In this tutorial you will learn:
- How to approach teaching IELTS Speaking overall and Part 1, in particular.
This will help you to teach about the IELTS Speaking exam because:
- You will learn about the main challenges and purposes of the IELTS Speaking exam.
- You will see real activities that you can practise with your IELTS exam candidate.
- You will learn how to prepare your exam taker in terms of overall attitude and mindset.
When you have to prepare your students for the IELTS exam, you’re up for a task that is far from easy, especially when it comes to the Speaking section.
In this tutorial we intend to help you navigate the daunting task of teaching your exam candidates what the Speaking exam is like and how to do their best at it.
MINDSET, ATTITUDE AND GENERAL APPROACH
Remember, a calm and relaxed student makes the best IELTS candidate!
First and foremost, one of the most important parts of the exam is your student’s mindset and their attitude towards it.
Your student will be calm when they know what to expect from the exam.
Teach them the exam format:
- How long is the exam? – 10 – 15 minutes
- How many parts are there?
- Part 1 (4–5minutes) The student will need to answer short questions from the examiner about yourself and everyday situations.
- Part 2 (3–4minutes) The candidate will give a one – to two-minute talk, based on your own experience, on a simple topic provided by the examiner.
- Part 3 (4–5minutes) The student will discuss some general but more abstract topics with the examiner that are related to the Part 2 talk.
- What is the test like? –There’s only ONE examiner, who will ask them questions and record the entire exam session. THAT is very important: exam takers are often taken aback by the fact that they are recorded during the exam.
- What’s the general approach to the test? – The exam candidate should follow the examiner’s instructions and listen carefully. They should make sure they always speak clearly and answer only the questions that you are asked. No additional information! The examiner will know if they have memorised answers and candidates will certainly lose marks if it turns out that they memorized answers. So, NO MEMORISING ANSWERS!
- How is the speaking test marked? – The speaking test is marked using a 9-band scale, as the entire IELTS test. The examiner will be listening to 4 features of your language:
- fluency and coherence
- grammar and accuracy
- What if the exam candidate doesn’t understand the examiner? – Main rule: DON’T PANIC! Tell your student to ask the examiner: Sorry, could you repeat the question, please?
- What if your exam candidate is not sure about their answer? – Tell them that there is actually no RIGHT answer. And they could always use hesitating structures such as:
- I’m not sure what I think about…
- Let me think…
- I really can’t remember but …
- It depends on…
- I tend to think that…
- On the whole, it seems that…
- What should your test taker do if they made a mistake? – Remind them to act like a figure skater: get up and go on. Just GO ON. Errors are inevitable. Embrace them. Or correct yourself quickly and go on. But don’t make a point of correcting themselves in every single mistake.
- Should your exam candidate say less or more? – MORE is always better. That’s called EXTENT. The more extent there is to an answer, which means if an answer is reasonably long, the better! But remind the student of typical answer lengths for each Speaking section.
- Can your student make up when they don’t know? – Yes, absolutely. It’s ok not to tell the truth; no one is going to check that. The candidate should only answer the questions appropriately and develop. However, they should not go off topic, as they will lose points for that. They should give relevant explanations, examples or opinions, depending on the question.
- What if your student is very stressed and keeps hesitating? – Remind them to try and fill their “errrrm” thinking pauses with appropriate fillers, such as “Well, I’ve never thought about that…”. etc. or NO sound at all.
The Rubik’s Cube is the most popular puzzle. Learn the easiest solution here.
If you found today’s tutorial useful, keep an eye out for our next tutorial, How to Teach IELTS Speaking Part 1 (Volume 2)
You can download or listen to the audio version here:
YOU MAY READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE:
Ben: Hello, IELTS students and teachers. In this tutorial, we will be focusing specifically on how to teach IELTS part 1 and you did hear me right. I did say students and teachers and the reason is because we usually get a lot of teachers who listen to this podcast and they listen to it obviously to get some tips and ideas on how to prepare their own students for this exam.
Today, it’s not just myself on this episode– on this tutorial. We’ve also got Cate. So, welcome to the tutorial, Cate.
Cate: Hi, Ben. Hi, everyone. We’re really happy to be here with you and share some of the tips that I think will be valuable to all the teachers and definitely all the students.
Ben: Excellent and some of you may recognize Cate’s voice because she’s done a few podcasts with myself in the past and she’s also corrected essays in the past as well and hopefully, will be correcting more essays in the future. Yes, it’s a task that she loves doing.
