If you are preparing for your IELTS Speaking test and you want to improve your pronunciation, don’t worry about whether your pronunciation is ‘good’ or not, or how you can make your pronunciation ‘better’. Instead, ask the following questions: 1. Is my pronunciation clear? Do I pronounce the words and sounds of English correctly so that they are easy to understand? 2. Is my pronunciation effective? Do I use a range of pronunciation features effectively to make my message clear? Whether you answer these questions yourself, or get feedback from someone you know, the first question is probably much easier to answer than the second.  However, by the end of this Blog series, you will hopefully know the answer to both these questions, as well as what you need to do to make your pronunciation clearer and more effective.   What’s next?    In Blog 2, we will focus on what we mean by ‘clear’ pronunciation, and how you can develop it. In Blogs 3-5, we will focus on the pronunciation features we have identified – stress, intonation and rhythm – and how you can use these to communicate your message more effectively.  Paul

Paul Dixon

7 July, 2021

How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: 1: ‘Good’ pronunciation

How to improve your pronunciation for IELTS: 1: ‘Good’ pronunciation

This is the first of a six-part blog series focusing on pronunciation: what 'good' pronunciation is, why it's important, and how to improve your pronunciation in preparation for your IELTS Speaking test.

What is ‘good’ pronunciation? Why is it important?

Before we begin, I want you to think about someone you know who you think has ‘good’ English pronunciation. Answer these two questions:

  1. What does it mean to have ‘good’ pronunciation?
  2. Why is ‘good’ pronunciation important?

Most people would probably answer these questions as follows:

1. ‘Good’ pronunciation means pronouncing the words and sounds of a language correctly and clearly.

2. ‘Good’ pronunciation is important because it makes it easier to understand what someone is saying.

If you answered the questions in this way, then you are partly correct: ‘good’ pronunciation is important because it affects how easy it is to understand what someone is saying. However, pronouncing words and sounds correctly and clearly is only one part of ‘good’ pronunciation.  

Two examples

To understand why ‘good’ pronunciation means more than pronouncing words and sounds correctly, I’d like you to watch two videos.

First, watch the start of the videos and answer these questions:

  • What hobbies has Tina chosen?

 

  • What kind of people does Anuradha say become famous in Malaysia?

 

Tina likes shopping, picnics and volunteering; Anuradha says politicians become famous in Malaysia now.

You probably thought that Anuradha’s pronunciation is ‘better’ than Tina’s, but why is this? Watch the first part of the videos again. What do you think makes Anuradha’s pronunciation ‘better’?  

Perhaps the first thing you noticed about Tina’s speech is her strong L1 accent (an accent from her first language), which affects her pronunciation of individual words and sounds. ‘Interest’ sounds like ‘idrisde’; ‘shopping’ sounds like ‘sopping’; ‘stressed’ sounds like ‘stret’; ‘clothes’ sounds like ‘clo’ - she often misses the sounds off the end of words, in fact. The examiner comments, ‘She has a strong accent with a number of poorly formed sounds and systematic omission of word endings’.

In contrast, Anuradha does not have a strong L1 accent, which means all words and sounds are clear and easy for an English speaker to understand. The examiner comments on her ‘clear pronunciation of individual words and sounds’ making her ‘effortless to understand’.    

So Anuradha’s pronunciation of words and sounds is more ‘correct’ than Tina’s, and the examiners commented on this. This is one of the reasons Anuradha achieved a Band 9.0, and Tina a Band 5.0. But is this the only reason Anuradha’s pronunciation is ‘better’? Did you notice any other differences?

Use of ‘features’

If we look at the examiner’s comments on Tina’s pronunciation, they also say:

  • The ‘rhythm’ of her speech is often ‘syllable-timed’
  • She speaks ‘too rapidly’

In contrast, the examiner says that Anuradha:

  • Uses a ‘range’ of ‘features’
  • Has a ‘sustained’ ‘rhythm’
  • Uses ‘stress’ and ‘intonation’ to ‘good effect’

These are all quite technical words, so don’t worry if you don’t know what they mean at this stage – we will be looking at these terms in detail in Blogs 3-5.

However, what these comments tell us is that IELTS Speaking examiners are interested in more than your pronunciation of words and sounds. In fact, if we look at the IELTS Speaking descriptors, we can see that candidates’ speaking is assessed on two scales:    

1. Pronouncing words and sounds correctly. This is closely connected to not having a strong L1 accent, and how easy a candidate is to understand. At Band 6.0 and above, candidates pronounce most words and sounds correctly, and they are generally easy to understand.  

2. Using a range of pronunciation features. This is related to the terms – stress, intonation and rhythm – that we saw in the examiners’ comments about Tina’s and Anuradha’s pronunciation. At Band 6.0 and above, candidates use a range of features effectively.  

‘Good’ pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test

Putting all this together, we can summarise the meaning of ‘good’ pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test as follows:  

Pronunciation in the IELTS Speaking test

(Click to enlarge)

‘Clear’ and ‘effective’ pronunciation

If you are preparing for your IELTS Speaking test and you want to improve your pronunciation, don’t worry about whether your pronunciation is ‘good’ or not, or how you can make your pronunciation ‘better’. Instead, ask the following questions:

1. Is my pronunciation clear? Do I pronounce the words and sounds of English correctly so that they are easy to understand?

2. Is my pronunciation effective? Do I use a range of pronunciation features effectively to make my message clear?

Whether you answer these questions yourself, or get feedback from someone you know, the first question is probably much easier to answer than the second.

However, by the end of this Blog series, you will hopefully know the answer to both these questions, as well as what you need to do to make your pronunciation clearer and more effective.  

What’s next?   

In Blog 2, we will focus on what we mean by ‘clear’ pronunciation, and how you can develop it. In Blogs 3-5, we will focus on the pronunciation features we have identified – stress, intonation and rhythm – and how you can use these to communicate your message more effectively.

Paul

Paul Dixon

Originally from the UK but now living in New Zealand, Paul has been helping people prepare for the IELTS test since 2005. His main teaching interests are helping learners improve their pronunciation and develop their reading skills.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Preparing for IELTS Speaking Part 3
Speaking
Preparing for IELTS Speaking Part 3

The IELTS Speaking test is a face-to-face test that lasts approximately 15 minutes. Let's have a quick overview of the timings and tasks. (Click to enlarge) Today I will be talking about the third and final part of the Speaking test. If you want more detailed information about Part 1 or Part 2, take a look at my previous blogs:  Preparing for the IELTS Speaking Test Part 1  Preparing for Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Test So let’s look at Part 3 in more detail ... The final part of the IELTS Speaking test is a discussion between the candidate and the examiner. It is designed to give you a chance to speak in a more relaxed way. It lasts for 4 to 5 minutes and can be a two-way conversation. Many students feel nervous about this section of the test and worry that they won’t understand the questions. It is true that the questions will be more advanced in Part 3, but that is a positive thing. It gives you a chance to let your English language ability really shine. What is Part 3 about? Part 3 of the test will be related to the topic in Part 2. The examiner might ask you to explain the reason for something, the advantages and disadvantages, the future of something and so on. Basically, the thing to do is give an answer including your opinion and then explain why you think that. Add some real-life examples if you can too.   But what do you do if you have absolutely no idea what the examiner has asked you? Well, first, you can ask them to repeat the question, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t catch that, could you repeat the question?’. If you are still unsure and need some thinking time then say something like, ‘That’s an interesting question, let me think about that…’ or ‘ I have never really thought about that before, let me see…’ or even ‘I am not really sure but if I had to answer I would say…’  The worst thing you could do is to sit in complete silence and just not answer! In Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test you are expected to give opinions. Whether or not you have the same opinion as the examiner doesn’t matter, it is just important that you can express an opinion in clear and coherent English. Remember that you are not expected to have specialist knowledge about the subject and you are not being tested on your opinion, just your English. Well, I think/suppose/would say … I think most people would agree that … If you notice that you have made a mistake then you should definitely go back and correct it. This is what native speakers do all the time and it shows the examiner that you are able to recognize and correct your own mistakes, this is a good thing. I mean … What I meant to say was… What I want to say is … What I’m trying to say is … One way to think about the answers that you give in this part of the IELTS Speaking test is that they are more formal than an everyday conversation. The Examiner needs to hear you give a full answer. You can think of your answer fitting into this structure: Give an opinion (say what you think) Give a reason for your opinion (say why you think this) Give an example (show what you mean) Your turn… Have a go at answering some sample questions taken from the ‘The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS’. Remember to use the 3-part strategy ‘Opinion - Reason - Examples’. Do you think it’s more important to earn a large salary or to be happy in your job? Do you think some people spend too much time on their computers these days? (Why?) Pollution is a problem in many countries. What do you think governments can do about it? Remember, the examiner wants to give you the best possible mark in the test. Make sure you answer all the questions as fully as you can so that the examiner can assess your language. FREE WORKSHEET Today I am sharing some activities that will help you prepare for Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test. You will watch a video of an authentic IELTS Speaking test (Part 3) below to complete the tasks. This video is from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS which I personally think is one of the very best IELTS preparation books available today. The test taker in the video is not a native speaker, his English is not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be, when you take IELTS you are probably not aiming to get a Band Score 9 so making a few mistakes is OK.   {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/l-NtqC6Wh7s.jpg?itok=7Xu4MjGR","video_url":"https://youtu.be/l-NtqC6Wh7s","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]} Worksheet download Good luck in the test everyone. Emma

Emma Cosgrave

3 June, 2021

Preparing for IELTS Speaking Part 3

Preparing for IELTS Speaking Part 3

The IELTS Speaking test is a face-to-face test that lasts approximately 15 minutes. Let's have a quick overview of the timings and tasks.
IELTS Speaking Test

(Click to enlarge)

Today I will be talking about the third and final part of the Speaking test. If you want more detailed information about Part 1 or Part 2, take a look at my previous blogs:

So let’s look at Part 3 in more detail ...

The final part of the IELTS Speaking test is a discussion between the candidate and the examiner. It is designed to give you a chance to speak in a more relaxed way. It lasts for 4 to 5 minutes and can be a two-way conversation.

Many students feel nervous about this section of the test and worry that they won’t understand the questions. It is true that the questions will be more advanced in Part 3, but that is a positive thing. It gives you a chance to let your English language ability really shine.

What is Part 3 about?

Part 3 of the test will be related to the topic in Part 2. The examiner might ask you to explain the reason for something, the advantages and disadvantages, the future of something and so on. Basically, the thing to do is give an answer including your opinion and then explain why you think that. Add some real-life examples if you can too.

What is part 3 about

 

But what do you do if you have absolutely no idea what the examiner has asked you?

Well, first, you can ask them to repeat the question, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t catch that, could you repeat the question?’. If you are still unsure and need some thinking time then say something like, ‘That’s an interesting question, let me think about that…’ or ‘ I have never really thought about that before, let me see…’ or even ‘I am not really sure but if I had to answer I would say…’ The worst thing you could do is to sit in complete silence and just not answer!

In Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test you are expected to give opinions. Whether or not you have the same opinion as the examiner doesn’t matter, it is just important that you can express an opinion in clear and coherent English. Remember that you are not expected to have specialist knowledge about the subject and you are not being tested on your opinion, just your English.

  • Well, I think/suppose/would say …

  • I think most people would agree that …

If you notice that you have made a mistake then you should definitely go back and correct it. This is what native speakers do all the time and it shows the examiner that you are able to recognize and correct your own mistakes, this is a good thing.

  • I mean …

  • What I meant to say was…

  • What I want to say is …

  • What I’m trying to say is …

One way to think about the answers that you give in this part of the IELTS Speaking test is that they are more formal than an everyday conversation. The Examiner needs to hear you give a full answer. You can think of your answer fitting into this structure:

  • Give an opinion (say what you think)

  • Give a reason for your opinion (say why you think this)

  • Give an example (show what you mean)

Your turn…

Have a go at answering some sample questions taken from the ‘The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS’. Remember to use the 3-part strategy ‘Opinion - Reason - Examples’.

  1. Do you think it’s more important to earn a large salary or to be happy in your job?
  2. Do you think some people spend too much time on their computers these days? (Why?)
  3. Pollution is a problem in many countries. What do you think governments can do about it?

Remember, the examiner wants to give you the best possible mark in the test. Make sure you answer all the questions as fully as you can so that the examiner can assess your language.


FREE WORKSHEET

Today I am sharing some activities that will help you prepare for Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test. You will watch a video of an authentic IELTS Speaking test (Part 3) below to complete the tasks. This video is from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS which I personally think is one of the very best IELTS preparation books available today. The test taker in the video is not a native speaker, his English is not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be, when you take IELTS you are probably not aiming to get a Band Score 9 so making a few mistakes is OK.

Download_Worksheet

Worksheet download

Good luck in the test everyone.

Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

More about the author

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Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

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Improve your band score for vocabulary and grammar (Part 2)
Speaking
Improve your band score for vocabulary and grammar (Part 2)

Welcome back to this series focusing on improving your band score for vocabulary and grammar. I will be sharing an example Part 2 task, asking a Part 3 question and giving you useful language to complete the task. For those of you aiming for a band score of 7 and above, there are examples of language at this level too. IELTS Speaking Part 2 Here’s a recap if you missed the first blog. If you don’t know or don’t remember what you need to do in this part, here’s a quick summary with an example task. You’re given a task card with a topic and some prompts.  You have one minute to prepare (use the time to actually make notes and prepare).  You then speak for one to two minutes. How is the Speaking test marked?  You are awarded a band score from 1 to 9 based on certain criteria. In this blog, we’ll look only at Lexical Resource (vocabulary) and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.  Here’s the criteria you will be assessed on: (Click to enlarge) As you can see for a band score of 7 you must be able to use vocabulary flexibly to discuss a variety of topics. You must also be able to use less common and idiomatic vocabulary. For grammar you must be able to use a range of complex structures flexibly.  Band 5 always refers to limited flexibility.   If you want greater flexibility you need to be able to use more sophisticated vocabulary and grammar structures.  Here’s that example task card:  The first prompt asks you to say what the website is.  Let’s look at two responses:   As you can see, the response on the right uses less common vocabulary and a range of more complex structures: ‘I use various ...’, ‘the one that stands out for me ...’, ‘I tend to access on a weekly basis.’ Top tip The Speaking test is only 11 to 14 minutes long. You only have this window of time to show the examiner what language you can produce.  Make sure that every sentence you produce takes you closer towards a higher band score.  Here are the other prompts in the Part 2 task above. Compare the response in the Band 5 column with the response in the Band 7+ column. Remember the vocabulary and grammar criteria we looked at earlier.     As you can see the Band 5 response answers the question well and communicates the message. However, when you compare it to a band 7+ response it is easy to see why one is better than the other. They are both communicating exactly the same message but the language and structures in Band 7+ are far more sophisticated and advanced. Why not download and print off the above responses and highlight the different vocabulary, collocations and grammar structures to see the difference? Compare your highlights to the ones here. IELTS Speaking Part 3 Here’s a quick summary again. In this part, you and the examiner have a conversation about more abstract issues but still linked to the topic in Part 2. The discussion takes about four or five minutes. Here’s an example question that relates to the task above: “What are some possible disadvantages of buying things from online shops?” Let’s have a look at some of the vocabulary you could use to answer this question. Disadvantages Can’t see the quality Can’t see the size Have to give personal details Not safe Don’t get the product immediately Don’t know who you’re buying from Here are the above points using more advanced vocabulary and structures: Can’t verify the quality of the product Unclear dimensions or sizing charts Have to divulge personal data Not secure – open to your personal data being used fraudulently Delayed enjoyment of the product Difficult to determine the seller’s identity Listen to an audio of the above being used in response to the original question: “What are some possible disadvantages of buying things from online shops?”   Notice how the above language is used in context. Use the audio to practice your pronunciation of the above language. Listen and pause and repeat as many times as necessary! My Top tips: try completing the Part 2 task and answering the Part 3 question above use some of the language highlighted as Band 7+ record yourself listen back and give yourself feedback on the vocabulary and structures used     repeat the exercise and this time really focus on using the highlighted Band 7+ language... record yourself once more notice how many new words and expressions you’ve used Happy practising! Liz

Liz Marqueiro

6 April, 2021

Improve your band score for vocabulary and grammar (Part 2)

Improve your band score for vocabulary and grammar (Part 2)

Welcome back to this series focusing on improving your band score for vocabulary and grammar. I will be sharing an example Part 2 task, asking a Part 3 question and giving you useful language to complete the task.

For those of you aiming for a band score of 7 and above, there are examples of language at this level too.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Here’s a recap if you missed the first blog.

If you don’t know or don’t remember what you need to do in this part, here’s a quick summary with an example task.

  1. You’re given a task card with a topic and some prompts.
  2. You have one minute to prepare (use the time to actually make notes and prepare).
  3. You then speak for one to two minutes.

How is the Speaking test marked?

You are awarded a band score from 1 to 9 based on certain criteria. In this blog, we’ll look only at Lexical Resource (vocabulary) and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

Here’s the criteria you will be assessed on:

Speaking Criteria

(Click to enlarge)

As you can see for a band score of 7 you must be able to use vocabulary flexibly to discuss a variety of topics. You must also be able to use less common and idiomatic vocabulary. For grammar you must be able to use a range of complex structures flexibly.

