Hello Exam Seekers,
Two weeks ago we posted an introduction to the IELTS exam in which we described the different types of the test you will find and talked gave an overview of their format. So, this week, we will work a little bit more on the format of the Speaking part, the types of tasks you will find in each section and also some tips that may come in handy when you are preparing for the exam.
Part 1: General Questions
What is it like?
This part consists of a couple of questions which tend to be either more personal or about a general topic. It may involve questions about your hometown, your family, your work, your likes and dislikes, and so on. This part of the test lasts about 4 or 5 minutes.
Give complete answers. Should you need some time to organize your ideas and start talking, you can always use some fillers to give you some time, such as ‘eh,’ ‘uh,’ ‘you know,’ ‘well,’ etc.
Since you already know some of the most frequent topics, start thinking about structures and expressions that can be used for each of them. For instance, the hustle and bustle X peace and quiet when talking about your hometown, talking about things you are fond of or keen on rather than saying only “I like,” and so on.
Part 2: Card with some topics
What is it like?
You will receive a card with instructions on what you have to do for this task and also what you should say. If you feel you have other aspects to talk about which are more interesting – or you feel more comfortable with than the ones on the paper, you can talk about them. But remember that you have to stick to the instructions and include what was asked in the headline. For example, if you are asked to talk about your favourite childhood memory and explain why it was so memorable, you have to finish your speech having answered these two topics. However, what you say to justify it can be different from what is suggested in the card, as long as you are coherent and answer these requirements.
After speaking for about 2 minutes, you will need to answer one or two questions related to what you have just said. So, in total, this part takes around 3-4 minutes.
The more you speak, the better. However, keep in mind that when you are preparing your speech, you should be coherent and organize it in order to help the interviewer understand the sequence of your talk and be aware of where you are standing. Organize your speech so that it has a clear beginning, middle and ending.
Another thing to remember is: the piece of paper they give you is extremely important!!! Use that 1 minute wisely, since you can jot down the expressions you may find more important and can write in topics what you are going to say and when. You can structure your talk and write down all you find relevant to mention when you start talking.
This section is one of the best moments to show your linguistic skills and to include more elaborate structures and vocabulary, especially because you are going to speak uninterrupted for about 1-2 minutes. So, proving that you can come up with an organized line of speech which flows and can easily be followed by the interviewer is crucial here.
Additionally, clock yourself so as not to speak less than one minute. As I said before, this is the time to talk as much as you can.
Part 3: Further questions on the topic discussed in part 2
What is it like?
The interviewer will ask you a couple of questions that are related to the topic you talked about in the previous section. However, different from the questions asked after you finished your speech in Part 2, these questions will be more abstract. This part takes around 4-5 minutes.
When answering the questions, try and give some examples to illustrate your ideas. Also, explain the reason for your choices, so that you can make yourself clear and expand your point and better express yourself. Here, you will also have significant opportunities to use a variety of structures and vocabulary.
Overall Comments and general tips for the Speaking exam
The name talks for itself, but it is crucial that you remember that this is an oral exam, so this is the best opportunity you have to show what you know in English. So, when answering the interviewer’s questions, use complete answers, start with discourse markers – also known as linking words – to help organize your line of thought and to guide the interviewer through your speech.
Also, make use of expressions and connectors that you are confident with to help you getter better marks in the end.
The IELTS exam contemplates a variety of themes, so read different sources of information, study various topics, listen to things you may not even be a huge fan of, mainly because you will need to talk about something that may not be a topic you know a lot about. So, having come across different themes and subjects may come in handy to give you supporting ideas for your argumentation. After all, you never know the exact topic you will need to talk about, and, as the saying goes, better safe than sorry, right?
When preparing for the exam
First of all, it is essential to be realistic with both your needs and your exact level.
Focus on some expressions and connectors and practice them as much as you can until they become more natural in your speech. There’s no use memorizing a list of 100 connectors, expressions and idioms if you can barely use them appropriately. It is way better to go for a few and be comfortable with their use rather than know a lot of them by heart but be unsure of their use and miss the opportunity to use them. Therefore, choose around 5 or 6 and start varying them. You will see that, with time, they will come more naturally into your speech and connecting the ideas with them will be more spontaneous even.
That leads to another aspect to bear in mind. You need to be aware of the level you are and also set some realistic goals for yourself. For instance, if you are still getting an average 5 but needs a 6, focus on what you need to improve to get there. It is no use learning the vocabulary of someone who is band 9 if you are still struggling to get to a band 6. I say so because you may incorporate unnatural vocabulary and structures in your speech and they may do more harm than good, for instance. It may even lower your band depending on how you are using some of these structures rather than helping you get a better grade.
Besides that, you should know that practicing the model of the test and learning strategies is important, but you should also think about situations in which you are going to have the chance to improve your linguistic knowledge and develop your level. Whenever you can, assess the things you can already do and what are some others you are still finding some difficulty in dealing with. Be critical in the sense of development, since this can help you better learn the language and be more precise in terms of where you are concerning your level and the goals you want to achieve.
Were these tips useful? Tell us what you struggle most regarding the speaking part and some other questions you may have about it. We would love to help you!
Have a great week,
Eve and Patty