In this article, we will give you 21 tips to help you score better on your IELTS Speaking Exam, and a detailed list of phrases to improve your spoken English.
After reading this article you will have the knowledge on how to best prepare for your own IELTS Speaking Exam, and have better chances of scoring higher.
Pay attention to everything written here – every tip is tried and tested. If you let it all settle in your mind, you will do great when your time comes!
IELTS Speaking Exam: Tips and Band 9 Practice
21 Tips to Score Better on Your IELTS Speaking Exam
Before the Exam
Mindset of success
1. Learning any language is a gradual process. But you can become more successful just by simply changing your mindset!
Don’t think about yourself as an IELTS student who’s trying to learn English. See yourself as a successful English speaker in general, and you will notice your confidence grow.
Accept your mistakes
2. If you think your English is awful – stop.
Understand that you are learning. Accept the fact that mistakes are fine when you are a student. Instead, write them down and start improving.
“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.”
Henry C. Link
Practice for your exams in the right way
3. Listening to IELTS Speaking Practice Exams is great, but it can also get really boring.
If you feel your mind wondering simply turn something else on! Just type in your hobby followed by podcast into Google, and see what comes up.
Once you find an interesting podcast, listen to it constantly. Try to copy the native speaker by paying attention to their intonation, pronunciation and sentence structure. Soon you will see yourself improving!
Think in English
4. Translate your daily thoughts into English. Soon you will it will begin to feel natural!
5. Watch other students doing IELTS Speaking Exams on YouTube to become familiar with the exam.
6. Follow the cue cards carefully and read them well – misunderstanding these in your own exam will cost you points!
Practise fluency and accuracy separately
7. Keep in mind that speaking comprises of two components: accuracy and fluency. Choose one and practise it until you feel confident. Concentrating on one at a time will help you put in 100% of your effort on each one separately, rather than sharing it out.
If you feel like you are having a really hard time with fluency, you can also check out my post.
Practise speaking with native and non-native speakers
8. Remember that you can pratise speaking with both native and non-native English speakers. Both will help you in different ways.
Memory by association
9. When you learn a new collocation or a phrasal verb, associate it to someone you know. This will make it easier to remember.
10. To learn more idioms go to ‘The Teacher idioms‘.
11. If possible use anecdotes during your IELTS Speaking Exam.
12. When giving examples try to avoid hypothetical situations.
Hypothetical situations require you to invent, translate and then communicate. But if you use your own memories, you will only need to translate and communicate.
Quick tips to keep in mind
Escape from tough situations
13. Memorise this sentence to help you get out of sticky situations “I’m not quite sure if that is what you are talking about but I think…”
Learn to paraphrase
14. If the word has disappeared from your mind just describe it. Example: Keyboard = the object used to type on computers.
This will help you keep speaking without having to worry about finding the right word.
15. Learn word combinations/ collocations, such bear in mind; take into account; etc.
Using collocations makes you sounds more like a native speaker, hence improving the overall sound and fluency of your English.
Prepare some topics
16. Think about some topics before your IELTS Speaking Exam, such as your history, your job, your culture and your favourite food. Prepare your unique vocabulary and use it in Task One of your IELTS Speaking Exam.
During your exam
17. Warm up a few hours before your exam by speaking with someone in English. Don’t go in cold!
18. If you’re feeling nervous start speaking slowly and simply, the fluency will follow.
Procedure / Plan
19. Use the points on the cue card as your structure.
20. Although this exam is a semi-formal situation, remember to be spontaneous. Consider it similar to a job interview.
21. Remember: this is your chance to show the examiner how well you can speak English. Do not hold yourself back – GO FOR IT!
“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Helpful phrases for your IELTS Speaking Exam
These are set phrases that can be used as a rough guide to help you prepare for your IELTS Speaking Exam.
Learn to use them in context, adapt them, master them and they will help you – but only if used correctly.
