The Most Common IELTS Speaking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them!

Let’s talk about IELTS Speaking. More specifically, it’s time we focus on those common IELTS speaking mistakes.

This article addresses each section of the Speaking test and shares the most common IELTS speaking mistakes test-takers “trip up” on during each part.

common IELTS speaking mistakes
Avoid these common mistakes on test-day! 

Common IELTS Speaking Mistakes #1

Part 1: Answers are too short.

In this part of the test it’s important to elaborate! Provide enough information to make the interaction feel “conversational”.

You should try to aim for a 2-3 sentence answer.

Here’s an example:

“Where did you grow up?”

Bad Response: “A small city in Nigeria.”

Good Response: “I grew up in a small city in Nigeria. It’s about 2 hours from the capital city. The surrounding area is known to be very beautiful. But I moved away when I was only 4 years old. So…  honestly, I don’t remember it clearly.”

Now, let’s talk about these responses.

Remember, during this portion of the test the examiner needs to evaluate the quality of your spoken English! Therefore, it’s important that we give them something to evaluate!

Of course you need to stay on topic and answer their question directly, but, don’t be afraid to also add details to your responses.

Watch this speaking simulation for Part 1:

Common IELTS Speaking Mistake #2

Part 2: Not elaborating enough. 

common ielts speaking mistakes
Silence is not going to help. Remember to sound “conversational” when you speak. Your fluency will determine this.

In any of the three parts, giving responses that are too short is one of the most common IELTS speaking mistakes.

It can be quite hard to speak for such an extended amount of time!

Especially in PART 2 where you are required to speak continually for two minutes. (Note: IELTS time specifications are important!)

It helps to try and tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. This will help you produce a lengthier response while still giving a “well-organized” and clear answer.

For more help with Part 2 watch this webinar:

Common IELTS Speaking Mistake #3

Part 3: Silence … is not golden? 

This section of the Speaking test can be intimidating. It requires you to think critically and give your opinion.

Remember, it is important to not only give your opinion but also explain your reasoning. You may want to give an example or even explain by using a story from your own personal experience.

You want to avoid false starts during any part of the Speaking test.

So, if necessary, you may need to think about your answer. In particular, when you are asked to give these opinion type responses in Part 3, you may feel the urge to pause.

But rather than thinking silently or mumbling, “Uhhhhh..”, try to save yourself time.

While you think start by saying, “That’s a good question…” or, “Wow, I really haven’t thought of about that before…

For more tips on Part 3 check out this short Lesson video:

3 Most Common IELTS Mistakes Recap

common ielts speaking mistakes
So there you have it! Did you get all that? Read on for some IELTS speaking tips! 

Overall here’s what to remember:

In general, avoid pauses and false starts. If you make a mistake, keep going. The examiner wants to see that you can have a conversation and express yourself without issues. Mistakes are okay – just keep talking!

You need to remember that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. You are not being judged on the opinions you give! So try to relax and keep all your responses as conversational as possible.

Some of the most straightforward advice we can give you is to stick to what you know and use on a daily basis. This way you will avoid long pauses and eliminate stressing yourself out.

Again, it comes down to how well you can communicate fluently. It’s not about speaking absolutely perfectly. You just need to make sense.

So, to fine-tune your presentation skills practice with this webinar:

Another great way to improve is by recording yourself as you answer different questions. This way you’ll be able to critique your own mistakes and better notice subtleties that may make your speech a little harder to comprehend.

Remember, these common IELTS speaking mistakes are easily avoidable. With the right amount of revision and practice, you’ll be well on your way!

For more information on the IELTS speaking, including test format and preparation tips, visit the IELTS speaking preparation overview article.

For an account of Jay’s experience getting an “impossible” IELTS 9 in Speaking, visit the article on How to get an IELTS 9 in Speaking.

What are your common IELTS speaking mistakes? Be sure to let us know what yours are in the comments! 

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

Written by Olivia B. 

