IELTS Speaking Preparation Overview | Tips & Topics for IELTS success!

This article on IELTS speaking preparation explores the 3 parts of the IELTS speaking section and provides a list of IELTS topics along with useful tips for test day! 

The speaking section of the IELTS test is included in both the general and academic IELTS. It lasts for less than 15 minutes and includes 3 parts which will be examined in more detail:

Part 1: Interview

Part 2: Presentation

Part 3: Discussion

Interview (IELTS speaking preparation)

In part 1, the examiner will ask you some simple questions about yourself, such as:

  • What did you study?
  • What do you do for work?
  • What’s your hometown like?
  • What kind of food do you like?
  • Do you enjoy going to the movies?

As you can see from these examples, these questions are pretty easy to answer. The trick is, not to give answers that are too short.

For example, if the examiner asks you what kind of food you like, try to elaborate. Rather than just saying: “I like all kinds of food”, you can say something like: “I have eclectic taste in food. I enjoy trying foods from different countries and experiencing their flavours. I especially like Greek, Italian and Thai food”.

Presentation (IELTS speaking preparation)

In part 2, you will be given a task card that looks something like this:

ielts speaking preparation

As you can see from the example, the topic will always be related to a personal experience you have had. You will have 1 minute to note down ideas and then you will be given 2 minutes to speak continuously on the topic.

Discussion (IELTS speaking preparation)

Part 3 is a discussion.

Here, the examiner will ask you some more questions related to the topic of part 2. But these questions will be more abstract and related to your opinion rather than your experience.

For example, based on the topic above, some discussion questions could be:

  • In your opinion, are national celebrations an important part of a country’s identity?
  • Are any traditional celebrations in your country disappearing? Why do you think that is?
  • Do you think these days that celebrations in your country are over-commercialised or have lost their original meaning?

IELTS speaking topics

There are common themes in IELTS speaking topics, though the specifics of each question vary.

See a list of common themes below!

ielts speaking preparation

The examiner is looking for four things:

#1 Fluency and coherence: Your ability to speak fluently without hesitation, repetition or loss of ideas

#2 Lexical resource: The range and accuracy of your vocabulary

#3 Grammatical range and accuracy: Your ability to speak using accurate complex and simple sentences without serious grammatical errors

#4 Pronunciation: Your ability to be understood when you speak

IELTS Speaking Test Tips

Below are some useful tips for test-day preparation:

Tip #1  Develop your answers by giving examples. This means using personal experiences or knowledge to add more information to your answers and keep your speech fluid.

Tip #2  Give your opinion. This will show the examiner that you can think in English and express yourself on a variety of topics.

Tip #3  Keep your speech fluent. Try to stick to things you know so you don’t get stuck. This will also show the examiner that you can speak at length without too much hesitation.

Tip #4  Ask for clarification. This is not a listening test. If you don’t hear a question, or don’t understand it, it is totally acceptable to ask the examiner to repeat or explain the question. This means you will be able to answer it properly.

Tip #5  Although you need to be prepared, try not to repeat memorized answers. You will come across as robotic and unnatural. The examiner will also know and will change the questions.

Before test-day:

Tip #6  Practice, practice, practice! Role play at home with a friend or family member. Let them be the examiner and you practice answering questions about a variety of different topics. You can also record yourself and listen back to see where you can improve (fluency, vocabulary, etc.).

Tip #7  Read about general topics to broaden your general knowledge. This will help you generate ideas during the test and come up with examples from your own knowledge and experience.

This will have the widening your vocabulary for reading, as well as giving you knowledge that you can then use to generate ideas for your essay. So, read a blog or social media article per day, or watch at least one Ted talk or documentary daily on the topics listed above.

Learn how to Ace the IELTS with further preparation tips and strategies.  

Check out the E2 IELTS YouTube Channel, with loads of methods and strategies including this one on IELTS speaking preparation! 

For more formal test preparation, professional IELTS coaching from experts will help you apply the essay formula to different essay questions. Feedback is another important aspect of preparing for the IELTS writing task.

Learning IELTS online with E2language will provide you with effective methods, practice essays and expert feedback to feel confident and prepared to write your IELTS essay.