Band 5 always refers to limited flexibility.  

If you want greater flexibility you need to be able to use more sophisticated vocabulary and grammar structures.

Here’s that example task card:

Example Task Card from page 53 of IELTS 15 General Training

The first prompt asks you to say what the website is.

Let’s look at two responses:

Two example responses

 

As you can see, the response on the right uses less common vocabulary and a range of more complex structures: ‘I use various ...’, ‘the one that stands out for me ...’, ‘I tend to access on a weekly basis.’


Top tip

The Speaking test is only 11 to 14 minutes long. You only have this window of time to show the examiner what language you can produce.

Make sure that every sentence you produce takes you closer towards a higher band score.

Here are the other prompts in the Part 2 task above. Compare the response in the Band 5 column with the response in the Band 7+ column. Remember the vocabulary and grammar criteria we looked at earlier.

Responses by band score

 

As you can see the Band 5 response answers the question well and communicates the message. However, when you compare it to a band 7+ response it is easy to see why one is better than the other. They are both communicating exactly the same message but the language and structures in Band 7+ are far more sophisticated and advanced.

Why not download and print off the above responses and highlight the different vocabulary, collocations and grammar structures to see the difference?

Compare your highlights to the ones here.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Here’s a quick summary again.

In this part, you and the examiner have a conversation about more abstract issues but still linked to the topic in Part 2. The discussion takes about four or five minutes. Here’s an example question that relates to the task above:

“What are some possible disadvantages of buying things from online shops?”

Let’s have a look at some of the vocabulary you could use to answer this question.

Disadvantages

  • Can’t see the quality
  • Can’t see the size
  • Have to give personal details
  • Not safe
  • Don’t get the product immediately
  • Don’t know who you’re buying from

Here are the above points using more advanced vocabulary and structures:

  • Can’t verify the quality of the product
  • Unclear dimensions or sizing charts
  • Have to divulge personal data
  • Not secure – open to your personal data being used fraudulently
  • Delayed enjoyment of the product
  • Difficult to determine the seller’s identity

Listen to an audio of the above being used in response to the original question:

“What are some possible disadvantages of buying things from online shops?”

 

Notice how the above language is used in context. Use the audio to practice your pronunciation of the above language. Listen and pause and repeat as many times as necessary!

My Top tips:

  • try completing the Part 2 task and answering the Part 3 question above
  • use some of the language highlighted as Band 7+
  • record yourself
  • listen back and give yourself feedback on the vocabulary and structures used   
  • repeat the exercise and this time really focus on using the highlighted Band 7+ language... record yourself once more
  • notice how many new words and expressions you’ve used

Happy practising!

Liz

Liz Marqueiro

Liz has been teaching IELTS around the world for over 25 years.

More about the author

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Developing cohesion and coherence for the IELTS Speaking test
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Developing cohesion and coherence for the IELTS Speaking test

In this post, we will focus on cohesion and coherence in speaking and how improving these can help you to improve your score in the IELTS Speaking test. What do we mean by ‘cohesion’ and ‘coherence’ in speaking? Both are related to how you organise your ideas when speaking. ‘Cohesion’ describes the methods used to link words and ideas together. You often do this by using specific words and phrases called ‘cohesive devices’. ‘Coherence’ describes the quality of being easy to understand. Even if a text or presentation is ‘cohesive’, it will only be ‘coherent’, if the ideas make sense and are clearly linked to one another.  What are some common features of cohesion in speaking? One cohesive device that is probably familiar to you is linking words or ‘linkers’. These can be used to link ideas together in either spoken or written English and have a range of different functions. For example:   Linkers used in speaking are usually simpler and more informal than those used in writing. Furthermore, there are some cohesive devices that we would use when speaking, but that would be too informal for writing. These are often called ‘discourse markers’. If you can learn to use these correctly, they can make you sound more natural in English. For example:   It is important to understand how to use these discourse markers. Keeping a list of example sentences for when to use new discourse markers can help you to learn to use them correctly. For example: (Click to enlarge) Why are cohesion and coherence important for my IELTS Speaking score?  Cohesion and coherence are assessed under ‘Fluency and Coherence’ in the IELTS Speaking descriptors. A Band 9 candidate ‘speaks coherently with fully appropriate cohesive features’, while a Band 7 candidate ‘uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility’. A Band 6 candidate ‘uses a range of connective and discourse markers, but not always appropriately’, while a Band 5 candidate ‘may overuse certain connectives and discourse markers.’ What can I do to practise using features of cohesion in speaking? 1. Learn a range of discourse markers and practise using them  Starting a list of useful discourse markers with example sentences will help you speak more cohesively and naturally. Listen for discourse markers that people use when they are speaking. You could listen to sample IELTS speaking test tasks (and look at the transcripts). Make a note of how they used it and then write down your own example. Then practise using them, both when you are doing IELTS speaking practice and when you are speaking to anyone in English.  2. Reflect on which discourse markers you feel more or less confident about using Using familiar discourse markers when speaking will help you to feel more confident, but you want to avoid overusing them. Think about the ones you use often and then ones you would like to use more. Record yourself giving a task 2 speaking presentation if you don't know which connectives you use. Check your understanding of the meaning and write down an example of when you would use it. You may find it helpful at first to record yourself saying these example sentences so you can get used to them.  3. Record, listen and play back Once you are feeling more confident about using a range of discourse markers, record yourself responding to an IELTS Speaking question. You could do this with a friend, so that one of you asks the question and the other responds. Then play back the recording and pay attention to the linkers and discourse markers you have used. Did you use them appropriately? Do you overuse certain discourse markers? Make a note of any points that you need to improve and continue to practice.  Hope you found this useful! You can find the rest of my series here. Lucy {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/g_BmfLcuboY.jpg?itok=cBDTZ9KQ","video_url":"https://youtu.be/g_BmfLcuboY","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}

Lucy Passmore

31 March, 2021

Developing cohesion and coherence for the IELTS Speaking test

Developing cohesion and coherence for the IELTS Speaking test

In this post, we will focus on cohesion and coherence in speaking and how improving these can help you to improve your score in the IELTS Speaking test.

What do we mean by ‘cohesion’ and ‘coherence’ in speaking?

Both are related to how you organise your ideas when speaking. ‘Cohesion’ describes the methods used to link words and ideas together. You often do this by using specific words and phrases called ‘cohesive devices’. ‘Coherence’ describes the quality of being easy to understand. Even if a text or presentation is ‘cohesive’, it will only be ‘coherent’, if the ideas make sense and are clearly linked to one another.

What are some common features of cohesion in speaking?

One cohesive device that is probably familiar to you is linking words or ‘linkers’. These can be used to link ideas together in either spoken or written English and have a range of different functions. For example:

Adding ideas and contrasting ideas

 

Linkers used in speaking are usually simpler and more informal than those used in writing. Furthermore, there are some cohesive devices that we would use when speaking, but that would be too informal for writing. These are often called ‘discourse markers’. If you can learn to use these correctly, they can make you sound more natural in English. For example:

Examples

 

It is important to understand how to use these discourse markers. Keeping a list of example sentences for when to use new discourse markers can help you to learn to use them correctly. For example:

Cue Card Example

(Click to enlarge)

Why are cohesion and coherence important for my IELTS Speaking score?

Cohesion and coherence are assessed under ‘Fluency and Coherence’ in the IELTS Speaking descriptors. A Band 9 candidate ‘speaks coherently with fully appropriate cohesive features’, while a Band 7 candidate ‘uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility’. A Band 6 candidate ‘uses a range of connective and discourse markers, but not always appropriately’, while a Band 5 candidate ‘may overuse certain connectives and discourse markers.’

What can I do to practise using features of cohesion in speaking?

1. Learn a range of discourse markers and practise using them

Starting a list of useful discourse markers with example sentences will help you speak more cohesively and naturally. Listen for discourse markers that people use when they are speaking. You could listen to sample IELTS speaking test tasks (and look at the transcripts). Make a note of how they used it and then write down your own example. Then practise using them, both when you are doing IELTS speaking practice and when you are speaking to anyone in English.

2. Reflect on which discourse markers you feel more or less confident about using

Using familiar discourse markers when speaking will help you to feel more confident, but you want to avoid overusing them. Think about the ones you use often and then ones you would like to use more. Record yourself giving a task 2 speaking presentation if you don't know which connectives you use. Check your understanding of the meaning and write down an example of when you would use it. You may find it helpful at first to record yourself saying these example sentences so you can get used to them.

3. Record, listen and play back

Once you are feeling more confident about using a range of discourse markers, record yourself responding to an IELTS Speaking question. You could do this with a friend, so that one of you asks the question and the other responds. Then play back the recording and pay attention to the linkers and discourse markers you have used. Did you use them appropriately? Do you overuse certain discourse markers? Make a note of any points that you need to improve and continue to practice.

Hope you found this useful! You can find the rest of my series here.

Lucy

Lucy Passmore

Lucy has been teaching IELTS for more than 10 years at language schools and universities across London. She has also contributed to the Mindset for IELTS course book series for Cambridge University Press, working on writing units for the Students’ Books, a Teachers’ book and additional online practice tasks.

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Talking about Winter Sports
Speaking
Talking about Winter Sports

What was the last sport you played? Do you prefer to play team sports or exercise alone? What is the most popular sport in your country? Sport is a topic that often comes up in the IELTS test, so today let's talk about winter sports. Possibly the most well-known winter sport is downhill skiing. You go up the mountain on a cable car or a chair lift and then you travel back down the ski slope or piste on skis. You might go over a mogul field or even do a bit of slalom as you go down too. There are usually lots of routes that you can take down a mountain that are colour-coded according to how difficult they are. You start on the nursery slopes learning how to balance and importantly turn and stop, then, work your way through blue, red, and black runs. As you get better at the sport you ski down steeper and steeper routes.  There are other types of skiing such as ski jumping which involves skiing off a specially made hill into the air to do special tricks or to see how far you can travel before landing. It is fun to watch but I think that I would be really scared to try it myself. Cross-country skiing is another form of skiing that is done across long, relatively flat, distances. The equipment that you use is slightly different to regular skiing, you can move your foot in more of a walking action, lifting your heel from the ski. It is a slower paced form of skiing and is a great way to take in the beautiful scenery of an area. Snowboarding is another extremely popular winter sport. It is different from skiing in lots of ways. While skiing uses two long thin boards (or skis) under each foot, snowboarding uses one wide board under both feet. You stand sideways on a snowboard and you don’t use ski poles. It is more like surfing or skateboarding on snow. Snowboarders often do amazing jumps and tricks. Skiing and snowboarding are both extreme sports; they are dangerous, exhilarating and perfect for adrenaline junkies! You don’t need to travel to the mountains for all winter sports. Take ice skating for example, it is an activity done both indoors and outdoors. In many countries ice skating takes place on frozen lakes, ponds and rivers outdoors or indoors in an ice rink. It can be a gentle sport but if you have ever watched the Winter Olympics you will have seen the amazing ice dance routines that seem to defy the laws of gravity at times. Ice hockey is another winter sport that is played on ice either outdoors or indoors. Unlike ice skating, ice hockey is a team sport. Each team is trying to get the ‘puck’ (like the ball but a flat shape) into the goal to score. The players wear a lot of protective clothing to play because they skate really fast and can get hurt easily. Another fun winter activity in the snow is sledging. We often think of only children sledging, but adults can have a lot of fun doing it too. All you need is a hill, some snow and a sledge. You can even make your own sledge using whatever you can find; an old tray, some spare wood, anything you can sit on to slide down the hill. I love sledging, it is so much fun! Of course, you don’t have to speed down a hill or skate on ice to enjoy the cold weather. Building a snowman, having a snowball fight or even just going for a walk and being the first to make footprints in the snow is just as fun. In my opinion, the very best part of any winter activity is coming home and warming up by the fire with a big mug of hot chocolate. Have you tried any of the winter sports we have talked about today? If you haven’t, which would you like to have a go at? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram. Remember to use the correct collocations when you talk about sports. (Click to enlarge) Emma

Emma Cosgrave

17 March, 2021

Talking about Winter Sports

Talking about Winter Sports

What was the last sport you played? Do you prefer to play team sports or exercise alone? What is the most popular sport in your country? Sport is a topic that often comes up in the IELTS test, so today let's talk about winter sports.

Possibly the most well-known winter sport is downhill skiing. You go up the mountain on a cable car or a chair lift and then you travel back down the ski slope or piste on skis. You might go over a mogul field or even do a bit of slalom as you go down too. There are usually lots of routes that you can take down a mountain that are colour-coded according to how difficult they are. You start on the nursery slopes learning how to balance and importantly turn and stop, then, work your way through blue, red, and black runs. As you get better at the sport you ski down steeper and steeper routes.

There are other types of skiing such as ski jumping which involves skiing off a specially made hill into the air to do special tricks or to see how far you can travel before landing. It is fun to watch but I think that I would be really scared to try it myself. Cross-country skiing is another form of skiing that is done across long, relatively flat, distances. The equipment that you use is slightly different to regular skiing, you can move your foot in more of a walking action, lifting your heel from the ski. It is a slower paced form of skiing and is a great way to take in the beautiful scenery of an area.

Snowboarding is another extremely popular winter sport. It is different from skiing in lots of ways. While skiing uses two long thin boards (or skis) under each foot, snowboarding uses one wide board under both feet. You stand sideways on a snowboard and you don’t use ski poles. It is more like surfing or skateboarding on snow. Snowboarders often do amazing jumps and tricks. Skiing and snowboarding are both extreme sports; they are dangerous, exhilarating and perfect for adrenaline junkies!

You don’t need to travel to the mountains for all winter sports. Take ice skating for example, it is an activity done both indoors and outdoors. In many countries ice skating takes place on frozen lakes, ponds and rivers outdoors or indoors in an ice rink. It can be a gentle sport but if you have ever watched the Winter Olympics you will have seen the amazing ice dance routines that seem to defy the laws of gravity at times. Ice hockey is another winter sport that is played on ice either outdoors or indoors. Unlike ice skating, ice hockey is a team sport. Each team is trying to get the ‘puck’ (like the ball but a flat shape) into the goal to score. The players wear a lot of protective clothing to play because they skate really fast and can get hurt easily.

Another fun winter activity in the snow is sledging. We often think of only children sledging, but adults can have a lot of fun doing it too. All you need is a hill, some snow and a sledge. You can even make your own sledge using whatever you can find; an old tray, some spare wood, anything you can sit on to slide down the hill. I love sledging, it is so much fun!

Of course, you don’t have to speed down a hill or skate on ice to enjoy the cold weather. Building a snowman, having a snowball fight or even just going for a walk and being the first to make footprints in the snow is just as fun. In my opinion, the very best part of any winter activity is coming home and warming up by the fire with a big mug of hot chocolate.

Have you tried any of the winter sports we have talked about today? If you haven’t, which would you like to have a go at? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram.

Remember to use the correct collocations when you talk about sports.

Collocations for Winter Sports

(Click to enlarge)

Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

More about the author

filter tags

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Improve your band score for vocabulary and grammar
Speaking
Improve your band score for vocabulary and grammar (Part 1)

Everybody wants the chance to do well in the IELTS Speaking test. This blog is here to help you improve your band score. This blog will give you an example Part 2 task, ask a Part 3 question and give you the correct language you can use to complete the task. IELTS Speaking Part 2 – What is it?  If you don’t know or don’t remember what you need to do in this part, here’s a quick summary with an example task. You’re given a task card with a topic and some prompts.  You have one minute to prepare (use the time to actually make notes and prepare).  You then speak for one to two minutes. How is the Speaking test marked?  You are awarded a band score from 1 to 9 based on certain criteria. In this blog, we’ll look only at Lexical Resource (vocabulary) and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.  Here’s the criteria you will be assessed on: (Click to enlarge) As you can see for a band score of 7 you must be able to use vocabulary flexibly to discuss a variety of topics. You must also be able to use less common and idiomatic vocabulary. For grammar you must be able to use a range of complex structures flexibly.  Band 5 always refers to limited flexibility.   If you want greater flexibility you need to be able to use more sophisticated vocabulary and grammar structures.  Here’s that example task card:  (Click to enlarge) The first prompt asks you to say where the hotel is.  Let’s look at two responses: The hotel I’m going to talk about is in Thailand. The hotel that springs to mind, is in Krabi which is situated in southern Thailand. Which of these responses shows a use of less common vocabulary and greater flexibility in vocabulary and grammar? I think you’ll agree it’s the one on the right.    Here are the other prompts in the Part 2 task. Compare the response in the Band 5 column with the response in the Band 7+ column. Remember the vocabulary and grammar criteria we looked at earlier.   (Click to enlarge) If you feel that the language you produce is more like the language in Band 5 above, then look at the band 7+ column and highlight the language and grammar structures. Try using them yourself to improve your answer to the Part 2 task above.  IELTS Speaking Part 3 - What is it? Here’s a quick summary. In this part you and the examiner have a conversation about more abstract issues but still linked to the topic in Part 2. The discussion takes about four or five minutes. Here’s an example question that relates to the task above: “Do you think hotel work is a good career for life?” Here’s an example response to this question. Listen and decide if you think this is more like a Band 5 answer OR a Band 7+ answer.  Now compare that answer with this one. The first audio is a Band 5 response. The second audio is a Band 7+. Listen to it again and see if you can hear the following: It’s completely dependent on … long term goals professional development may start off thinking … not a very secure career All of the above show vocabulary being used flexibly. There’s also use of less common and idiomatic vocabulary. In terms of grammar, there’s a range of complex structures used flexibly. Top tip: try completing the Part 2 task and answering the Part 3 question above use some of the language highlighted as Band 7+ record yourself do it again record yourself notice how many new words and expressions you’ve used.  Happy practising! Liz

Liz Marqueiro

10 February, 2021

Improve your band score for vocabulary and grammar (Part 1)

Improve your band score for vocabulary and grammar

Everybody wants the chance to do well in the IELTS Speaking test. This blog is here to help you improve your band score. This blog will give you an example Part 2 task, ask a Part 3 question and give you the correct language you can use to complete the task.

