I took my last IELTS test on December 20th, 2014 and scored a total of 7.0 out of 9. For the speaking section, I scored a 7.5 even though I didn't practice speaking with anyone but myself. Like most students, I am living in a non-English speaking country. Since the speaking section of this test is the most worrisome part for students and test takers in general, I would like to share with you the methods I used to prepare for the test. If you speak English well, you can score a high mark by recording yourself, using phrases to link your ideas, and varying your vocabulary.
1. Record Your Speaking
There are two important benefits to be gained by recording yourself. First of all, listening to your answers, tone, grammatical errors, and pauses will allow you to find your weak points and work on them. Recording your answers will show how far you have improved in comparison with your first recordings. An alternative to recording would be to videotape yourself. Using your webcam will give you a better insight to your body language and how tense you are.
You should practice these recordings as if you were in the test. This means that you will read the question for the first time and answer it immediately. This will ensure you receive the second benefit of recording yourself, which is practicing how to think and answer questions in just a few seconds. When practicing the second part of the speaking test, time the one minute to read the question and write down your notes. Set the timer to two minutes and start speaking. By doing so, you will get used to the test environment, feel how long a minute is, and learn to control your ideas.
2. Write Down Phrases
The next thing you should do is search the web for beneficial phrases to utilize during the speaking part of the IELTS. You can often find them in PDF files, and they are divided according to their usage. Keep them in your screen and use one or two every time you record your answers. Phrases will make your answers sound more organized, and they actually allow you to steal a few seconds to think about your answer. For example, when you say, "I never thought of this issue, but I think…" you will save 30 seconds to come up with the next point.
3. Write Down Synonyms
The last tip is to get your mind ready with a variety of vocabulary to use as you speak. Think of a candidate using the word "good" all the time as he or she speaks about his or her career. Using a limited set of vocabulary or repeating a few words many times will cut down your score. To avoid this, write down all the synonyms of the most used words. For example, the word “good” could be replaced with rewarding, satisfying, pleasing, worthy, fulfilling, or valuable. The word “important” is another example that almost every test taker will use. However, other words such as major, key, necessary, and chiefly should also be kept in mind.
As you begin your speaking practice, hold your notebook and write down all the phrases you can use and all the synonyms for the words you tend to overuse. Keep looking to these lists as you record yourself and use them as much as you can. Listen to yourself, find your errors, and try to avoid them in the next record. Lastly, learn to relax during these practices, to be more fluent, and less nervous.
P.S. The picture above is taken from my notebook, where I wrote down my vocabulary list!
Header image by author.