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Why IELTS Speaking is difficult for you – and how to make it easier


Ever felt tongue-tied during your IELTS speaking test? Fret not! Even if speaking in English doesn’t come naturally to you, there are constructive steps you can take to improve your chances to get your dream score.

The IELTS speaking test is a face-to-face informal discussion which is designed to assess your pronunciation, English fluency, grammar and vocabulary.

While most candidates’ difficulties lie in conversational practice, there are deeper issues such as your overall command of English that can’t be ignored.

Thankfully, we have a nifty set of strategies you can use to better your chances of success in the IELTS speaking test!

Why IELTS Speaking is difficult for you - here’s how to make it easier!

1. You don’t have enough practice speaking

One of the biggest pitfalls many students face is the lack of speaking practice. This leaves them nervous when speaking to their assessor, which negatively impacts their performance.

However, this is a relatively easy challenge to overcome!

Carve out some time a day to simply have conversations with family and friends. Ideally, these should be face-to-face conversations where both people talk back and forth, sharing opinions and challenging viewpoints.

This allows you to get consistent practice, get exposed to new conversation topics and feel comfortable talking in English.

2. Your vocabulary needs to increase

If you feel overwhelmed and not being able to express yourself, that’s a clear sign that your vocabulary needs to increase.

Your vocabulary use is a key area that is being assessed during the IELTS speaking test. This includes the range of your vocabulary and the accuracy of use.

A wide range of vocabulary allows you to speak across different topics and domains which is essential to get a good score. This means the effective use of synonyms, words with similar meanings, and antonyms, words with opposite meanings.

  • Examples of synonyms: Huge, massive, big, gigantic.

  • Examples of antonyms: Rich vs poor. Generous vs selfish.

The best way to get started is to begin reading extensively and to read a lot. This allows you to practice how the word is used in a sentence while also getting ample practice speaking it.

Once you are done, be sure to add it to a list of new vocabulary words and use them during your speaking sessions with family and friends. This helps you to get familiar with utilising your new expanded vocabulary library.

3. Not being prepared with some topics to talk about

Part 1 of the IELTS speaking test revolves around a range of familiar topics such as family, home, work, studies and hobbies.

This is one area of the speaking test that you can prepare beforehand! You can take the initiative and start preparing a range of topics with questions the examiner will likely ask.

A common topic could be about the city or town that you live in. You can start brainstorming questions that could revolve around this such as:

  • What kind of house do you live in?

  • What do you love about your neighbourhood?

  • How many people are there in your family and who are they?

Instead of trying to memorise answers, start fleshing out the story in your mind and then practising it in conversation with a friend or family member. This helps you to build your confidence, get comfortable talking about your background and be able to draw ideas from your own experience.

4. You run out of ideas to talk about

It’s just impossible to prepare for every single topic. Instead of trying to cherry-pick topics that might seem viral or interesting to you, it’s best to be a well-read person.

You would want to read up on current affairs including:

  • World events

  • The Internet

  • Tourism and countries

  • Education

  • Crime

  • World leaders

This helps you to develop a breadth of knowledge and the ability to talk about general topics.  The key here is to relate the topic back to you and your opinions as well as to accomplish the task your examiner has for you in part 2 of the test.

Building up your knowledge bank on currency affairs also allows you to discuss issues further in part 3 of the IELTS speaking test. You’ll be able to better analyse, discuss and speculate about issues using your knowledge of current world affairs.

5. You get nervous and tongue-tied

Feeling anxious or nervous is perfectly normal. But don’t worry, you have this in the bag!

Focus on what you can control. Being fully prepared means doing timed IELTS mock speaking tests with friends and family.

Be sure not to fall into these traps as a result of nerves:

  • Constantly agreeing with the examiner without having your own opinion

  • Changing your accent to match your examiner

  • Trying to overuse big words or complex phrases to impress

Instead, a better approach is to stay calm and not rush the conversation during your IELTS speaking test. You want to focus on having an engaging conversation with another human being and to express your opinions and views as naturally as possible.


Better prepare for your IELTS with free materials from IDP

Sitting for your IELTS test can be difficult and tough, but with the right resources, you can easily even the odds and attain the band score you desire for your dream course!

Here are some of preparation materials by IELTS co-owner, IDP:

Be sure to practice them and invest enough in your IELTS preparation before sitting for the test!

Develop your IELTS listening, reading and writing skills here

Having difficulty with the other components of your IELTS test? Fret not, here are our resources to help you get a leg up.

Why you find the IELTS Listening test difficult

Why you find the IELTS Reading test difficult

Why you find the IELTS Writing test tough


Achieve your dream IELTS score today

Practice makes perfect and that should be your mantra when it comes to scoring well on your IELTS speaking test.

As long as you consistently improve your vocabulary, engage in real-life conversations daily and brainstorm discussion topics, there’s nothing to be nervous about! You’ll be able to perform your very best on test day.

Ready to take your IELTS test? Get started with IDP.

The official co-owner of IELTS, IDP offers convenient test locations and free test preparation materials to support you. Learn why you should take your IELTS test with us.

Book your IELTS test today to begin your journey.