Cate: I do.
Ben: Yes. If you ever get a correction from her, you will understand immediately that Cate is a born tutor, so to speak. Would you agree with that, Cate?
Cate: Thank you. I think that’s too much of praise for me, but I’m trying to do my best, thank you.
Ben: No worries. Okay. So, let’s jump into it. The first point that we want to mention here is– actually, before we just jump into it, I will be asking questions and sometimes these questions are devil’s advocate questions as in I just want to maybe provoke– not provoke. That’s probably a bit too sinister, but maybe I just want to elicit, yes, I don’t want to go provoking Cate. Not today anyway. I want to elicit certain information. That’s all. So, even though I may know the answer I might not know the answer, but if it might seem a bit obvious the reason is because I want Cate to expand on an answer, for example.
Okay. So, Cate, where are we going to start with this tutorial?
Cate: So, we’re going to speak about a student’s mindset and attitude toward the IELTS speaking exam because this is very important because if your mind is at peace, you will do really well at an exam. So, accordingly teachers, remember that your student has to be calm and you have to tell them what lies ahead. So, if they know what’s ahead of them, they will be very focused. They will know what’s right there in front of them and they will not be afraid, which is the most important thing.
Ben: Good points there, good points and I’ve seen this as well. When I was preparing students, I would see that when they were relaxed with me, they would be speaking very freely and they would be very eloquent, very descriptive and then in front of an examiner or even in front of a different tutor, they would fall to bits. It’s heartbreaking really and I totally agree with you what you just said, Cate, about gaining familiarity so as to avoid any of these unpleasant surprises.
So, let’s jump straight into it. Can you explain what the format is for Part 1?
Cate: Yes. Of course, every one of you teachers knows about the format. We know that the exam is as long as 10- 15 minutes. Yes, sometimes it is as short as 10, but we’re speaking about extreme cases when the students give extremely short answers and of course, this is not our target by no means, but yes. It can last up to 15 minutes and that’s the usual length.
There are three parts and the first part is focused on questions about the student and everyday situations. It aims to relax and prepare the student for the following parts; to get them to–
Ben: Maybe get them to ease up.
Cate: Exactly. Get them at ease and of course, open up a bit–
Cate: Yes and part 1 is a question-answer session. Part 2 is a monologue. The student is given a task for a 1-2 minute talk and that’s a very simple topic yet the student has to follow the structure that is provided. Finally, part 3 lasts four or five minutes– oh yes, part 2 lasts about three or four minutes, not very long. Part 3 is slightly longer; 45 minutes and it is connected to the topic of the talk in part 2, but the student has to answer more abstract questions and again, that’s a question-answer session.
Remember, IELTS is never a conversation. It’s not a real conversation in the actual meaning of the word conversation. It’s not a free discussion. It’s a question-answer session and that’s really important to understand.
Ben: Excellent point there. This is a question I get all the time or I see a lot is how long should a student speak for when they are in this exam?
Cate: So, a very good idea is in part 1 to have one or two longest developed sentences to each question because if you give a two or three word answer to a part 1 question, that won’t do. That is way too short. However, if you try and answer a part 1 question for at least 30 seconds, that is way too long. You really have to be reasonable. Remember one or two sentences.
Ben: I’ve had students before and I would ask them are you working or are you a student and their answer would be yes, I am and smile.
Cate: Yes, I am. Which one?
Ben: Yes and I was like okay, right. Got you.
Cate: I’ve had situations where students would answer that by oh, let me tell you how I got this job and they will just start discussing– explain the whole process and it would be very difficult to just butt in and say thank you.
Ben: Right, yes. This happened a lot with– more so with my Spanish students who were really much more social, much more open. Yes, but I think it’s– I don’t know if you would agree, but I think it’s easier to sort of like work from that point of view and reduce the length of the answer–
Cate: That’s true. That’s true because it’s more difficult– yes, it’s more difficult to make a– let’s say short extend student to develop than to help a long extend student to shorten their answer because when you know what to say, you can cut it down.
Cate: When you don’t know to say, you have to build or think or just spend time.
Ben: Absolutely. Good points there. In a few minutes, we are going to jump into some techniques that teachers can teach their students in order to better prepare for all parts of this exam, mainly part 1 I think we’ll be dealing with today. Before that, I’ve got some questions here for Cate. So, Cate, what is the test like?