Get Jay’s insight into taking the IELTS Speaking Test: IELTS Success Tips: How to get an IELTS 9 in Speaking

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by Jamal A. 

 

IELTS Test Preparation: A Lesson in Strategy

Ok, we really need to talk about IELTS Test preparation.

As an expert with E2Language, I spend a lot of time answering questions about IELTS test preparation and the best way to go about it. It seems like a lot of people think there is a one-size-fits all magic formula to preparing for the IELTS, and I think it’s time that I dispel this myth once and for all! So, I’m going to hit you with a few hard truths:

Hard truth #1: IELTS test preparation looks different for everyone

Some people are ready to take the IELTS tomorrow, some people have six months of hard work ahead of them, some people may find that the IELTS isn’t even the right test for them. Unfortunately, just because something worked for someone you know, it doesn’t mean it will work for you.

IELTS Test Preparation
IELTS preparation isn’t like physics- there is no universal formula that works every time!

Hard truth #2: Most people need at least a little bit of direction

I know there is a lot of free information out there on the internet, and I know it’s tempting to “teach yourself” using this free information. But trust me, I talk to dozens of people on a daily basis that thought the same thing and wasted hundreds of dollars before recognizing that they needed help. If you don’t truly understand what and where your weaknesses are, how can you overcome them?

IELTS Test Preparation
Be careful, not all free IELTS information is useful.

Now that the tough love is out of the way, let’s get to my best recommendations for how to tailor your IELTS test preparation so that it suits you.

IELTS Test Preparation Recommendation #1: Figure out your level

The first thing you need to do when you decide you’re going to write IELTS is find out exactly what your current level is. Then you can create an appropriate timeline and some realistic goals. NEVER set your IELTS test date before assessing your level. You will almost certainly regret it. How can you assess your level? Here are a couple of ways:

  • Talk to an expert. At E2Language, we take a lot of things into account before we start working with a student. We look at their previous scores (if there are any), we get a sense of how much they use English in daily life, and we carefully assess each of their skill sets (speaking, writing, listening & reading) to direct their studying and teacher support appropriately. If you are unsure about where your level is and what kind of timeline and time commitments you will need to take on, we can help!

IELTS Test Preparation Recommendation #2: Build on your weaknesses

Once you know what your level is, stop doing practice questions immediately. Although practice questions are useful for teaching you the format of the test, they don’t actually teach you any new skills. Now is the time to focus completely on building up the weak skills you’ve identified. Here are a couple of tips:

  •  If you have issues with the IELTS Speaking section, get a conversation partner (either in person or online) and make sure you talk to them at least once a week. Let them know that they need to be honest in their constructive criticism to help you pinpoint your difficulties (i.e. volume, fluency, grammar, sentence structure). In addition, get comfortable speaking in English by recording yourself talk about a topic for one or two minutes and listening back to yourself to hear what you actually sound like. This tip is more useful than most people realize!
  • If you are struggling with the IELTS writing section, practice organizing essay structure and work on the mechanics of language, like grammar and vocabulary. We have essay writing webinars on YouTube specifically for IELTS, and we have “core skills” videos that teach the basics of grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure. What’s more, all of these lessons are free! Not only that, but if you take on an IELTS course with us, we can provide you with multiple writing assessments to help you improve your writing style and content.

Here is one of our free core skills lectures. You can find more right here.

  •  If you are having difficulty with the IELTS reading section, start reading online news articles every day. Note down important key points and write a small summary of the articles in your own words, focusing on what you consider to be the most important information. Once you get comfortable with this, start scanning articles and trying to pick out keywords before even reading the whole text.
  • If the IELTS listening section is proving challenging for you, start listening to a podcast, audiobook or radio show in English every single day. Familiarize yourself with different accents, write down vocabulary  that are new to you, and listen carefully to the speaker’s intonation and pronunciation. If you are listening to a lecture, write down the key points that the speaker is saying and try to summarize them in your own words. Don’t worry if you have to rewind and listen again at first, that’s part of the learning process!

IELTS Test Preparation Recommendation #3:  Start Practicing Again

Once you have built on your weaknesses, it’s time to start practicing IELTS questions again. This time, you can focus more on understanding the format of the test, that is how the questions and information will be presented to you. This is almost as important as your overall English skill.