If the examiner asks you your opinion about your home, studies, job, or country, you can add one of these ‘generalising’ phrases to show a more relaxed aspect of your language ability.
This is perfect for the introduction part of your IELTS Speaking Exam.
|To some extent||To some extent the weather is poor but I do love the city centre when it rains.|
|On the whole||On the whole, I do enjoy living in Manchester.|
|By and large||By and large, Manchester United was a wonderful club.|
Phrases to enrich a normal answer
It is more than likely that the examiner will ask you some questions regarding your opinion or yourself. In this situation you could enrich a normal answer by beginning with one of these phrases:
- I’m pretty sure that…
- In my case…
- I personally believe/think that…
- It’s my opinion that…
Phrases to restate
If you see a funny expression on the examiner’s face and you feel they aren’t following you, first slow down and then use one of these:
- What I meant was…
- To put it in other words…
- Let me explain it to you…
- What I’m saying is…
- Let me put it another way…
Phrases to correct a mistake
If you make a mistake and you’re aware of it, you can either ignore it or acknowledge it with a perfect sentence like:
- Sorry, what I would have liked to say was…
- Let me rephrase what I just said…
- Don’t misunderstand me, what I wanted to say was…
Phrases to get you back on topic
If you find yourself off topic, which can happen when you’re nervous, get back on track with one of these phrases:
- Where was I?
- In any case…
- To get back to what I was saying…
Phrases to use when giving examples
These phrases, when adapted, are perfect when giving examples:
- Take McKinsley for example…
- To illustrate this…
- A case in point is…
- To show you what I mean…
In Part 3 of your IELTS Speaking Exam you will find yourself in a discussion with the examiner. This is the perfect time to use your Similarity Phrases.
Just make sure you are using them correctly, as these are more advanced and can be a little confusing.
|In the same way||In the same way as Manchester industrialised, so did Liverpool.|
|Just as||Just as United used to win trophies, so did Inter Milan.|
|Similarly||Similarly, we also studied via the internet.|
Phrases to expand and develop
If you want to further develop reasons or explanations, use these phrases:
- What is more…
- In any case…
- As well as that…
- In addition…
- Furthermore… (formal)
- Moreover… (very formal)
Phrases to explain a logical consequence
These phrases are good to use when coming to a conclusion about the topic you are talking about:
- As a result…
- Consequently… (quite formal)
Final advice for your IELTS Speaking Exam
The examiner will very likely be from an Anglo-Saxon country. In these countries manners are paramount, sometimes it is even excessive.
So start with a big warm smile and remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at all the appropriate times.
Manners can get you a long way!
What’s on today’s Podcast?
In today’s podcast, we speak to Leyla, an English tutor! In this episode she shares some awesome IELTS Speaking Exam tips and then completes an IELTS Speaking Exam. Give it a listen to find out more!
Remember, if you have any questions or doubts regarding the speaking, you can send me an email or have a look at the Speaking Confidence Course.
Ben: Hey there. In this episode we’re going to listen to Layla. First she’s going to give us some speaking tips. The some tips related to the IELTS exam. And then after that, I’m going to interview her in the style of an IELTS Speaking Test so you can get familiar with the format, with the style of questions and of course what’s expected.
Also, you’ll probably pick up on the fact that Layla is from the United States. She’s a native speaker of English. So, there are going to be absolutely no mistakes in her pronunciation, vocabulary, or anything so it’s practically a Band 9.
So have a listen and get used to the timing, the style of answers, the languages, the language she uses and it’ll be a pretty helpful. Oh, and if you’ve still got doubts about your own speaking and you’d like to improve, I’d just like to say that we’ve got an evaluation service now on the site and what you can do is record a speaking example on your phone and then turn it into an mp3 or just send it as an attachment to me and you can get it evaluated. If you want more information, just go to IELTSpodcast.com and you’ll see I think it’s one of the blue buttons on the right hand side. It says twenty four hour speaking evaluation. It’s not much. About ten dollars. It’s pretty economical and yeah, you can discover where you make the mistakes, how to improve and of course what you need to do to get that band score. So, hope you enjoy this episode.
