How I got 9.0 in Speaking
As you are being interviewed by a real person for this part of the test you should do all you can to make yourself stand out from your competition to get a fantastic result. While the first set of tips here are not formally part of the criteria, they will help you to gain a higher score and increase your confidence in the test.
- Gestures – use your hands in the interview
- Pause -take a breath between your points
- Intonation – use vocal variety to create intonation in your responses
- Different starts – doing this will make sure every sentence pattern is different
- Posture – sit up straight and make a good impression from the start
- eye contact – Make some natural eye contact, but don’t stare as that would be weird and uncomfortable
- Describing small actions – describing actions makes a better picture than describing nouns
- True story – it is easy to make mistakes when you make up a story, instead use something that is true, as you will be more confident and can describe the situation well.
If you are struggling with the vocabulary in the IELTS test and need to increase the number of words that you are learning and reviewing, I have created a site using SpellingCity. To access it though, you will need to contact me, and request admission.
Essentially the site uses games to and word puzzles to help you to learn the vocabulary. As a member of my page I will also allow you to create your own IELTS word lists. Add the list and use the games to help you to remember the words.
Mind mapping is another great technique for learning vocabulary. This is a very popular technique that a lot of Taiwanese students use at the moment to memorize vocabulary, phrases and sentences that are related. The author above does a much better job of explaining it than I do so I will let her explain it.
Saying the opposite
The best way I can describe this to you is by giving you an example. If I have used the word “run” in my speaking already, I want to try and avoid using it again…. sure I can paraphrase it with words like – moving at a quick pace, leaving my friends behind…. but another way is to think of the opposite, which is “walk”…. so i could say I certainly didn’t walk as the dog chased me all the way home.
Ask for clarification
If you didn’t hear the question clearly, or you didn’t really understand what you heard, then it is OK to ask for the examiner to clarify what he/she said.
- I’m sorry, but would you mind saying that again in a different way?
- Pardon me, can you please clarify your question?
- Sorry, but your meaning wasn’t clear, could you please paraphrase the question.
I like the second one!
If you just ask them to repeat, they may just use the same words, which is dangerous for you if you didn’t understand the question.
Remember, also you you can really only use this once. It is like the get out of jail free in monopoly…. so I suggest that you only use it in section 3, when they will increase the level of questions until they work out your exact level of speaking.
The ability to say your sentence again, maintaining the original meaning, but using different vocabulary and word combinations.
If you look at the criteria for the speaking test, you will see that at the higher levels you examiner is looking for you to paraphrase to better explain your meaning. By doing this you show that both your vocabulary range is high and that you you have the ability to use different sentence patterns.
A great way to practice this skill is to add the following phrase to your speaking, “By this I mean”… then tell the examiner what you meant by your previous sentence. This make is easier for them to give you extra points.
If you have no experience in relation to the question that the examiner asks you, there is a solution.
Start by addressing the question first – for example… tell me a time that you have felt proud about your achievements. For this, I couldn’t think of something straight away and the first thing that came to my mind was being proud of something that my brother had achieved. So my response was….
” While I cant think of something that comes immediately to mind about myself, I can think of a time that I have felt very proud of my brother….. and from there I proceeded to tell the story.
A lot of students feel very nervous when they sit in front of an examiner and do the IELTS test, and these nerves can signal the examiner, through body language, that you are unsure about something. However there is a solution to still get a good result. Have a look at this hugely popular TED talk.
More important for you
The structure that you use will make a huge difference….. did I say huge, yes huge difference on your result. Used in combination they will almost guarantee success.
Here you are
1. Past present future
This is a structure that is one of the easiest. Telling the examiner what happened in the past, lets you display your ability to talk about past events, before then talking in present tense and finally what you will or are going to do differently in the future. You might use a story that your grandma told you when you were young, comparing it to what you do now and how you might change your actions in the future.
2. General to specific
A classic example is to talk about food…. What kind of food? Seafood. What kind of seafood? Japanese seafood? What individual food – Sashimi . So start by speaking in general terms before narrowing it down to to something that is very specific. TIP – remember that the picture you are describing in your head must be the same as the image that I create in my head as I listen to your words.
3. Problem solution
As this structure says, you first describe a problem that occurred. It could be talking about a problem you had navigating before you purchased your first cell phone. Or a time that you lost your WiFi connection and got lost before you found your way again in a different country. Another option here is to talk about an invention that changed the way people live or the time that your passport went through the wash.
4. Make a list
Making a list means that you talk about three items that meet the criteria of the question. There are three mentors that I could choose to take with me (A);(B) and (C), though the one who has had the greatest influence on my life is (C) my father, because…
Remember, 90% of students have never learnt this and many are too nervous to remember, so make your speaking test stand out.
Practice by answering the questions in part 3 using the different structures, giving yourself about 50 seconds to create an answer. Then change the question and try the same structure again….. once you get good at the first structure, move on to the second.
Comfortable with the different structures that you can use to answer the questions in part 3, try and answer part 2 questions, where you have to speak for 2 minutes, practicing your timing.
If you add a true story from the past and talk about small actions you are on your way.
Try to start with an incredible first sentence that you can paraphrase at the end. This is called a hook,,,, and 90% of students simply don’t do it.
I can still remember one student in particular, who loved to cook, so he steered to topic towards cooking and opened his 2 minute speaking with the line –
“The best thing that ever happened to me was when I burned my little finger on a hot pan” …. Of course I wanted to know why this was a good thing and was instantly intrigued and couldn’t wait for him to finish the story.
If you start every sentence in the speaking test in a different way, then your sentence pattern automatically changes. It helps you avoid repeating yourself…. and what the examiner hears is different start, different start, different start. This makes is difficult for you to receive a low grade.
The best start that I ever heard a student use was, “The best thing that ever happened to me was when I burned my finger on a hot pan” This got my attention immediately and I wanted to know WHY? Of course, he didn’t tell me straight away, but went into the background and described the scene, before burning his finger and then he told me why. I will always remember this 2 minute test.
If you master this, try to paraphrase your starting sentence at the end of the 2 minute section to provide you with a perfect speaking structure.
Your cellphone is an incredible asset as you can record and time yourself while you study and listen for the areas where you need to improve.
Also read the news in the area in which you are going to take the test, as you can use what is current and topical as examples and provide your opinions in relation to these areas.
Topics that you can talk about
In many IELTS speaking tests the subject matter will invariably move to the future, so it is important to read about what is happening.
However this can be difficult!
What I suggest for my students is to read about future developments in a place where the language is easy to understand. One place that provides content at a teenage level is the British Council. This sort of knowledge therefore, is easy to digest and makes you look very intelligent in the interview.
If you Google IELTS band descriptors public version, you will be able to find the IELTS speaking criteria. When you look at the top levels here, you will notice that you will get a higher score by using different structures, different sentence patterns and different vocabulary.
Needing Some Examples
Some good overall feedback