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.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
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.

Skill bar

Stay up-to-date