IELTS Speaking Part 2 – What is it?

If you don’t know or don’t remember what you need to do in this part, here’s a quick summary with an example task.

  1. You’re given a task card with a topic and some prompts.
  2. You have one minute to prepare (use the time to actually make notes and prepare).
  3. You then speak for one to two minutes.

How is the Speaking test marked?

You are awarded a band score from 1 to 9 based on certain criteria. In this blog, we’ll look only at Lexical Resource (vocabulary) and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

Here’s the criteria you will be assessed on:

Speaking Criteria

(Click to enlarge)

As you can see for a band score of 7 you must be able to use vocabulary flexibly to discuss a variety of topics. You must also be able to use less common and idiomatic vocabulary. For grammar you must be able to use a range of complex structures flexibly.

Band 5 always refers to limited flexibility.  

If you want greater flexibility you need to be able to use more sophisticated vocabulary and grammar structures.

Here’s that example task card:

Speaking Part 2 from IELTS 15 Academic

(Click to enlarge)

The first prompt asks you to say where the hotel is.

Let’s look at two responses:

The hotel I’m going to talk about is in Thailand.

The hotel that springs to mind, is in Krabi which is situated in southern Thailand.

Which of these responses shows a use of less common vocabulary and greater flexibility in vocabulary and grammar? I think you’ll agree it’s the one on the right.

 

Here are the other prompts in the Part 2 task. Compare the response in the Band 5 column with the response in the Band 7+ column. Remember the vocabulary and grammar criteria we looked at earlier.  

IELTS Speaking Prompts

(Click to enlarge)

If you feel that the language you produce is more like the language in Band 5 above, then look at the band 7+ column and highlight the language and grammar structures. Try using them yourself to improve your answer to the Part 2 task above.

IELTS Speaking Part 3 - What is it?

Here’s a quick summary.

In this part you and the examiner have a conversation about more abstract issues but still linked to the topic in Part 2. The discussion takes about four or five minutes. Here’s an example question that relates to the task above:

“Do you think hotel work is a good career for life?”

Here’s an example response to this question. Listen and decide if you think this is more like a Band 5 answer OR a Band 7+ answer.

Now compare that answer with this one.

The first audio is a Band 5 response. The second audio is a Band 7+.

Listen to it again and see if you can hear the following:

  • It’s completely dependent on …
  • long term goals
  • professional development
  • may start off thinking …
  • not a very secure career

All of the above show vocabulary being used flexibly. There’s also use of less common and idiomatic vocabulary. In terms of grammar, there’s a range of complex structures used flexibly.

Top tip:

  • try completing the Part 2 task and answering the Part 3 question above
  • use some of the language highlighted as Band 7+
  • record yourself
  • do it again
  • record yourself
  • notice how many new words and expressions you’ve used.

Happy practising!

Liz

top-tip

Every single question the examiner asks you is an opportunity for you to show the language you have available to you. Make every sentence you produce count towards a higher band score. 

Liz Marqueiro

Liz has been teaching IELTS around the world for over 25 years.

More about the author

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IELTS 15 Academic

IELTS 15 Academic contains four practice tests EXACTLY like the real exam. It comes with audio scripts, answer keys and sample Writing answers. A new downloadable Resource Bank includes extra sample Writing answers, a sample Speaking test video and answer keys with additional explanations. QR codes in the book provide quick access to the audio and video content.  This book gives you an excellent opportunity to familiarise yourself with the test format and practise exam techniques using real-to-life test material written by the test makers (Cambridge Assessment English).  Also available for IELTS General Training *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

A year of We Love IELTS – your tip picks for IELTS Speaking
Speaking
A year of We Love IELTS – your top picks for IELTS Speaking

We know 2020 has been a strange year for most of us! Let's talk about the positives, with We Love IELTS launching in February, we hope we have been a great support to you when preparing for your IELTS Test.  We have spoken to thousands of you and over a million of you have joined us on this new platform. We are grateful to our growing community and know many of you will be new here. We thought what better time to share your top blogs for IELTS Speaking:  1. Prepare for IELTS Speaking with our new podcast  Did you know that we have a We Love IELTS podcast? It seems like many of you do as our most popular blog post of 2020 told you all about it. Our first series covers frequently asked questions, top tips for each part of the IELTS test and looks at each section of the Speaking test in detail. Watch this space for news on our new series launching in the New Year.  READ MORE 2. Preparing for the IELTS Speaking test part 1  In this popular blog post of 2020, IELTS expert Emma shares what to expect in the Speaking test part 1 and explains how to prepare for it. She also shares an IELTS topic list for you to download and some general questions for you to practise with. Read the blog post to find out all you need to know. READ MORE 3. IELTS Speaking Game: Don’t say it  In the IELTS Speaking test, showing you can keep up a conversation if you don't know a word is as important, or maybe even more important, as knowing the right word. This game by IELTS expert Liz, can help you if you forget the one word you need in the test. Find out more by reading this blog post and play the game today.  READ MORE 4. How to become more fluent for IELTS Speaking To achieve a good band score in the IELTS Speaking test, you need to demonstrate a level of fluency when speaking. Find out how to boost your fluency with IELTS author Lucy in this fourth most popular blog post of 2020.  READ MORE Enjoy!   

We Love IELTS

18 December, 2020

A year of We Love IELTS – your top picks for IELTS Speaking

A year of We Love IELTS – your tip picks for IELTS Speaking

We know 2020 has been a strange year for most of us! Let's talk about the positives, with We Love IELTS launching in February, we hope we have been a great support to you when preparing for your IELTS Test.

We have spoken to thousands of you and over a million of you have joined us on this new platform. We are grateful to our growing community and know many of you will be new here. We thought what better time to share your top blogs for IELTS Speaking:

1. Prepare for IELTS Speaking with our new podcast

Did you know that we have a We Love IELTS podcast? It seems like many of you do as our most popular blog post of 2020 told you all about it. Our first series covers frequently asked questions, top tips for each part of the IELTS test and looks at each section of the Speaking test in detail. Watch this space for news on our new series launching in the New Year.

READ MORE

2. Preparing for the IELTS Speaking test part 1

In this popular blog post of 2020, IELTS expert Emma shares what to expect in the Speaking test part 1 and explains how to prepare for it. She also shares an IELTS topic list for you to download and some general questions for you to practise with. Read the blog post to find out all you need to know.

READ MORE

3. IELTS Speaking Game: Don’t say it

In the IELTS Speaking test, showing you can keep up a conversation if you don't know a word is as important, or maybe even more important, as knowing the right word. This game by IELTS expert Liz, can help you if you forget the one word you need in the test. Find out more by reading this blog post and play the game today.

READ MORE

4. How to become more fluent for IELTS Speaking

To achieve a good band score in the IELTS Speaking test, you need to demonstrate a level of fluency when speaking. Find out how to boost your fluency with IELTS author Lucy in this fourth most popular blog post of 2020.

READ MORE

Enjoy!

IELTS Listening Top Picks

 

IELTS Speaking Blogs

We Love IELTS

We Love IELTS gives IELTS test takers all the preparation materials and advice they need for success.

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Essential Pronunciation in IELTS Speaking
Speaking
Essential Pronunciation in IELTS Speaking

In this post, I will focus on the speaking subskill of pronunciation.    How is pronunciation tested in the IELTS Speaking test? The descriptor Pronunciation assesses 3 main areas of pronunciation.  The range of pronunciation features you use. When you look at the individual band scores for the descriptors, you'll see phrases such as ‘uses a full range of features’ in band 9, ‘a range’ in band 6 and ‘a limited range’ in band 4.  The level of control you have over these features. For example, you'll see the phrase ‘sustains flexible use’ in bands 8 and 9 and ‘lapses are frequent’ in band 4. How easy your pronunciation is to understand. For example, a band 9 candidate would be ‘effortless to understand’ while a band 6 candidate ‘can be generally understood, though mispronunciation of individual words and sounds reduces clarity at times’.  Which features of pronunciation are tested To get a good score for pronunciation, it’s important to be familiar with the different features of pronunciation that are assessed in the IELTS Speaking test. Below is a summary of all the different features you'll need to be aware of…and practise! Accuracy: This is often related to your use of individual sounds. There are three main types of sounds in English – vowels, consonants and diphthongs. You can learn more about these by studying the phonemic chart. It’s quite likely that there’ll be certain sounds in English that you‘ll find more difficult to produce accurately than others, and this will normally be related to your first language. For example, it may be that a specific sound does not exist in your first language.  Word stress: This means placing the stress or emphasis on the correct syllable in a word – for example, the word computer has three syllables and the stress is placed on the second syllable – comPUter. Your use of word stress can affect how easy you are to understand. Sentence stress: This involves the individual word or words in a sentence that you choose to emphasise. It’s different from word stress in that it’s used to convey meaning. For example, in the phrase ‘she called you yesterday’, we could choose to stress the word ‘you’, to make it clear that you are the person she called, or ‘yesterday’ to make it clear which day it was. Weak sounds: English words contain a lot of weak syllable sounds, (represented by the phonetic symbol called the ‘schwa’ /ə/). You can hear this sound in the first syllable of the word ‘about’. Knowing which syllables in a word have these sounds can make your English pronunciation sound more natural.  Intonation: Intonation describes the way in which our voice rises and falls when we speak. The main issue students are likely to face with intonation is sounding ‘flat’ or ‘monotone’ due to not having enough variety of intonation. This can be the result of speaking a language which has less varied intonation, but also from reciting a prepared script.  What resources can I use to improve my pronunciation for the IELTS Speaking Test? 1. Use model answers as a resource for practising pronunciation Both the recordings of model answers or the printed tape scripts that you find in the back of your IELTS coursebook can be great resources for working on your pronunciation. If you’re using a recording, you could practise listening out for a particular feature (such as sentence stress or weak sounds), note them down and then practise saying them yourself. Or you could practise marking up a feature of pronunciation on a printed script (e.g. highlight all the words that you think the speaker will stress) and then listen, check and practise.  2. Record yourself speaking Recording yourself talking about a typical IELTS Speaking topic and then listening out for both good examples of the features of pronunciation as well as any errors can be a very effective way of improving your pronunciation. You may find it easier to swap recordings with a friend and to correct each other, as it can be difficult to recognise mistakes in your own speaking. 3. Use speech recognition software As an alternative to recording yourself, you could use a free speech recognition software, such as Speechnotes to identify your pronunciation errors. To use Speechnotes, you speak into a microphone, and a transcript of what you are saying appears on the screen. Do be aware that voice recognition software is not always 100% accurate; however, it can still be a useful way of identifying words that you may be mispronouncing.  And finally… Pronunciation may not receive as much attention as fluency, vocabulary and grammar, particularly in IELTS coursebooks, but remember that it’s still worth 25% of your Speaking test score, and taking a bit of time to work on it could really boost your score! I hope you enjoyed this series on Speaking! If you have any questions or comments please do share these with us on Facebook or Instagram. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for how I can help you. Lucy

Lucy Passmore

25 November, 2020

Essential Pronunciation in IELTS Speaking

Essential Pronunciation in IELTS Speaking

In this post, I will focus on the speaking subskill of pronunciation. 

 

How is pronunciation tested in the IELTS Speaking test?

The descriptor Pronunciation assesses 3 main areas of pronunciation. 

  1. The range of pronunciation features you use. When you look at the individual band scores for the descriptors, you'll see phrases such as ‘uses a full range of features’ in band 9, ‘a range’ in band 6 and ‘a limited range’ in band 4. 
  2. The level of control you have over these features. For example, you'll see the phrase ‘sustains flexible use’ in bands 8 and 9 and ‘lapses are frequent’ in band 4.
  3. How easy your pronunciation is to understand. For example, a band 9 candidate would be ‘effortless to understand’ while a band 6 candidate ‘can be generally understood, though mispronunciation of individual words and sounds reduces clarity at times’. 

Which features of pronunciation are tested

To get a good score for pronunciation, it’s important to be familiar with the different features of pronunciation that are assessed in the IELTS Speaking test. Below is a summary of all the different features you'll need to be aware of…and practise!

  • Accuracy: This is often related to your use of individual sounds. There are three main types of sounds in English – vowels, consonants and diphthongs. You can learn more about these by studying the phonemic chart. It’s quite likely that there’ll be certain sounds in English that you‘ll find more difficult to produce accurately than others, and this will normally be related to your first language. For example, it may be that a specific sound does not exist in your first language. 
  • Word stress: This means placing the stress or emphasis on the correct syllable in a word – for example, the word computer has three syllables and the stress is placed on the second syllable – comPUter. Your use of word stress can affect how easy you are to understand.
  • Sentence stress: This involves the individual word or words in a sentence that you choose to emphasise. It’s different from word stress in that it’s used to convey meaning. For example, in the phrase ‘she called you yesterday’, we could choose to stress the word ‘you’, to make it clear that you are the person she called, or ‘yesterday’ to make it clear which day it was.
  • Weak sounds: English words contain a lot of weak syllable sounds, (represented by the phonetic symbol called the ‘schwa’ /ə/). You can hear this sound in the first syllable of the word ‘about’. Knowing which syllables in a word have these sounds can make your English pronunciation sound more natural. 
  • Intonation: Intonation describes the way in which our voice rises and falls when we speak. The main issue students are likely to face with intonation is sounding ‘flat’ or ‘monotone’ due to not having enough variety of intonation. This can be the result of speaking a language which has less varied intonation, but also from reciting a prepared script. 

What resources can I use to improve my pronunciation for the IELTS Speaking Test?

1. Use model answers as a resource for practising pronunciation

Both the recordings of model answers or the printed tape scripts that you find in the back of your IELTS coursebook can be great resources for working on your pronunciation. If you’re using a recording, you could practise listening out for a particular feature (such as sentence stress or weak sounds), note them down and then practise saying them yourself. Or you could practise marking up a feature of pronunciation on a printed script (e.g. highlight all the words that you think the speaker will stress) and then listen, check and practise. 

2. Record yourself speaking

Recording yourself talking about a typical IELTS Speaking topic and then listening out for both good examples of the features of pronunciation as well as any errors can be a very effective way of improving your pronunciation. You may find it easier to swap recordings with a friend and to correct each other, as it can be difficult to recognise mistakes in your own speaking.

3. Use speech recognition software

As an alternative to recording yourself, you could use a free speech recognition software, such as Speechnotes to identify your pronunciation errors. To use Speechnotes, you speak into a microphone, and a transcript of what you are saying appears on the screen. Do be aware that voice recognition software is not always 100% accurate; however, it can still be a useful way of identifying words that you may be mispronouncing. 

And finally…

Pronunciation may not receive as much attention as fluency, vocabulary and grammar, particularly in IELTS coursebooks, but remember that it’s still worth 25% of your Speaking test score, and taking a bit of time to work on it could really boost your score!

I hope you enjoyed this series on Speaking! If you have any questions or comments please do share these with us on Facebook or Instagram. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for how I can help you.

Lucy

Lucy Passmore

Lucy has been teaching IELTS for more than 10 years at language schools and universities across London. She has also contributed to the Mindset for IELTS course book series for Cambridge University Press, working on writing units for the Students’ Books, a Teachers’ book and additional online practice tasks.