Again, use our blog test bank or sign up to one of our courses for access to an extensive bank of IELTS questions written by real IELTS experts. This stage of IELTS test preparation should take you at least a couple of weeks. There are a lot of tasks, and you should be practicing them all multiple times. You shouldn’t be taking the IELTS until you are confident that you’ve seen the entire format and you have a good method for each one. Our YouTube webinar and lesson series can help you out with this too.

Take a look at our webinar for IELTS writing task 1:

IELTS Test Preparation Recommendation #4: Get Expert Feedback

Once you feel ready for the IELTS, it’s incredibly helpful to get feedback about your progress from someone who knows what they’re talking about. This can be a teacher or a tutor in your daily life, or one of our IELTS experts online. Essentially, you need someone who understands your skill level and can add to your success by giving you strategies and feedback once you are almost ready to go. If you decide to do this before taking your test, chances are you will have a lot more knowledge and confidence, making it much more likely for you to succeed on your first try!

What’s the Take Home Message?

Remember, you are a complex and unique individual. Your IELTS test preparation is not going to look the same as your friend’s preparation or your classmate’s preparation. If you want to succeed on your first try, you need to be honest with yourself about your weaknesses and you need to be realistic about your timeline. And if you need help, E2Language has you covered. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting money on five IELTS tests because you wanted to save time and money on preparation. Smart investments always pay off, and proper IELTS test preparation is no exception!

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by Kaia Myers-Stewart

Is the IELTS Speaking Test Made For Extraverted Individualists?

Note to ESL learners: This article about the IELTS speaking test contains a lot of complex vocabulary words. Some of them are written more than once. Many of these words are underlined, and this means that you can place your mouse/cursor over a word to see its definition.  Try to check a definition only when a word stops you from understanding the whole sentence you are reading. 

A few months ago, I had the privilege of teaching English at the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS) in the beautiful and remote country of Bhutan. While I was there, I also had the opportunity to teach an IELTS speaking workshop for the college’s English lecturers. The experience was incredible, and – as is the usually the way with intercultural opportunities –  I learned a heck of a lot more from my students and colleagues than they did from me.

In general, the Bhutanese are friendly, inclusive and community-focused people who place great importance on cultivating relationships. Having previously spent time in Bhutan, I knew this but did not think it would have any bearing on the workshop I had been tasked with: teaching IELTS-specific speaking strategies to my colleagues. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The IELTS Speaking Test Workshop

On the day of my workshop, I began with a quick summary of each section of the speaking test, starting with the “introduction/interview” component. In the first part of the speaking test, the IELTS examiner will “get to know you”  by asking several questions about you. In addition, they will briefly interview you about one topic relating to your life (e.g. “What is your hometown like?” “How many people live there?” etc.) To get a sense of everyone’s level for this task, I broke my colleagues into pairs and assigned each person the role of  interviewer or interviewee. It was up to the interviewer to ask the interviewee about themselves in the same way an IELTS examiner would on the real test.

IELTS Speaking Test
An interviewer and interviewee waiting for the timer to begin. Photo Credit: Choney Dorji

Let me just preface this by saying that the introduction/interview  part of the speaking test is supposed to take four or five minutes in total. My Bhutanese interviewees lasted less than two minutes. As the room fell silent around me while my timer was still obediently ticking down the minutes, I felt a wave of panic. Had my colleagues misunderstood the exercise? Had I poorly explained the time limit  and made it seem like it was optional? I was dazed for a moment, but then someone spoke up: “Madame, we Bhutanese are not so used to talking about ourselves like this”.

The statement hit me like a ton of bricks, as did the realization that I had completely ignored a fundamental piece of Bhutanese culture; the Bhutanese almost never talk about themselves. You want to talk about the road conditions, the weather or your wife’s delicious cooking? You got it. But if you ask a Bhutanese person how their life is going, they usually re-direct the conversation away from themselves.

Why? Because the Bhutanese are careful not to be too proud, boastful or arrogant, and talking excessively about yourself can be seen as a demonstration of such traits. In a country that is built on modesty, public-service and collectivism, how could I possibly expect my colleagues to abandon their cultural values so easily?

