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1 - Steer clear of these IELTS Speaking test blunders - SEA

Embarking on the journey of IELTS preparation is a pivotal step for any student aspiring to study abroad. As one of the world’s most recognised English proficiency tests, achieving a good IELTS score is key to entering more than 12,000 organisations, including some of the best schools worldwide.

Acing the IELTS Speaking test, one of the four core components of the IELTS, is thus a gateway to achieving your academic and professional aspirations abroad. But beware, common mistakes and trip-ups can hinder your path to success. This blog will guide you through these pitfalls, helping you navigate towards a higher IELTS Speaking score so you can pursue your dream studies overseas.

1. Not knowing what the test format asks of you

Understanding the format of the IELTS Speaking test is the first step towards a successful score. The test comprises three parts, each designed to assess different aspects of your speaking ability.

  • Part 1 is akin to a warm-up, lasting about four to five minutes, where you'll answer questions about familiar topics like your home, family, and interests. It's a chance to get comfortable with the speaking process and interviewer and an opportunity to mentally prepare yourself for the rest of the test. However, do keep in mind this is also considered part of the test, and you are still being assessed on your performance during this section.

  • Part 2, often known as the 'long turn,' requires you to speak on a given topic for one to two minutes. You'll have one minute to prepare, and it's crucial to use this time wisely to organise your thoughts and plan your response accordingly. This part tests your ability to speak at length on a topic, use appropriate language, and organise your response coherently.

  • In Part 3, the examiner will ask you further questions related to the topic in Part 2. This part lasts about four to five minutes and is more interactive and discussion-based. It assesses your ability to express and justify opinions and to analyse, discuss, and speculate about issues in a spontaneous manner.

Though the three parts of the IELTS Speaking test will only last for about 11 to 14 minutes overall, you’ll be assessed on a wide variety of capabilities and language processing skills by the end of it. Through resources such as IDP’s online IELTS mock tests and IELTS free practice tests , you can familiarise yourself with the test format and demands ahead of time and enhance your preparation.

2. Being underprepared

Many test-takers underestimate the importance of thorough preparation for their IELTS Speaking test, thinking that their everyday English skills will suffice. However, the test assesses not just your fluency but also your ability to organise and convey your thoughts into clear and coherent sentences, use a wide range of vocabulary, and demonstrate grammatical accuracy.

Start your IELTS journey on a good note by practising various IELTS Speaking topics. Recording your responses and listening back can be incredibly insightful in identifying weaknesses such as content gaps, unfamiliar words, or excessive use of fillers. This regular practice will also help you think on your feet, a key skill during the test. If possible, practise with a skilled English speaker or an IELTS class instructor who can provide constructive criticism and tips on improving.

Remember, consistent and targeted practice is more effective than cramming a few days before the test. Make speaking English a part of your daily routine to improve fluency and confidence.

3. Not managing time effectively

Time management is critical in the IELTS Speaking test. Each part has a set time limit, and it's important to express your ideas clearly and concisely within these constraints.

During preparation, time your responses to ensure you keep within the allotted time. Practise pacing your responses to avoid rambling or, conversely, giving answers that are too short. Use varied sentence structures and vocabulary to express your ideas effectively within the given time. Avoid long pauses and excessive use of fillers, and instead, practise transitioning smoothly from one idea to another.

Balancing quantity with quality is key. Being too brief can make it seem like you lack fluency or vocabulary while speaking too much can lead to irrelevance or repetition.

4. Focusing on accent instead of pronunciation

Acing the IELTS Speaking test is not about using a British or American accent. Rather, it's about being understood by the examiner. As such, clear pronunciation is crucial.

Start by identifying sounds and words you struggle with and practise them regularly. Reading aloud or listening to native speakers can also be beneficial. Numerous resources online, including IDP’s IELTS preparation courses, offer pronunciation exercises and reading materials to help you prepare.

Remember, your accent doesn't need to be 'perfect.' It's more important to speak clearly and at a natural pace. Don’t rush your words; instead, focus on articulating each word, especially those that are commonly mispronounced.

5. Having a limited vocabulary or poor fluency

If you can demonstrate a varied vocabulary during the IELTS Speaking test, it shows the examiner that you can express ideas effectively and precisely, and can significantly boost your score. Read widely and note down new words to expand your vocabulary bank.

Meanwhile, fluency is about speaking smoothly without excessive hesitation or self-correction. It doesn’t mean talking at a quick pace; rather, it's about being able to express your thoughts without unnecessary pauses. Practise speaking on various topics, as this helps you become comfortable discussing a wide range of subjects.

Engage in conversations with English speakers whenever possible, as this provides real-life practice and builds confidence. Additionally, consider enrolling in an IELTS preparation class where you can practise speaking regularly and receive feedback from experienced instructors.

6. Forgetting to pay attention to what the examiner is saying

Active listening is crucial in the IELTS Speaking test. Pay close attention to the examiner's questions and prompts instead of narrating an unrelated answer you’ve prepared in advance. You should also engage in conversation with the examiner, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if needed.

When preparing for the test with a partner, focus on understanding the question before responding. This will help you give relevant and accurate answers during the actual assessment.

7. Letting test day anxiety overcome you

While it’s natural to feel nervous before the IELTS Speaking test, excessive nervousness can affect your performance. Build your confidence beforehand by practising speaking in various settings and with a partner. The more you speak, the more comfortable you'll become with the language and the test format. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, or visualisation can also help to calm your nerves.

8. Lacking detail and support in your answers

Providing detailed and well-supported answers to the examiner’s questions is key to achieving a high IELTS Speaking test score. Instead of giving brief, one-sentence responses, expand on your answers by giving explanations, reasons, and examples. A useful strategy is to use the 5Ws and 1H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) to structure your responses. This encourages you to think more deeply about the topic and provide a more comprehensive answer.

Remember, the examiner is assessing your ability to use English to express ideas and opinions effectively. The more detailed and supported your answers are, the better you can demonstrate this skill.

Confidently prepare for the IELTS Speaking test online with IDP

2 - Steer clear of these IELTS Speaking test blunders - SEA

Preparing for the IELTS Speaking test can be challenging, but it pays off when you receive your preferred score. By understanding and avoiding these common blunders, you can increase your chances of achieving a high score and enhancing your overall IELTS test performance.

If you want to get a head start on your IELTS prep, consider downloading the IELTS by IDP app for additional online support, resources, free mock tests, and more. From the essential English grammar rules to know for your IELTS test to daily habits for building confidence and improving your English, we’re here to support you throughout your IELTS journey.

Book your IELTS test with IDP when you’re ready and begin pursuing your dreams overseas. Good luck, and remember that practice, preparation, and confidence are your best tools for success!