Have you registered for the IELTS test and are you worried that you need a high band score? Have you taken IELTS in the past but could not get the desired band score in speaking?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you are at the right place to get the best tips for the IELTS speaking test.
The IELTS test evaluates your ability in four sections: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. There are two modules to the test - Academic or General Training and you will need to choose which type of test to take based on the requirements of the body you are applying to.
The Speaking section is same for both the Academic and General Training modules. .
First of all, it is extremely important to know how you will be assessed in your IELTS Speaking Test Another key thing to remember is the test format.
A thorough understanding of these would be your battle half won, as it will give you a fair idea of how to prepare, what to prepare for and understand the areas you need to give more time to, while practicing for the test.
IELTS Speaking test format
The total duration of the IELTS speaking test is 11-14 minutes. The test is divided into three parts as follows:
IELTS speaking part
|4 to 5 minutes||Introduction, identity check, Questions & Answers|
|3 to 4 minutes||1 minute planning time for 1-2 minutes speech|
|4 to 5 minutes||Discussion|
IELTS speaking questions
The questions in all the three sections vary to provide you opportunity to show the range of your language on a variety of topics and in varying lengths of response.
Question types and common IELTS speaking topics
|In this part, the examiner will ask questions related to your life. This section includes familiar topics and the questions are factual in nature. You are expected to answer giving more information related to the topic. For example, give reasons for your choice and actions. Take care not to over-stretch your responses. Common topics in this section are related to: family, friends, work/study, holidays, lifestyle, habits, likes & dislikes, hobbies & interests, etc.|
|In this part, you are given a topic, or a task card, and you need to give a talk, or a monologue, for 1 to 2 minutes. Before beginning to speak, you are given one minute to plan your speech. Make sure you utilise this one minute judiciously and plan what you want to talk about. Topics in these task cards usually focus on familiar or personal areas, such as your experience of something, such as - vacation, memorable incident / event / person, meeting an ideal person, milestone life event, etc.|
In this part, the examiner will ask you questions which are more abstract in nature. These questions are thematically and broadly linked to the topic given in part 2. You are expected to respond on the basis of your knowledge and experience. Example of how the topic could be linked to task card: Task 2: Your favourite holiday destination Task 3: Why are holidays important? How can tourism help a country's economy? Etc
Make sure the length of the answers is longer than those in part 1. This is also your last chance to display the range of your language; make the most of this opportunity to give evidence of your language proficiency.
(Table adapted from: British Council Take IELTS )
IELTS speaking assessment criteria:
There are four key assessment criteria for IELTS Speaking:
- Fluency & Coherence (FC)
- Lexical Resource (LR)
- Grammatical range and accuracy (GRA)
- Pronunciation (P)
Each contributes 25% of your total IELTS speaking score.
You will be awarded bands 0-9 in full and halves. E.g. 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5… This is calculated as an average of your scores in all four assessment criteria, to the nearest score.
For example, if you score:
Total speaking score
Your speaking score will be 6.5 as 6.75 is not full or half, and it is less than 7.
In order to understand how you are assigned/given these bands/grades for each assessment criteria, download the public version of IELTS speaking band descriptors (see below).
This is one of the most important documents that you must read carefully and several times, if you are preparing for the IELTS test. The public version of band descriptors are available for both the Writing and Speaking sections of the IELTS test.
In this blog let us look at the speaking band descriptor to understand how our performance is assessed and awarded grades.
IELTS speaking band descriptor
The speaking assessment and band descriptor are the same for both Academic and General Training modules of the test. The band descriptors explain how speaking skills are assessed under the four key criteria:
- Fluency & Coherence,
- Lexical Resource,
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy
Each assessment criteria is explained, in detail, at every band level from 0 (lowest level) to 9 (highest level). A thorough study of each of the four assessment criteria at each level will give you clarity on how candidates are assessed in the Speaking section of the test and how band scores are assigned to candidates. Let us understand what is included in each of these categories.
Fluency & Coherence
Fluency (F): Fluency describes the ease with which you are able to speak at length without noticeable hesitation, pauses or repetition. In order to be fluent, you should sound natural and be able to convey the right expression so that the listener can easily comprehend your message.
Coherence (C): This refers to the logical development of ideas; their linking within and between sentences while speaking. The examiners look for ease with which your listener can understand and follow your ideas. This is dependent on how you link your ideas with appropriate words and phrases.
Key factors that contribute to higher scores in Fluency & Coherence are:
- the ability to keep going and talking about the topic without much hesitation, repetition or self-correction
- understanding the topic and producing logical ideas connected with it, while developing your points
- using a range of linking words and other strategies used for presenting your ideas
- self-correction should be done but limited in frequency
- hesitation can be content related (looking for ideas) but language related hesitation should be minimised
- avoiding the repetition of certain words or phrases, often used as ‘fillers’ for fluency e.g. like, you know, etc.
To understand more about the Fluency and Coherence criteria for IELTS Speaking , watch this video.
Lexical Resource (LR)
This refers to the range of vocabulary used by a candidate. In order to score high, it is recommended that you use a wide range of vocabulary, including less common phrases and idiomatic language, in a natural way.
Key factors that contribute to higher scores are:
- appropriate and natural use of uncommon words in context
- the ability to paraphrase (saying the same thing in different words) using a range of words and expressions to avoid repetition
- accurate use of phrasal verbs, figurative language and idiomatic expressions
- accurate use of collocations E.g. go shopping and not do shopping
- Making the right word choice for the right connotation E.g. slim converys a positive meaning, whereas skinny may be used negatively
To learn more about the Lexical Resource criteria, watch this video
Grammatical range and accuracy (GRA)
This means that it is important to use a variety of grammatical structures accurately, in order to score high in IELTS Speaking. ’Playing it safe’ by producing accurate sentences but with only a limited range will not be enough to get you a high score. You may need to demonstrate you can use a good mix of various grammatical structures accurately like:
- using a balanced combination of simple, compound and complex sentences
- using a range of tenses including perfect, future forms and narratives
- using modals for different functions
- using referencing and connectors to link two or more ideas
- using subordinating and relative clauses
- using comparative and superlative adjectives
- using active and passive voice appropriately
- using conditionals to speculate, talk about past events that cannot be changed or hypothetical (imaginary) events
To learn more about some of these features of Grammar for IELTS Speaking, watch this video.
Pronunciation is not to be confused with ‘accent’. At the IELTS test, you are not expected to speak in any particular accent. You should rather speak in a way that you are clearly understood, without your listener having to focus on every word that you utter. Various features of pronunciation include are:
- correct individual sounds (phonemes)
- strong and weak sounds in sentences
- stress - at word and sentence level
- intonation - to convey the right emotion
- linking sounds and contractions for fluency
- chunking - combination of pause and stress, for emphasis
Watch this video to learn more about some of these pronunciation features for the IELTS test.