IELTS Speaking Test
This might actually be a picture of the moment where I realized my mistake… Photo Credit: Choney Dorji

It was at that moment that I understood just how much easier it is to succeed on the IELTS speaking test when you come from a culture that values individualism. With individualism comes a sort of forced extraversion in which people are encouraged talk openly and often, using themselves as the reference point for the world around them.

Generally, individualism and extraversion are part and parcel of Western culture. But here is the thing: IELTS takers very rarely come from a Western context. As a matter of fact, a substantial proportion of test-takers come from traditionally collectivist cultures such as India, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Having said that, here is the other thing: English is not just a language. It’s the representation of a culture, one in which individualism and extraversion are both valued and encouraged. It is imperative for us to teach this concept to IELTS hopefuls before they take the test. If IELTS tutors  aren’t aware of a test-taker’s cultural background and its inevitable differences to our own, we will fail our students time and time again.

The road is often difficult and frustrating for newcomers to Western countries, and everything begins with an arbitrary English proficiency exam that is riddled with hidden cultural assumptions. It’s our responsibility to explain these assumptions, just as much as we teach the fundamentals of language proficiency.

What do collectivists need to know about the IELTS speaking test?

IELTS Speaking Part 1

If you come from a culture that places emphasis on community harmony,  it’s important to know that you will not be judged for talking about yourself on the IELTS speaking test. IELTS assesses your English proficiency based how well you can express yourself when speaking about a topic that relates to you. It’s crucial to practice talking about your personal experiences, background, goals and so forth so that you aren’t going to run out of things to say to your interviewer! Five minutes is a long time when you have nothing to say.

IELTS Speaking Test
It’s safe to assume that your IELTS examiner won’t judge you for talking about yourself! Photo Credit: Choney Dorji

IELTS Speaking Part 2

If you come from a storytelling culture, you probably need to practice keeping your sentences short and concise. In part 2 of the speaking test, you have two minutes to read a topic on a card and make notes. You must then speak about the topic consistently for 1-2 minutes. In my workshop, I thought this task would be no problem for my colleagues because Bhutan is a nation built on storytelling; in fact it’s not uncommon for someone to spend hours presenting a single point in a workplace meeting! However, I quickly realized that this style of expression does not necessarily translate well to the IELTS criteria.

In Dzongkha (Bhutan’s national language), you almost always express one idea many different ways and, in addition, you must constantly communicate your respect if you are talking to someone with (any!) authority. In fact, a request that is not prefaced by at least five minutes of polite conversation could be considered quite disrespectful. Although I really enjoyed receiving class assignments from my students that began with the salutation “Dearest most respected and appreciated Madame”, I also had to explain to them that English is a language of “getting to the point”.

This applies when it comes to your IELTS presentation too; you must speak in an organized fashion that includes an introductory sentence, key points and a concluding sentence, and you must be careful not to dwell too much on a single point, as you have only 2 minutes to cover every point written on your card.

IELTS Speaking Test
IELTS speaking part 2: Here we are coming up with some keywords for our speaking topic. Photo Credit: Choney Dorji

IELTS Speaking Part 3

If you come from a culture that traditionally “lives in the moment”, you may need to work on developing your abstract side. Western culture places a lot of importance on what we consider to be “critical thinking, in which individuals consider abstract ideas from different perspectives. Part 3 of the IELTS speaking test employs this concept and requires test-takers to discuss several abstract questions about the topic they presented in part 2. For example, if the topic was “Describe a friend from childhood”, you might be asked “What does friendship mean to you?” or “What does it mean to be a good friend”?

In Bhutan, most people live gloriously in the moment. The future is rarely discussed, and pre-made plans almost never work out because more important things come up at the last minute. This mentality creates a context of concreteness where everyday conversations revolve a lot around what is happening “right now” in the physical world.

Thus, some of my colleagues had difficulty discussing abstract ideas like the “meaning” of friendship at length– and often chose to give concrete examples from their daily lives instead (i.e. “For me, a good friend is someone who calls me every day”). While this approach is certainly not “wrong”, it usually doesn’t take long to describe the concrete aspects of an idea, and therefore many people will run out things to say long before their time is up.

