Tips on how to improve IELTS speaking skills
Doodle Nandi

Doodle Nandi is a content editor for Hotcourses India- an IDP company, and helps write articles that help students with their study abroad journey.

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19 Feb 2021 7.7K Book icon 7 mins Share

Best ways to improve your IELTS speaking skills

A lot of us dread the IELTS speaking test. But you can get better at it. Here are some do’s and don’ts that will help you improve your IELTS scores.

19 Feb 2021 7.7K Book icon 7 mins Share
Tips on how to improve IELTS speaking skills

The IELTS speaking test is one of the sections of academic IELTS that students have to take up if they are looking for higher studies in a foreign country. Some of the countries which accept IELTS as proof of English language proficiency for non-native speakers include the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK.

One of the IELTS tests dreaded by most students is the speaking test. Let us start by saying that you should get rid of some of the common fears about the IELTS exam. A lot of myths and rumours about IELTS are making the rounds. We are here to give you some clarity on how to improve IELTS speaking skills and ace the test.

The speaking test is used to measure your ability to communicate effectively in English. The language of instruction in several European countries is English. Students heading abroad would need English language skills to be able to interact with others in their day-to-day life. The requirement will be stringent for certain courses like hospitality, nursing or journalism, which demand students to speak fluent English. So you see, we can’t stress how important it is to know English.

Of course, fluency comes with experience and practice. End every student wanting to study abroad should focus on their weaknesses and work on them.

In this article, you will learn what to do and what not to do during the IELTS speaking test. If you have more questions, feel free to reach out to our experts for guidance.

The do’s to help you improve IELTS speaking skills

Tips on how to improve your IELTS speaking skills

Do practise

Are you preparing for the IELTS test and practising day in, day out? The old adage ‘practice makes a man perfect’ is not wrong. It’s advisable to warm up 24 hours before the IELTS speaking test and continue to work on the flaws in the way you communicate.

It would be of great help if you have your family members or friends to practice with. Alternatively, you can stand in front of the mirror and practice with yourself. On the test day, reach the test centre early and try to converse with the faculty or people around in English. This will boost your confidence.

You need to be consistent, and make sure that you speak a lot, at home or wherever you go. There are plenty of apps to help people improve their speaking skills; just give it a try.

Do speak in a natural way, with natural intonation

Most examiners want students to speak in their natural tone. Don’t make a mistake by speaking too loud or too low because it should not really be your focus. The attempt might only make you more nervous.

When you focus on how to improve IELTS speaking skills, remember that you needn’t fake anything, but be as natural as possible. Make an opinion, give examples, talk about the cause and effect and talk about hypothetical situations – all spontaneously and to the point. Have a natural, relaxed intonation and body language.

Do ask the examiner

You must ask the examiner about any question that you are not able to understand. You can also ask them to explain a word that you have never heard of. Examiners would only be glad if you ask them relevant questions. But remember not to overdo it – don’t ask too many questions to an examiner or request them to explain every word.

If you fail to understand a question, your answers might not be appropriate, which will ultimately lead to negative marks. So, feel free to ask questions to the examiner about anything that you don’t understand.

Do stretch the talk

How can you improve your IELTS speaking skills? The short answer would be ‘keep talking’. IELTS examiners expect students to give long answers. It’s advisable that you don’t limit your answers, instead try speaking for a longer duration, covering the why’s, how’s and what’s, along with giving a few examples.

Do mind your grammar

An ungrammatical response will not make sense even though you speak with confidence and appears to be fluent. You needn’t focus completely on giving grammatical answers but remember that grammar too, is a crucial part of the language. Often many students complain about getting nervous during the speaking test, with most of them struggling to give grammatically correct answers. You shouldn’t be solely focusing on your grammar as it would slow you down and make you hesitant to speak. The best way, and probably the only way, to get rid of the fear of speaking incorrect English during IELTS is to record yourself and listen to how your speech sounds. If you feel there are mistakes in it, try to speak and record again until you are happy with yourself.

Do know the topic

It’s a good thing to follow sample test materials or past papers. Sometimes the examiner might ask you to speak on any topic that interests you. So you should be prepared to talk about your area of interest. Read about it and gain enough knowledge so that you can speak confidently and correctly.

