Today I wanted to share with you some advice and help with regards to the IELTS Speaking module.
Once again, I am going to begin by using the Public Band Descriptors to help you understand how IELTS examiners will assess your speaking ability across all four criteria: Fluency, Vocabulary, Grammar and Pronunciation.
It is important to look at these for two reasons. The first is that by knowing how you will be marked and assessed, you will be able to make a better plan for what you need to improve on. Secondly, you will not be misled by rumours or speculations that you may have heard about from time to time, like: “I heard that if the examiner doesn’t like you, or doesn’t like your opinions, they will lower your score”, which of course is totally untrue!
So let’s start by looking at the first column called ‘Fluency and coherence’ and go down to band 6. Here you will notice two key points: “is willing to speak at length” and “uses a range of connectives and discourse markers”. What this means is the examiner is looking for people who are willing to talk and extend their answers – don’t pause for ages thinking about your ideas, and certainly don’t give short, abrupt, one-word responses. In addition to this, it also means using connecting or linking words and phrases, like: “Well, for me, I guess it’s …” or “However, on the other hand, I think that …” and what it means by ‘a range’ is not just using a few phrases over and over again, it means using different phrases appropriately for different types of question.
Now let’s look across to ‘Lexical Resource’ (Vocabulary). At band 6 you will see this: “has a wide enough vocabulary to discuss topics at length” and “generally paraphrases successfully”. However, up at band 7 you will see: “uses vocabulary resource flexibly”, “uses some less common and idiomatic vocabulary” and “shows some awareness of style and collocation”. If you read my previous blog you’ll see why it’s important to study a range of vocabulary!
Looking at ‘Grammar’ is quite interesting, because many students are under the impression that you have to have nearly perfect grammar to get a 6 or 7. But if you look carefully, you’ll see: “uses a mix of simple and complex structures, but with limited flexibility” and “may make frequent mistakes with complex structures” for band 6, and even “uses a range of complex structures with some flexibility” and “some grammatical mistakes persist” for band 7. Therefore, don’t hold yourself back and only speak a little because you are worried of making grammar mistakes – because it is fine to make them. Moreover, if you are willing to keep talking for longer (fluency) you will naturally display a better range of simple and complex sentences!
Finally, let’s consider ‘Pronunciation’. The two most important things to consider are: “uses a range of pronunciation features” and “can generally be understood throughout”. You’ll notice that it doesn’t say anything about having a perfect British or American accent! What this does mean is that examiners will be listening for features like your voice going up or down as you want to stress or emphasise things, maybe speeding up or slowing down as you discuss things. It also means you might group words together in a phrase more naturally, rather than one-word-at-a-time-like-a-robot. And of course, it means the examiner can understand what you are saying clearly, with a good pronunciation of words, regardless of the type of accent.
So, have a think about specific points I have highlighted and try and build your study plan around improving each of these one by one.
Keep studying well!