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The Speaking Component of IELTS

Author: Limey, Posted on Monday, April 04 @ 10:19:04 IST by RxPG  

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The Test

How good are you at chatting? Are you fluent? Are you aware of the particular accent with which you go around speaking English? Do people understand clearly what you speak?

Well,this is what the speaking component of IELTS is all about. This is a test to find out how well you can converse in English while carrying out your daily activities.

The test is divided into 3 different steps, not very discrete, but you will be definitely able to point out when one step conclude and other step begins.

The entire interview is recorded in a tape as you go ahead with the conversation.

This is just a formality and it is in your own interest that the conversation is recorded, so that in case you are not satisfied with your score, this tape will help in RE evaluating.

Let the tape not bother you and you go ahead with the speaking freely.

However, keeping in the view of importance of the tape recording your voice,make sure that you are loud and clear enough. The interviewer’s voice will also be recorded and you are at an advantage here that 1st the interviewer will ask you if he/she can start the tape and then the interviewer starts with the 1st question.

Note his loudness level and the clarity with which he is speaking.Make sure your quality of sound should matches with his, for a conversation which isn’t clear and loud will produce more irritation than any favorable effects on your score.

Remember at all steps that this is a test to check your ability to converse efficiently. So you should not be quiet.

You have three main aims here
2.yap and

The interview has three main parts:

1st part :

1st part of the interview starts with introduction.

The interviewer will ask your name, where you coming from ,your job ,your life and your interests.

The topic will change swiftly to some thing very common like the weather that day, or even traffic. Or you might be just asked to describe how did you reach the test center from home.

Do not hesitate.Sit back relaxed and make the conversation enjoyable.

The aim is to impress the interviewer and I believe that each one of us have our own style to do this;Use yours!

This part of interview lasts for not more than 4-5 minutes.The topics are of general interests and usually deal with the following :

. Your country of origin
. Your hometown
. How long you have lived there
. What you do: work or study
. Your interests and future plans
. why u want to go abroad
. are you aware of the situations there
. why this particular field interests you
. Shopping
. Your hobbies
. your family
. interesting places in your hometown - which one u like the most? Why? Whats the most interesting thing there? Would you like to change some thing there?
. climate/seasons
. festivals in your country
. traditions in your country

This is just a general overview to give you an idea of what exactly the 1st step consists of.
The topics may vary with the interviewer’s choice.

Make sure that you are fully aware of your future plans, the reasons why you are planning to go abroad, the competition in your field and any alternative plans you have if this one do not materialize.

Prepare your mind for these sort of questions.

Its definitely impossible to predict the questions but the idea is that always be prepared, for processed speaking always better than random speaking.

2nd Part :

Though its totally upto the interviewer to decide when the 1st part ends and 2nd part begins,you will be able to clearly identify that you are into the 2nd part when the interviewer says, “ Now I will give you a topic to speak on (and will hand over the card with the topic). You will be given 1 minute to think over it. You are allowed to make notes if you wish.”

The topics will be of general interest and something on which any one can speak on. It is carefully selected that it doesn’t requires any professional knowledge to speak on these topics.

Common Topics are :

-Your Favorite Tourist Destination : Where would you like to go? With whom?
-Your Favorite Home/place of living
-Men- Women Relationships
-Sports and Fitness
-What you think is the best way to combat stress
-Country living or City life : what you prefer and why
-Why do you think people go abroad for
-Family or friends : who is more important to you
-Pollution in cities
-Your view on technology : is it helpful?

There can innumerable topics here and this list is just to help you with the TYPE of topics usually allotted.

There will be sub topics or suggestions following the main topics, giving you the idea on which you need to elaborate.However, you should note that you can speak on any idea which isn’t mentioned in the sub topics,but should be related to the main topic.

The card will look something like this :

"Q. Describe a person from your youth who had a great influence on you:

You should say:
where you met them
what relationship this person was to you
what was special about them
and explain how they influenced you so much."

Utilize the one minute efficiently.Prepare your mind of what exactly u will speak on! Write down the key words quickly on the paper provided. Can remember any interesting incident or example? Quote it! This will make the conversation more interesting. Get ready and plan how exactly you r going to start.