Cate: Oh well, I think we have already discussed about the length and format of the test, but it’s really important to remember that unlike other tests there’s only one examiner who will ask the exam taker or test taker questions and they will also record the entire session. This is very important because a lot of students are really scared– no, they’re terrified when they see the recorder because they might have prepared for the whole structure, for the whole format, for the topics, and vocabulary, but when they see the recorder, they just freeze.
This is an element which is very important to be mentioned because a lot of people have this stage fright I think and the fear of the recorder I think is still a part of that stage fright because you know if anyone ever had to come in contact with cameras or microphones on actual radios or TV stations, they will know how scary that is. So, please mention that the exam candidate will be recorded. You can even practice that in class.
Ben: Exactly. This is what I was going to suggest. Nowadays, everybody’s got a recorder in their pocket with their phone. So, not only– even if your teacher does not want to record it, there is nothing stopping you from pulling out your phone and recording it, but I think most teachers would or should at least encourage the students to start recording their sessions. This will kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, in that not only will you have the luxury of being able to listen to yourself and hopefully spot a few errors but as we’ve just said, you’ll start getting desensitized to having yourself recorded and that stage fright will eventually start to dissipate I imagine. It will start to just disappear.
Cate: Ben, let me tell you just one little detail. I had a student. I was about to say where he was from, but I realized that would be inappropriate. So, he was recording every single session of our speaking practice. We had only speaking classes with him for about three weeks every day. He recorded every single class and he said I really want to listen to that once again. I want to hear myself. So, that was an example of extraordinary commitment and extraordinary lack of fear.
Ben: Excellent, excellent. What happened to this student? Did he get a good grade?
Cate: Yes, he did. He got 8 in speaking.
Ben: Wow! Awesome.
Cate: And that’s outstanding.
Ben: Yes, definitely.
Cate: That’s absolutely outstanding especially where he started from. That is absolutely impressive.
Ben: Well done. Yes, yes, fantastic and what’s the general approach to the test that a student should take or should be taught to take?
Cate: Well, the most important thing is to follow the examiner’s instruction and to listen carefully. The exam taker should always make sure that they answer what they’re asked and that they speak clearly. They should never give additional information even if they think that they would like to. They’d better not.
It’s very important to know that examiners will know if a student has memorized some answers because unfortunately, some students believe that they can simply just learn by heart certain answers to certain standard topics and that’s going to work, but no. Memorizing doesn’t work; just answer the question freely. Listen and do what you’re told to answer.
Ben: I’m going to just take into– before we get on to memorization and memorizing answers, I agree with you there, but I want to just argue with you in a second.
Ben: That’s coming later, but when you said no additional information–
Cate: Oh, yes. That is interpretable, of course yes.
Cate: Yes, that is interpretable, but that means no going off-topic and [unintelligible 00:13:10.19] no blurting out memorized complete answers to standard topics.
Ben: Got you, got you, okay, okay because I was thinking maybe in part 1 we would–
Cate: No, even in part 3. Even in part 3, I typically advise if you don’t know what to do, just give your opinion. Say what you have– say what experience you have in this context. So, [unintelligible 00:13:31.05] yes, but part 1 is different. That’s why additional information works differently for part 1.
Ben: Yes. I was thinking that it’s sort of like more in the line of you can expand on the answer, but keep it within the topic and keep it within the question or the range of the question. If you get asked about your hometown, you can talk about your hometown, but don’t talk about other cities or towns in England, for example, or from wherever you’re from.
Now, about memorized answers, I agree with you here; full complete sentences, but fragments and structures–
Cate: Yes, structures, collocations, yes. Absolutely.
Ben: Yes. Good good good good yes. I just wanted to clarify that for the listeners here because there’s a big difference between having a framework that you can use and having a few collocations up your sleeve, so to speak, but memorizing a complete paragraph of information probably not the best way to go.
Cate: Well, you know, Ben, in the end, language is actually redundant. When we learn a language, we don’t learn free language, right? We can’t just translate words as we find them. In the end, when we get to the higher levels of language learning, we realize that we speak in structures, we speak in collocations and we end up reproducing structures. So, yes.
Ben: Absolutely. Yes. I remember quite a few that I learned for Spanish and when I used these structures, it sounded like I could speak the subjunctive. I didn’t really know how to use the subjunctive, but I knew that I can pull these phrases out and it sounds– I didn’t know the exact rules, but I knew in certain cases, I could use a subjunctive phrase and it did sound– I think it improved my speaking abilities. I don’t know if it actually did. I hope so. Anyway, let’s move on. So, how is the speaking test marked?