Layla, she’s a professional English tutor and she helps students so I’m going to ask her a few questions today and she’s going to give us some tips on how to improve accent, what we can do to practice, err frequent errors that the students might make. I’ll just introduce Layla. How are you?
Layla: I’m doing well thank you. Thanks for having me.
Ben: You’re welcome. You’re welcome. Right then. Can you tell us please, what are the most common problems students have when it comes to learning to speak English?
Layla: I think some of the most difficult things that students struggle with are mastering verb tenses and saying the same vocabulary repeatedly when they are speaking. Err often times students will confuse the verb tenses. For example they may speak in the present when they’re talking about the past. Err sometimes they will also say the same word or phrase repeatedly instead of using synonyms or words that almost mean the same thing. For example, a student may say paper err when they’re referring to a report or essay for class. They will say paper, paper, over and over again. So, that can be a difficult thing to master.
Ben: I see and do you know any techniques that a student could use to increase their vocabulary?
Layla: I think listening to erm English as much as possible, as basic as that sounds would be one of the best ways to improve your vocabulary. Once you learn a new word for erm another word. For example, if you learn scarlet or crimson for red, actually practice it in a conversation with someone or speak it out loud is that it really becomes cemented in your own mind.
Ben: And is there a technique for word tenses? Err to overcome the problem of using the wrong word tense?
Layla: Yes. I would say just be very conscious when you speak. About whether you’re telling a story or whether you’re speaking about something you’re going to do tomorrow or something that’s going on right now. And just focus on making sure that your verbs line up with what you’re speaking about. If you’re speaking about something that happened yesterday all of your verbs are going to have to be in the past tense.
Ben: Uh huh.
Layla: So if you keep that one grammar point in mind as you speak it will help you to be more accurate.
Ben: Yeah yeah. And erm, just as a side note, once you, when you said be conscious of err verb tense you want to use or what you’re talking about, a good technique to use to be more conscious is to slow down. And I find, even when I’m speaking Spanish, if I slow down, take my time. Erm it may sound a bit more basic at first and I’ll probably use more basic structures but eventually, I’ll start getting my momentum back and erm.
Layla: Ah ha.
Ben: Start using more advanced structures. You know? As I get momentum but I think, specially in exam conditions, to get the nerves under control, starting slowly is erm a good technique which I’ve used to my err I’ve used to my even to my students and I’ve used myself. OK then now. How would you recommend a student practices to improve their English?
Layla: Honestly one of the most important and best ways to practice is to practice with a native English speaker. Erm although that can be difficult if you live in a place where there aren’t that many native English speakers. You can find many erm free speaking partners online where you can offer conversational lesson in your native language to an English speaker who wants to learn your language. For example if you are a native speaker of Arabic then you can offer lessons in that and an English speaker who wants to learn Arabic will talk with you and can help you erm and you would talk through Skype or something like that. And it’s free. There are many of them out there.
Ben: Yeah. Yeah. I was looking at one the other day. It’s called ITalki.
Layla: Yes. I’m on that website. It’s good.
Ben: Oh really yeah? Yeah. It’s err. It’s quite economical as well isn’t it? For students wanting to learn depending as well on the teacher that you have. You know, it can economical or it can be more expensive as well but. And err with iTalki do you, is that where. Do you do some teaching there or is it intercambial sorry, language exchanges?
Layla: Erm it is. Err. Mainly have just done the language exchange. I’m a student of Spanish as well. I’m living in the United States. Most of my students, I teach at a public school and most of my students speak Spanish so I have just tried to find some people there that erm can help me with my Spanish.
Ben: That’s interesting. You also correct students’ recordings. Yeah? And what’s the most frequent error you get when you’re analysing those recordings?
