One of the key criteria you are marked on in the IELTS Speaking test is Fluency and coherence, which is worth 25% of your total band score. Let’s have a closer look at this rating criteria and see what examiners look for.
Extending and developing ideas
To give yourself a chance to rate highly in Fluency and coherence, make sure you try to support your ideas and opinions. Try to avoid giving brief answers when you can so you can show the examiner that you are able to develop your language.
To give you an idea, here are the descriptions from the different band levels:
Band 6: Is willing to speak at length
Band 7: Speaks at length without noticeable effort
Band 8: Speaks fluently
Develops topics coherently and appropriately
Pausing and hesitation
One thing that can affect your Speaking score for Fluency and coherence is having pauses or breaks in your speech. Sometimes people do this because they are trying to think of the right grammar or word choice to express what they want to say. Other times, it can happen because you are trying to think of ideas. Pausing and hesitation is a natural part of spoken language, so it is okay to do this at times, but it shouldn’t be something that dominates your speaking.
Let’s compare some of the different band levels according to the Speaking test criteria:
Band 3: Speaks with long pauses
Band 4: Cannot respond without noticeable pauses
Band 5: Produces simple speech fluently, but more complex communication causes fluency problems
Band 6: May lose coherence at times due to hesitation
Band 7: May demonstrate language-related hesitation at times
Band 8: Hesitation is usually content-related and only rarely to search for language
Be careful with the speed of your speech. Speaking too slowly can impact your score because it reduces the amount of language you produce. However, speaking at a high speed does not mean you have good fluency. You should try to speak at a natural pace and not race through your answers.
This is what the band descriptors say for some of the lower levels:
Band 4: May speak slowly
Band 5: Usually maintains flow of speech but uses slow speech to keep going
Connectives & discourse markers
Connectives and discourse marks are an important part of Fluency and coherence as they help join your speech and ideas together in a logical way, which can help the listener follow what you are trying to say. This is very similar to what we do in writing.
Connectives can include words like: so, because, therefore, as a result, or, etc. These are useful to connect your clauses together in a logical way and give an indication of what you want to talk about (e.g. ‘because’ means you are going to give a reason for something).
Discourse markers are natural expressions we use to keep our speech going and can help give an indication of your tone or attitude. These can be phrases like: actually, in fact, well, probably, unfortunately, etc. Sometimes, they can be used as fillers instead of pausing for a few moments to help keep your flow of speech going.
Importantly, when using connectives and discourse markers, try not to overuse them. Let’s compare the different band levels:
Band 4: Links basic sentences but with repetitious use of simple connectives
Band 5: May over-use certain connectives and discourse markers
Band 6: Uses a range of connectives and discourse markers but not always appropriately
Band 7: Uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility
Coherence in speaking is related to how your ideas flow and are connected. It is also about how easy or difficult your ideas are to follow. Logical speech, with good use of connectives and discourse markers helps the listener understand what you are saying.
A loss of coherence is an indication of a lower band level:
Band 4: Some breakdowns in coherence
Band 6: May lose coherence at times
Band 7: Speaks at length without noticeable loss of coherence
Band 8: Develops topics coherently