The two major English language testing systems in the world are the the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL.) While each of these tests have written components, typically the most nerve wracking part is the IELTS speaking section or the TOEFL speaking section of the test. Here you must ‘perform’ in front of the examiner while possibly nervous and worried about your score.
It goes without saying that preparation and practice are of primary importance. Obviously it’s a good idea to practice speaking in English as much as you can before the exam, preferably with an experienced and qualified teacher like so many of us here at Rype.
But keep in mind that the examiner is there to help get the best performance out of you. They understand that you may be a little nervous. Their job is to provide you with all the opportunities they can in order to encourage you to use all the grammar and vocabulary you know. Paying attention to those prompts is, however, your job.
Here are 5 tips to help you to make the most out of your IELTS speaking exam in order to get a higher score.
1. Use fillers and transitions.
Fillers serve two purposes: firstly they make your English sound more natural and secondly they give you time to think and prepare your answer. Appropriate fillers can be things like “um…/well…/hmm…” or something more sophisticated like “That’s a tough/interesting/difficult question.”
In terms of linkers, they should sound natural and be the type of linkers you would use in everyday conversation. NOT “Thus/accordingly/furthermore” which are too formal and will sound unnatural. Natural sounding linkers are “Firstly/secondly/the first thing that comes to mind is..” etc.
2. Paraphrase / rephrase the question in new terms.
Paraphrasing helps show you understand and that you have a wide range of vocabulary. And so instead of just repeating the words the examiner uses in the question, substitute others that have the same meaning. Pay attention to the grammar you are using when paraphrasing to ensure that if you speaking about the past, you are using past tenses and so on.
3. Expand on your answers.
Always give the examiner that little bit extra and if you answer “no” to a question be prepared with reasons why, alternatives or some extra information related to the topic. If you have very little to say on a particular topic you can be creative with the truth, and don’t judge your answers too much. It’s your use of English that is being assessed and not the content.
4. Take notes for the two minute talk in Part 2.
Far too often, candidates fall short of the two minutes because they run out of things to say. Use the preparation time to note down all the ideas that come to mind when you are waiting to start this part.
Don’t let nerves get the better of you! If you have notes it doesn’t matter if your mind goes blank, you will be able to keep going.
5. Listen to the question and grammar in Part 3 and respond accordingly.
You may be asked to predict, hypothesize, or speculate, which in turn leads to you using modal verbs or the second conditional as part of your answer.
Finally, I always coach my students to remember to smile. Even if getting tested doesn’t seem like the most thing in the world, smiling actually helps your nervous system relax, and it can help change the dynamic in the room. If you’re having fun (or at least appear to be having fun), it can only help.
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