Common Mistakes in IELTS Speaking Test and How to Avoid Them

I've achieved overall score of 7.5 in IELTS and I would like to share some tips of how to improve speaking skills.

Common Mistakes in IELTS Speaking Test and How to Avoid Them

Many students preparing to IELTS, tend to consider that the most difficult part in comparison with others is Speaking. There can be various reason why speaking is considered to be challenging. Firstly, students focus on grammar and vocabulary enrichment, not taking into account speaking itself, hoping that having great vocabulary and grammar are everything they need. Secondly, students usually have fear of speaking in front of people, in particular in front of the examiner.

Speaking test consists of 3 parts. In the process of the exam, the number of questions each student receive may differ according to quantity of questions as well as topics. In part 1 of speaking test, on average there can be 3-4 questions on 2-3 different topics. In part 1 you are usually asked questions related to you and your life. Here are some examples of such questions: Do you prefer tea or coffee? Do you work or study? In part 2, you will be given a card with a question and several sub-questions, which are supposed to help you to structure your answer. Then, an examiner will give you 30 seconds to get ready and write down your plan of speaking, if you need it. A possible answer should last about 2 minutes. Part 3 consists of more general questions, which are usually related to part 2.

Now, I would like to share some tips, which may help you on the speaking test on. Let’s start from the attitude towards speaking part first. Majority of students try to avoid practicing this part because of the fear of making mistakes or not having ideas without even giving it a shot. So, how to overcome it? Based on my experience, I can say that it would be helpful to start from the easiest questions as in part 1 before moving to part 2 or 3, consisting more difficult questions that require some experience. In addition, try to not lie, because it will confuse you. When you reach the level when you are answering those part 1 questions easily, then it is time to move to more difficult ones. Eventually, you will notice that even questions, once were challenging, will become easier and easier. Next thing every student does is enlarging active vocabulary, but instead of learning words native speakers use on a daily basis, they try to memorise as many difficult, academic words as possible. Speaking test is supposed to check not your ability to use those difficult and long words that even not every native speaker understands, but ability to communicate like you do on your mother tongue. So, do not make your exam more challenging than it actually is.

Let’s move on to part 2. What can seem to be challenging is time limitations for planning as well as for answering, which put pressure on a student. Therefore, it would be better to track the time while you practise in order to get adapted to time requirements. In part 2, there can be questions that are easy to understand, however, some questions only seem to be easy to understand. For instance, describe the time you moved to a new apartment. You may think that nothing is wrong with this question, but majority of people, who take IELTS exam, tend to understand it wrongly. Thus, they start speaking about an apartment rather than speaking about the time when they moved. Next mistake is lack of ideas. Sometimes, you may receive a question such as describe the last time you visited a foreign country. However, what if you have never visited a foreign country? Some people start imagining and creating stories, but they usually get confused. There can be two reasons of giving unsuccessful answer, may be those people are bad liars or they have bad imagination. I found another solution, when I came across with such questions. As I like reading and watching different movies, I imagined that I am the main character of a particular book or movie. By doing so, I did not need to build up a new story and think about the sequences of a created story. Let’s move on to planning part, which is also important, as it is an approximate model of your answer. Planning will help you to follow the story smoothly as well as not skipping something important. When it comes to planning, it is recommended to divide it into two parts as following: description and opinion part. Spending almost whole amount of time on description will not give you a high score, as it is necessary to add your opinion about the situation you are speaking about. And when you start speaking, another problem may occur, which is short answer. Imagine, you have finished your answer, but there is still 40 seconds left. One of the techniques to ease this problem is adding critical thinking. For instance, if you spoke about the last time you travelled, you may speak about the advantages of travelling in genral. The last but not the least is intonation, which will add colours to your answer and show that you have not learnt it.

Regarding part 3, which consists of several questions related to the topic of part 2. Here, you are supposed to speak about people in general, and not about yourself. Therefore, it is not recommended to give your personal experience as an example. In addition, if you got a question whether people should study for the whole life, and you spoke about the youth, you should also mention the elderly people. In other words, it is recommended to mention both categories.

Finally, how to avoid making such sounds like “emm”, “aaa” while you speak? Is it allowed to ask an examiner to repeat the question? In order to solve the former problem, each time you are about to make those sounds, try to not say anything instead. Try to do so every time you speak a foreign language. The answer to the latter is yes, it is totally okay to ask the examiner to repeat or explain the question.

Tips by

Lyubov Pak