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8 things to avoid saying and doing

1-8 things to avoid saying and doing - SEA

Ever found yourself in a situation where you said something and immediately wished you could take it back? It's one thing when it happens on a date or in a casual conversation, but what if it occurs during something as important as your IELTS Speaking test? The pressure of the moment can sometimes lead us to say things that don't showcase our true language abilities.

The IELTS Speaking test is an important part of IELTS which gauges your ability to converse in English. Unlike the Listening, Reading and Writing tests, the Speaking test is an interactive conversation with an examiner. During the test, you’ll speak to the examiner, who will raise topics for discussion and ask different questions. It’s important to remember that the test is not just about the words you know. It’s about being confident enough to share your thoughts and ideas articulately.

In this blog, we’ll share the eight things you should avoid saying and doing in your IELTS Speaking test. Steering clear of these common errors can help ensure that you present your language skills in the best way possible.

1. Saying "I don't know”

The IELTS Speaking test is an opportunity to showcase your language skills. It is designed to evaluate the everyday English you’ll use in social and work settings. Part of the test format involves seeing how you handle topics you might be unfamiliar with.

You should aim to communicate your ideas and express yourself clearly. Avoid saying “I don’t know” too often, as it doesn’t show your ability to speak the language. Instead, try saying: "I'm not particularly familiar with this subject, but I think...".

This way, you show that you’re trying to answer the question, your willingness to engage in a discussion and your confidence in handling unfamiliar topics.

2. Overusing idioms

Idioms may make you sound smart, but they can be tricky to use. Idioms are phrases like “a piece of cake”, which is an idiom for expressing when something is easy. While idioms can enrich your speech and demonstrate your knowledge of English, incorrect or unnatural usage can impact your score under Lexical Resource.

Don’t try to force yourself to use idioms if you’re uncomfortable. Instead, focus on words that you know, are comfortable with and fit naturally into the conversation. Equally important is being coherent. This means your ideas should be well-organised and connected, making them easy to follow and understand.

An extra tip! While language accuracy is important, it's better to speak naturally and fluidly. The examiners understand that no one is perfect, and they value fluency and the ability to communicate ideas over perfect grammar. If you choose to use idioms, make sure they enhance the clarity and coherence of your responses in the IELTS Speaking test.

3. Swearing or using impolite language

Always maintain a polite and respectful tone during the IELTS Speaking test. When answering questions, avoid expressions that might come across as rude or inappropriate. For example, do not say: “That’s a stupid question”, even if it is part of your natural fluency.

Remember, the speaking test is a gauge of how you communicate with others, so always aim to be courteous when answering questions.

4. Reciting memorised answers

While the IELTS Speaking test is conducted in a question and answer format, it is an assessment of how you speak in spontaneous situations. While you might feel tempted to memorise answers to common questions in order to perform well, reciting memorised answers may actually lower your score instead.

That’s because mindlessly practised, generic answers make your speech sound unnatural and rehearsed. The examiners look for fluency and a naturally flowing conversation, so you should focus on answering questions genuinely and spontaneously instead.

5. Going off-topic

Staying on topic is important during the test. When you go off-topic while answering, it suggests that you don’t fully understand the question. Make sure you really grasp what the examiner is asking, and ask them to repeat or explain the question more clearly if you’re unsure.

Remember! The examiners don’t expect you to know everything, and it is okay to ask them to clarify.

Besides showing that you understand, staying on topic also helps you use relevant vocabulary and ideas. If you find yourself drifting away from the topic, pause briefly, refocus, and steer your response back to the subject at hand. This ability to redirect your thoughts demonstrates control over your language skills, a quality that can impress the examiner.

6. Using repetitive language

It’s important to use a variety of words during the IELTS Speaking test. Repeating the same word, like “people”, may give the impression that you have a limited vocabulary. Instead, try to be specific and vary your word choice. For example, use terms like “teenagers”, “'senior citizens”, or “professionals” to describe different groups more precisely.

At the same time, it's important to speak fluently without too many pauses or filler words such as “um” and “uh”. These fillers can interrupt your flow and make you look unsure. To enhance your fluency, practise speaking on a range of topics. This will help you think and respond to questions more quickly, reducing your need to use fillers.

7. Not maintaining an appropriate speaking pace and volume

One of the best ways to show the examiner that you are fluent in English is to speak confidently. You can do this by balancing your speaking pace and volume. This means speaking at a moderate speed and in a clear voice so the examiner can understand you.

Avoid speaking too softly or too quickly. Not only will it be hard to understand you, but the examiner might take it as a sign that you need more confidence in your language ability. To further improve your speaking skills, try varying your tone to keep your speech interesting. Use different pitches to add emphasis to your words and convey your emotions. Avoid a monotone voice to refrain from sounding dull.

8. Giving overly short answers

The IELTS Speaking test is a chance to show off your language skills, so you must talk!

Providing brief, one-word answers like "Yes" or "No" will not show the examiner that you are fluent in English. The test questions are typically designed to be answered within two to six sentences, so plan your answers accordingly.

More ways to prepare for your IELTS Speaking test with IDP

2-8 things to avoid saying and doing - SEA

Preparing for the IELTS Speaking test is not easy, but the rewards are worth it when you achieve a good score. By steering clear of these eight things to avoid saying and doing, you can boost your chances of improving your overall performance in the IELTS.

To get a headstart on your test, consider making use of official IELTS preparation materials by IDP, which co-owns the IELTS test. You’ll find resources suitable for both first-time test takers and repeat test takers, as well as tips on answering different question types and personalised feedback to help you improve your score.

The materials include webinars, articles, practice tests and more, which you can access at your fingertips when you download the IELTS by IDP app.

Ready to take the next big step? Book your IELTS test with IDP!