For e.g. for the sample question above :
If say,I want to tell about one teacher who had greatly influenced me, my rapid 1 minute note will be something like this :

-Ida Borrison (note that, writing just the name prepared my answer for the main topic and next 2 sub questions as well.)
-teaching style
-school journal

These 3 words did not take more than 30 sec for me jot down, but will provide me enough matter for me to speak for the next 2-3 minutes.

Make sure that your start is correct and your every sentence is ‘propagative’ (i.e. automatically helps you start with the next sentence), rather than dead sentence ,which starts and ends by itself.

for the given e.g.,

a dead sentence would be like : My school teacher, Ida Borrison influenced me the most.

Note that though this sentence is on the topic asked and is grammatically correct , it will not help you much with your fluent conversation.

Perhaps I found that,if the FLOW of the conversation is good and you could involve the interviewer in whatever you speak, the interviewer will have no choice but to give you a great band.

A good start for the above e.g., could have been like,

O well, Ida Borrison was one person I just cannot forget. She was our English teacher when we were in 9 th standard. She taught us just for an year and then she got transferred .But that one year was so influencing that ....!

Note that,

Here the essence is, the candidate first told the name and then explained who she was. He met her when he was in 9th standard and he wants to talk about just 1 year he was in contact with her.

Note how gradually the conversation is propagating rather than jus saying , “ My school teacher, Ida Borrison influenced me the most.” and STOP!

Learn to master this when you start practising.
Learn to use sentences which automatically leads to the next one and there is no thought blocking.

This is the 2nd part of the interview and is regarded as the most important determinant of the final score.

You are supposed to speak for 2-3 minutes on this following which the interviewer will ask you to elaborate on certain points you have mentioned.

Don’t bother if the interviewer stops you and asks his question. Immediately change your concentration on the immediate question put forth to u.

3rd Part

Step 3 of the interview deals with the same topic but the interviewer will ask you more deeply and into the topic.

It will usually depend on what you have described in the 2nd part.

Don’t bother much. Speak as much as possible. Don’t bother if the you don’t know the exact answer to the question put forth by the examiner.

Don’t sit back and think that , “You don’t know”! Speak this aloud!

You are being judged on your speaking skill not the depth of your knowledge about traffic controls or teaching styles of different people(for e.g.).

The interviewer puts forward a certain question to prompt you to speak; The question should not make you silent.

This is the last part of interview and lasts for around 3-4 minutes.

Total duration of the interview varies from 11-14 minutes approximately.

Be polite through out. Do not overdo things. Just be yourself.

The Practice

Its always a good idea to practice speaking with a partner. Form a group, make a list of the topics and go ahead discussing one by one.

Make sure the number of persons in your study group should be just optimum.In my view, 2 are best and more than 3 is crowd. Of course,it also depends on ur own convenience and preference.

Don’t bother much if you r alone and cant find a study partner. Take a topic and practice speaking for 2-3 minutes at a stretch.

Record ur conversation while speak. Play ur recorded conversation later to find out what exactly are your mistakes and weakness and where you need to improve upon.

Fluency :

This measures your ability to speak without too many pauses and hesitations. It is also to do with how easily and clearly your ideas can be understood.

Some pauses are normal and acceptable for a good conversation. However, check if your pauses are just too frequent or too long.

Learn and choose, how exactly you would pause. “...aahhmm” is the most commonly used one.You can even use a gesture with your eyes,eyebrows or hands.

Watch interviews on TV and try and observe these small things and try to adopt it in your style.

Vocabulary :

A good vocabulary is a very strong point for your interview. But do you use all that you know when you speak? Well, most of us don’t!

Listen to your recorded conversation when you practice. Identify if you are using one particular word repeatedly. Find out if you can replace that with some another word (and same meaning).

Try using thesaurus and list down various words with similar meanings which you would use while speaking.

Do this for every topic you speak on.

You will be rich in no time.

However, learning new words is never easy and more difficult is to use a new word in your conversation,especially when you will be under stress at the time of the interview.

Keep this in mind when you learn a new word. Make sure you will be able to use it as easily as you use the other words you know.

