IELTS Speaking Part 1

Dos and Don'ts for IELTS Speaking Part 1

IELTS speaking Part 1 Dos and don'ts

Bellow you will find 6 Dos and Don’t for IELTS Speaking Part 1.

1 Do Know the Procedure

It’s really important to know what to expect in the exam. If it’s your first time you will most likely be very nervous. If you have done it before, you will still  be nervous as a lot depends on your results. You really want to get the score you need. That’s why it’s crucial to be prepared, you don’t want any surprises, so you really need to know what happens when you walk into that room. So, before the real exam starts in Part 1, 4 things will happen.

The examiner will introduce her or himself and ask you for your name: ‘What’s your full name. Here you just need to simply answer your full name as stated on your ID or passport. ‘My name’s …’

use contractions: My name’s Jack. Contractions are how native speakers speak (e.g. I’m, we’re, they won’t). This will remind you to keep on using them for the rest of the exam.

Next he or she might ask you ‘What can I call you? This is to say as some people, especially from Asia, have chosen an English name. You just have to answer ‘You may/can call me…’ with whatever name you are used to.If you are not sure just use your first name.

Make sure if you have an English name that you can pronounce it correctly. Nothing leaves a bad impression that someone who can say their own name

Then the examiner will ask you where you are from. ‘Name, where are you from? Here you just need to mention where you are from. ‘I’m from…’ You don’t need to mention more that your country and maybe city. I’m from city in country’ There is no need to add any other information. Unlike for example the CAE exam where you will have to extend (say more).

Finally, he or she will ask to see your identification (ID or passport). You just need to show it to them. They will have a look if it’s really you and then the exam starts.

By knowing these 4 steps in the procedure you will feel more confident and can start the exam without being too nervous.

2 Do Leave a Good First Impression

The examiners are just people like you and me, so just be human and treat them like any other human you know with respect and kindness. Smile, sit up straight, listen to the examiner, look at the examiner, have eye contact with the examiner,… any respectful thing you would normally do when you meet someone for the first time.

Remember, they are just human, treat them like any other human you know, with respect and kindness. 

3 Do Show Interest

The exam is made to minick a real conversation, but it’s still an exam. They need to test your language ability, so you’ll get some weird questions or worse, some boring ones. If you’re bored you will just give short answers, which will not show the examiner how rich your language is. Additionally, bored people tend to speak in a very robotic monotone voice. You need some intonation to make it sound interesting. Again, make sure that it all sounds natural. Don’t over-act just try to be as natural as possible.

4 Do Extend Your Answers

Almost all my students are surprised when I tell them that the examiner is not really interested in their answer. She or he is interested in your language ability. So, when they ask you: ’How much do you go out during the weekend?’ and you answer is ‘not much/ almost never/ every Saturday’ then you have answered the question but you didn’t show off any of the language you have 3 words is not enough. It might be with your friend or the person in the bar, but here you need to extend your answer. So, how much? Not too little, not too much. If you talk for 2 minutes about how much you go out during the weekend you are missing the point and might bore the person to death. I tell my students for part 1 you need about 3 sentences, depending on the question maybe a few more, but if you’re going past 10 you have gone too far.. This is only Part 1, it is the warm up, like in sports you are just warming up so you can perform better in Part 2 and 3. There you will get the opportunity to really extend your answers.

5 Do Upgrade Your Language

Again this is an exam where you have 15 minutes to show how amazing your English is, so use your time well. I see it in all my English students, exam classes or not. After B1 Level (intermediate) students are comfortable using the language and don’t really push themselves using better expressions or more advanced vocabulary.

‘How was the movie? Interesting’; ‘How was your day? Nice’; ‘How important is learning English to you? Very important’.

Nothing grammatically wrong with these answers but even after studying English for a few weeks you can give these answers. So, how will the examiner know you can say it better if you don’t really show it? That’s why it’s paramount, or really crucial that you show off. Again don’t over do it, it still needs to sound natural.

Don’t memorize all these useless list of words you find on the internet. Just a few synonyms for important, good, bad,… will do. Then try adding some adverbs. The movie was amazing. The movie was truly awesome. Again don’t forget to extend your answers. 

6 Do Practice

Practice makes perfect as they say and by practice I don’t mean memorise complete answers. The examiners will ignore any answer the sounds to scripted or memorised and all the good language you will use will be pointless. Like I said before, learn some synonyms, adverbs, good collocations, phrasal verbs and have a look at some advanced phrases for those familiar topics in Part 1.

The best way to improve here is have a look at some of the questions and answer them. While you answer them, record your speaking. I know many students tell me that they hate to hear their own voice, but if you don’t have a teacher to give you feedback you will have to do it for yourself. Remember, no one is listening but you, so you don’t need to be shy. Then try to listen to your recording and check for your performance.