More about the author

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IELTS 15 Academic

IELTS 15 Academic contains four practice tests EXACTLY like the real exam. It comes with audio scripts, answer keys and sample Writing answers. A new downloadable Resource Bank includes extra sample Writing answers, a sample Speaking test video and answer keys with additional explanations. QR codes in the book provide quick access to the audio and video content.  This book gives you an excellent opportunity to familiarise yourself with the test format and practise exam techniques using real-to-life test material written by the test makers (Cambridge Assessment English).  Also available for IELTS General Training *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Everyday English: Ordering Coffee
Speaking
Everyday English: Ordering Coffee

Preparing for your IELTS test is really important, but what about real life English? Could you order a coffee in a busy coffee shop? Sounds simple I know but even the most advanced English users can stumble when it comes to this.  There are more and more coffee shops full of people drinking amazing beverages. From ‘skinny soy lattes with an extra shot’ to ‘venti caramel macchiatos to go’… (Most of the words are not English but have been borrowed from languages like Italian.) So, where do you begin? My advice is to work out what you will order before you go and practise saying it.  Fortunately, there are some common names for different styles of coffees. Use this list to work out a basic order and avoid any stress at the counter.   Add these words to get a cold drink or a decaffeinated drink. You could even add both e.g. ‘an iced, decaf latte’ Iced (+ any of the above orders): cold, with ice  Decaf (+ any of the above orders): decaffeinated coffee Milk  When you order your coffee, you may be asked what kind of milk you’d like. Here is a list of the most common options on offer.  Whole milk / full fat milk Semi skimmed / low fat milk Skimmed / fat free milk  Soymilk (milk made from soybeans) Almond milk (milk made from almonds) Some coffee shops have coconut milk and oat milk too!  Most people use the word ‘skinny’ to show that they want a fat free milk choice. If you don’t say you want your drink to be ‘skinny’ you will get whole milk. Extras As well as choosing your milk you can choose to add flavours and other extras to your drink. Here are some of the most common options.  A shot of vanilla syrup A shot of hazelnut syrup A shot of caramel  Mocha (chocolate) Whipped cream Extra foam (more foam than the standard serving in a cappuccino) Cup Sizes Another thing that confuses everyone is the sizes. Different coffee shops use different words to describe the size of their drinks. I have included the names used by Starbucks as I find them the most confusing of all!  Be warned, in some countries the size of coffee cups is enormous, have a look around on the counter to see if you can see the size of the cups they use.  Even a small coffee may be a lot bigger than you are used to! Watch out, you get more shots of coffee and more caffeine!   Questions the barista (a person who serves in a coffee bar) might ask The barista might ask you a long list of questions to get the details of your order right. This can make even the most confident person feel nervous, it is often a noisy place and things happen fast. Think about these questions and how you would answer them for your perfect cup of coffee.  Hi, there. What can I get you? / What are you having? / What would you like? Would you like milk with that? Regular milk? What size is that? (What size cup do you want?) Any flavours or other extras? Is that for here or to go? (are you drinking in the shop or are you taking the coffee with you?) Is that all? (Do you want to order anything else, more drinks, food?) Can I have your name, please? (the barista will call you when your drink is ready) Phrases to order coffee in English If you know exactly what you want, give the barista as much detail as possible, this will mean far fewer questions to answer!  I’d like a tall, decaf, Americano to go, please.   Can I get a skinny soy latte for here please?  Could I have a regular full-fat cappuccino with extra foam please? Also, I would like a blueberry muffin and a banana. Thank you. The next time you arrange to meet a friend in a coffee shop you don’t need to worry about ordering, you should be able to work out the kind of thing that you want in advance and then order like a local! Good luck! If you would like to learn more Everyday English please do let us know on Facebook or Instagram! Emma 

Emma Cosgrave

20 November, 2020

Everyday English: Ordering Coffee

Everyday English: Ordering Coffee

Preparing for your IELTS test is really important, but what about real life English? Could you order a coffee in a busy coffee shop? Sounds simple I know but even the most advanced English users can stumble when it comes to this.

There are more and more coffee shops full of people drinking amazing beverages. From ‘skinny soy lattes with an extra shot’ to ‘venti caramel macchiatos to go’… (Most of the words are not English but have been borrowed from languages like Italian.) So, where do you begin? My advice is to work out what you will order before you go and practise saying it.

Fortunately, there are some common names for different styles of coffees. Use this list to work out a basic order and avoid any stress at the counter.

Types of Coffee Beverages

 

Add these words to get a cold drink or a decaffeinated drink. You could even add both e.g. ‘an iced, decaf latte’

  • Iced (+ any of the above orders): cold, with ice
  • Decaf (+ any of the above orders): decaffeinated coffee

Milk

When you order your coffee, you may be asked what kind of milk you’d like. Here is a list of the most common options on offer.

  • Whole milk / full fat milk
  • Semi skimmed / low fat milk
  • Skimmed / fat free milk
  • Soymilk (milk made from soybeans)
  • Almond milk (milk made from almonds)
  • Some coffee shops have coconut milk and oat milk too!

Most people use the word ‘skinny’ to show that they want a fat free milk choice. If you don’t say you want your drink to be ‘skinny’ you will get whole milk.

Extras

As well as choosing your milk you can choose to add flavours and other extras to your drink. Here are some of the most common options.

  • A shot of vanilla syrup
  • A shot of hazelnut syrup
  • A shot of caramel
  • Mocha (chocolate)
  • Whipped cream
  • Extra foam (more foam than the standard serving in a cappuccino)

Cup Sizes

Another thing that confuses everyone is the sizes. Different coffee shops use different words to describe the size of their drinks. I have included the names used by Starbucks as I find them the most confusing of all! Be warned, in some countries the size of coffee cups is enormous, have a look around on the counter to see if you can see the size of the cups they use. Even a small coffee may be a lot bigger than you are used to! Watch out, you get more shots of coffee and more caffeine!

Cup Sizes

 

Questions the barista (a person who serves in a coffee bar) might ask

The barista might ask you a long list of questions to get the details of your order right. This can make even the most confident person feel nervous, it is often a noisy place and things happen fast. Think about these questions and how you would answer them for your perfect cup of coffee.

  • Hi, there. What can I get you? / What are you having? / What would you like?
  • Would you like milk with that? Regular milk?
  • What size is that? (What size cup do you want?)
  • Any flavours or other extras?
  • Is that for here or to go? (are you drinking in the shop or are you taking the coffee with you?)
  • Is that all? (Do you want to order anything else, more drinks, food?)
  • Can I have your name, please? (the barista will call you when your drink is ready)

Phrases to order coffee in English

If you know exactly what you want, give the barista as much detail as possible, this will mean far fewer questions to answer!

  • I’d like a tall, decaf, Americano to go, please.  
  • Can I get a skinny soy latte for here please?
  • Could I have a regular full-fat cappuccino with extra foam please? Also, I would like a blueberry muffin and a banana. Thank you.

The next time you arrange to meet a friend in a coffee shop you don’t need to worry about ordering, you should be able to work out the kind of thing that you want in advance and then order like a local! Good luck!

If you would like to learn more Everyday English please do let us know on Facebook or Instagram!

Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

More about the author

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Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Talking about your hometown
Speaking
Talking about your hometown

When we meet new people, especially people from other parts of the world, it's natural to be curious about where they come from. Where did you grow up? In a huge metropolitan city, a tiny farming village, a tourist spot in the mountains? It's good to be able to tell people about where you're from!  Talking about your hometown could come up in the IELTS Speaking Test. So, let’s look at some vocabulary you can use to tackle questions about your hometown and/or neighbourhood.  Let’s start with where your hometown is. You can tell people what part of the country it’s in.  e.g. I come from a small town in the south of England. It is 45 miles from London, in the countryside. Write your own sentence in a notepad. Here are some adjectives you might find helpful. Use a dictionary to find out the meaning of any that are new to you. Add them to your vocabulary notebook and remember to write short definitions next to the words and example sentences.   Think about your hometown. Which of these adjectives could you use to describe it?  Now answer this IELTS Speaking Test Part 1 style question.  Read my answer and then do your own. You could even record yourself ?    How would you describe your hometown? My hometown is a small town in the south of England called Shorewood. It is 45 miles from London, in the countryside. There is a small industrial zone in the town but most people who live there commute to London for work. It is in the middle of a big agricultural area. It’s not polluted or noisy, just the usual smells and sounds of rural life! There is a traditional market in the centre of town twice a week but there are no large shopping malls. There is a very beautiful church in the town centre and there are some lovely parks around the town. There is also a canal that runs through the town and some people still live on houseboats on the water. It is a fairly sleepy town and most teenagers can’t wait to leave.   As well as talking about your hometown, you could be asked about the differences between urban and rural life and whether life in the city is better than life in the countryside.  It’s helpful to think about the differences between city life and country life to start with.  First, let’s make a list of some features of city and country life. I’ll start but you need to add your own ideas to the lists!   You can now go back through the lists and decide which are advantages or positive features and which are negative features or disadvantages. Now you’ve thought about the differences you can have a go at this IELTS Speaking Part 1 style question: Do you prefer country life or city life?  When you answer this kind of question it’s important to remember that it’s asking for your opinion, that means there’s no ‘right’ answer. You’re being asked to explain your ideas and give reasons for your opinion. You need to say why you prefer city/country life. It’s a chance to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the two options.  To get some more ideas, listen to two people talking about where they live. First, decide whether each speaker lives in an urban or rural area, then listen again and make a note of the advantages and disadvantages of rural life that each speaker mentions.       (You can see the answers along with the tape script at the end of this blog. There are some very interesting collocations in there) Now it's your turn to do some IELTS practice questions.  Record yourself and listen. It might be weird at first, but you’ll soon get used to it! How would you describe where you live now? What do you like about your neighbourhood? Do you think your hometown has changed a lot over the past 20 years? Do you prefer city life or country life? What are some of the advantages of living in the countryside? What are some of the disadvantages of urban living? I hope this has helped you to think about how you would answer questions about where you live and where you grew up. Make a note of the new vocabulary and use it in your speaking and writing when appropriate. Bye for now! Emma   

Emma Cosgrave

16 November, 2020

Talking about your hometown

Talking about your hometown

When we meet new people, especially people from other parts of the world, it's natural to be curious about where they come from. Where did you grow up? In a huge metropolitan city, a tiny farming village, a tourist spot in the mountains? It's good to be able to tell people about where you're from!

Talking about your hometown could come up in the IELTS Speaking Test. So, let’s look at some vocabulary you can use to tackle questions about your hometown and/or neighbourhood.

Let’s start with where your hometown is. You can tell people what part of the country it’s in.

e.g. I come from a small town in the south of England. It is 45 miles from London, in the countryside.

Write your own sentence in a notepad. Here are some adjectives you might find helpful. Use a dictionary to find out the meaning of any that are new to you. Add them to your vocabulary notebook and remember to write short definitions next to the words and example sentences.

Adjectives to describe your hometown

 

Think about your hometown. Which of these adjectives could you use to describe it?

Now answer this IELTS Speaking Test Part 1 style question.

Read my answer and then do your own. You could even record yourself ? 


 

How would you describe your hometown?

My hometown is a small town in the south of England called Shorewood. It is 45 miles from London, in the countryside. There is a small industrial zone in the town but most people who live there commute to London for work. It is in the middle of a big agricultural area. It’s not polluted or noisy, just the usual smells and sounds of rural life! There is a traditional market in the centre of town twice a week but there are no large shopping malls. There is a very beautiful church in the town centre and there are some lovely parks around the town. There is also a canal that runs through the town and some people still live on houseboats on the water. It is a fairly sleepy town and most teenagers can’t wait to leave.

 


As well as talking about your hometown, you could be asked about the differences between urban and rural life and whether life in the city is better than life in the countryside.

It’s helpful to think about the differences between city life and country life to start with. First, let’s make a list of some features of city and country life. I’ll start but you need to add your own ideas to the lists!

Differences between city life and country life

 

You can now go back through the lists and decide which are advantages or positive features and which are negative features or disadvantages.

Now you’ve thought about the differences you can have a go at this IELTS Speaking Part 1 style question:

Do you prefer country life or city life?

When you answer this kind of question it’s important to remember that it’s asking for your opinion, that means there’s no ‘right’ answer. You’re being asked to explain your ideas and give reasons for your opinion. You need to say why you prefer city/country life. It’s a chance to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the two options.

To get some more ideas, listen to two people talking about where they live. First, decide whether each speaker lives in an urban or rural area, then listen again and make a note of the advantages and disadvantages of rural life that each speaker mentions.  

 
Exercise from Page 27 of Vocab for IELTS Advanced

 

(You can see the answers along with the tape script at the end of this blog. There are some very interesting collocations in there)

Now it's your turn to do some IELTS practice questions.

Record yourself and listen. It might be weird at first, but you’ll soon get used to it!

  1. How would you describe where you live now?
  2. What do you like about your neighbourhood?
  3. Do you think your hometown has changed a lot over the past 20 years?
  4. Do you prefer city life or country life?
  5. What are some of the advantages of living in the countryside?
  6. What are some of the disadvantages of urban living?

I hope this has helped you to think about how you would answer questions about where you live and where you grew up. Make a note of the new vocabulary and use it in your speaking and writing when appropriate.

Bye for now!

Emma

 

Answers for vocab exerise

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

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IELTS Vocabulary for Bands 6.5 and above

Learn all the vocabulary you need to achieve band 6.5 and above in IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It includes useful tips on how to learn vocabulary and covers tricky areas such as the language needed to describe data and processes. This book also includes practice exercises for each skill, regular progress checks and tips on how to avoid typical errors. Previous title Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced Also available for up to Band 6 *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Essential Grammar in IELTS Speaking
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Essential Grammar in IELTS Speaking

In this post, I will focus on grammar as a speaking subskill. It's common to feel anxious about using the correct grammar when speaking, but your grammar doesn't need to be 100% accurate to get a good mark in the IELTS Speaking test. It's equally important to attempt a range of grammatical structures.  How is grammar tested in the IELTS Speaking test? The descriptor Grammatical Range and Accuracy in IELTS assesses the range of grammar you use and how accurately and appropriately you use it. If you look at the band descriptors, you‘ll see that the following areas of grammar are assessed: Range of structures used: This ranges from being able to use a very basic range of simple grammatical structures at band 4, to a full range of complex structures at band 9.  Flexibility of use: This means that you’re able to select from a range of appropriate structures for the response that you wish to give. Structures are used ‘naturally and appropriately’ at band 9 and ‘with limited flexibility’ at band 6. Frequency of errors: This ranges from having mostly error-free sentences at band 9 to having frequent errors that may lead to misunderstanding at band 5. When it comes to errors, many candidates fear that they’ll lose marks for making mistakes. However, it’s worth remembering that even a band 9 student may make some very small errors. To be scored in band 7 or 6 for grammatical range and accuracy, you may still make some errors, especially when using more complex structures, but these are unlikely to result in the examiner misunderstanding you. Therefore, whilst accuracy is important, you should equally try to focus on being able to use a range of structures. What different grammatical structures should I use The descriptors refer specifically to the ability to use complex grammatical structures. These generally refer to subordinating structures, which include a combination of dependent and independent clauses. Below is a brief summary and some examples of the three main types of sentence structure: Simple sentences: consist of only one independent clause – e.g. I drink coffee in the morning. Compound sentences: consist of two independent clauses joined together – e.g. I drink coffee in the morning, but I don’t drink it at night. Complex sentences: consist of a combination of dependent and independent clauses joined together – e.g. Although I drink coffee in the morning, I don’t drink it at night because it keeps me awake.  Some specific grammatical structures that you may demonstrate include the following: A range of different tenses Comparative forms Relative clauses Conditionals The passive voice Using a wide range of these structures is likely to lead to getting a higher mark for grammatical range and accuracy, even if you don’t always use them completely accurately.  How can I increase my grammatical range for the IELTS Speaking Test? 1. Learn different grammatical structures and practise using them If you’re following a course book, you may find it useful to go through the different grammatical structures being taught. Although understanding the rules is important, what you really need to do is practise using the structures in conversation. A good way to do this would be to do the speaking practice tasks with a friend and to give each other feedback.  2. Listen to other people speaking and note which grammatical structures they use You may find it useful to do this with videos of IELTS speaking tests, which are available on our podcast, but you could also do this with a news report or a TED talk. Doing this will help you become familiar with a range of grammatical structures and understand some of the contexts in which they are used.  3. Record yourself and note the structures you use Once you have become more familiar with a range of grammatical structures, record yourself responding to a Part 2 question and then play back the recording and note down the different structures that you used.  And how about accuracy? 1. Record yourself speaking, listen and correct As well as checking the range of structures you use, you can also listen and check for grammatical errors. Make a note of the errors you make and practise saying them correctly. 2. Do corrections with a friend It can be difficult to spot your own errors, so try doing corrections with somebody else. 3. Practise speaking… a lot! Whether you are doing IELTS Speaking practice or not, take every opportunity to speak in English with whoever will listen! If you’re lucky, you might get some useful feedback on your grammar! And finally… Try not to become preoccupied with being accurate. Remember that you’re likely to gain marks for attempting to use complex structures even if you don’t get them quite right.  Remember you don’t always need to speak in full sentences. Features such as false starts are very common in natural sounding spoken English.  I hope you're enjoying this series on Speaking! I'll be sharing my tips on pronunciation next. If you have any questions or comments please do share these with us on Facebook or Instagram. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for how I can help you. Lucy  

Lucy Passmore

4 November, 2020

Essential Grammar in IELTS Speaking

Essential Grammar in IELTS Speaking

In this post, I will focus on grammar as a speaking subskill. It's common to feel anxious about using the correct grammar when speaking, but your grammar doesn't need to be 100% accurate to get a good mark in the IELTS Speaking test. It's equally important to attempt a range of grammatical structures.

How is grammar tested in the IELTS Speaking test?

