Speaking is the last part of IELTS exam. It is an interview between you and the examiner. This test is recorded. It is 12 to 15 minutes long and consists of three parts:
Part 1. Introduction and general questions (4-6 minutes)
In this part you will be asked your name and your ID card. The examiner will then ask you a number of general questions.The aim of this part is to make you feel easy and relaxed before having to deal with more complex tasks. Think of it as a mental flexing part built into the exam.
Part 2. Answering the task card questions (2-3 minutes)
This part involves a task card that is given to you by examiner. The card has a task question with a number of points you should address in your answer. You will have one minute read and prepare for your answer. You are free to make any notes during that time. After the minute of preparation is over, you will have to speak for 1-2 minutes. If your answer takes longer, the examiner will let you know. After the answer, the examiner will ask you a few questions related to the topic.
Part 3. Discussion (3-5 minutes)
The examiner will ask you questions related to the topic from Part 2 of your exam. More abstract concepts and ideas are discussed, so you have opportunity to use a wider scope of vocabulary.
To help you meet the examiner’s expectations and to address any weaknesses you might have, know the speaking assessment criteria.
1. Fluency and coherence
Your speech should be fluent and without long pauses. It should also be easy to follow — your sentences have to be logically connected so that the listeners don’t get confused (Coherent and cohesive)
2. Lexical resource
Your should demonstrate your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition and using synonyms instead. The words that you use should collocate well with each other. Your speech should be idiomatic.
3. Grammatical range and accuracy
You should display various grammatical structures. They have to be used appropriately. Your speech should not have grammar mistakes.
You should be easy to understand — which doesn’t mean having perfect British or American accent. It only means that your accent shouldn’t prevent the examiner from getting the meaning of what you’re saying. Your pronunciation has to be consistent (for example, you should stick either to American or British pronunciation).
Fluency and coherence
To be fluent in you speech means to sound natural. Many students find it difficult to keep the natural pace. As students try to speak more fluently they find themselves making more mistakes. There are two ways of dealing with this situation.
The first one is long and laborious — to keep practising. This involves a lot of reading to memorise speech patterns, learning new words, memorising various cohesive devices to help you join clauses in your speech.
The second way is easier. Speak a little bit slower than you usually would. That’s it. By slowing your pace you get yourself more time to think your sentence over. This also eliminates the pauses or at least makes them less noticeable. By making your speech hesitation-free you will certainly make a good impression on your examiners. As you practice more and grow confident of your skills you should try increasing the pace.
Coherence is how much sense your speech makes. That includes:
- Relevance of your answer. You have to address the question, not something you much prefer talking about right now
- Text sequencing. How naturally your ideas go from one to another
- Cohesion. How well you connect your closes with various cohesive devices
Expanding and developing your vocabulary is a long and tedious process that lasts for as long as you study the language. However, to help you score more points for lexical resource use this list of synonyms for words that students overuse in their speech. Repeating words as “like”, “good” or “very” over and over again will not get you a good mark, so getting to know a couple of synonyms is an easy way to get a higher Speaking band.
Grammatical range and accuracy
Similar to vocabulary, English grammar can’t be learned overnight. You will have to make do with what you have at the moment. Do not use more complex aspects of grammar if you don’t know how they work. More simple structures that are used accurately and appropriately are much better than a sloppy complex clause with several mistakes. Simple doesn’t mean bad, but simple also shouldn’t slip into primitive.
Pay attention to your tenses — for example use simple tenses for things that are universally true. Don’t use continuous tenses if you don’t know why you’re using them. Show that you can express sequencing of events by using past simple, present perfect, past perfect.
You may want to use this short guide to English tenses for more info.
Don’t be afraid of your accent. As long as your pronunciation is clear and easy to understand you will not have points deducted for that part of the aspect. If you have difficulties pronouncing certain sounds (“th” is a common example), don’t try to avoid it in your speech. It will be extremely difficult for your to speak your way around it. Either find a pronunciation tutor or make sure that the way your pronounce the problematic sound is at least understandable and does not cause confusion (thinking-sinking).
Consistency with AmE, BrE pronunciation like “schedule”, “either”. Same to spelling and vocabulary in writing.
Have a look at this list of mispronounced words to make sure you pronounce these tricky words correctly.