Layla: I would say students not speaking in verb tenses is the most frequent error I hear. Erm this is a problem for many and I think that students can um really improve their confidence and decrease the nerves that they feel erm if they know they have practised as often as possible and that they um have made improvement over time. I just want you to remember that the interviewer is not there to um make your life miserable. Just portray yourself with confidence and that will help you feel confident. Erm look your. Look your interviewer in the eye and shake his or her hand and erm just start off slowly as Ben said and you’ll be confident and make fewer mistakes. You’ll be more conscious of your verb tenses erm and you will proceed with erm, with few errors.
Ben: Uh huh. Great advice. Yeah. I think, I think confidence is, and the actual mental state of the person who’s doing the speaking erm influences a lot more than we actually give it credit for. Would you agree?
Layla: Yes. Uh huh. I think that confidence erm will help you to make fewer errors and it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you keep talking and you keep trying, each time you take the IELTS you are going to improve and just know that, you know, most people don’t necessarily get it right the first time. So it’s OK.
Ben: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. That’s true. OK then. Do you have any tips related to Speaking for students taking that IELTS exam?
Layla: Yes and as I said before erm, speak and listen to or in English as often as you can. If you can’t erm speak with someone in English, um I know it sounds silly but talk to yourself out loud so that you can hear your own voice and identify your own errors. Record yourself on your computer or your phone or your tablet or your iPad and listen to yourself. And then make the same speech again but without reading you know, don’t read your script exactly. Self correct when you make mistakes but don’t let that slow you down. Erm and just keep trying. Keep going.
Ben: Yeah. Yeah that’s erm definitely important definitely. Also in the exam but also for the preparation and um, yeah I think persistence is another quality that’s erm often overlooked. Do you know a good technique for preparing for Task 2 for the presentation?
Layla: Yes. In the minute that you have to write notes down, erm, use the prompts that the interviewer gives you on the card and organise your thoughts. Erm be sure to answer all of the points. Don’t take too long elaborating on one erm and then make sure you’re using what in the United States we call transition words. Erm I’m not sure what the term is in other parts of the English speaking world but words like first, next, then, finally, in addition, moreover, furthermore because these help to link you ideas and can help the listener to follow what you’re saying more clearly.
Ben: Excellent. Yeah. Excellent advice. And it. Yeah gives the talk a little bit of structure as well so it makes the examiner err makes it easier for the examiner to follow and like you just said. Makes it easier for you to plan and organise your thoughts and your speech as well so, or your talk. So excellent advice that. Great. Thank you Layla. Now. This is a bit unplanned, but what I’d like to do, if it’s OK with you, is erm ask you a couple of Task 1 questions.
Ben: One question. Erm, are you working or are you a student?
Layla: I am currently working.
Ben: Right then. What do you do?
Layla: I am an English as a second language teacher at a school that teaches children between the ages of about five and fourteen.
Ben: Right then. Is there anything that you specifically like about your work?
Layla: Yes. I would say the most enjoyable part of my work is getting hugs from my children, my students. They smile at me and say hello and enjoy that positive reinforcement.
Ben: Awesome. Excellent. Now. Why did you choose this job?
Layla: I chose this job because I am very interested in other cultures and other languages. Erm I majored in Anthropology as an undergraduate student and then International Development for my Masters, and then just tried to narrow it down.
Ben: Excellent. Now, could you tell me what is your typical da like at work plese?
Layla: Yes. My typical day at work starts at seven thirty. First, I arrange my belongings, look at my lesson plans for the day and then about seven forty five I go outside and greet my students as they’re dropped off. Classes begin at eight [coughs] excuse me, and I have various small groups of students throughout the day. I teach one on one and I teach classes of up to about nine students. My day ends at about three thirty and between three thirty, three forty five I watch my students leave, make sure they’re safe and then I head home about four.