The descriptor Grammatical Range and Accuracy in IELTS assesses the range of grammar you use and how accurately and appropriately you use it. If you look at the band descriptors, you‘ll see that the following areas of grammar are assessed:

  • Range of structures used: This ranges from being able to use a very basic range of simple grammatical structures at band 4, to a full range of complex structures at band 9.
  • Flexibility of use: This means that you’re able to select from a range of appropriate structures for the response that you wish to give. Structures are used ‘naturally and appropriately’ at band 9 and ‘with limited flexibility’ at band 6.
  • Frequency of errors: This ranges from having mostly error-free sentences at band 9 to having frequent errors that may lead to misunderstanding at band 5.

When it comes to errors, many candidates fear that they’ll lose marks for making mistakes. However, it’s worth remembering that even a band 9 student may make some very small errors. To be scored in band 7 or 6 for grammatical range and accuracy, you may still make some errors, especially when using more complex structures, but these are unlikely to result in the examiner misunderstanding you. Therefore, whilst accuracy is important, you should equally try to focus on being able to use a range of structures.

What different grammatical structures should I use

The descriptors refer specifically to the ability to use complex grammatical structures. These generally refer to subordinating structures, which include a combination of dependent and independent clauses. Below is a brief summary and some examples of the three main types of sentence structure:

  • Simple sentences: consist of only one independent clause – e.g. I drink coffee in the morning.
  • Compound sentences: consist of two independent clauses joined together – e.g. I drink coffee in the morning, but I don’t drink it at night.
  • Complex sentences: consist of a combination of dependent and independent clauses joined together – e.g. Although I drink coffee in the morning, I don’t drink it at night because it keeps me awake.

Some specific grammatical structures that you may demonstrate include the following:

  • A range of different tenses
  • Comparative forms
  • Relative clauses
  • Conditionals
  • The passive voice

Using a wide range of these structures is likely to lead to getting a higher mark for grammatical range and accuracy, even if you don’t always use them completely accurately.

How can I increase my grammatical range for the IELTS Speaking Test?

1. Learn different grammatical structures and practise using them

If you’re following a course book, you may find it useful to go through the different grammatical structures being taught. Although understanding the rules is important, what you really need to do is practise using the structures in conversation. A good way to do this would be to do the speaking practice tasks with a friend and to give each other feedback.

2. Listen to other people speaking and note which grammatical structures they use

You may find it useful to do this with videos of IELTS speaking tests, which are available on our podcast, but you could also do this with a news report or a TED talk. Doing this will help you become familiar with a range of grammatical structures and understand some of the contexts in which they are used.

3. Record yourself and note the structures you use

Once you have become more familiar with a range of grammatical structures, record yourself responding to a Part 2 question and then play back the recording and note down the different structures that you used.

And how about accuracy?

1. Record yourself speaking, listen and correct

As well as checking the range of structures you use, you can also listen and check for grammatical errors. Make a note of the errors you make and practise saying them correctly.

2. Do corrections with a friend

It can be difficult to spot your own errors, so try doing corrections with somebody else.

3. Practise speaking… a lot!

Whether you are doing IELTS Speaking practice or not, take every opportunity to speak in English with whoever will listen! If you’re lucky, you might get some useful feedback on your grammar!

And finally…

  • Try not to become preoccupied with being accurate. Remember that you’re likely to gain marks for attempting to use complex structures even if you don’t get them quite right.
  • Remember you don’t always need to speak in full sentences. Features such as false starts are very common in natural sounding spoken English.

I hope you're enjoying this series on Speaking! I'll be sharing my tips on pronunciation next. If you have any questions or comments please do share these with us on Facebook or Instagram. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for how I can help you.

Lucy

 

Lucy Passmore

Lucy has been teaching IELTS for more than 10 years at language schools and universities across London. She has also contributed to the Mindset for IELTS course book series for Cambridge University Press, working on writing units for the Students’ Books, a Teachers’ book and additional online practice tasks.

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Essential Vocabulary in IELTS Speaking
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Essential Vocabulary in IELTS Speaking

Following on from my post on fluency, I want to focus on the subskill of vocabulary. We all know that to become more proficient in a language, we need to build our vocabulary, but how should we do this with the IELTS Speaking test in mind? How is vocabulary tested in the IELTS Speaking test? Vocabulary is assessed under the criteria, Lexical Resource, which, ‘assesses the range of vocabulary you use and how accurately and appropriately you use vocabulary to express meaning’.  For IELTS 6.0 - for example, the candidate ‘has a wide enough vocabulary to discuss topics at length and make meaning clear, in spite of inappropriacies’. In other words, the candidate demonstrates a good range of vocabulary, but may still make some errors.  For IELTS 7.0 - ‘uses vocabulary resource effectively to discuss a variety of topics’, and ‘uses some less common and idiomatic vocabulary and shows some awareness of style and collocation, with some inappropriate choices’- the candidate should demonstrate a wider range of vocabulary, but may still make some errors.  You don’t need to be error-free, but you should demonstrate to the Examiner your full range of vocabulary, and the ability to use it flexibly.  What will help me boost my score for Lexical Resource? 1. Learn to use collocations correctly A collocation occurs when two or more words are used together in a way that sounds correct’. Learning to use a range of English collocations could therefore help you to boost your score for Lexical Resource and will help you to sound more natural and accurate in English. Find out how to improve your vocabulary using collocations from Liz, she shares some great hints and tips and worksheets to support your preparation.  2. Learn some idiomatic language The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ‘idiomatic’ language as ‘containing expressions that are natural and correct’. The Know Your Phrase website contains some useful examples of common idioms with example sentences, and the following idiomatic language activity by Cambridge English gives you the opportunity to practise selecting the correct idiom. Using carefully chosen idioms will make you sound more natural in English, but take care not to use too many, as this could have the opposite effect! Example and analysis Below is an excerpt from Part 1 of an IELTS speaking test: Notice that the candidate uses an appropriate idiom (that’s just not my cup of tea – meaning ‘that’s not something I enjoy doing’) although he makes a small mistake with the word order.  He also uses several common English collocations (I just end up making some noodles…; I never got into cooking…) which sound natural in this context. There are; however, some examples of less natural sounding collocations, for example ‘it just does not come into me’.  How can I build my vocabulary to prepare for the IELTS Speaking test? If you want your vocabulary to be well-prepared for the IELTS Speaking test, try the following:  1. Create a vocabulary notebook organised by topic This could be a traditional paper notebook or an online tool like Microsoft OneNote. Organise your notebook into different topic sections (e.g. food, films, friends and family) and make a note of vocabulary that you think will be useful for talking about these topics. Make sure you also record common collocations, different word forms, synonyms and antonyms. Try to include some less common words and idiomatic language. Aim to use them when you do your speaking practice.    2. Listen to recorded examples and note down good examples of vocabulary You will find a number of recorded IELTS Speaking tests online, for example on the Cambridge University Press YouTube channel. Watch these and try to note down examples of good vocabulary that the speaker uses, including collocations, idiomatic language, effective paraphrasing, and less common language.    3. Record yourself speaking and review your vocabulary Recording your own speaking is a really useful way to review the vocabulary you are using. As you listen, use your vocabulary notebook to check whether you have used words and phrases correctly, or whether you missed opportunities to use a better phrase. If you do this regularly, you will become more aware of the vocabulary you are using and will be able to practise building your vocabulary to get your best possible score for Lexical Resource. Hope you have found this useful and I will be sharing tips for Grammar in IELTS Speaking next! Lucy

Lucy Passmore

6 October, 2020

Essential Vocabulary in IELTS Speaking

Essential Vocabulary in IELTS Speaking

Following on from my post on fluency, I want to focus on the subskill of vocabulary. We all know that to become more proficient in a language, we need to build our vocabulary, but how should we do this with the IELTS Speaking test in mind?

How is vocabulary tested in the IELTS Speaking test?

Vocabulary is assessed under the criteria, Lexical Resource, which, ‘assesses the range of vocabulary you use and how accurately and appropriately you use vocabulary to express meaning’.

  • For IELTS 6.0 - for example, the candidate ‘has a wide enough vocabulary to discuss topics at length and make meaning clear, in spite of inappropriacies’. In other words, the candidate demonstrates a good range of vocabulary, but may still make some errors.
  • For IELTS 7.0 - ‘uses vocabulary resource effectively to discuss a variety of topics’, and ‘uses some less common and idiomatic vocabulary and shows some awareness of style and collocation, with some inappropriate choices’- the candidate should demonstrate a wider range of vocabulary, but may still make some errors.

You don’t need to be error-free, but you should demonstrate to the Examiner your full range of vocabulary, and the ability to use it flexibly.

What will help me boost my score for Lexical Resource?

1. Learn to use collocations correctly

A collocation occurs when two or more words are used together in a way that sounds correct’. Learning to use a range of English collocations could therefore help you to boost your score for Lexical Resource and will help you to sound more natural and accurate in English.

Find out how to improve your vocabulary using collocations from Liz, she shares some great hints and tips and worksheets to support your preparation.

2. Learn some idiomatic language

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ‘idiomatic’ language as ‘containing expressions that are natural and correct’. The Know Your Phrase website contains some useful examples of common idioms with example sentences, and the following idiomatic language activity by Cambridge English gives you the opportunity to practise selecting the correct idiom. Using carefully chosen idioms will make you sound more natural in English, but take care not to use too many, as this could have the opposite effect!

Example and analysis

Below is an excerpt from Part 1 of an IELTS speaking test:

Example from Part 1 of an IELTS speaking test

Notice that the candidate uses an appropriate idiom (that’s just not my cup of tea – meaning ‘that’s not something I enjoy doing’) although he makes a small mistake with the word order.

He also uses several common English collocations (I just end up making some noodles…; I never got into cooking…) which sound natural in this context. There are; however, some examples of less natural sounding collocations, for example ‘it just does not come into me’.

How can I build my vocabulary to prepare for the IELTS Speaking test?

If you want your vocabulary to be well-prepared for the IELTS Speaking test, try the following:

1. Create a vocabulary notebook organised by topic

This could be a traditional paper notebook or an online tool like Microsoft OneNote. Organise your notebook into different topic sections (e.g. food, films, friends and family) and make a note of vocabulary that you think will be useful for talking about these topics. Make sure you also record common collocations, different word forms, synonyms and antonyms. Try to include some less common words and idiomatic language. Aim to use them when you do your speaking practice.

2. Listen to recorded examples and note down good examples of vocabulary

You will find a number of recorded IELTS Speaking tests online, for example on the Cambridge University Press YouTube channel. Watch these and try to note down examples of good vocabulary that the speaker uses, including collocations, idiomatic language, effective paraphrasing, and less common language.

3. Record yourself speaking and review your vocabulary

Recording your own speaking is a really useful way to review the vocabulary you are using. As you listen, use your vocabulary notebook to check whether you have used words and phrases correctly, or whether you missed opportunities to use a better phrase. If you do this regularly, you will become more aware of the vocabulary you are using and will be able to practise building your vocabulary to get your best possible score for Lexical Resource.

Hope you have found this useful and I will be sharing tips for Grammar in IELTS Speaking next!

Lucy

Lucy Passmore

Lucy has been teaching IELTS for more than 10 years at language schools and universities across London. She has also contributed to the Mindset for IELTS course book series for Cambridge University Press, working on writing units for the Students’ Books, a Teachers’ book and additional online practice tasks.

More about the author

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Getting it right by using the question
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Getting it right by using the question

IELTS is a test. This means that certain answers are considered 'right' and others are considered 'wrong'. In the Listening and Reading test, it's easy to see how this works. However, in the Writing and Speaking test it's more difficult to see what the examiner 'wants' and what is 'right' or 'wrong' as there are so many possible options. We should therefore think in terms of right or wrong for the situation. In a recent blog, we looked at how using the right future tense can make a good impression on the examiner. Today, I want to explore how this principle can be applied to any of the questions in the Speaking exam. For my examples, I have chosen a practice test from the Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS (page 245).  First of all, listen carefully to the tense the examiner uses in the question. If the examiner uses the present simple, there is a very good chance that your answer should also be in the present simple. However, if the examiner’s question is in the present continuous you might want to consider using that tense in your answer. Let’s look at these two examples: ‘What job do you do?’ ‘What subject are you studying?’ For the first example a good answer might look like this:  ‘I’m an engineer and I work for a company that restores old bridges.’ A good answer to the second question might be something like this: ‘I’m currently studying for a degree in mathematics at Seoul National University.’  The follow-up questions are often a little trickier grammatically: ‘How long have you been studying mathematics?’ In this situation you basically have two options. You could produce a suitable answer by staying with the examiner’s choice of tense and answer like this: ‘I’ve been studying for three years now.’ This is a good answer, but you may have missed the opportunity to show some grammatical flexibility.  The present perfect links the past with a present so there is the opportunity to jump to one of the other tenses with some adjustments. Here are some more suggestions for good answers: ‘I’m in my third and final year now.’  ‘I started in 2017.’ Similarly, you can gain some vital points in Part Two of the Speaking test by being disciplined about your use of tenses. For example, if the question card refers to a situation in the past, try to focus on using the past tense throughout this part of the test. Look at this example: ‘Describe a restaurant you enjoyed going to'. You should say: where the restaurant was who you went with what type of food you ate in this restaurant and explain why you thought the restaurant was good.’ In this question the examiner draws your attention quite clearly to the past tense, so a good answer might contain sentences like these: ‘The restaurant I would like to talk about was in my hometown. I usually went there with my parents for special occasions. My favourite meal was always the spicy chicken. I thought the restaurant was wonderful because it was connected with all those special occasions and the owners always treated us like family.’ This is a satisfactory answer because for all of the instances in the past the speaker used the past tense. However, if you need a higher score you might want to insert some more of that flexibility we saw above. Look at this answer: ‘The restaurant I would like to talk about was in my hometown. In fact, I believe it is still there. I usually went there with my parents for special occasions. My favourite meal was always the spicy chicken. It tasted amazing and I haven’t had any restaurant meal that I enjoyed so much since. I thought the restaurant was wonderful because it was connected with all those special occasions and the owners always treated us like family. It’s not quite the same with the restaurants I go to these days even though they may be a lot more upmarket.’ The speaker still uses the past tense to answer the questions from the card, but they expand their ideas by making reference to the present, too. Part three of the Speaking test usually gives you the opportunity to look at functional language beyond tenses. Here is an example: ‘Do you think that people eat healthier food than they did in the past? [Why? / Why not?]’ The ‘key grammar’ in this question is the comparative. This should prompt you to use comparative language in answering: e.g. ‘more money’, ‘less time’, ‘greater variety’, ‘better farming methods’, etc. The addition ‘Why? / Why not?’ should remind you to use expressions like ‘because’, ‘due to’, ‘means that’, ‘has led to’, etc.  There are many other pointers that tell you which answers are appropriate for any given question. During the exam, you probably won't have the time to figure out what response is appropriate. However, you can really improve your exam performance by preparing the type of language you should use depending on how the question is phrased, so why not try the language activity below? (Click to enlarge) Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

30 September, 2020

Getting it right by using the question

Getting it right by using the question

IELTS is a test. This means that certain answers are considered 'right' and others are considered 'wrong'. In the Listening and Reading test, it's easy to see how this works. However, in the Writing and Speaking test it's more difficult to see what the examiner 'wants' and what is 'right' or 'wrong' as there are so many possible options. We should therefore think in terms of right or wrong for the situation.

In a recent blog, we looked at how using the right future tense can make a good impression on the examiner. Today, I want to explore how this principle can be applied to any of the questions in the Speaking exam. For my examples, I have chosen a practice test from the Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS (page 245).

First of all, listen carefully to the tense the examiner uses in the question. If the examiner uses the present simple, there is a very good chance that your answer should also be in the present simple. However, if the examiner’s question is in the present continuous you might want to consider using that tense in your answer.

Let’s look at these two examples:

  • ‘What job do you do?’
  • ‘What subject are you studying?’

For the first example a good answer might look like this:

  • ‘I’m an engineer and I work for a company that restores old bridges.’

A good answer to the second question might be something like this:

  • ‘I’m currently studying for a degree in mathematics at Seoul National University.’

The follow-up questions are often a little trickier grammatically:

  • ‘How long have you been studying mathematics?’

In this situation you basically have two options. You could produce a suitable answer by staying with the examiner’s choice of tense and answer like this: ‘I’ve been studying for three years now.’ This is a good answer, but you may have missed the opportunity to show some grammatical flexibility.

The present perfect links the past with a present so there is the opportunity to jump to one of the other tenses with some adjustments. Here are some more suggestions for good answers:

  • ‘I’m in my third and final year now.’
  • ‘I started in 2017.’

Similarly, you can gain some vital points in Part Two of the Speaking test by being disciplined about your use of tenses. For example, if the question card refers to a situation in the past, try to focus on using the past tense throughout this part of the test.

Look at this example:

‘Describe a restaurant you enjoyed going to'.

You should say:

  • where the restaurant was
  • who you went with
  • what type of food you ate in this restaurant and explain why you thought the restaurant was good.’

In this question the examiner draws your attention quite clearly to the past tense, so a good answer might contain sentences like these:

‘The restaurant I would like to talk about was in my hometown. I usually went there with my parents for special occasions. My favourite meal was always the spicy chicken. I thought the restaurant was wonderful because it was connected with all those special occasions and the owners always treated us like family.’