In order to succeed in Part 3, it’s important to practice speaking about intangible ideas like emotions, thoughts and values. For example: “For me, a good friend is someone who displays loyalty to me and listens to me when nobody else will”.

For more IELTS speaking test tips, check out the video Jay made after he recently took IELTS himself!

* Check out the full E2 IELTS YouTube channel for more IELTS tips, methods and strategies.

Conclusion

Overall, I want to emphasize that just because test-takers will benefit from learning the cultural assumptions of the IELTS speaking test, it doesn’t mean that one approach to communication is “better” than another; one is not “right” and the other “wrong”. Rather, it’s important to recognize that there are significant differences in how we use language to communicate based on the cultural norms we have adopted. 

The IELTS speaking test was created by native English speakers with the intention of measuring “English proficiency”, and it would seem that Western cultural values are integral to this definition of proficiency. Thus, IELTS caters well to extraverted individualists, and I think it’s important for test-takers to know this in order to succeed.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to magically transform into something you’re not. You just need to adopt some strategies to help you meet the test requirements. That’s where we can help you out! Sign up to an E2Language IELTS preparation course and let us show you how to maximize your IELTS speaking success on the first try.

Read about Jay’s IELTS Success Tips: How to get an IELTS 9 and see for yourself what it takes to increase your IELTS score.

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

Written by Kaia Myers-Stewart.

IELTS Success Tips: How to get an IELTS 9 in Speaking

Recently, I decided I needed to figure out how possible it really is to get an IELTS 9 in speaking.

I’m the co-founder of E2Language, which provides students with online test preparation for their high stakes English tests. 

I took the IELTS Academic test today. I woke up at 6.30 a.m. I made sure I ate a big breakfast. I had two coffees. I jumped on the train and walked up the street. I had my passport in my pocket. I was ready to go.

I had also been studying for months, which is odd, because I’m a native English speaker, and an English teacher, and a graduate of a masters in applied linguistics. I’m probably the last person who needs to study for his IELTS exam. To put it humbly, it was a bit like Messi training for a friendly soccer match in the park.

Despite that, in order to write unbelievable teaching materials for IELTS, nothing beats taking the test yourself. That’s why I took it. I wanted to understand what truly results in an IELTS 9 for speaking. There must be a magic trick, I thought!

And there is… I’ve found it. But before I tell you the magic trick — which is in fact ‘scientific’ and ‘linguistic’ — first let me tell you about my experience taking the speaking test…

IELTS 9
Face to face can be daunting!

Before the speaking test

I only had to wait an hour after the first three sections of the test before my speaking test was up. I went outside and got some fresh air and had another coffee. My pulse was racing (from caffeine and nerves!).

I was aware of the speaking section, and I had learned some helpful ‘tricks’ and ‘tips’ from books and Youtube videos but nothing truly helpful – no one had thought truly deeply about it. I knew, for instance, that I had to ‘elaborate’ on my answers and speak more than I usually do. I knew that it’s not really ‘a conversation’; it’s more of me talking and the examiner listening. I knew that I had to speak using complex grammar and less common vocabulary. I knew that all of this could help me get an IELTS 9. But that’s about all I knew and I didn’t really understand how. I had some idea that I wanted to impress the examiner, but I didn’t really know how that would be possible. I mean, he or she was going to give me a Task Card and ask me to talk about ‘bicycles’ or ‘festivals’, right? I mean, how are you supposed to show off your language skills with mundane topics you think so little about?

I went up to the registration room, showed my passport and took my seat. Surrounding me were people shivering with fear. I felt sorry for them. I’ve learned other languages and sometimes you’re ‘on’ and sometimes you’re not… It depends what side of the bed you woke up on. It also depends on how good your grammar is and how large your vocabulary is – and how easily it comes to you. It also depends on psychological factors like how confident you are as a person, or whether you’re naturally talkative, or not.

A number of examiners came through and called out obscure names, a person stood up and then they both left. Finally, my name was called. I greeted a short curly haired woman and we walked down a corridor into a classroom. There was a table set up with a stopwatch and a recorder as well as some documents.

My examiner was Vicky, a friendly looking woman with with a lovely smile that showed crooked teeth. I liked her, which helped. I felt like I wanted to talk to her. She seemed nice.

The Interview

The first thing Vicky asked me was whether I was a student or I worked. I responded that “I’m an English teacher”, and she smiled.

I quickly realised that what I had learned and what I teach about IELTS Speaking I wasn’t actually doing. ‘Elaborate!’ I thought to myself. So I went on… ‘Oh, I might tell you a little bit more about that”, I said… and I did go on.

A few more questions came and went. I could see that Vicky liked me. She was interested in me as a person for even though IELTS is big mechanical test, Vicky is still a human being.

The Long Turn

“I’m now going to give you a topic to talk about and you should talk about this topic for 1-2 minutes,” she said, and continued, “here’s a piece of paper for you to prepare.”

I read the topic and went blank. It said:

Talk about a time you were recently angry.

  • Explain the situation.
  • Say where and when it was.
  • Talk about whether or not it was resolved and if so how.

I can’t even remember the final statement.

I sat for 45 seconds and didn’t move. I was lost for words. But I wasn’t lost for words because I didn’t have them – remember, I’m a native English speaker! I was lost for words because the most recent time I was angry was a very personal experience. And Vicky, as lovely as she was, was a complete stranger and I did not want to tell her my personal experiences and my thoughts and emotions, yet it was the only thing that I could think of. My mind kept returning to it. I was completely stuck.

15 seconds…

I wrote a single word and then crossed it out.

5 seconds…

I’m going to have to lie…’ I thought to myself.

“Okay,” said Vicky smiling away. “You can start speaking now.”

I spoke and I lied. I used a recent situation where I had been, let’s say, ‘annoyed’, which is not quite angry. But I used that little story and I told an elaborate story that was not at all true. I built a house of cards on top of it. I explained the situation. I said where and when it was. I talked about how I had resolved it. And while I was lying, it dawned upon me that it doesn’t actually matter. You are not being rated on your character. And you have to tell a story. Stories are often fictional.

Keep in mind that: ‘It’s not real life; it’s a test. It’s not a lie; it’s an exaggeration.’

IELTS speaking is much more than a test of your English language skills because there is a social and psychological component to it; you’re not talking to a computer as you are in the PTE Academic. Had I have been speaking to a computer I would have poured my heart out to it and told it everything.

Because you can’t separate language from its content, and content from the language you must be allowed to lie because it is the only fair way that you can say something about a topic that you have no story about.

Vicky stopped me mid-way through my elaborate story. I was shocked. Was she going to judge me? Could she tell that I had just made that story up?

She neither judged nor cared. She just wanted to hear good language being used and I gave her that.

The Discussion

From here, I could see that Vicky was impressed. I had told a good story. I had used intricate vocabulary and fancy grammatical structures. My sentences were flowery and engaging – and very importantly, on topic (even though the topic was make-believe!).

From her IELTS documents she asked me some interesting questions, such as “Do you think that anger affects us physically?”

‘Exaggerate’, I thought to myself and said something like, “Undoubtedly. The scientific literature now fully supports the fact that anger impacts upon the human body. I mean, when you’re angry you can feel it. And this is happening hormonally. Adrenalin is being excreted and your body is priming itself to run. The effect on your heart is particularly profound.”

The combination of the coffee, the hyperbole and the setting was now getting me fired up. I listened like a thief and answered each of her questions politely, intelligently and with a lot of fabrications. I drew upon magazine articles I had read years before and made them sound profound. I drew upon ideas I had had when I was a teenager and made them seem philosophical.

I used vocabulary that I rarely use… And this brings me to the (scientific/linguistic) magic trick.

The (scientific/linguistic) magic trick

There are two ways to talk about the Task Card – in the concrete and in the abstract. Let me compare what would achieve an IELTS 6 (concrete) and what would achieve an IELTS 9 (abstract).

Talk about a time you were recently angry.

  • Explain the situation.
  • Say where and when it was.
  • Talk about whether or not it was resolved and if so how.