Ben: Right. Very good, very good. Now erm. Can I just ask you a few questions about your future plans please? Erm what are your plans for your next holiday?
Layla: My plan for my next holiday is to travel with one of my friends and our children to go see our parents erm in Grand Junction Colorado and then up to where my parents live south of Salt Lake City Utah. It would be a fun road trip and might get to go to um Moab which is National Park here in the United States full of amazing desert scenery and we will enjoy that.
Ben: Excellent. Now, do you have any plans to travel or to live abroad?
Layla: I would love to go back to Romania, actually um at some point. And I like travelling in Eastern Europe. However, um finances being what they are that may not be a possibility um. I am married with a child and so it is also difficult to pick up and go as I want. So there’s no plan to live abroad I don’t think. We are quite happy where we are being close to family.
Ben: Very good. OK then. Now, erm I’m going to give you a topic card, OK. I’d like you to choose it and prepare your talk. OK? And then I’ll ask some questions about it afterwards. Is that all right?
Layla: OK. May I try?
Ben: Yes. Yes definitely. Excellent go ahead please.
Layla: OK erm. I believe that the most important invention before the age of the computer um was the wagon. Erm.
Ben: Uh huh.
Layla: I think that that one is very important because it allowed people to convey materials from one location to another. It is very ancient but it is very useful. Erm I think that it also allowed people to trade between cultures and get new ideas. It’s brought people from one place to the other to visit other cultures and family so I think that as simple as it is, it really helped us to um improve and progress as um as a civilisation. Um the advantages of it are that it reduced the amount of time that it took for people to travel from one place the other instead of being on foot. Erm. And again that it increased the amount of cultural diversity out there. A disadvantage on the other hand I would say, is that it is um much slower than our cars today. Erm. They broke down frequently um and if you lived in a location where you couldn’t get materials to repair it, that could be um a hardship. So.
Ben: I see. Very good, Very good. Now, what is the significant impact of modern inventions on life?
Layla: Let me think about that one for a second. Erm. Modern inventions um on daily life for us to have um caused us in a lot of ways I think to take for granted um basic skills and how to create problem, solve, repair err things. But at the same time, I think that they have made our lives um easier in that we take less time to do tasks and we are able to spend more leisure time doing what we want because we have erm conveniences.
Ben: Very good. OK then. Which er, let’s see. Do you think it’s necessary to develop modern invention in the countryside?
Layla: Can you repeat the question please?
Ben: Yes. Do you think it’s necessary to develop a modern invention in the countryside?
Layla: As I’m interpreting your question, it sounds to me like you’re asking whether or not the countryside should be left as it is? Is that a correct interpretation or not?
Ben: That’s a correct interpretation uh hmm.
Layla: OK. Um, I think it depends on the people who live there and if they are desiring a new invention, say a new form of farm machinery or tractor and they pool together and decide that that’s what they want to do, then I think it can be very helpful. However I don’t think that it is right necessarily to impose erm as an urban culture erm our way of life on less urban cultures. I’m from a rural area and um life there has not changed much um and that’s one of its charms. That’s why I like going home. So.
Ben: Wonderful. OK. Final question and then we’ve finished. So, what inventions do you think are going to be invented in the err, in the near future?
Layla: Oh. In the near future? I think a continuing access to the internet at a, a much more um local and small level will continue to be implemented. Um we have the tablet, we have the cell phone and I’ve seen people wearing phones as their watches. Erm I think that there may be more public access to the internet in cheaper ways than in an internet café, perhaps a wall portal next to the Automatic Transfer Machine at the bank or at the library where you can quickly check email or make erm a Skype call or something like that perhaps.
Ben: OK then. Thank you very much Layla. OK we can then finish the interview there. Erm that was excellent. I can’t wait to get that one out actually and I think that’ll be so beneficial for the students because they’ll get to hear like a model, perfect um Speaking Exam so thank you very much.