A lot of test-takers and students preparing for IELTS have been asking this eternal question. They visit IELTS forums, ask their tutors and other candidates, and often receive contradictory answers. Some believe that Part 3 is the most important part if the IELTS Speaking test, others consider Part 1 to be a warm-up before the second and the third parts of the exam, which are crucial. In fact, there are four aspects that influence your band for IELTS Speaking, and the examiner will grade your performance in all parts of the test.
Fluency and coherence
This is the first aspect of your speaking that examiners pay attention to. In other words, they listen for HOW we speak. That is why it is very important not to keep silent and answer questions thoroughly. You should not worry if you cannot think of many ideas. Unlike IELTS Writing, this part of the test assesses your English language, not the ideas you express. It is a good idea to give examples and detailed explanations in Part 3, and answer in full sentences in Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test. By doing so, you offer the examiner with a wide range of language to assess. This means, even you struggled to answer one question, this will not influence your score if you did well in the rest of questions.
In your answer, ideas have to be organised logically and linked together. It has to be easy for examiner to follow your thought. All this is called coherence. To make your answer more coherent, use different discourse markers and linking words.
One more thing you should not do is repeating or correcting yourself too much.
Also, avoid pauses to search for words. Pausing affects your fluency and also the amount of time you actually spend speaking in the test, so you should not overdo it.
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What stands behind the second aspect? Let us have a look at the following example. This is a question from Speaking Part 3:
What can elderly people learn from the young?
This is the script of the answer given by a candidate:
- I guess, there are a lot of things that young people could teach the elderly. The first thing that springs to mind is technology. Older people could learn from the young how to work with computers, how to make effective use of some state-of-the-art devices. Generally, how to survive and thrive in the new digital world, with all its technological advancements. On top of that, I guess young people are often better at enjoying their lives, and living for the moment. It may be that older people could become more easy-going by following the examples of teens and young adults.
It shows a wide range of words, collocations and idiomatic language e.g.: springs to mind, make effective use of, survive and thrive, the new digital world, living for the moment. Less common academic vocabulary is also used, e.g., state-of-the-art, technological advancements. It is also important that the candidate uses all this vocabulary appropriately.
This means that you can definitely boost your score if you provide the examiner with:
- a wide range of vocabulary
- idiomatic language
- less common vocabulary
- appropriate use of vocabulary.
In our online self-study course, we look at more examples, compare worse and better answers, explore each criterion for different skills. Moreover, you are going to try doing Speaking part 2 yourself and get feedback from one of our IELTS tutors.
READ ABOUT: Helpful idioms for IELTS Speaking
Grammatical range and accuracy
This is the third aspect that will influence your score. You need to use various tenses, grammatical structures and complex sentences. What is more, they have to be appropriate and correct. However, they should not be memorized. Otherwise, they will not make any sense, and will not get you any points.
The truth is, the examiner has no model answer to assess your speaking. Every response given by different candidate will differ, and their language varies too. Your score depends on the language you produce at the exam, range and accuracy of structures you use.
That is why, before answering the question, think about grammar you will apply. For example, if you are asked to talk about if your hometown has changed much since you were a child, use the following structures to talk about the past: ‘used to be’, ‘would do’, and the present: ‘has become’, ‘tends to’. Other structures, such as comparisons ‘way better’ and ‘far more + adjective’, and a conditional sentence could beused for a good effect.
The last criterion is pronunciation. Here, you should pay attention to intelligibility, that is how clear your pronunciation is to the examiner, how well they can understand what you say.
Do not speak very fast. IELTS does not test the maximum speed you can speak at. Choose a natural pace.
Examiners also listen to your intonation, and whether you pronounce words and put stress correctly.
Your accent does not have to be British English, but for a score higher than 7, your mother tongue does not have to affect clarity. If your accent is so heavy that the examiner cannot understand what your are saying, it will affect the score. If it does not take much effort to understand your pronunciation, you can get a high band score.
Now you know what you should pay attention to at the IELTS Speaking test and what to work on. Get more practice and a full mock Speaking and Writing tests with a detailed feedback from IELTS preparation experts in our course.
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