Cate: Well, there are four criteria and they’re also marked by a nine-band scale as the rest of the IELTS test and the criteria are the following: the first one is fluency and coherence. What’s that? Fluency is how flowing the candidate’s speech is and whether there is any hesitation. Coherence is, of course, the logical connection and the whole cohesive devices or linkers that they use. So, that’s important.
Ben: Yes, I’ll just interrupt you there. Coherence is related to what we were talking about before with additional information. It’s got to be coherent. It’s got to link together. Your last sentence has got to connect to the preceding sentence, which obviously will connect back to the topic that you’ve just answered. So, yes and vocabulary did you say it’s the next one?
Cate: Yes. Vocabulary is the next one. When we speak about vocabulary, it’s not just the words we use. It’s the range of the words and expressions like how many various words and expressions we can produce on the same topic. It’s also the use of topical vocabulary. So, if you’re asked about not so– I beg your pardon– about global warming, you really have to produce appropriate– Oh and I said global warming, so that’s part 3. No.
If you’re asked about your hometown, you really have to use relevant vocabulary about let’s say roads, how buildings, infrastructure– I don’t know. It depends, but it’s also the correctness and appropriateness of these words you use.
Ben: Yes. Good point there, good point. I always recommend that students or the teachers should encourage their students to jump online and research where they come from. Research and look at Wikipedia. Look at some articles that talk about the history. Maybe your town is famous for producing the first motor engine or maybe it’s famous for having a strong textile industry in the past. Maybe it was the center of the Industrial Revolution.
I think each town or each place usually has some kind of claim to fame. You could say unless you’re from a place that’s pretty dire in which case– maybe you could even explain that like there’s not really that much going on in my town, but even then, you could just stretch it a little bit and talk about the capital city of your country or the nearest and largest city to your hometown or village. So, yes. I just wanted to share that and the next one grammatical range and accuracy.
Cate: Yes. It’s called grammar and accuracy and it’s exactly what it looks like. So, it’s very similar to the writing criteria as well. Again, it’s about how various the speaker’s grammar is, how many grammatical points and forms they can use to express themselves and of course, how well they are used; how correct they are used.
It would be a very good point to retain that there is no use worrying about grammar because very often candidates worry that their grammar is going to be this way or that, but they seem to have to let go– you know the words of the song let it go. Just forget about it. Just focus on the topic.
Cate: They have to know that they will be assessed on it, but they should try not to panic and not to think about it too much because it will slow them down.
Ben: Right and I just want to mention something here that speaking is a spontaneous activity and often times when you try– if, for example, if you’ve made an error and you try go back and correct that error, what can usually happen is that you end up confusing the listener even more. It’s not like writing where we can erase what we said. It’s completely spontaneous and maybe we can go back and just say sorry. No, it’s like this, but usually, it’s creating more of a problem than you’re solving. Would you agree there, Cate?
Cate: Yes, I do. You’re actually anticipating another point that we’re planning to discuss; what do we do if–
Ben: Oh, yes.
Cate: Yes, if the exam candidate made a mistake, should they correct themselves or not and yes, I absolutely agree with you. Just forget about it, get up, and move on. There’s really no point in trying to correct too much. Yes, if it’s just sorry, I meant was not were, just move on. That’s fine, but don’t make a point of correcting every single error that you make and even worse, don’t make a point of observing your every single mistake because that will end up in a lot of stress and definitely a lot of decrease in fluency. So, you will slow down and your overall score will drop. So, you will actually take yourself down with your own hands.
Ben: Got you, got you. Good point and I think you mentioned before you’ve got a very eloquent analogy of a figure skater.
Cate: Oh, yes. I forgot about that one, yes. What the figure skaters do if they fall when they have to jump a quadruple axel, they fall, they get up, they go on. The music is playing; they really have to move on. Be like a figure skater.
Ben: Got you, okay. Yes, I really like that analogy. Just for the listeners, we’re talking about like the ice skating at the Olympics, the figure skaters where they get points and the music’s playing and they’re usually skating in time with the music and it’s all choreographed. They can’t go back in time and correct a mistake if there is one. They’ve just got– the only direction really is forward. It’s just upwards and onwards basically– onwards and upwards, sorry. Okay. So, we jumped around a bit. What happen–
Cate: Pronunciation; we forgot about the fourth criteria.
