In this tutorial, you will find out more about :
- what is meant by ‘a complex sentence’
- the importance of incorporating complex sentences in the IELTS speaking test
- the importance of focusing on natural use of language
The speaking test is the same for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training and it always involves a face-to-face interview with a certified IELTS examiner – regardless of whether you take the paper-based or computer-based version of the test.
The speaking test lasts between eleven and fourteen minutes. It is divided into three sections, which gradually become more challenging. There are four equally important assessment criteria:
Fluency and coherence – the ability to speak at a good speed and link ideas together
Lexical resource – the ability to use a range of vocabulary appropriately
Grammatical range and accuracy – the ability to use a range of grammatical structures accurately
Pronunciation – the ability to be understood easily
Today, we’re going to focus on ‘Grammatical range and accuracy’ and, more specifically, the use of complex sentences to use in your IELTS Speaking exam. Let’s start by having a look at the parts of the band descriptors for Bands 5, 6 and 7 which relate to the use of complex sentences.
A ‘Band 5’ candidate uses only a limited range of structures and attempts to use complex sentences. A ‘Band 6’ candidate uses a mix of simple and complex sentence forms – and a ‘Band 7’ candidate uses a variety of complex sentences.
Clearly, it’s important to incorporate complex sentences into your speaking in order to achieve a higher score for ‘Grammatical Range and Accuracy’. But what exactly is a ‘complex sentence’? The good news is that complex sentences are not as complex as they sound! A complex sentence is just a combination of two or more simple sentences. You probably already know how to form some types of complex sentences.
Let’s look at some examples.
Perhaps the easiest way to form a complex sentence is to use conjunctions. Conjunctions are words which join sentences together – and simple coordinating conjunctions include words such as ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘or’. ‘Because’, ‘so that’, ‘before’, ‘when’ and ‘although’ are also examples of conjunctions. Not too tricky, right?
Another way to link two simple sentences together is using a relative clause. So instead of saying:
“I live with a friend. I met her at university.”
You could say:
“I live with a friend, who I met at university.”
Here’s another example. Instead of saying:
“On my last holiday I went to Brighton. It’s a town by the sea.”
You could say:
“On my last holiday I went to Brighton, which is a town by the sea.”
The band descriptor for Band 7 includes using a variety of complex sentences.
Instead of saying:
“I don’t have much free time. I don’t do much exercise.”
You could form a complex sentence by saying:
“I don’t have much free time, so I don’t do much exercise.”
But if you wanted to really show what you could do, you could say:
“If I had more free time, I would do more exercise.”
Conditionals are also examples of complex sentences.
A common topic in part one of the speaking test is ‘food’. Here is an example question, and several sample answers:
What’s your favourite food?
My favourite food is lasagne. My mum is a great cook and when I was growing up, she used to make lasagne every Saturday. It’s not exactly healthy, as she uses plenty of cheese, but it’s absolutely delicious.
Can you see how this candidate has joined simple sentences together to form complex sentences?
Here is another example:
I think my favourite food is chocolate. I would probably eat chocolate every day if I could! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t eat chocolate, so I think I’ve probably been a chocoholic since childhood.
And one more:
Steak, I think. I know that it’s not very environmentally friendly, and I know that we are all supposed to be becoming vegans, but in my opinion, nothing beats the taste of a medium-rare steak.
Although it is important to incorporate complex sentences into your speaking, it’s also important to achieve a balance. Don’t feel as if you can only use complex sentences. Each of the sample answers you heard began with a simple sentence – and this is perfectly natural use of language.
It’s also worth remembering that there are three other areas of assessment, including ‘fluency and coherence’. It can be very difficult to speak naturally and at a good speed if you over-emphasise the importance of including more complicated language.
Focus on expressing what you want to say – and, if you know how to use these structures, you will find that you start to incorporate them instinctively.
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