This is a satisfactory answer because for all of the instances in the past the speaker used the past tense. However, if you need a higher score you might want to insert some more of that flexibility we saw above. Look at this answer:

‘The restaurant I would like to talk about was in my hometown. In fact, I believe it is still there. I usually went there with my parents for special occasions. My favourite meal was always the spicy chicken. It tasted amazing and I haven’t had any restaurant meal that I enjoyed so much since. I thought the restaurant was wonderful because it was connected with all those special occasions and the owners always treated us like family. It’s not quite the same with the restaurants I go to these days even though they may be a lot more upmarket.’

The speaker still uses the past tense to answer the questions from the card, but they expand their ideas by making reference to the present, too.

Part three of the Speaking test usually gives you the opportunity to look at functional language beyond tenses. Here is an example:

  • ‘Do you think that people eat healthier food than they did in the past? [Why? / Why not?]’

The ‘key grammar’ in this question is the comparative. This should prompt you to use comparative language in answering: e.g. ‘more money’, ‘less time’, ‘greater variety’, ‘better farming methods’, etc. The addition ‘Why? / Why not?’ should remind you to use expressions like ‘because’, ‘due to’, ‘means that’, ‘has led to’, etc.

There are many other pointers that tell you which answers are appropriate for any given question. During the exam, you probably won't have the time to figure out what response is appropriate. However, you can really improve your exam performance by preparing the type of language you should use depending on how the question is phrased, so why not try the language activity below?

Speaking Language Activity from Sophie

(Click to enlarge)

Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

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Recommended For You

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Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

How to become more fluent for IELTS Speaking?
Speaking
How to become more fluent for IELTS Speaking

Welcome to the first in a series of 4 blog posts which will help you develop essential subskills for the IELTS Speaking test. Subskills can be defined as the smaller skills that make up a bigger skill, such as speaking. In this post, I will focus on the subskill of fluency.    What is fluency? According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, ‘when a person is fluent, they can speak a language easily, well and quickly’. We would, therefore, imagine a fluent speaker of a language to be somebody who is able to speak at length on a variety of different topics, without needing to stop and think very much about how to say something. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to become fluent in a language – it will always involve a lot of time, effort and motivation! Why is fluency important for the IELTS Speaking test? The IELTS Speaking assessment criteria covers four main areas of speaking. The first of these is Fluency and Coherence. According to the descriptor, ‘fluency and coherence assesses how well you can speak at a normal speed without too much hesitation. It also includes putting your sentences and ideas in a logical order and using cohesive devices appropriately so that what you say is not difficult to follow’.  Of course, how fluent you need to be depends on your target band score. If you need a 6.0, the descriptors state that you are ‘willing to speak at length, though may lose coherence at times due to occasional repetition, self-correction or hesitancy’. However, if you need a 7.0, you will need to ‘speak at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence’. If you are aiming for a 6.5, you will need to demonstrate some details from band descriptor 6.0 and some from band descriptor 7.0.  What challenges might a student face in developing fluency? As I mentioned previously, achieving fluency requires time, effort and motivation. This is worth considering before you start to prepare for the IELTS exam. If you have the time to develop a good level of spoken English first, then you are likely to feel more confident about taking IELTS and achieve a higher score. However, many students have a limited amount of time to improve their general English before taking IELTS, which can make fluency a particular challenge.  One barrier to developing fluency in English is the lack of opportunity to practise speaking outside the classroom. It can be difficult to have the discipline to practise with somebody who speaks the same language as you and it may be hard to find somebody who does not, particularly if you’re preparing for IELTS in your home country. However, doing additional speaking practice is essential to improving your fluency. A further barrier is anxiety around speaking another language. You may know the language well, but when faced with a real-life communicative task, you become nervous and struggle to say what you had planned. This happened to me when I was travelling by train to Montreal and I wanted to buy a snack from the refreshments trolley. I’d studied for a year at a French university, but I couldn’t remember the simple language I needed. My husband managed to order for us, and the woman said to me – ‘don’t worry – he can teach you French’. My husband still loves telling that story!    3 top tips for boosting fluency  1. Find your perfect speaking partner This could be a classmate, housemate or neighbour. You could also try an online language exchange via Skype. Once you’ve found your perfect speaking partner, think about typical IELTS topics and practise speaking about these. You could use IELTS preparation resources, but authentic resources such as newspaper articles can be just as effective.  2. Make sure you keep talking When you practise speaking for fluency, you should aim to keep speaking for as long as you can. It’s therefore important that the person you are practising with knows not to interrupt you to correct mistakes. Instead, ask them to give you some general feedback at the end of the conversation.  3. Use strategies to buy time  If you need some time to think of what you’re going to say, there are a number of useful phrases that you can use to give yourself some thinking time. For example, you can use phrases like ‘let’s see …that’s a difficult question’ or ‘I’ve never really thought about that, but …’. Practise using these when you are doing speaking practice and they will start to come to you more naturally in conversations. Have a look at the new podcast series ‘All you Need for IELTS Success’ on preparing for the IELTS Speaking test for further advice on how to buy time and keep talking.  Next time, I’ll share the essential vocabulary you need to help you in the IELTS Speaking test. Lucy {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/_zyx8JFWO0I.jpg?itok=TqcDzTi7","video_url":"https://youtu.be/_zyx8JFWO0I","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}  

Lucy Passmore

18 September, 2020

How to become more fluent for IELTS Speaking

How to become more fluent for IELTS Speaking?

Welcome to the first in a series of 4 blog posts which will help you develop essential subskills for the IELTS Speaking test. Subskills can be defined as the smaller skills that make up a bigger skill, such as speaking. In this post, I will focus on the subskill of fluency.

 

What is fluency?

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, ‘when a person is fluent, they can speak a language easily, well and quickly’. We would, therefore, imagine a fluent speaker of a language to be somebody who is able to speak at length on a variety of different topics, without needing to stop and think very much about how to say something. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to become fluent in a language – it will always involve a lot of time, effort and motivation!

Why is fluency important for the IELTS Speaking test?

The IELTS Speaking assessment criteria covers four main areas of speaking. The first of these is Fluency and Coherence. According to the descriptor, ‘fluency and coherence assesses how well you can speak at a normal speed without too much hesitation. It also includes putting your sentences and ideas in a logical order and using cohesive devices appropriately so that what you say is not difficult to follow’.

Of course, how fluent you need to be depends on your target band score. If you need a 6.0, the descriptors state that you are ‘willing to speak at length, though may lose coherence at times due to occasional repetition, self-correction or hesitancy’. However, if you need a 7.0, you will need to ‘speak at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence’. If you are aiming for a 6.5, you will need to demonstrate some details from band descriptor 6.0 and some from band descriptor 7.0.

What challenges might a student face in developing fluency?

As I mentioned previously, achieving fluency requires time, effort and motivation. This is worth considering before you start to prepare for the IELTS exam. If you have the time to develop a good level of spoken English first, then you are likely to feel more confident about taking IELTS and achieve a higher score. However, many students have a limited amount of time to improve their general English before taking IELTS, which can make fluency a particular challenge.

One barrier to developing fluency in English is the lack of opportunity to practise speaking outside the classroom. It can be difficult to have the discipline to practise with somebody who speaks the same language as you and it may be hard to find somebody who does not, particularly if you’re preparing for IELTS in your home country. However, doing additional speaking practice is essential to improving your fluency.

A further barrier is anxiety around speaking another language. You may know the language well, but when faced with a real-life communicative task, you become nervous and struggle to say what you had planned. This happened to me when I was travelling by train to Montreal and I wanted to buy a snack from the refreshments trolley. I’d studied for a year at a French university, but I couldn’t remember the simple language I needed. My husband managed to order for us, and the woman said to me – ‘don’t worry – he can teach you French’. My husband still loves telling that story!

3 top tips for boosting fluency

1. Find your perfect speaking partner

This could be a classmate, housemate or neighbour. You could also try an online language exchange via Skype. Once you’ve found your perfect speaking partner, think about typical IELTS topics and practise speaking about these. You could use IELTS preparation resources, but authentic resources such as newspaper articles can be just as effective.

2. Make sure you keep talking

When you practise speaking for fluency, you should aim to keep speaking for as long as you can. It’s therefore important that the person you are practising with knows not to interrupt you to correct mistakes. Instead, ask them to give you some general feedback at the end of the conversation.

3. Use strategies to buy time

If you need some time to think of what you’re going to say, there are a number of useful phrases that you can use to give yourself some thinking time. For example, you can use phrases like ‘let’s see …that’s a difficult question’ or ‘I’ve never really thought about that, but …’. Practise using these when you are doing speaking practice and they will start to come to you more naturally in conversations. Have a look at the new podcast series ‘All you Need for IELTS Success’ on preparing for the IELTS Speaking test for further advice on how to buy time and keep talking.

Next time, I’ll share the essential vocabulary you need to help you in the IELTS Speaking test.

Lucy

 

Lucy Passmore

Lucy has been teaching IELTS for more than 10 years at language schools and universities across London. She has also contributed to the Mindset for IELTS course book series for Cambridge University Press, working on writing units for the Students’ Books, a Teachers’ book and additional online practice tasks.

More about the author

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Recommended For You

recommended book image
Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Using artificial intelligence to check and improve your spoken accuracy
Speaking
Using artificial intelligence to check and improve your spoken accuracy

Almost everyone has access to at least one item with this, they use it a lot of the time and it makes their lives much easier. I’m thinking about Artificial Intelligence, or AI, particularly something which has speech recognition software or a speech generation function. These products that only respond once their name is said – Alexa, Siri, Hello Google, etc. – aren't just good for requesting music, they can be a useful tool in spoken English development. Can AI help you with your IELTS speaking skills? I think so.    Judgment free feedback I’m going to focus on Alexa just because that’s the one I use most. However, much of what I suggest is true for other similar tools. This form of AI can help language learners particularly with pronunciation development by being a non-judgmental checker of the sounds in English you use. If what you say is not understood, then it will say so or it will answer according to what it thought it heard. There’s no shame in either of those and it can be sometimes the fault of the machine. Consider this as a learning opportunity. Remember to change the language to English on your device before following the suggestions below.  Pronounce words better: We know there are a number of difficult words to pronounce. For IELTS Speaking, your pronunciation will be assessed along with other key parts of your speech. You don't get marks for having a British or American accent, but for being intelligible (able to understand what you're saying). Create a list of words you’d like to use especially when in the Speaking test.  So, you’ve seen them written down and you’re now familiar with the meaning and when to use the word – this is important here. Start by asking your AI for a definition of the word. Did it understand what you said? Was that the meaning you thought it was? If so, great. If not, don’t worry – try again and listen to the word in an online dictionary. Perhaps your word stress was slightly wrong, or a vowel sound wasn’t quite right. No need to be upset – no one is judging you. That’s the beauty of this system.  Go further and ask how many syllables your chosen word has – again, this will check you’ve pronounced it well enough. Try to find words with more than 3 or 4 syllables. Again, allow any misunderstandings to be an opportunity for learning. Of course, with many of these devices, you need to ask questions – something you don’t often do in the IELTS Speaking test. Carefully think about how you will put these words (or phrases) into simple questions that will check your pronunciation and probably your grammar – rephrase or repeat your question until you feel you’ve been understood. Conversation practice: You can take this approach further by using phrases and sentences. How long can you maintain the conversation? This is a new thing from Alexa called ‘Let’s chat’ – it’s actually a competition that developers are taking part in to see if they can create a ‘socialbot’. Keep an eye out for this as it’s in the early stages but apparently you can talk about a topic with an AI device for up to 20 minutes on many everyday topics.  Remember, breakdowns in communication and misunderstandings are opportunities for you to improve, and you can always blame the technology! Interestingly, you can hear and read your questions and conversations again by accessing the app – this will give you a transcript to check and delete later if you’re concerned about privacy.    Part 2 speaking development  Moving on from individual words and phrases and short questions and answers, let’s now consider IELTS Speaking Part 2. You’ll receive a card and you’ll have to speak about a topic for up to two minutes. There are many examples of possible topic cards online – select a few for the activity I’m about to explain. Without a teacher or even a fellow student, it may seem impossible to get feedback but you can record your answer and then listen again and identify places where you know you’ve made a mistake. Perhaps you didn’t talk about one of the key points or you spoke for too long. Perhaps you made a number of grammar mistakes you can now see. AI can help you go further here.  (Click to enlarge) Remember though that with AI, it’s a computer so it’s not perfect. But it does give you non-judgmental feedback for you to use to improve your speaking and better prepare for the exam. Jishan

Jishan Uddin

19 August, 2020

Using artificial intelligence to check and improve your spoken accuracy

Using artificial intelligence to check and improve your spoken accuracy

Almost everyone has access to at least one item with this, they use it a lot of the time and it makes their lives much easier. I’m thinking about Artificial Intelligence, or AI, particularly something which has speech recognition software or a speech generation function. These products that only respond once their name is said – Alexa, Siri, Hello Google, etc. – aren't just good for requesting music, they can be a useful tool in spoken English development. Can AI help you with your IELTS speaking skills? I think so.

 

Judgment free feedback

I’m going to focus on Alexa just because that’s the one I use most. However, much of what I suggest is true for other similar tools. This form of AI can help language learners particularly with pronunciation development by being a non-judgmental checker of the sounds in English you use. If what you say is not understood, then it will say so or it will answer according to what it thought it heard. There’s no shame in either of those and it can be sometimes the fault of the machine. Consider this as a learning opportunity. Remember to change the language to English on your device before following the suggestions below.

Pronounce words better: We know there are a number of difficult words to pronounce. For IELTS Speaking, your pronunciation will be assessed along with other key parts of your speech. You don't get marks for having a British or American accent, but for being intelligible (able to understand what you're saying). Create a list of words you’d like to use especially when in the Speaking test.

So, you’ve seen them written down and you’re now familiar with the meaning and when to use the word – this is important here. Start by asking your AI for a definition of the word. Did it understand what you said? Was that the meaning you thought it was? If so, great. If not, don’t worry – try again and listen to the word in an online dictionary. Perhaps your word stress was slightly wrong, or a vowel sound wasn’t quite right. No need to be upset – no one is judging you. That’s the beauty of this system.

Go further and ask how many syllables your chosen word has – again, this will check you’ve pronounced it well enough. Try to find words with more than 3 or 4 syllables. Again, allow any misunderstandings to be an opportunity for learning. Of course, with many of these devices, you need to ask questions – something you don’t often do in the IELTS Speaking test. Carefully think about how you will put these words (or phrases) into simple questions that will check your pronunciation and probably your grammar – rephrase or repeat your question until you feel you’ve been understood.

Conversation practice: You can take this approach further by using phrases and sentences. How long can you maintain the conversation? This is a new thing from Alexa called ‘Let’s chat’ – it’s actually a competition that developers are taking part in to see if they can create a ‘socialbot’. Keep an eye out for this as it’s in the early stages but apparently you can talk about a topic with an AI device for up to 20 minutes on many everyday topics.

Remember, breakdowns in communication and misunderstandings are opportunities for you to improve, and you can always blame the technology! Interestingly, you can hear and read your questions and conversations again by accessing the app – this will give you a transcript to check and delete later if you’re concerned about privacy.

 

Part 2 speaking development 

Moving on from individual words and phrases and short questions and answers, let’s now consider IELTS Speaking Part 2. You’ll receive a card and you’ll have to speak about a topic for up to two minutes. There are many examples of possible topic cards online – select a few for the activity I’m about to explain. Without a teacher or even a fellow student, it may seem impossible to get feedback but you can record your answer and then listen again and identify places where you know you’ve made a mistake. Perhaps you didn’t talk about one of the key points or you spoke for too long. Perhaps you made a number of grammar mistakes you can now see. AI can help you go further here.

Follow these steps

(Click to enlarge)

Remember though that with AI, it’s a computer so it’s not perfect. But it does give you non-judgmental feedback for you to use to improve your speaking and better prepare for the exam.

Jishan

Jishan Uddin

Jishan has been an English teacher mostly at UK universities for over fifteen years and has extensive experience in teaching, co-ordinating and leading on a range of modules and courses. He is also an author for Cambridge University Press for whom he has written students' and teachers' books for IELTS exam preparation courses.