IELTS Coaching: Crack the Top 3 IELTS Conspiracy Theories

Jay’s IELTS coaching article will blow IELTS conspiracy theories right off this planet! (No, not literally!). See for yourself, uncover the truth behind the conspiracies and learn some interesting facts along the way! 

IELTS coaching
A conspiracy theory is a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for an unexplained event … Caution!

IELTS coaching | Do you know what a conspiracy theory is?

Well, it’s an underground theory that hasn’t been confirmed. Think ALIENS. Think OBAMA’s birth certificate. Think the FAKE moon landing of 1969. (Where is Obama REALLY from? And why is the FLAG blowing on the moon when there is no wind up there!?)

Conspiracy theories are usually a bit of fun. They’re good conversation topics when you have some friends over and everyone goes ‘WOW’ isn’t the world a mysterious and scary place?!

But conspiracy theories relating to IELTS are not fun. They are not fun because whether or not they are true, there are people suffering. I’ve met many, many confused, depressed, zig-zagging students looking for the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”.

My question is: Are any of these conspiracies true?

Let’s look at the top three IELTS conspiracy theories and whether there is any evidence to support them. Remember, we need FACTS and EVIDENCE to prove whether something is TRUE, right?

Let’s lay it all on the table to see what’s what. I’ll stick up for IELTS coaching by playing ‘devil’s advocate’ but please write your own experiences into the comments below!

1. It’s impossible to get over 6.5 for IELTS writing

Did you receive an IELTS 6.5 for your writing? Well so did everyone else. Or, at least, that’s how it seems. There seems to be ANECDOTAL evidence (not statistical evidence) that everyone gets 6.5 for writing. How can this be? Are the IELTS examiners biased? Does the IELTS empire extort you to make money?

Or could it be that most people sit around the 6.5 level with writing?

Not everyone reaches perfection in their second language. Many start and many fail to get past a week’s worth of study. For those people who are more ambitious, they fall on a spectrum of failure and success, or beginner to advanced. Some just become conversational, some become relatively fluent and very, very few make it to the upper limits of what it means to be ‘ADVANCED’.

Take a quick look at the article on IELTS writing task 2 here!

Do you know what a ‘bell curve’ is?

It describes where most people sit on a spectrum. Imagine this one describes IELTS 4.5 to IELTS 9. MOST people would sit around 6.5 for writing. So the fact that IELTS does give 6.5 for writing to most people does make sense. It’s statistically more likely than 4 or 8. The problem for most people is that they need 8. And there’s a BIG difference between an IELTS 6.5 and an 8.

Specifically, to get to an 8 from a 6.5 is like running the 100 meters in 10 seconds rather than 20 seconds. Most people can run the 100 meters in under 20 seconds, but sub-10 is a whole new ball game! It’s tough and requires massive amounts of training!

IELTS coaching
Bell curve: Where do people sit? 

First, your vocabulary has to increase MASSIVELY. An IELTS 6.5 writer would probably know about 10,000 English words. That’s heaps, right? Well, that’s about a third of what a well educated native English speaker knows. So, to estimate, an IELTS 8 writer would know and be able to use about 25,000 words in comparison. That’s more than twice as many words as the 6.5er.

Not only that, but the grammatical differences between an 8 scorer and a 6.5er are significant. While the 8 scorer makes the ‘odd’ grammatical with complex stuff, the 6.5er is making LOTS of errors, and probably making lots of common errors such as PUTTING “S” ON THE END OF PLURAL NOUNS!

In terms of structure, the 8 scorer would have a far more logically connected essay, whereby the introduction flows into paragraph 1, and into paragraph 2 and into the conclusion which then links back to the two paragraphs and back to the conclusion.

This would all be done ‘effortlessly’ like you are reading a very well written news article. A 6.5er, by contrast, would probably be writing a bit of a ‘clunky’ essay. It kind of connects, but it kind of doesn’t as well.