Ben: We did. We did.
Cate: Finally, there’s pronunciation and despite the fact that the exam candidate is assessed for pronunciation, they are assessed for the way they articulate sounds; whether the sounds are similar to the English sounds and not any other language sounds. Their intonation melody pitch is assessed and what else? This, this, this, and of course phrase and sentence stress, but the exam candidate should not worry that if they are not native speakers they will definitely never get a good score in pronunciation. That is not so.
I know tens and tens of candidates who got 9 in pronunciation because they were absolutely accurate. The fact that they come from a different culture and they are natives of the other countries and speakers of other languages did not influence that at all. Just remember: be clear and make sure that your sounds are intelligible and you are not omitting anything, you’re not changing anything, and your mistakes do not affect comprehension of what you’re saying.
Ben: Absolutely, yes. Absolutely. I think the key thing here is the comprehension. For example, if a Glaswegian is speaking with a person from New York, they probably won’t understand each other even though they’re both native English speakers. They probably won’t understand each other for a few minutes until they start adjusting how they are speaking for the listener and the listener here is the key, but the thing is the both of them are native English speakers.
I’ve had stories of– there’s this Hungarian friend who was working in a hotel in London and they would receive calls and the Scottish people in the hotel would always give the call to the Hungarian guy because the people who were calling who wanted to book it, they couldn’t understand the Scottish people when they were talking. So, they had to book it through the Hungarian because the Scots they had too strong an accent to be understood.
Cate: Ben, that reminds me of the video– I don’t know if you know about the video about the two Scottish guys and the voice operated elevator. I always show it to my students. That’s keyword 11 and elevator; just watch it on YouTube.
Ben: Okay, we’ll link to that in the notes and it also reminds me of my friend. We were in Toronto– he’s from Yorkshire as well like I am and he was in Toronto and he was trying to do some telephone banking and he couldn’t get through. So, he had to change his accent and he was like– what was it now– he was talking like that. He had to put on an American– that was a horrible American accent, but he had to really modify it just so he could get through the automated system, but anyway yes, we’re going a little bit off-topic.
Cate: That’s why there’s the IELTS exam that does not judge pronunciation and accent, but just intelligibility, to sum it all up.
Ben: Yes, that’s very wise though. It’s very wise and I think it’s essential because– it’s essential that we’ve mentioned that because a lot of students get hung up on I want a British accent, I want an American accent and I think the best accent to go for and I also agree here is one that’s just the most intelligible. It’s the one that’s– this is the same attitude I took with my Spanish. I didn’t care what accent I had just as long as people understood me and most days they did. Okay. So, what happens if the student doesn’t understand the examiner?
Cate: Well, the best thing that they can do is they can simply ask the examiner to repeat the question. Any polite formulation something like sorry, could you please repeat the question or anything along that line because according to the protocol, we– when I say we I mean the speaking examiners and I was also a speaking examiner– we are not allowed to explain.
So, it is best if you as teacher listeners do not advise students to elicit explanation because most probably in 99% of the cases, they will not get explanations because the examiners are not allowed to explain. If they do, that means that some of the students will get a positive handicap, so to say. So, they will be at more advantage than other students, right, who did not get that explanation. So, the best solution is to simply ask for a restatement of the question. It’s that simple.
Ben: Got you, got you and I would just like to mention that in English– it is an English speaking world, it is seen as rude if you just say what? I need to mention this. We’re laughing, but in some cultures, it’s totally unacceptable just to say what? This happened a lot in Spanish where I would be explaining and even I’ve had partners in the past where I would be explaining something and they’d just interrupt me and go what? And I’d be like no, that’s really rude.
You can’t do that in English. You got to– yes, there is this whole culture behind it. You say sorry, could you repeat the question, please? Excuse me, do you mind repeating that last phrase, please? Just polite phrases like this.
Cate: Yes, levels of politeness are very important in English at any time especially when speaking. When writing, that’s a whole different chapter.
Ben: Yes, yes. Good point there. Good point. Cate, what if your exam candidate is not so sure about their answer?
Cate: So, if they’re not sure about their answer, they can answer– they can soften their hesitation and buy some time and use hesitating structures like I’m not sure what I think about this, but… I still believe this and that or something like on the whole, it seems that this might be the situation. However, whatever they answer on the topic is the right answer.