Concrete answer – IELTS 6

Train. People. Seat. Old man. Young person. Old man standing. Young person sitting. Old man angry. Me angry. Young person unaware. Old man leave. Young person stay.

These words are what are called ‘concrete nouns’. They are real things. They are things that you can touch. They are things you can see. And they are common words. You sound like everyone else. You are not using less common, more complex vocabulary. If you want to stand out above the rest – above the average (IELTS 9 level) – then you need to use less common, more infrequent language – language that the examiner rarely hears.

Abstract answer – IELTS 9

Train. People. Seat. Old man. Young person. Youth. Impoliteness. Social structures. Ageism. Recklessness. Assumptions. Changing values. Possible resolutions. Mediation. Governmental awareness programs.

These words are called ‘abstract nouns’. They are un-real things. They are things that you cannot touch. They are things that you cannot see. And they are uncommon words. You sound different to everyone else. You put yourself above everyone else. You talk about things that no one else talks about. You extend yourself beyond what’s normal, what’s average. You talk about abstract ideas.

In order to access abstract ideas you need abstract words and abstract words are rare. Vicky wanted me to use words that explained concepts that are interesting and unfamiliar to her. She did not want to hear the same old same old. I can’t imagine how boring it would be to be an IELTS examiner, sitting there every day listening to someone talk about ‘anger’ in mundane ways.

The critical point is: if you want to impress the examiner – which is what you have to do to score a 9 – then you need to speak about abstract concepts. When you speak about abstract concepts you use vocabulary reserved for abstract concepts. As long as you can glue it all together with some simple and some complex grammar then you can rest assured that when you open up your results you will see an IELTS 9 and not an upside down IELTS 9.

Check out our IELTS speaking simulation for more information about how to achieve an IELTS 9:

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

Written by Jay Merlo.

IELTS Speaking Tips 101: General IELTS Test Preparation

Okay! Another tips article… and this time we will discuss IELTS Speaking Tips!

The time has come, you are about to be tested on your spoken English skills for the IELTS exam. In your head you sound great, you’re basically fluent but the moment you open your mouth, the words don’t come out, or when they do it sounds like “blah blah blah.”

What to do? One of the greatest painters of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, said the success of his works were due to the amount of preparation he put into them first.

So in other words, it’s all about the preparation!

IELTS speaking tips
Time poor and stressed? Preparation will help you achieve success on the IELTS!

What is the IELTS examiner looking for?

Fluency, this doesn’t mean you need to speak with a perfect British or American accent, but you should speak clearly and pronounce your words correctly.

IELTS Speaking Tips

Here are some important IELTS Speaking Tips to remember:

Tip #1 Pick an English speaking television series and watch it regularly to help with your articulation and pronunciation.

Tip #2 Read out loud to yourself when you can, this will help identify words you find difficult to pronounce and it will give you more confidence reading in English.

Tip #3 Practice using a range of functional vocabulary such as opinion language to express yourself. For example, ‘I agree with the opinion of …’

Tip #4 Pick out the topics you might talk about (everyday ideas) and practice them in a conversation with someone you know, or record yourself and listen back to see how you sound, and what improvements are needed.

Tip #5 Prepare a list of Linking Words and practice using them before the test, for example: ‘As a matter of fact’ or ‘generally speaking’.

Tip #6 Give examples, this allows you to talk about something you know and gives you the opportunity to add detail to the discussion.

Tip #7 Correct your mistakes with the examiner. If you notice that you made a mistake, correct it straight away (e.g. “I was getting for the train, I mean getting on the train…”).

Read on for in-depth IELTS Speaking tips on pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. 

IELTS Speaking Tips: Pronunciation

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, Peter Piper picked a pickled pepper! These are some of the sentences Australian kids practice in the classroom to help them with articulation and pronunciation.

Pronunciation is sometimes a tricky thing to practice, especially if you don’t have access to conversing with an English speaker. But where there’s a will there’s a way. How? Pick an English speaking series and watch it regularly.

When I was learning German I ended up with a southern accent because the soap opera I used to watch was set in southern Germany. It’s a great way to learn how to pronounce words, listen to the experts.

Now, I suggest you don’t pick a Scottish series, as even the best of us struggle to understand those guys!