More about the author

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Recommended For You

recommended book image
Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Top 5 ways to improve your IELTS Speaking skills every day
Speaking
Top 5 ways to improve your IELTS Speaking skills every day

Being able to speak English fluently is the goal of most language learners. Speaking English when you're travelling or living abroad can make the experience easier. But if you don’t live in an English-speaking country, then having the opportunity to practice speaking in English is quite difficult.  Here are the top 5 ways to improve your speaking skills every single day.  1. Read! That’s right, you read that correctly! Much like writing (see 5 Ways to Improve your IELTS Writing Skills Every Day blog), reading widely will introduce you to a wide range of words and phrases. You’ll also be reading a wide range of grammar structures without actually having to focus on grammar. By being exposed (presented with) words and grammar used correctly and in context, you too will pick up new words and start using new grammatical structures. When you learn new words or structures, copy and paste them into a document or make a note of them on your phone, to help you remember them.  There are loads of freely available reading resources online. The most important thing is that you read about any topic you’re interested in, but it must be in English for this to help you with your speaking skill.   2. Listen!  Listen to music, the news, podcasts, the radio, anything and everything you can. Do this every day – while you’re having breakfast, sitting on the bus or at the gym. In the evenings, watch English speaking movies, TV and Netflix programmes with English subtitles on. You can find more tips for Listening here. The more English you listen to, the more vocabulary and grammar you’ll learn (without having to do any real work) and the better your pronunciation will be.  3. Talk to yourself in English!  A good way to practise speaking English is to talk to yourself when you’re alone. It can be quite embarrassing to try and speak English with others especially if you feel that your vocabulary isn’t very good but speaking to yourself isn’t embarrassing, is it?  Start by watching your favourite English-speaking programme with English subtitles. Watch for five minutes – listen and read the subtitles. Rewind and start again. The follow these instructions:   Watch the first few minutes again and listen to your recording. How did you sound? Can you do it better the next time? Focus on the pronunciation of the words, the rhythm of the sentence, the way the speakers link sounds between words, etc. You can repeat the same sequence as many times as you like.   4. Think in English!  It will also really help if you can think in English. It might sound a little strange but it really does help. Give yourself instructions in English for example; ‘I’m thirsty. Go to the kitchen, get a glass, turn on the tap…’. You could also keep a thoughts and feelings diary in English. Write down what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.  Try changing the default language on your mobile phones so that all the apps and information is in English. Do the same on any of your devices.  Play online games in English. Join online English chat forums. Respond to our Facebook and Instagram posts and stories in English. You may not be speaking but you will be thinking and responding in English! 5. Use technology! If you don’t want to talk to yourself why not talk to Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant? Don’t type a question into Google or whichever search engine you use; ask your personal assistant instead.  Going somewhere new? Ask your personal assistant to find the location and tell you the directions instead.  There are also apps which help connect you with native English speakers around the world. Here are a some of them:  HelloTalk Tandem Bilingua  HiNative In this new world that we live in we have to find new ways of speaking to people, technology has made that easier to do than ever before.  Start speaking English today! Every day! We hope this blog has been useful. Let us know which tip or tips you’re going to start using on our Facebook page. Liz

Liz Marqueiro

5 August, 2020

Top 5 ways to improve your IELTS Speaking skills every day

Top 5 ways to improve your IELTS Speaking skills every day

Being able to speak English fluently is the goal of most language learners. Speaking English when you're travelling or living abroad can make the experience easier. But if you don’t live in an English-speaking country, then having the opportunity to practice speaking in English is quite difficult.

Here are the top 5 ways to improve your speaking skills every single day.

1. Read!

That’s right, you read that correctly! Much like writing (see 5 Ways to Improve your IELTS Writing Skills Every Day blog), reading widely will introduce you to a wide range of words and phrases. You’ll also be reading a wide range of grammar structures without actually having to focus on grammar. By being exposed (presented with) words and grammar used correctly and in context, you too will pick up new words and start using new grammatical structures. When you learn new words or structures, copy and paste them into a document or make a note of them on your phone, to help you remember them.

There are loads of freely available reading resources online. The most important thing is that you read about any topic you’re interested in, but it must be in English for this to help you with your speaking skill.  

2. Listen!

Listen to music, the news, podcasts, the radio, anything and everything you can. Do this every day – while you’re having breakfast, sitting on the bus or at the gym. In the evenings, watch English speaking movies, TV and Netflix programmes with English subtitles on. You can find more tips for Listening here.

The more English you listen to, the more vocabulary and grammar you’ll learn (without having to do any real work) and the better your pronunciation will be.

3. Talk to yourself in English!

A good way to practise speaking English is to talk to yourself when you’re alone. It can be quite embarrassing to try and speak English with others especially if you feel that your vocabulary isn’t very good but speaking to yourself isn’t embarrassing, is it?

Start by watching your favourite English-speaking programme with English subtitles. Watch for five minutes – listen and read the subtitles. Rewind and start again. The follow these instructions:

Talk to yourself in English Instructions

 

Watch the first few minutes again and listen to your recording. How did you sound? Can you do it better the next time? Focus on the pronunciation of the words, the rhythm of the sentence, the way the speakers link sounds between words, etc. You can repeat the same sequence as many times as you like.

4. Think in English!

It will also really help if you can think in English. It might sound a little strange but it really does help. Give yourself instructions in English for example; ‘I’m thirsty. Go to the kitchen, get a glass, turn on the tap…’.

You could also keep a thoughts and feelings diary in English. Write down what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.

Try changing the default language on your mobile phones so that all the apps and information is in English. Do the same on any of your devices.

Play online games in English. Join online English chat forums. Respond to our Facebook and Instagram posts and stories in English. You may not be speaking but you will be thinking and responding in English!

5. Use technology!

If you don’t want to talk to yourself why not talk to Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant? Don’t type a question into Google or whichever search engine you use; ask your personal assistant instead.

Going somewhere new? Ask your personal assistant to find the location and tell you the directions instead.

There are also apps which help connect you with native English speakers around the world. Here are a some of them:

In this new world that we live in we have to find new ways of speaking to people, technology has made that easier to do than ever before.

Start speaking English today! Every day!

We hope this blog has been useful. Let us know which tip or tips you’re going to start using on our Facebook page.

Liz

Liz Marqueiro

Liz has been teaching IELTS around the world for over 25 years.

More about the author

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IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of scripts from real test takers. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Preparing for Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Test
Speaking
Preparing for Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Test

Do you find part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test difficult? You're not alone. Many people get really nervous about this. Don't panic, We Love IELTS is here to help.    Listening Practice: Listen to Emma read preparing for Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Test     Following on from my post about part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test today, I am going to  look at Part 2, explaining what it is and how to prepare for it so that you are confident and relaxed when you take the test. Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test is designed to test your ability to talk for a longer time. It gives you an opportunity to speak fluently about a personal experience.  Let’s start by looking at the format. The Speaking test is the same for both the Academic and General Training IELTS tests.  Part 2 lasts for a total of 3 to 4 minutes. The examiner will give you a cue card, a pencil, some paper and explain that you have 1 minute to prepare a 2-minute talk on the topic on the card. The cue card will look like this: (Click to enlarge) As you can see the cue card gives you the topic in the first line and then 4 areas to talk about. It’s helpful to use this as the structure of your talk. During the 1-minute preparation time you can make notes - these help you to plan your ideas and also help you if you get stuck in the middle of your talk.  Here are some things to remember: keep notes short - just a few words for each point on the cue card write notes in English (you don’t want to be translating as you talk) organise your notes so that they follow the prompts on the cue card try different approaches: lists, mind maps, words scattered on the paper.   Two minutes can feel like a very long time so make sure you choose something (from the above example) you can talk about for 2 minutes, this could mean adding to the story with extra information. Don’t worry about telling the truth, you’re being tested on your ability to organise your ideas and talk fluently on a topic! Don’t try to make the whole thing up though, that can be really hard, you may just want to add a few details that are not 100% accurate to show off some more vocabulary.  When you talk for longer than you would in a normal two-way conversation, it is important to think about cohesion, the way you link your ideas together. Be careful, though - using linkers that are too formal will make your speaking sound unnatural. Here are some linking devices to use in your speaking:   because    so     also      in addition on top of that        but  on the other hand   So, now you have a cue card, an idea of how to organise your notes and some linkers that you can use in your Speaking test. The only thing left to do is have a go.  Using this cue card, try making notes in different way and think about what works best for you. Here are two formats you could use:  (Click to enlarge) (Click to enlarge) Before your test, make sure you‘ve done lots of practice questions. Practise speaking with an alarm set to go off after two minutes so you can get a sense of how much you need to say. Be warned, if you have nothing to say it can feel like forever!  Another really great way to prepare is to record yourself (use your phone to do this.). Listen back and ask the following questions:  (Click to enlarge) Using sample cue cards, prepare for a minute and then talk for 2 minutes, record yourself and listen back, ask those questions and analyse your own work. The more you do it, the easier it will become and the more confident you will be.  Good luck everyone! Emma 

Emma Cosgrave

9 July, 2020

Preparing for Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Test

Preparing for Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Test

Do you find part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test difficult? You're not alone. Many people get really nervous about this. Don't panic, We Love IELTS is here to help.

 

Listening Icon Listening Practice: Listen to Emma read preparing for Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking Test

 

 

Following on from my post about part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test today, I am going to look at Part 2, explaining what it is and how to prepare for it so that you are confident and relaxed when you take the test.

Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test is designed to test your ability to talk for a longer time. It gives you an opportunity to speak fluently about a personal experience.

Let’s start by looking at the format. The Speaking test is the same for both the Academic and General Training IELTS tests.

Part 2 lasts for a total of 3 to 4 minutes. The examiner will give you a cue card, a pencil, some paper and explain that you have 1 minute to prepare a 2-minute talk on the topic on the card. The cue card will look like this:

Extract from PAGE 143 of The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

(Click to enlarge)

As you can see the cue card gives you the topic in the first line and then 4 areas to talk about. It’s helpful to use this as the structure of your talk. During the 1-minute preparation time you can make notes - these help you to plan your ideas and also help you if you get stuck in the middle of your talk.

Here are some things to remember:

  • keep notes short - just a few words for each point on the cue card
  • write notes in English (you don’t want to be translating as you talk)
  • organise your notes so that they follow the prompts on the cue card
  • try different approaches: lists, mind maps, words scattered on the paper.  

Two minutes can feel like a very long time so make sure you choose something (from the above example) you can talk about for 2 minutes, this could mean adding to the story with extra information. Don’t worry about telling the truth, you’re being tested on your ability to organise your ideas and talk fluently on a topic! Don’t try to make the whole thing up though, that can be really hard, you may just want to add a few details that are not 100% accurate to show off some more vocabulary.

When you talk for longer than you would in a normal two-way conversation, it is important to think about cohesion, the way you link your ideas together. Be careful, though - using linkers that are too formal will make your speaking sound unnatural. Here are some linking devices to use in your speaking:

 

because  so also in addition

on top of that but

on the other hand

 

So, now you have a cue card, an idea of how to organise your notes and some linkers that you can use in your Speaking test. The only thing left to do is have a go.

Using this cue card, try making notes in different way and think about what works best for you. Here are two formats you could use:

Making notes - mind map

(Click to enlarge)

Making notes - lists format

(Click to enlarge)

Before your test, make sure you‘ve done lots of practice questions. Practise speaking with an alarm set to go off after two minutes so you can get a sense of how much you need to say. Be warned, if you have nothing to say it can feel like forever!

Another really great way to prepare is to record yourself (use your phone to do this.). Listen back and ask the following questions:

Speaking Questions

(Click to enlarge)

Using sample cue cards, prepare for a minute and then talk for 2 minutes, record yourself and listen back, ask those questions and analyse your own work. The more you do it, the easier it will become and the more confident you will be.

Good luck everyone!

Emma

Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS - Recommended by Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

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Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Top tips from examiners for IELTS Speaking
Speaking
Top tips from examiners for IELTS Speaking

As an author for IELTS, I always find it's really important to fully understand the exam and hear from experiences of a really important group of people: IELTS examiners. Many of them have been doing this for a long time and have seen thousands of students. I asked some of them for their top tips to give to students taking the Speaking test and this is what they said:  Familiarise yourself with each part of the exam: As you can imagine, many examiners said that it’s essential that candidates are familiar with all the procedural aspects of the exam before taking it. That means that you should know how the exam works, how many parts there are and what is expected for each part. Of course, all good learners will do that! Make sure you answer the questions:  Sounds obvious but examiners have told me that too often candidates answer questions with answers that aren’t relevant. What often happens is that learners think they’ve heard a certain question – or maybe they’ve planned for a certain topic and want the question to be about this and so mishear the examiner – when in fact the examiner has asked something different.  One good piece of advice here is to ask the examiner to repeat the question if you’re not sure – better this than you give an answer that’s not related to the question. What if you hear the question correctly but the examiner uses an unfamiliar word? You can ask the examiner to explain that word to you. Again, it’s better to do that than guess the meaning incorrectly and start giving an answer concerning something you weren’t asked about. Once you’re confident about what you’ve been asked, it’s time to answer. Make sure you provide enough detail in your answers to get as high a score as possible. Expand on your initial answer by giving explanations and examples. Take your time and make yourself time: Not even native speakers can give the perfect answer immediately. Trust me, I’ve had many job interviews where I’ve tried to answer straight away and wish I had just given myself a little bit more time to think. Of course, you don’t want to appear as if you are hesitating or lack fluency so here’s a good tip. Paraphrase – or put in other words but with the same meaning – the examiner’s question back to them and then add a small comment like ‘that’s an interesting question’ or ‘that’s something I haven’t really thought about’. This will ‘buy’ yourself extra thinking time and it’s perfectly natural to do as long as you don’t do exactly the same thing for every single question. I certainly wish I had done this for my last interview!  As well as giving yourself time, think about how best to use it. You shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to answer the questions. Take your time and think about what you want to say. Speaking too quickly without taking the time to organise your thoughts can negatively affect your message’s coherence and may make it sound a bit muddled. Perform at your best in Part 2: To give yourself the best chance of doing well in Part 2, you should use all of the 1 minute preparation time before the long turn in this part. Ensure you have read the topic and prompts carefully so that you are confident that you know what you’ll say. Also, make notes in response to the prompts. These should just be keywords but having them will help you give a good answer. One examiner told me that some candidates forgot to answer the question in part 2. It seems amazing that this can happen, but apparently this is particularly frequent with candidates with lower levels of English. If that sounds too obvious for you to make the same mistake, then that’s great. Hopefully by reading this you’ll definitely not make this mistake in the exam.  One last bit of advice about Part 2’s long turn is that you should keep speaking until the examiner asks you to stop. When the examiner does this by indicating that you’ve run out of time, finish your last sentence and stop. That way you can finish in a more natural way. Hopefully these top tips can help you do even better in your next IELTS exam.  Good luck! Jishan

Jishan Uddin

3 July, 2020

Top tips from examiners for IELTS Speaking

Top tips from examiners for IELTS Speaking

As an author for IELTS, I always find it's really important to fully understand the exam and hear from experiences of a really important group of people: IELTS examiners. Many of them have been doing this for a long time and have seen thousands of students. I asked some of them for their top tips to give to students taking the Speaking test and this is what they said:

Familiarise yourself with each part of the exam:

As you can imagine, many examiners said that it’s essential that candidates are familiar with all the procedural aspects of the exam before taking it. That means that you should know how the exam works, how many parts there are and what is expected for each part. Of course, all good learners will do that!

Make sure you answer the questions:

Sounds obvious but examiners have told me that too often candidates answer questions with answers that aren’t relevant. What often happens is that learners think they’ve heard a certain question – or maybe they’ve planned for a certain topic and want the question to be about this and so mishear the examiner – when in fact the examiner has asked something different.

One good piece of advice here is to ask the examiner to repeat the question if you’re not sure – better this than you give an answer that’s not related to the question. What if you hear the question correctly but the examiner uses an unfamiliar word? You can ask the examiner to explain that word to you. Again, it’s better to do that than guess the meaning incorrectly and start giving an answer concerning something you weren’t asked about. Once you’re confident about what you’ve been asked, it’s time to answer. Make sure you provide enough detail in your answers to get as high a score as possible. Expand on your initial answer by giving explanations and examples.

Take your time and make yourself time:

Not even native speakers can give the perfect answer immediately. Trust me, I’ve had many job interviews where I’ve tried to answer straight away and wish I had just given myself a little bit more time to think. Of course, you don’t want to appear as if you are hesitating or lack fluency so here’s a good tip. Paraphrase – or put in other words but with the same meaning – the examiner’s question back to them and then add a small comment like ‘that’s an interesting question’ or ‘that’s something I haven’t really thought about’. This will ‘buy’ yourself extra thinking time and it’s perfectly natural to do as long as you don’t do exactly the same thing for every single question. I certainly wish I had done this for my last interview!

As well as giving yourself time, think about how best to use it. You shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to answer the questions. Take your time and think about what you want to say. Speaking too quickly without taking the time to organise your thoughts can negatively affect your message’s coherence and may make it sound a bit muddled.

Perform at your best in Part 2:

To give yourself the best chance of doing well in Part 2, you should use all of the 1 minute preparation time before the long turn in this part. Ensure you have read the topic and prompts carefully so that you are confident that you know what you’ll say. Also, make notes in response to the prompts. These should just be keywords but having them will help you give a good answer. One examiner told me that some candidates forgot to answer the question in part 2. It seems amazing that this can happen, but apparently this is particularly frequent with candidates with lower levels of English. If that sounds too obvious for you to make the same mistake, then that’s great. Hopefully by reading this you’ll definitely not make this mistake in the exam.

One last bit of advice about Part 2’s long turn is that you should keep speaking until the examiner asks you to stop. When the examiner does this by indicating that you’ve run out of time, finish your last sentence and stop. That way you can finish in a more natural way.