  1. Was my answer too short or too long?
  2. Are there some better words that I can use instead?
  3. Are there some collocations I can use instead?
  4. Are there some phrasal verbs I can use instead?
  5. Can I add some adverbs?
  6. Is there a better grammatical way of saying this?
  7. Are there any mistakes you can notice?
  8. Did I speak too fast or too slow?
  9. Was I fluent or were there a lot of pauses?
  10. Did I speak clearly enough?
  11. Did I sound interesting, was my intonation ok?

Try to answer those questions and try it one more time. Next compare your 1st recording to your second recording. Then, when you feel happy move to the next question. If you still aren’t happy repeat the steps and try again. Just remember don’t be a perfectionist, this is just practice.

1 Don’t be Quiet and Not Answer

I know the question might be boring, you might not like the question, or worse you might never had this experience, you always need to give an answer. You can’t say to the examiner: ‘Sorry, but I don’t like this question, could you give me a different one?’ You need to answer the question you get. Remember, this is Part 1 about familiar topics, things about your life, there shouldn’t be any question you don’t understand.

If you don’t understand a word in the question it is perfectly ok to ask the examiner. Then she or he will explain it to you. Again, if you ask for an explanation in every question you clearly don’t know a lot of English and you will not score well. If you didn’t hear or fully understand a question, again you can always ask for clarification. Just remember don’t over do it.

So, if you don’t know the answer to a question you can always make it up and pretend you know or just be honest. Remember it’s an English test not a History or Math test. There are no ‘correct answers’.

‘Where do you go out during the weekend? To be honest, I hardly ever go out, I prefer staying in reading a book or watching a movie.’

Here you showed you understood the question, but gave an honest answer.

You could also use a 2nd conditional and show some good grammar.

‘I don’t go out that much, but if I went out, I’d probably go to a bar and meet my friends there to have a few drinks and catch up.’

Again you didn’t lie but used some ‘more’ advanced grammar to show you understood the question and answered it.

2 Don’t Give Yes or No Answers

This goes back to extending your answers, and the examiner not really caring if you say yes or no. They only care about your performance. I know it’s natural for us to answer just with yes or no, but again this does not show off your language.

‘Do you like movies? Yes’
This is a very natural answer and what you would say in any given conversation. Still you need to extend.

‘Do you like movies? Yes, I have to say I do. I really enjoy watching movies and it’s one of my favourite pastime activities. That’s why I have a netflix account or go to the cinema at least once a month.

This is still a natural sounding answer and it is more than the simple yes or no.

3 Don’t Go Off Topic

For example when I ask you: ‘Where do you live?’ I don’t need a full history of your city as well as the main exports and other economic information. I just need a normal answer, which is still about 3 sentences long. This is still Part 1 keep it basic and normal. This doesn’t mean you can’t use advanced language though.

4 Don’t Speak Very Softly or Quietly

The examiner needs to hear you, if he can’t hear you how can they give you an amazing grade for something he didn’t here. Again, don’t shout at him/her neither. Just make sure they can understand you. Remember the IELTS is recorded and so your voice needs to be loud enough to be registered. 

Record yourself and if you can’t hear yourself or what you are saying is not clear, you know what to do. Speak louder and more clearly.

5 Don’t be a Perfectionist

I know you don’t want to make any mistakes, but people who get a 9 can still make a few small mistakes, people who get a 7 or 8 can even make more mistakes. Thinking too much about the correct grammar will lower your fluency and fluency is still 25% of the total score, so is pronunciation (25%) or good vocabulary 25% (lexical resources). So, don’t waste your time on being perfect in everything you say.

Try to speak a bit slower than normal, that will give you a bit more time to think about what you want to say. It also means you will have to say less to fill the time, and saying less will mean making fewer mistakes. Just make sure you use some good language.

6 Don’t be Scared

I know it’s easier said than done, but the examiners are just people like you and me. They are not there to make your life miserable, all the examiners I know are really amazing people and some great teachers as well. You might have heard these stories of people who were upset about their IELTS score and blame the examiner or the exam. The exam is not perfect neither is the examiner, but IELTS was born in 1980, so it’s been around for quite some time. It’s also taken by at least 3 million people a year in more than 140 countries. This means the exam has been tested before and that it really does what it should do: Test someone’s English language ability. 

Remember, they are just human, treat them like any other human you know, with respect and kindness. 

And if you followed all the tips and practiced, practiced and practiced, you shouldn’t be scared anymore and all the hard work and confidence will pay off and give you the score you need.

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