New words can be learnt from dictionary, thesaurus. What I found as the best way for this is to sit with newspaper article with a pencil in hand and a dictionary by your side.

Mark any unfamiliar words, search the real meaning in the dictionary and then see how it has been used in the article. Try and use these words as much as u can till your brain gets adjusted to the new addition.

The following bbc link I found very useful for improving vocabulary :

There are more resources here:
Explore and find out what you need the most.

Pronunciation and Accent

Pronunciation is the most important factor in speaking. Most of the time it actually doesn’t matters if you don’t show off much of your vocabulary power with complicated words, but whatever you speak should be correctly prononunced.

You wont be aware of your wrong pronunciation till you actually think over it. Watch BBC (or even HBO or Star Movies). Note if your pronunciation is wrong.

How do u pronunce “HEART”, as ‘hurt’ or as ‘hart’.These are small things which you might have never thought on before,but beware, the interviewer is going to mark you on these.

Don’t bother much about the accent.Its always good to maintain a ‘neutral’ accent.

Remember that the Interviewer is usually a trained person from the city, where u r taking the test.Don’t TRY to introduce any foreign accent for the interview sake, the interviewers are trained to catch these.

Grammatical mistakes :

The variety of grammar you use and how correctly you use it are both judged by the interviewer. So, the range of tenses as well as the appropriate use of them is important in all parts of the Speaking test.

Don’t panic if you realize that you just spoke a grammatically wrong sentence. Go ahead and correct it. This is what we do in our day-to- day conversation, isn’t it? and the interviewer also gets to know that you actually know correct English.

Listen to your recorded conversation while practising.Is it grammatically correct?

Ideas to speak:

Most candidates complain that though their English is good ,they have a good vocabulary and are strong with the grammar, too, yet they stop as soon as they start the conversation.Do you experience the same problem?

It is usually because we don’t get actually what we want to speak or rather it’s the scarcity of ideas.

You are what you know and you know what you read. So improve your ‘Idea Bank’.

Read articles on Men-Women,Technology, Sports, Pollution, Tourism and such general topics.

Prepare your mind for the ‘Personal Topics’ say, your most funny experience. Am sure you must have had many,but which one would you like to quote? Make sure its interesting and that you talk on it for at least 5 minutes at a stretch.

Prepare beforehand, what you will talk if you r alsked to describe about yourself, your family, your job, your future plans or even your favourite tourist destination.
These topics should be at your finger tips.

Don’t mug up preformed speeches.Interviewers are trained to catch these.

Also, you should develop your own spontaneous conversation which should be as unique and interesting as you are.Try giving interestnig examples.

The following link gives you a wide range of topics to practice on.Hope you find it useful.

The Test Day

Reach the test center in time.

Make sure you look your best. Wear your best apparel and your best smile.A formal/ semi formal attire is the most suited for the purpose.
Don’t try to show off your casualness by moving in a pair of shorts nor overdo things by wearing a jazzy party dress.

Be confident. This is also one important aspect they are going to judge you on.

Don’t try to talk to candidates coming out of the interview room. By doing this you will be breaking the examination rules and invite a disqualification for yourself.

I always advise to talk calmly to the other candidates waiting for the interview in the same waiting room as you are. Its always a good warm up.

Knock and enter the interview room confidently.
Think before hand how exactly you would like your sitting posture to be and in which you r most comfortable.

Keep your hand movements or other gestures you use during conversing, in control. You should not sit like a statute either. Just that you should not over do such things which looks unnatural in a day to day conversation.

Keep your cool. Be calm and be polite.
Make an interesting conversation. Smile and involve the interviewer in your conversation.

Remember that the interviewer is all too exhausted and bored by interviewing so many candidates before you. Your conversation should refresh him up.

If the interviewer keeps a view in front of you tell him if you fully agree with him, that he is right or if you have another view, be polite and say that you think some thing else.

Did he say he enjoyed talking with you? Tell him that it was nice speaking to him too.
Thank him in the end.

The Mantra

The mantra for a great score in speaking is to be confident, calm and cool.

Project yourself as an interesting person. Be yourself.

Talk clearly, loudly, pronounce correctly and no grammatical mistakes.

You will come out with flying colors.

Good Luck!

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