How to improve IELTS Speaking


Many students approach the team at IELTSPodcast about how to score better in the IELTS speaking test. There are a number of ways, which will be covered here.

First, it's important to understand how your speaking test is scored. Understand what the speaking band descriptors mean. Four criteria are evaluated.

  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resources
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Pronunciation

Fluency and Coherence

  • speak at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence
  • show some language-related hesitation, repetition or self-correction
  • use a range of connectors and discourse markers with some flexibility

What it means:

Your speech is fluent; you don't have too many pauses, there are some but not a lot of "ummmms, errrrs".

You occasionally catch yourself making mistakes but you don't spend the entire speaking test correcting yourself. You can use a good variety of words to connect your ideas using linking words, such as also, too, however, and, furthermore. However, don't try to overuse these words as this will make your speaking sound unnatural and you may lose points on your fluency score.


Lexical Resource

  • use appropriate vocabulary to the topic flexibly to discuss a variety of topics
  • use some less common and idiomatic vocabulary and show some awareness of style and collocation, with some inappropriacies
  • paraphrase effectively

What it means:

You are able to discuss different themes, ideas, without getting stuck. You can use some expressions or less common words and combinations to get your ideas across.

When you don't know a word, you are still able to express yourself, by describing or by circumventing the word you don't know. Sometimes you don't use the exact word you need. Think of other words that are related to what you want to say. You will find that you will be able to carry on the conversation smoothly if you do this rather than trying to think of the word or words you forget.


Grammatical Range and Accuracy

  • use a range of complex structures with some flexibility
  • frequently produce error-free sentences, though some errors might still persist

What it means:

You use sentences that don't just have one subject and one verb and you are able to use different types of structures. You aim to use more complex sentences than simple sentences.

You make some mistakes but more often your sentences are accurate.

  • Use a range of pronunciation features with mixed control
  • Be generally understood throughout though mispronunciation of individual words or sounds reduces clarity



You use a range of phonological features without being misunderstood

Your intonation and rhythm are used in a way that make you easy to understand

You don't speak too slowly or too quickly

What it means:

You understand how English sounds go together. You know how to stress sounds or words for emphasis. You know when to pause appropriately.

You can produce English sounds accurately but sometimes your accent makes it a little trickier to understand you.

Here is a tutorial all about pronunciation features Band 9 students will have.


IELTS Speaking Test Format

The IELTS speaking test is divided into three parts.

In part 1, you will be asked to answer questions about everyday topics. You should aim to answer in about 2-4 sentences

In part 2, you will be given a card with a topic and you will need to talk for about two minutes on that topic. There will be bullet points to help you organize your talk.

IELTS speaking topics can be a number of things but they are designed for anyone to be able to answer, so don't worry about needing specialized knowledge for the test.

In part 3, you will be asked broader, more abstract questions on the topic addressed in part 2.


How to improve your IELTS speaking score

For each student, the answer will differ somewhat, depending on your individual English language skills but some tips can be useful for all students. For example:

  • Don't try to memorize you answers before the IELTS speaking exam
  • Speak spontaneously
  • Practice! Use sample questions to help you out
  • Don't rush; speak slowly and clearly
  • Extend your answers to explain exactly what you want to say

Here is a full list of speaking phrases and tips you can use in the exam.

Improve your overall English skills

With skill comes confidence. If you have a better grasp of the English language, this will help you in all areas of the IELTS exam, not just the speaking test.

One of the most important tips is to improve your grammar, your vocabulary and learn new words and phrases. This will help you to not only use the appropriate vocabulary to the particular topic, but it will also show the examiner that you have a diverse vocabulary resource. This could lead you closer to your dream score!

By doing this type of consistent IELTS preparation, you will be more than ready to handle any topic that the IELTS examiner gives you.


Surround yourself with English

Want to read a book? Read it in English! A movie? Watch it in English or with English subtitles, or both! This will expose you to more of the sounds of spoken English.

A sure way to improve fluency is to starting thinking in the target language.

If you create an environment that immerses you in the English language, this will help you passively acquire new words and phrases with minimum effort.


IELTS Speaking Practice

Many test-takers say they feel self-conscious when they speak English but this is one of the best ways to improve your speaking exam score.

Practice with your friends, your family, and use English as much as you can in your daily life. Look for a speaking partner who is willing go places with you, such as out shopping or to a sporting event. He or she might be able to give you real life tips in real situations.

Even when you can use your native language, choose to use English instead. You won't know exactly what the examiner's questions will be on test day, so it's a good idea to expose yourself to all kinds of English speaking situations.

Another way to practice is to order food in English when you go to a restaurant, talk to your bank or internet provider in English and give yourself the opportunity to practice your language skills as much, as often as possible and you will be on your way to getting the score you need.


Be aware

A lot of learning can happen passively, but sometimes awareness is key.

When you read or listen to English, pay close attention not just to the meaning of what you hear or see but the actual language itself.

How does the speaker express a complex idea?

How does he or she string certain combinations of words together? Do you notice long pauses or short ones?

What linking words can you identify?

How does the stress on certain words create an entirely different meaning??

By focusing on how native speakers use English, you can begin adopting some of this language yourself and using it to get the IELTS speaking score you need.


Record yourself

Improving your speaking skills for the IELTS exam is not always... comfortable!

One effective way, albeit awkward for some, to practice speaking and improve is by recording yourself speak.

Conduct a speaking test on your own, and record your answers.

Listen for elements included in the marking criteria of fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy and pronunciation.

Be observant of mistakes, but not overly critical.

Focus on one marking criterion each time and think about how you can improve your speaking.



Many test-takers wonder how to improve their pronunciation, fluency, or pronunciation skills. One of the best ways is to copy native speaker speech.

Watch movies or tv shows and imitate how the actors speak.

Use their stress or timing and try practicing saying words and phrases as they do. Have mini-practice sessions with the show -- listen to a sentence, pause the video, repeat. Listen, pause, and repeat.

It may feel a little artificial in the beginning, but when you practice speaking like this over time, native-like pronunciation will feel less like a role and more like a natural part of your speaking.


Get Feedback

Many IELTS test takers self-prepare and that may be effective for some. For others, however, the best way to improve their IELTS speaking is with professional feedback from a qualified IELTS teacher.

Someone who has expert knowledge about the IELTS exam will be able to guide you more effectively, pointing out strengths, mistakes and areas you need to improve.

A professional IELTS teacher can conduct practice speaking tests, giving you precious feedback and ideas on how to develop your answers, suggesting different structures to improve grammatical range and accuracy, advice on more academic vocabulary, and example answers.

Gain from their knowledge, saving yourself time, money and frustration.

Ask us about our lessons on IELTS speaking test with our expert team at IELTSPodcast. We love helping students prepare for their dream score. Learn from our years of experience and improve your fluency, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.


Use our free IELTS tutorials to help you improve your score: