6 tips for IELTS speaking
Here are 6 tips for speaking fluently in the IELTS test, based on over 20 years of preparing candidates for the IELTS test (and 15 years as an IELTS examiner!)
For many people preparing for the IELTS test, it can be difficult to improve your fluency unless you have an opportunity to speak with people in English regularly. However, here are 6 tips for fluent English:
Tip 1: Don't be afraid of mistakes
The first rule of fluency is that you are able to communicate the main message of what you are trying to say. Don't overly worry about whether you have chosen the best grammar or vocabulary to express yourself - so long as the person you are talking to understands what you mean!
Tip 2: Don't focus too much on studying grammar
We all know that good grammar is important in order to accurately express yourself. However, make sure that you don't become so preoccupied with the grammatical structure of your sentence that your speaking becomes irregular, too slow or disjointed. As mentioned in Tip 1 - don't be afraid of mistakes! If you find that when speaking fluently you tend to make repeated errors with a particular grammar area (for example, using the present continuous when it should be the present simple) then spend some time alone reading and taking practice exercises - there are lots on this site!
Tip 3: Don't translate your sentence in your head first
This is a difficult skill to master, but when you have a basic understanding of English (or any other foreign language) you need to start thinking in that language when constructing sentences. Not only will there be a loss of fluency as you delay the conversation to translate, but you will also find that words, phrases and sentence constructions become less easier to directly translate into your own language.
Tip 4: Take every opportunity to speak
Although it is convenient to break English into different skills such as reading, writing, grammar and speaking, it is important that you make whatever you are studying into an opportunity to speak. If you are reading an article - or even this page! - then read it aloud. If you read the same 100 or so words a few times, you will find that you have a much better chance of improving your fluency as you are training your tongue, mouth and vocal chords to move in a particular pattern, and that pattern will help when you are later in conversation. If you are listening to something and have the chance to pause whatever is playing, then listen to a sentence or two, stop it, you say it, then you play the recording again. This will help with your intonation (the sound of your voice) making you better able to pronounce words clearly and thus improving your fluency.
Tip 5: When learning new vocabulary, learn it as part of a useful phrase or sentence
Studying word lists might help you improve your understanding of individual words, but learning a few relevant phrases or sentences including the new word will make it a lot easier for your to fluently use the word in conversation. For example, if you learn the word 'optimistic' (meaning that you focus on the positive things, not the negative), then think of and learn a few phrases or sentences. E.g. My uncle always has hopes for the future because he's a very optimistic person or The weather forecast said it wouldn't rain, but judging by those clouds I'm not so optimistic.
Tip 6: Use appropriate resources
For many people learning English, the BBC is considered to be the best form of 'pure' English, with clear pronunciation and intonation. However, it is also important to spend some time with more 'common' English, such as listening and copying the patterns of speech you might hear on a TV show, movie or radio or radio programme. For some people the only way of practicing your speaking and fluency is by talking to another person who is also learning English. Although this can be effective, make sure that you do not pick up each others bad habits!
We hope these 6 tips for IELTS speaking help! Full members of our online course also get a live speaking assessment one to one with a former IELTS examiners, followed by a discussion session to talk about your strengths and areas for improvement. Find out more about the live speaking assessment here.