If your interest lies in books, you can talk about the various genres you tried. If you are interested in sports, it would be good to talk about your favourite sports personality and add a little bit of historical information about the sport.

Do correct yourself

While talking at length, it’s quite natural to say one or two grammatically incorrect sentences. Do not panic. Make sure you correct yourself when you realise the mistake and continue with confidence.

Although some students may not agree with it, this habit might help the examiner understand that you are aware of your grammar basics.

Do take time to think

It isn’t a bad idea to pause and think and then answer questions that are thrown at you. Pausing will help you gather your thoughts to help you answer questions clearly. When you pause, you can use certain phrases that might help, such as:

  • That’s an interesting question. Let me think…
  • There is no easy answer to this. I think…
  • I’m not really sure, but I would say…

But make sure you don’t overdo and start every answer with such phrases because the examiner might be able to spot that you have come prepared with scripted answers and that is a red sign for them.

The don’ts to keep in mind to help you improve IELTS speaking skills

If you are interested in studying in any of the major destinations abroad, you will have to prove your English proficiency through IELTS, IELTS indicator or other language tests accepted by your institution. Here are some more tips for you to keep in mind. Feel free to talk to our experts if you need professional guidance for realising your study abroad dreams.

Don't do these things and you will Improve your IELTS speaking scores

Don’t learn answers by rote

When thinking about how to improve IELTS speaking skills, some students tend to believe that learning answers by rote will help them impress the examiner and ace the test. Mind you that the examiners come prepared and they will be able to identify scripted answers. This might make the examiner grant you poor scores, or they might end up asking you more difficult questions.

Don't agree if you don’t want to

It is natural for students to worry that if they disagree with the examiner’s opinion, they might lose their marks. But the truth is that examiners only test your ability to speak. They are not concerned with your opinion.

Don't use big words

Many students think that using complex vocabulary might take them far, but that’s a common misconception. You must use words you are comfortable with, but at the same time use more words to show that you have a wide-ranging vocabulary. Look out for words that can give you an edge, but don’t overdo it.

The examiner will also judge you by the way you pronounce words. So make sure you give equal importance to pronunciation too, while using new words.

Don’t be a grammar nerd

Don’t be so addicted to correcting every grammatical error in your sentence. It’s important to focus on speaking accurately but being too pedantic won’t help. If you try to show off your language skills or simply use too many fat words, examiners can easily spot that you are faking it.

Often, students give more preference to grammar than fluency. Focusing too much on your accent can also prove to be negative for you when talking to the examiner. Let’s reiterate that examiners focus on what you talk and how well you talk. They won’t care about your accent or the use of jargon.

Don't stay quiet

You would have heard this several times – you shouldn’t stay quiet during the IELTS speaking test. If you have nothing to say, then pause awhile and say something that would connect your sentences, for example, when you don’t know the answer to a question, you could say ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have much knowledge on this…’. It’s always good to attempt an answer rather than falling silent.

Don’t divert

You shouldn’t go off the topic that you have been asked to speak about. When asked your name and native city or town, stick to answering the question in lesser words. If the examiner asks you about your hobbies, you must answer his or her question in minimum words, without describing any history or incidents attached to your hobbies.

Don’t say yes/no

This is an important point to remember when you think of tips on how to improve your IELTS speaking skills. Don’t limit your answers to monosyllables. The examiner will want you to talk so that they can fairly judge your English language skills. Even if you end up saying yes or no, pause and then expand on why you said yes/no.

Don’t rely on your examiner

You shouldn’t look for cues from your examiner. They will not prompt you to give the answers or help you when you are stuck. Take a deep breath, be mindful of the blunders to avoid when attempting the test and go at it.

Remember that thousands of students are clearing the IELTS exam with flying colours; so can you. If you have more do’s and don’ts from your experience, please share them with us. If you are still doubtful or have questions about the IELTS exam, you can speak to our study abroad advisors or IELTS experts. Before you go, do try out the IELTS practice test on our site. All the best!

Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2018. We have included up-to-date information and made it comprehensive.

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