Hopefully these top tips can help you do even better in your next IELTS exam.

Good luck!

Jishan

Jishan Uddin

Jishan has been an English teacher mostly at UK universities for over fifteen years and has extensive experience in teaching, co-ordinating and leading on a range of modules and courses. He is also an author for Cambridge University Press for whom he has written students' and teachers' books for IELTS exam preparation courses.

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Top Tips for IELTS Academic

This pocket-sized revision guide gives you essential advice for each part of the IELTS Academic test. It includes clear examples and explanations to show you exactly what each tip means, general tips for each paper, and sections on how to revise and what to do on test day. It also comes with an interactive IELTS practice test on CD-ROM. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

All you need for IELTS success podcast
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Prepare for IELTS Speaking with our NEW podcast

We're pleased to announce the launch of our podcast, 'All you need for IELTS success'. This podcast is for anyone taking the IELTS test. Every episode we'll be joined by experts from the world of IELTS (teachers, authors and former IELTS examiners) to help you prepare for your test. We know preparing for IELTS can be challenging, which is why we're here to help. So whether you're taking Academic or General Training, you have six weeks or six months to prepare, we hope we can help you on your IELTS journey. Please see highlights of our current episodes and links to listen below: Episode 1: Top 5 IELTS questions answered In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz answer five questions they are frequently asked by their IELTS students. They cover the following questions: How can I prepare for IELTS at home? Which IELTS test should I prepare for? How long will it take me to prepare for IELTS? What is the difference between the computer delivered IELTS test and the paper based one Is the IELTS test easier in my home country? {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/r9O6K3G9AyA.jpg?itok=sJhT-tYZ","video_url":"https://youtu.be/r9O6K3G9AyA","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   Episode 2: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 1 In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test. Introduction to the IELTS Speaking test What is Part 1? Student/Examiner Speaking Part 1 examples and critique Hints and Tips to aid your preparation {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/esTeWQEJ8mM.jpg?itok=6N_HvpPo","video_url":"https://youtu.be/esTeWQEJ8mM","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   Episode 3: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 2 In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test. Introduction to Part 2 of the Speaking test What will you see on a cue card How to plan and answer the question Student/Examiner Speaking Part 2 example and critique {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/dqliM1CT8Oo.jpg?itok=fMT4w2bB","video_url":"https://youtu.be/dqliM1CT8Oo","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   Episode 4: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 3 In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test. Introduction to Part 3 of the Speaking test How to form opinions What is an unpopular opinion Examples from IELTS 12 (part of our authentic practice tests series) {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/DTbJd5vWN-s.jpg?itok=YF-ENwHY","video_url":"https://youtu.be/DTbJd5vWN-s","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   LISTEN NOW:       If you like this podcast, do rate and review on your preferred podcast player – this will help us to create new episodes and share more hints and tips to help you on your IELTS journey. Don't forget to subscribe to make sure you never miss another episode.

We Love IELTS

6 May, 2020

Prepare for IELTS Speaking with our NEW podcast

All you need for IELTS success podcast

We're pleased to announce the launch of our podcast, 'All you need for IELTS success'.
This podcast is for anyone taking the IELTS test. Every episode we'll be joined by experts from the world of IELTS (teachers, authors and former IELTS examiners) to help you prepare for your test.

We know preparing for IELTS can be challenging, which is why we're here to help. So whether you're taking Academic or General Training, you have six weeks or six months to prepare, we hope we can help you on your IELTS journey.

Please see highlights of our current episodes and links to listen below:

Episode 1: Top 5 IELTS questions answered

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz answer five questions they are frequently asked by their IELTS students. They cover the following questions:

  1. How can I prepare for IELTS at home?
  2. Which IELTS test should I prepare for?
  3. How long will it take me to prepare for IELTS?
  4. What is the difference between the computer delivered IELTS test and the paper based one
  5. Is the IELTS test easier in my home country?

 

Episode 2: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 1

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test.

  • Introduction to the IELTS Speaking test
  • What is Part 1?
  • Student/Examiner Speaking Part 1 examples and critique
  • Hints and Tips to aid your preparation

 

Episode 3: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 2

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test.

  • Introduction to Part 2 of the Speaking test
  • What will you see on a cue card
  • How to plan and answer the question
  • Student/Examiner Speaking Part 2 example and critique

 

Episode 4: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 3

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test.

 

LISTEN NOW:

Listen on apple podcasts  Listen on Google Podcasts  Listen on Spotify

If you like this podcast, do rate and review on your preferred podcast player – this will help us to create new episodes and share more hints and tips to help you on your IELTS journey. Don't forget to subscribe to make sure you never miss another episode.

We Love IELTS

We Love IELTS gives IELTS test takers all the preparation materials and advice they need for success.

More about the author

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IELTS Speaking Word Game
Speaking
IELTS Speaking Game: Don't Say It!

When you're speaking in English, do you sometimes find that halfway through a sentence you can't remember the word you want? Or do you find yourself talking about something and realise that you don't actually know the word you need in English? Don't worry – it's not just you – it’s a very common problem. This is a game you can play with a friend or in teams. It’s called Don’t Say It! – the title tells you the main instruction in the game!  Here’s a quick guide on how to play it. There’ll be examples after so that you can see how it works: 1. There is a pile of cards with a phrase and three to four words written underneath on each card. The cards are laid face down so no one can see what is on top. 2. One person picks up a card and doesn’t show it to anyone else. The card has an underlined word or phrase on the top and then a list of three or four other words.  3. The person who picked the card then needs to describe the underlined phrase. But, and here’s where it gets more difficult, they must NOT say ANY of the words on the card. They have 1 minute to try to get their partner or team to guess what they’re talking about. If they repeat any of the words on the card their turn is over.  4. If their partner or team can guess the word or phrase, they get a point. If not, it is offered to the other team to guess. If that team guesses the correct answer, they win the point. The next person picks up a new card and the game continues as above.  This game is fun (and a little frustrating!) but it’s also great practice for the Speaking test.  In the IELTS speaking test, showing you can keep up a conversation if you don't know a word is as important, or maybe even more important, as knowing the right word. If you forget the one word you need, you can then use the same techniques you use in this game. Using expressions like these can help you keep talking when you get stuck.  This is something which... You use this to... It's the same as... It's the opposite of... It's a place where... This is something you do when... This is a person who... Here are some cards for you to have some fun with, why not download and print to create your card deck. You could even make your own. Even native speakers find this game difficult but everyone thinks it’s fun! Go on, try it.  Liz

Liz Marqueiro

17 April, 2020

IELTS Speaking Game: Don't Say It!

IELTS Speaking Word Game

When you're speaking in English, do you sometimes find that halfway through a sentence you can't remember the word you want? Or do you find yourself talking about something and realise that you don't actually know the word you need in English? Don't worry – it's not just you – it’s a very common problem.

This is a game you can play with a friend or in teams. It’s called Don’t Say It! – the title tells you the main instruction in the game!

Here’s a quick guide on how to play it. There’ll be examples after so that you can see how it works:

1. There is a pile of cards with a phrase and three to four words written underneath on each card. The cards are laid face down so no one can see what is on top.

2. One person picks up a card and doesn’t show it to anyone else. The card has an underlined word or phrase on the top and then a list of three or four other words.

3. The person who picked the card then needs to describe the underlined phrase. But, and here’s where it gets more difficult, they must NOT say ANY of the words on the card. They have 1 minute to try to get their partner or team to guess what they’re talking about. If they repeat any of the words on the card their turn is over.

4. If their partner or team can guess the word or phrase, they get a point. If not, it is offered to the other team to guess. If that team guesses the correct answer, they win the point. The next person picks up a new card and the game continues as above.

This game is fun (and a little frustrating!) but it’s also great practice for the Speaking test.

In the IELTS speaking test, showing you can keep up a conversation if you don't know a word is as important, or maybe even more important, as knowing the right word. If you forget the one word you need, you can then use the same techniques you use in this game. Using expressions like these can help you keep talking when you get stuck.

  • This is something which...
  • You use this to...
  • It's the same as...
  • It's the opposite of...
  • It's a place where...
  • This is something you do when...
  • This is a person who...

Here are some cards for you to have some fun with, why not download and print to create your card deck. You could even make your own.

IELTS Speaking Word Game

Even native speakers find this game difficult but everyone thinks it’s fun!

Go on, try it.

Liz

Recommended by Liz

Liz Marqueiro

Liz has been teaching IELTS around the world for over 25 years.

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IELTS Vocabulary for Bands 6.5 and above

Learn all the vocabulary you need to achieve band 6.5 and above in IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It includes useful tips on how to learn vocabulary and covers tricky areas such as the language needed to describe data and processes. This book also includes practice exercises for each skill, regular progress checks and tips on how to avoid typical errors. Previous title Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced Also available for up to Band 6 *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

PART 1 IELTS SPEAKING TEST
Speaking
Preparing for the IELTS Speaking Test: Part 1

The IELTS Speaking test is designed to see how well you can communicate in English. There are 3 parts to the test, each part lasts for about 5 minutes and is important!  Today we are talking about part 1 - what it is and how to prepare for it. What to expect: The questions in Part 1 of the test are all about your life. When you enter the test room and sit down, smile and say, ‘hello’.  The examiner will ask you to say your name, check what country you come from and ask to see your identification. The examiner will then ask some questions about things like your hometown, job, studies, family and friends, hobbies, holidays, customs and tourism in your country and so on.  The challenge in Part 1 is to give answers that really show off your English rather than simple answers.  You could give a very short, simple answer e.g. Examiner: Are you working or studying at the moment? You: I’m working There is nothing grammatically wrong with this answer but there is nothing impressive about it either. Let’s try again. Examiner: Are you working or studying at the moment? You: I’m working as an architect. After graduating from university 2 years ago, I spent 6 months looking for the right job, finally I found it. I love my job because I get to travel all over the country and work on some really amazing projects.  Preparing for the test: DON’T memorise whole answers, instead brainstorm vocabulary for topic areas that might come up in part 1. Think about the questions someone might ask you about the topic if they were getting to know you. To extend your answers ask yourself ‘why’ after each question and add your reasons to your answer.  Here are some example questions with answers that I would give: Topic: HOME Examiner: Do you live in a flat or a house? My answer: live in a house. It is a semi-detached house that has 3 bedrooms, just enough for my family. I live there with my husband and children. I have lived in flats before and during that time I always wished I had a garden, now that I live in a house, I am lucky, I have a small garden. Examiner: What would you like to change about your home? My answer:I would love to convert my garage into an office so that when I work from home, I wouldn’t always sit at my kitchen table. I would love to have a bit more space as well, another bedroom and bathroom, so that friends could come and stay over, that would be great! Examiner: Did you live in the same place as a child? My answer: I didn’t live in this house when I was a child, but I did live nearby. I walk past my childhood home often and it always brings back really happy memories of playing with my sister on our bikes in the street outside. I am glad that my kids are getting to grow up in this neighbourhood too. (Click to enlarge) Download the topic list to help you practise for Part 1 of the test and why not share it with your friends so you can work on the answers together? Good luck!  Emma

Emma Cosgrave

7 April, 2020

Preparing for the IELTS Speaking Test: Part 1

PART 1 IELTS SPEAKING TEST

The IELTS Speaking test is designed to see how well you can communicate in English. There are 3 parts to the test, each part lasts for about 5 minutes and is important!

Today we are talking about part 1 - what it is and how to prepare for it.

What to expect:

The questions in Part 1 of the test are all about your life.

When you enter the test room and sit down, smile and say, ‘hello’.

The examiner will ask you to say your name, check what country you come from and ask to see your identification. The examiner will then ask some questions about things like your hometown, job, studies, family and friends, hobbies, holidays, customs and tourism in your country and so on.

The challenge in Part 1 is to give answers that really show off your English rather than simple answers.

You could give a very short, simple answer e.g.

  • Examiner: Are you working or studying at the moment?
  • You: I’m working

There is nothing grammatically wrong with this answer but there is nothing impressive about it either. Let’s try again.

  • Examiner: Are you working or studying at the moment?
  • You: I’m working as an architect. After graduating from university 2 years ago, I spent 6 months looking for the right job, finally I found it. I love my job because I get to travel all over the country and work on some really amazing projects.

Preparing for the test:

DON’T memorise whole answers, instead brainstorm vocabulary for topic areas that might come up in part 1. Think about the questions someone might ask you about the topic if they were getting to know you. To extend your answers ask yourself ‘why’ after each question and add your reasons to your answer.

Here are some example questions with answers that I would give:

Topic: HOME

  • Examiner: Do you live in a flat or a house?
  • My answer: live in a house. It is a semi-detached house that has 3 bedrooms, just enough for my family. I live there with my husband and children. I have lived in flats before and during that time I always wished I had a garden, now that I live in a house, I am lucky, I have a small garden.
  • Examiner: What would you like to change about your home?
  • My answer:I would love to convert my garage into an office so that when I work from home, I wouldn’t always sit at my kitchen table. I would love to have a bit more space as well, another bedroom and bathroom, so that friends could come and stay over, that would be great!
  • Examiner: Did you live in the same place as a child?
  • My answer: I didn’t live in this house when I was a child, but I did live nearby. I walk past my childhood home often and it always brings back really happy memories of playing with my sister on our bikes in the street outside. I am glad that my kids are getting to grow up in this neighbourhood too.
IELTS Speaking Topic List

(Click to enlarge)

Download the topic list to help you practise for Part 1 of the test and why not share it with your friends so you can work on the answers together?

Good luck!

Emma

Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS - Recommended by Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

More about the author

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Understanding the IELTS Speaking Test

Are you worried about the IELTS Speaking test? Don’t know what to expect? You’re not alone! Many of my students have been in the same position. Understanding what’s expected of you in the test is the first step to getting the results you need. Let's start with some facts: The Speaking test is the same for both IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic. It takes 11–14 minutes and is designed to assess a wide range of skills. The Speaking test is made up of three parts. There is one candidate and one examiner in the test room. The test is recorded (audio only, not video). Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test In Part 1 of the Speaking test the examiner will introduce him/herself and ask you to confirm your identity. They will then ask you some general questions on familiar topics, such as work, study, where you live, friends and hobbies. You’re not expected to talk for a long time on each topic but you should explain your answers by giving reasons for what you say. Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test In Part 2 of the Speaking test you have to talk for 1 to 2 minutes. You’ll be given a topic and some prompts on a piece of paper. You’ll get 1 minute to prepare what you’re going to say and then 2 minutes to talk. You’ll be given a pencil and some paper to make notes on. Here’s an example of a Part 2 task from page 78 of Top Tips for IELTS Academic for you to try. (Click to enlarge) Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test In the final part of the Speaking test the examiner will ask some questions related to the topic from Part 2. These questions give you an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas. You’ll need to use language for giving and justifying opinions in this part of the test. The examiner The IELTS examiner will be fully qualified and registered. All examiners have to undergo the same training and certification, so no matter where you take your IELTS test, it will be exactly the same. (Click on image to enlarge). Is there something else you want to know about the IELTS Speaking test? Tell us on Facebook or Instagram. Good luck and get practising! Emma

Emma Cosgrave

4 March, 2020

Understanding the IELTS Speaking Test

IELTS Speaking

Are you worried about the IELTS Speaking test? Don’t know what to expect? You’re not alone! Many of my students have been in the same position. Understanding what’s expected of you in the test is the first step to getting the results you need.

Let's start with some facts:

  • The Speaking test is the same for both IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic.
  • It takes 11–14 minutes and is designed to assess a wide range of skills.
  • The Speaking test is made up of three parts.
  • There is one candidate and one examiner in the test room.
  • The test is recorded (audio only, not video).

Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test

In Part 1 of the Speaking test the examiner will introduce him/herself and ask you to confirm your identity. They will then ask you some general questions on familiar topics, such as work, study, where you live, friends and hobbies. You’re not expected to talk for a long time on each topic but you should explain your answers by giving reasons for what you say.

Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test

In Part 2 of the Speaking test you have to talk for 1 to 2 minutes. You’ll be given a topic and some prompts on a piece of paper. You’ll get 1 minute to prepare what you’re going to say and then 2 minutes to talk. You’ll be given a pencil and some paper to make notes on.

Here’s an example of a Part 2 task from page 78 of Top Tips for IELTS Academic for you to try.

Speaking Part 2 from Page 78 of Top Tips for IELTS Academic 

(Click to enlarge)

Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test

In the final part of the Speaking test the examiner will ask some questions related to the topic from Part 2. These questions give you an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas. You’ll need to use language for giving and justifying opinions in this part of the test.

The examiner

The IELTS examiner will be fully qualified and registered. All examiners have to undergo the same training and certification, so no matter where you take your IELTS test, it will be exactly the same.

The Examiner

(Click on image to enlarge).

Is there something else you want to know about the IELTS Speaking test? Tell us on Facebook or Instagram.

Good luck and get practising!

Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

More about the author

filter tags

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This pocket-sized revision guide gives you essential advice for each part of the IELTS Academic test. It includes clear examples and explanations to show you exactly what each tip means, general tips for each paper, and sections on how to revise and what to do on test day. It also comes with an interactive IELTS practice test on CD-ROM. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

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