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By Deepthi Kurian
For those who are unfamiliar with the test format of the International English Language Testing System or simply IELTS, the test evaluates your English language proficiency in four different areas: Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. There are a few different versions of the test available but for the two main versions of the test- IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, the Listening and Speaking tests are the same.
While many students can prepare well and ace the Listening, Reading and Writing tests, the Speaking test, on the other hand, offers a totally different challenge. The fact that not many of us are used to conversing in English on a regular basis puts us at risk of making certain mistakes that can be easily avoided otherwise. Let’s delve deeper into the matter and see what are these common mistakes that students make in the IELTS Speaking test and how to avoid them.
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The IELTS Speaking test is usually conducted as a face-to-face interview with an examiner and the test taker. It can last between 11 to 14 minutes and is divided into three parts. In the first part, the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and your life. This part can last between four to five minutes.
In the second part, the test taker will have to talk about a particular topic for about two minutes. You will get one minute to prepare before speaking. When you are done talking, the examiner will ask you one or two questions about the same topic.
The third and final part of the test consists of the examiner and the test taker discussing the topic in the second part in a more general and abstract way. The third part may last for 4 to 5 minutes.
The IELTS Speaking Test assesses your ability to communicate effectively in English. Avoiding some common mistakes that many students make can help you achieve a better score. The following are some of the common mistakes to avoid during the IELTS Speaking Test:
Many students mistake having an accent as a detrimental factor. However, this is not the case. Your speech should have clarity and the words should be pronounced correctly. You should try to avoid mumbling or speaking too fast. Do not use incorrect stress patterns on words to sound ‘cool’. Aim for a natural and clear pronunciation.
While brief responses are sometimes appropriate, avoid giving one-word answers. In the speaking test, questions are asked to find out whether you have an adequate grasp of the English language and the vocabulary. When you choose to respond with very short answers, it might indicate a lack of proper communication skills and language proficiency.
You should try not to use the same words or phrases repeatedly. When you use the same word multiple times throughout the test, it might indicate a very limited vocabulary. Try to use synonyms and interchange the words accordingly.
An undesirable practice many of us have picked up on is the overuse of fillers like "uh," "um," "you know," etc. Most of us have to make a conscious effort to figure out what words to use and this can lead to considerably long pauses between words. To avoid this, many test takers resort to using fillers which can make your speech sound hesitant. Try to minimize these and practice pausing instead. It can make your speech sound more fluent and confident.
During the test, you should always pay close attention to the examiner's instructions and questions. If you do not understand a question, you can always seek clarification. But if you proceed to answer without understanding what the instruction was, it might adversely affect your band score.
Fluency is an essential aspect of the speaking test. The key indicators of fluency are speech rate and speech continuity. You should practice speaking English well before the test to improve your fluency and the ability to express ideas without hesitating.
While the examiner will ask you simple, casual questions to ease you into the test, do not mistake this and approach the test very casually. You should avoid using overly casual or informal language. The Speaking test requires you to maintain a standard level of formality.
Similar to using very casual or inappropriate language, you should be cautious of using monotone speech. Try to vary your intonation, pitch, and tone while speaking. Stress upon important words when required.
All of these things can be improved through repeated practice. You should plan ahead and practice speaking. Remember, practice is crucial. Familiarize yourself with the test format, record yourself speaking, and consider seeking feedback from native speakers or language instructors to identify areas for improvement.
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