Do you want to achieve band 7 and above in your IELTS speaking test but are not sure of how to get there? Do you need a roadmap for achieving your dream score in the IELTS speaking test?
In this blog, we will help you analyse the expected criteria for band 7 as laid out in the IELTS speaking band descriptors available in the public domain so that you are able to focus your preparation on these targeted areas of expected linguistic requirements of the IELTS speaking test.
As you may be aware, your performance in the IELTS Speaking test is rated on the following four criteria:
- Fluency and Coherence
- Lexical Resource
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy
To help us understand how the criteria are used, let us look at the responses of two candidates on the long turn topic: “Describe your favourite movie”. Talk about: Which is the movie? Why do you like it? What is the story about?
My favourite film is Three Idiots. I like this film a lot eeehhh… and it make me laughing and crying at the same time. It is the story of the three friends. They is called the three idiots. Mmmmm….It talk , it tell about how they become friends in one engineering college. It has many fun-ny-fun-ny scenes in it. My favourite fun-ny scene in the movie is about one student. He is not knowing Hindi properly get up to give a speech in Hindi and all the audience start laughing at him when he make many mistake in that speech. Mmmm……, so all audience start laughing at him…………………….(long pause) Later……ehhh…. Later…. he come ….to know that the speech…. which he was given was not her speech. His speech, sorry, her speech…. it was written by the three friends. They played a joke in him and put all wrong Hindi words in it….
I am a bit of a movie buff and one of my all-time favourite movies is The Three Idiots. The movie is acutally… mmmm…a journey of self discovery of three young men…. who bond in an engineering college…. and go on to become life long friends. While this journey of self discovery is not without its heart aches,….mmm… what stood out for me the most in this movie is probably the…..the iconic speech by one of the other characters who mmmm both the audiences as well as the three central characters in the movie loved to hate. The speech layered with…..eh eh eh hilarious double entendres has audiences rolling on the floor with laughter….It is one of the most hysterical and…, and… and… side-splitting pranks that the three friends played on this unsuspecting student in the film and I remember this movie most for this one unforgettable scene.
Now, let us examine the public band descriptors for band 7 for the IELTS speaking test to understand what the requirements for each of the four criteria are and what you need to do in order to achieve this higher band.
- Fluency and Coherence: To achieve band 7 or above in the IELTS Speaking test, for fluency and coherence, according to the public band descriptors, you need to:
- Speak at length without noticeable effort
- Use a range of discourse markers
Notice the number of pauses, hesitations and false starts in the example provided for band 5. Compared to that the example for band 7 has fewer hesitations and pauses. The candidate does pause, but the pauses are shorter and do not affect overall coherence. Also, notice the discourse markers that the band 7 candidate has used: actually, what stood out for me, while, as well as, his speech etc. The range of discourse markers and lack of too many hesitations and pauses enables this performance to achieve band 7 or even higher for fluency and coherence.
2. Lexical Resource: The requirements for achieving band 7 and above for Lexical Resource as per the public band descriptors are:
- Use of a wide range of vocabulary (i.e. use of synonyms)
- Use of idioms and phrases to show awareness of style
What is very jarring, in the IELTS Speaking test band 5 example above, is the repetition of certain words. For example notice the number of times the words, funny and speech are used. To get a band 7 and above you must be able to use synonyms effectively. Take a look at how synonymy is used to good effect in the band 7 example. There are three different words used for the word funny: hilarious, hysterical, and side-splitting. In the band 5 example, there is no evidence of use of any kind of idiomatic phrases (except one which is also incorrect in terms of preposition usage “joke in him”). Whereas in the example for band 7, you will see idioms such as “rolling on the floor with laughter” and side-splitting pranks” as well as some good phrases such as “unsuspecting student” and “unforgettable scene”. Both these idioms and phrases are contextually as well as lexically appropriate. These are clear evidence of wider range and higher level of control over vocabulary required to achieve band 7 and higher.
3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy: According to the public band descriptors to get a band 7 and above in the IELTS speaking test, you must be able to do the following for Grammatical Range and Accuracy:
- Produce a range of complex sentences (Complex sentences are sentences that use subordinators such as “because, although, while, who, which, that” to join two sentences).
- Frequently produce error-free sentences.
Going back to our example of band 5, you will notice, that very few complex sentences have been attempted and most of them simple and complex sentences are grammatically incorrect. Take a look at this example “He is not knowing Hindi properly so when get up to give a speech in Hindi, all the audience start laughing at him when he make many mistake in that speech.” The speaker has used a complex sentence with the subordinator “when” but there is no variety in his use of subordinators and the sentence though complex is incorrect. The number of other types of grammatical errors are also too many to merit a higher band. There are basic errors in the use of prepositions, subject verb agreement, use of pronouns and tenses. Contrastively, in the second example, there are lots of correct complex sentences. For e.g. “While this journey of self discovery is not without its heart aches,….mmm… what stood out for me the most in this movie is probably the…..the iconic speech by one of the other characters who mmmm both the audiences as well as the three central characters in the movie loved to hate” is a long complex sentence joined by subordinators such as “while”, “what” “who” and “as well as”. Though there are some errors in the usage of tenses, in this sentence in particular, “While this journey of self-discovery is not without its heart aches, what stood out for me the most in this movie is…..”, they are however, not as frequent as in the example for band 5. So, what stands out in the band 7 example, are the number of complex sentences, the use of a variety of subordinators and the frequency of correct sentences. All of them are required to achieve a band 7 or higher for Grammatical Range and Accuracy.
4. Pronunciation: According to the band descriptors for band 7 for pronunciation, you must be able to
- Speak without L1 interference.
- Use some if not all the effective features of connected speech.
This means to get a band 7, you must be able to pronounce the words correctly. If you say “filum” instead of film or “collige” instead of college or “estudent” instead of student, you will not be able to achieve band 7 for pronunciation. In addition to correctness at the phonemic level, you must also be able to use some features of connected speech such as intonation patterns and pausing at the right place for meaningful effect. If there are lots of pauses at the wrong places in your speech, it will adversely affect your intonation patterns which in turn will prevent you from attaining band 7 for pronunciation. So, you must ensure that your pronunciation at the word level is accurate and that you use the rising and falling tone appropriately in all parts of the test to achieve band 7 and above.
In a nutshell, what you need to do to get a band 7 and above in the IELTS speaking test across the four criteria as described in the public speaking band descriptors is:
- Speak at length using appropriate discourse markers.
- Use synonyms and idiomatic expressions.
- Use complex, error-free sentences.
- Use the correct pronunciation of words and appropriate intonation patterns.
We hope that this blog has helped you to understand the requirements laid out in the public band descriptors for achieving band 7 and above and you will now be able to use this information to prepare in a much more systematic and comprehensive manner for your IELTS speaking test.
Good luck with your preparation and for your test.
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