There is actually no right answer. The only wrong possibilities are the absence of answer or a very short response; something like I don’t think this is right. This is incorrect because… This is too short. You might want to develop on that or the answer is completely off-topic. If they ask you about let’s say what do you think about or how do you feel on sunny days and you start thinking that weather is really changeable in your country and that is kind of off-topic because they asked you about what you feel on sunny days.
Ben: Good points.
Cate: Yes. So, remember no short answer, no off-topic answer; just your own personal thing to say on this topic.
Ben: Exactly, yes and as we said in previous tutorials that this is a language exam and the examiners are evaluating your ability to communicate. It’s not like mathematics where there is a right and a wrong; it’s binary. The answer is right if it’s on-topic and it’s developed; very much like the writing. If it’s developed and you’ve got a reasoning there, then there is no incorrect answer. Well, as Cate just mentioned, there are two incorrect answers; if it’s too short, you’re not going to pick up points and obviously, as well if it’s off-topic.
So, what I’m saying is that if– let’s just go back to the question. How do you feel on a sunny day? The correct answer could be I feel terrible because I hate the sun. I love the sun, so I usually feel very happy or it makes me really lethargic; any of those. That’s what I’m trying to say. Any of those as long as they are rationale, as long as it’s related and as long as it’s on-topic and as long as you can explain it then you’re fine. But if you say, as Cate just mentioned, well, there’s lots of different types of weather in my country, then you’re not really there. You’re not really going to pick up the points.
So, let’s move on. What should– oh, we’ve done this one already. What should you do if you make a mistake? We’ve said that. So, next question: should the exam candidate be taught to say less when they’re replying or more?
Cate: Well, more is definitely better. Why? Because, as we mentioned previously, a very short answer is going to lose points for extent; that means development. If the answer is very short, there’s very little language that the examiner can assess. So, that means– or the exam candidate cannot produce any language or useful vocabulary to cover that topic. That means they don’t have a good command of language end of story. Very sad.
Cate: So, the answer is more is better.
Ben: Definitely and in the Speaking Confidence Online Course we have at IELTS podcast, we have a whole module about expanding answers because I know a lot of students struggle with this. Just very briefly, I mentioned some techniques a student can use or some techniques you can teach your students. One of my favorites is because; just adding because on how do you feel on sunny days? I usually feel happy because it means I can go outside and play sports, for example.
Another way to expand your answer is to just say for example, yes. How do you feel on sunny days? I feel great. For example, yesterday it was really sunny and I managed to do all my favorite activities outside such as badminton and bird-watching or whatever. So, there are quite straightforward ways to expand your answer and we’ve got a few more techniques like that.
But really, as we said right at the beginning, I don’t think it’s a difficult thing to develop– a difficult skill to develop. It’s probably the best way. Now then, what happens if a student doesn’t really know or can’t really think of what to answer? What happens then, Cate? What should a student do?
Cate: Well, the difficult question that I get from my candidates is can I tell a lie? Can I make up? Can I just add details that are not actually true? Well, my answer is always yes because the exam candidate is not assessed on the veracity of their facts. They are assessed on the language they produce.
So yes, it’s okay not to tell the truth. It’s okay to tell a little white lie, but remember two little things. If you’re not telling the truth, it’s going to take you more time and effort to make up the details because when you’re telling some facts from your actual experience, you don’t have to build them. You simply have to extract them from your memory. That’s why it’s always faster and easier and you have them right in front of your mind’s eye.
So, be very careful when you build something which is not your actual experience because you might get stuck in your lie, but again, if it’s just a little detail and you have to say oh my God! I don’t have any siblings. Well, I do have one brother and then you think about your cousin who’s not your brother, then you take the details about your cousin it’s going to work because no one knows what your background is, but you produce good language.
Ben: The examiner is not going to stalk you on Facebook to see if that story was true or false.
Cate: No. They’re not your employer. Sometimes employers do that, but definitely not family status.
Ben: And just another tip there. If you do absolutely feel the need to lie– tell a little white lie, so to speak, as Cate mentioned or maybe it’s an experience, then feel– if you do have to do it, you can always use a friend’s experience that they had when they went abroad, for example, or when they had a terrible accident and broke a bone. If that didn’t happen to you, just tell about their story. What about this, Cate? What happens if the student says– for example, you get a question about breaking a bone and the student says well actually, I’ve never broken a bone myself, but my best friend broke her elbow a few years ago. Can I tell you about that?