Read out loud. Read out loud to yourself when you can, this will help identify words you find difficult to pronounce and it will give you more confidence reading in English.

Sometimes getting stuck on the way you pronounce a word can really affect your confidence, the best way to avoid this is, PRACTICE of course.

But if you do stumble on a word, don’t let it put you off and keep going. If you show confidence in your speaking the examiner will not focus so much on little slip ups.

IELTS speaking tips
Show your confidence and don’t forget to smile! The IELTS examiner is human too!

IELTS Speaking Tips: Grammar and vocabulary

Grammar and vocabulary are also important and count for around 25% of your speaking score.

In the IELTS test, you will be giving your opinion a lot, talking about your likes and dislikes. The IELTS examiner basically wants to know if you can use a range of functional vocabulary such as opinion language to express yourself. For example:

As far as I know …

I agree with the opinion of …

I could be wrong, but …

I’d definitely say that …

I’d guess/imagine that …

I’d say that …

I’m absolutely certain that …

If you want to brush up on your grammar, E2language.com have a wide range of grammar exercises and I highly recommend using them to brush up on your grammar as well as following these IELTS speaking tips.

 IELTS Speaking Tips: IELTS speaking topics

Pick out the topics you might talk about (everyday ideas) and practice them in a conversation with someone you know, or record yourself and listen back to see how you sound, and what improvements are needed. Remember it’s not an academic discussion (UNLESS you are doing the academic IELTS test), they really don’t need to hear you express your opinion about the latest research in Quantum Physics, it’s about you being able to communicate in English with confidence. Use Natural English short forms like “it’s” and not “it is”, and commonly spoken phrases like “I guess” and “I suppose”. Prepare a list of Linking Words and practice using them before the test, for example:

Adding more information:

  • And
  • Also
  • As well as
  • Another reason is

Make sure it’s not too short and sweet.

For example:

Question:” Where did you grow up”

Answer: “In my parents’ house”

Better would be:

Answer: “I grew up in Finland, and I had a lovely childhood. I lived in an old cottage just outside Finnagoo Forest, with both my parents, two brothers and a dog called Pablo.”

Remember, however, that very long answers are not always good answers. It’s rather easy to go off topic and lose coherence. It is ok to give short answers sometimes too.

If you happen to get a question you don’t know very much about, just give a short answer by saying you don’t know a lot about that topic and then wait for the next question.

A great way to give yourself time to think about the question is to repeat/reformulate the question.

For instance in In parts 1 and 3 you are not given any thinking time: you are supposed to start speaking immediately, so a way to give yourself a bit more time is to just repeat the question. “What did I enjoy about my last holiday? Let me see…”

Another great tip is to give examples, this allows you to talk about something you know and gives you the opportunity to add detail to the discussion.

IELTS Speaking Tips: Some extra little tips and hints!

  • Be sure to correct your mistakes, if you notice you made a mistake correct it straight away (i.e. “I was getting for the train, I mean getting on the train…”)
  • If you don’t understand the question to be sure to ask the Examiner to explain further.
  • Make eye contact, make sure you don’t end up having a conversation with the table, acknowledge the Examiner and look at them during the conversation.
  • Speak ONLY English immediately before the exam. Try to talk to someone or talk to yourself (ideally in your head) “man this is nerve-racking, I can’t wait to go for a victory coffee afterward.”
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Practice English with a friend before your IELTS Speaking evaluation, and remember to include them in your ‘victory coffee’ afterwards!

If you are really serious about getting the best possible result for your IELTS test, I would highly recommend signing up to e2language.com. You will have access to one on one IELTS coaching.

Our IELTS teachers are very qualified and passionate about getting you the score you need. You will also have access to a wide range of test questions, grammar exercises, IELTS secrets to success, webinars and much more.

For some more secrets to success check out this link to the E2 IELTS channel.

Remember that the right preparation can get you the right results! Tally your familiarity of IELTS Speaking by getting the most out of Jay’s experiences in his article: IELTS Speaking: How to get an IELTS 9.

Have you taken IELTS? How did you prepare for the IELTS Speaking Section?

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Written by: Michelle Anderson