How to get IELTS Speaking Band 7+

IELTS Speaking Band 7 seems to be the score the more ambitious test-takers aim for. Band 7 generally seems to be the highest IELTS requirement for most colleges and universities, therefore it is so desirable among students.

Another reason is Speaking seems to be the aspect where test-takers get consistently higher scores (according to the official data). This helps to bump your average band up.

In order to fully understand the requirements for Band 7+ score, let’s have a look at the official IELTS Speaking assessment sheet. This helps better recognise examiner’s expectations and adjust our answers in a more relevant and constructive way. We will go over the assessment criteria one by one.

Fluency and coherence

One of the points that separates Band 7 from the lower scores is so called “speaking at length“. In short, speaking at length is giving a longer, more detailed answer. Another point that is highlighted in Speaking Band 7 and above is usage of cohesive devices and discourse markers. Both relate to connecting ideas and while they are similar, it is better to have a closer look at each separately.

Speaking at length

To better illustrate this, let’s compare two answers from Part 3:

Examiner: What can be done to reduce harm to the environment?

Sample answer #1: I believe that there are two things that can be done. First, children should be taught about human impact on nature. The government could also implement stricter regulation of various industries as they seem to be the main contributors to pollution.

Sample answer #2: I see two main ways of mitigating environmental damage. One way is to teach young people about human impact on nature. Having learnt about the damage the mankind causes might have a dramatic effect on their view of the situation. Another approach is to impose stricter regulations when it comes to large industries as they seem to be the main contributors to pollution. This could be done by additional taxing that could later be used to alleviate environmental damage.

In this example let’s ignore the paraphrased bits and focus on the underlined parts of the answer. Answer #2 develops the ideas by introducing several points and expanding on the proposals. Unfortunately, there are no cut-and-dried structures that could be used to to make your answer longer and more descriptive. Just keep in mind that examiners appreciate more relevant and more detailed responses, especially in Part 2 and 3.

Cohesive devices

Cohesive devices are word and phrases that help connect ideas in your speech (or writing). Ultimately, they enable you to make your sentences longer which is appreciated by the examiners.

Adding/Elaborating Consequence/Result Sequence/Order Showing Similarity Showing Difference/Contrast
In addition, moreover, as well as, furthermore, too As a consequence/result, consequently, so, thus, therefore First (of all), to begin/start with, secondly, next, meanwhile, finally Similarly to, just like, likewise, as with As opposed to, whereas, while, however, contrastingly, unlike, on one/other hand, but

Discourse markers

Discourse markers are an attribute of spoken (rather than written) language. Note that terms ‘discourse markers’ and ‘cohesive devices’ tend to be used interchangeably.

Clarifying/Rephrasing Examples Hedging/Distancing* Attitude/Certainty Answering/Responding
I mean, what I mean is, in other words, to clarify, to put it another way Like, such as, one example is/being, a case in point Kind of/sort of, apparently, some people say/believe/hold that, perhaps Honestly, clearly, evidently, of course, definitely, probably, I guess I see, of course, great, exactly

There is an interesting entry on Cambridge Dictionary webpage, definitely check it out!

Now let’s have a look at two answers – one of them uses discourse markers and cohesive devices efficiently (underlined):

Examiner: Who do people tend to trust more – their friend or their family?

Sample answer #1: I think it’s their family because they are much closer to them. They spend their whole life around them so they ought to know them better and to understand them. Friends are there for us too, but they aren’t necessarily as familiar with our character and our feelings as family members.

Sample answer #2: I guess its their family – I mean they ought to know and therefore understand them much better since they spend much more time with one another.

Fluency

Fluency refers to absence of long pauses in your speech. Band 7 requirement is to only have ‘hesitation’ that is related to the content, i.e. when you think about what to say. Such hesitation shouldn’t be caused by looking for the right word in English. In order to get Band 7+ you are expected to make almost no such pauses – this can only be achieved by intensive practice, there is no easy way to fluency.

Lexical resource

One of the requirements to get Band 7 in IELTS Speaking is to show, quote, “some awareness of style and collocation”. Style can be formal, informal and neutral – see our article about differences of vocabulary and general rules. Collocations are the way words combine into phrases – more info about that can be found here.

Collocations are the bread and butter of English – they help your language really come alive. The more collocations you know, the more confident you are using them, the better you will sound – which naturally results in higher mark. Learning collocations is not something that can be done overnight – you will be expanding your knowledge of them as long as you use the language. The good news is, to get Band 7 you don’t have to know all of them or use them without mistakes. This Band allows some leeway, some room for mistakes – so don’t be discouraged if you are not perfect with using those collocations.

One cool useful resource I’d like to share is https://www.freecollocation.com/ – it always helps me whenever I’m in doubt. Just put in any word and get an extensive list of nouns, verbs, adjectives etc that collocate with it. It’s especially handy when you’re practicing your IELTS Writing. Now let’s have a look at well-used collocations:

Examiner: What kind of climate does your country have?

Sample answer #1: My country has very soft climate. Springs are nice and warm. Summers can be a bit wet but generally we get too many hot days.

Sample answer #2: The climate of our country is quite mild. Springs are pleasantly warm here. Summers can get humid but generally there aren’t too many hot days.

Grammatical range and accuracy

This criteria judges the variety of your grammar and how appropriately you use it. The amount of mistakes as well as their impact on the meaning is also a factor. Hence, to score high you should show flexibility with your (complex) grammar making as few mistakes as possible.

Band 7 Speaking requirement has of using “a range of complex structures with some flexibility”. Your speech should be predominantly free of any mistakes, and if any mistakes do occur they shouldn’t impede understanding.

Band 7 roughly equals level of C1 (Advanced). Here is a list of grammar aspects that should give you a basic idea what you should be able to use and produce in your spontaneous speech.

Pronunciation

One of the assessment requirements is to use “pronunciation features”. This includes appropriate word and sentence stress, intonation, pauses and linking sounds. This DOES NOT include your accent.