The IELTS examiners, for your interest, have a marking tool upon which they base their decision to give you a 6.5 or an 8. It’s not ‘arbitrary’. It’s not ‘guesswork’. They have a framework where they mark you according to:

  • VOCABULARY
  • GRAMMAR
  • STRUCTURE

And whether or not you wrote ON TOPIC.

Contained within each of these criteria are little descriptions such as: Can use collocations.

Can you use collocations? Do you know what they are?

Collocations are a type of vocabulary which you can think of as a ‘natural sounding phrase’ such as an adjective noun combination like “major reason” or “overall well-being”. These are the same phrases that native-speakers use all the time.

In other words, a 6.5er would use English words while an 8 scorer would use ‘natural’ words… or combinations of natural words that sound NORMAL to a native speaker not Google translated.

To put this all into context, it might FEEL unfair when you receive a 6.5 but ask yourself: How good am I compared to a native speaker? Because that’s who you are ultimately being scored against. Your average native English speaker — without preparation — would probably receive an 8 and with some preparation would probably receive an 8.5 or 9.

Making the stretch from 6.5 to 8 is not easy; it’s challenging. There are so many little details in language that can make the difference. And do you know what will help you to achieve an 8? Expert feedback. I can’t stress this enough for IELTS coaching.

2. Taking your IELTS in a non-native English speaking country makes it easier

IELTS Speaking is done via humans… “What?”, you ask… “Humans?!” That’s right. IELTS robots don’t exist just yet. In the meantime, you’re going to have to talk to a human on test day. And you know what? Humans are BIASED. Yes they are. Countless scientific studies have shown just how biased we are. We pre-judge based on just about any characteristic – hair cut, hair colour, hair length, curly hair, straight hair, dyed hair, bald! We are judgmental machines and we do it effortlessly and immediately.

IELTS coaching
Unlike the PTE, your IELTS examiner won’t be a computer!

So what should you do if you live in a country where English is the first language? Because surely it would be more competitive than taking the test where English is poorly spoken.

I know a terrible idea: Take your IELTS test overseas. It’ll cost you at least $2,000 and you know what? The IELTS examiners will use the same set of criteria – or marking tool – that they do in the country which you just left.

That’s right… just like the writing, the IELTS examiners have a guide in front of them that breaks down your speaking into four categories:

1. VOCABULARY
2. GRAMMAR
3. PRONUNCIATION
4. FLUENCY

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, that guide — those criteria — doesn’t change. And HOPEFULLY, the IELTS examiner’s opinion of your speaking — not you — will not change. Be friendly, but know that there are guidelines for your speaking.

You know what you could spend your money on instead of taking a week off work, paying $300 for the same test overseas, accommodation, food and flights? Get some expert speaking feedback from one of the trained IELTS coaching teachers at E2Language!

3. Tick ‘other’ when you register for IELTS so they don’t know what score you want

This is the newest one I’ve heard and the most interesting, not because it’s true or even really plausible but just plain silly. Apparently, if you tick ‘other’ when registering for IELTS then they don’t know what score you need and will be more generous when dishing out the grades. The funny thing is, the examiners never see this information anyway, so it really doesn’t determine anything. It’s just collected data for IELTS to use in whichever way they see fit.

Unless the 1000s of IELTS examiners located around the world are all in on the scam?!

I doubt it very much. But I am interested to see what you think.

What I think is going on from my experience IELTS coaching, is people are frustrated because IELTS don’t provide any indication of where you might have gone wrong on your writing or speaking and that sucks. It would be great to know WHY you scored so poorly in writing, right? Or what you did wrong in speaking? That would be great; but for that to happen IELTS would have to increase the price of the test substantially so that the examiners could return it with comments.

Imagine if IELTS examiners gave your essay back with comments illustrating what you did right and what you did wrong?

That’s called FEEDBACK people, and we offer IELTS coaching in the form of written assessments and expert tutorials and that’s what will get you the elusive IELTS 8.

Be sure to watch the E2 IELTS YouTube channel for IELTS coaching videos on IELTS Writing Task 2: 

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!



Written by Jay.