Cate: Yes and that would be acceptable by exam standards because the language that is intended to be elicited is about breaking the bone, not about the student personally, not about his family– their family structure. So, if the vocabulary produced and the details added and the topical vocabulary that is used in this account of events is accurate and appropriate, that would be absolutely acceptable by exam standards.
Ben: I would say that could be safer as well because once we start telling lies, we’ll probably have to hold that information in our brain to make sure that we don’t trip up over those lies later on in the exam and just holding that information there in your brain is going to take up some mental resources which you don’t really want to be using up on holding that information there.
Ben: Now then, what happens if a student is constantly– is stressed and they’re hesitating?
Cate: Well, when we hesitate, we tend to make thinking noises and you know kind of this ah um oh well whatever. So yes, the thinking noises are very distracting and unpleasant to the listener and they definitely have no place in the speaking exam if you want a good score. So, it would be a very good idea to fill them with appropriate phrase fillers which are called fillers because they fill poses.
Something like well, I’ve never thought about that or let me think about this or something like oh, you’ve caught me off guard or anything that might show your real surprise because there is nothing wrong in hesitating a bit or you can actually make a pause–
Cate: –for two seconds. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s all natural.
Ben: Exactly. I was just about to mention that. This goes back to what we were saying as well about recording yourself and getting yourself familiar with not only listening but also speaking, for example, for two minutes because it’s much longer than you might have expected and you might find yourself struggling near the end and to compensate for the struggling, you might find yourself using these fillers. So, if you listen to yourself, you could probably become aware of– maybe the grammar structures or the vocabulary you might not be able to pick up errors there because obviously, you’re not a native speaker. You might not be aware of them. However, overusing the thinking noises you could definitely pick up on and you could definitely try the exercise again and replace them as Cate just mentioned with either appropriate phrases or appropriate silences.
By the way, I’ve given speeches before and I just did a quick search on how to give these speeches and I found that putting in pauses– you could call them dramatic pauses increase–
Cate: That was very dramatic.
Ben: It was. Putting in those dramatic pauses sort of like entice the listener. They draw the listener in because you’re not expecting them and you start to pull nearer to the speaker, so to speak. So yes, you can practice with those and you can test them. Also, my friends do this. I’ve noticed they do this. I think they do this subconsciously, but to make themselves more interesting, they will change the volume of the way they’re speaking.
My mum does this all the time actually. It drives me absolutely crazy, but she’ll do this to add a little bit of drama in what she’s saying. Yes, so I’m not saying do that, but it’s good to be aware of these because once you’re aware of them then I think you can be a little bit more confident in using them.
Okay. So now, I think we can finish there for this tutorial, Cate, unless– do you have anything else you would like to add before we finish it?
Cate: No, I think that’s basically the most important tips we had to say here. So, no. In terms of the general approach, I think these are the most important ones.
Ben: Excellent and for the next tutorial, we are going to focus on how you can prepare for this exam. We’re going to look at how teachers can prepare their students, the exercises, how to build the vocabulary and what exercises you can give your students at home to do so that they come to the exam feeling much better, more prepared, more confident, and therefore much more likely to get the exam result they thoroughly deserve.
Okay. So, thank you and before we go, I’d just like to remind you that if you sign up to the podcast at ieltspodcast.com– if you go there, leave your email and we can send you some more resources and some special offers.
If you’re struggling with the exam, remember we’ve got the online courses. We’ve got the Speaking Confidence online course. We’re getting some fantastic results from students going through that course and we’ve got the Jump to Band 7 or It’s Free online IELTS course, which is always, always getting terrific results for the students and remember you’re not alone in this.
If you’re struggling, just sign up and you can shoot us an email and we’ll get right back to you with some advice and some tips and remember yes, you’re not alone. If you get help, you’re going to get through this faster and you’re going to improve better as well– you’re going to improve faster.
So, Cate, anything else before we finish there?
Cate: Oh well, I only wish our students and teachers to think about confidence and relax and think that the exam is nothing but a mere conversation about fun things and trust me, that works.
Ben: Definitely, definitely. We don’t want to go in as relaxed as if we were talking to a friend. I think a job interview sort of like is the best kind of– that’s the level of English. We don’t want to be kicking back, chilling, slouching. We want to go in there back straight, smiling, formal, but also, we don’t want to be over stressing and getting nervous.
So, with that, thank you very much for listening and have a good day. Thank you very much.
Female Voice: Thanks for listening to ieltspodcast.com.