10 Little Known Mistakes Lowering Your IELTS Speaking Band Score!

Do you need to get a high score in the IELTS speaking test? Well, you are not alone. It is an important first step for many people standing between them and migrating to the country of their choice, getting into the university they want or, even continuing in the career they want.

It is sad that some candidates struggle with this part of the test simply through lack of knowledge. Here we aim to put you on the pathway to your dream job, university, or career by outlining some of the things NOT to do during the IELTS speaking test.

1. Memorising answers – Many students feel that if they can just remember a few set answers then they will be able to score highly in the exam. Unfortunately, the questions differ from test to test so you would have to memorise hundreds of answers for this to actually work.

Secondly, it is fairly easy for examiners to spot when a student is simply giving an answer they have memorized. It sounds unnatural and often does not quite fit the question being asked.

2. Freezing and being quiet – Some students in the exam, perhaps as a result of nerves, will not expand on their answers like they would normally do. This restricts their band score for ‘fluency and coherence’. It is far better to let yourself speak and express your thoughts rather than giving short one word, or short sentence answers.

3. Worrying about making mistakes – Overthinking your answers to make sure they are correct before you speak will slow your responses down and make you sound unnatural. Remember, for even a band 7 the band descriptors state that ‘some grammatical mistakes persist’, so you don’t have to be perfect, just use the English you do know confidently. Also, if you try to make your grammar perfect it may lower your fluency score which is the ability to speak at length on your own.

4. Being nervous – OK, this is easier said than done, but there are things you can do to prevent nerves from hurting your performance.

Firstly, prepare for the test properly by knowing the format of the test and what sorts of questions you are going to get.

Secondly, practice the complete test from start to finish at least a few times before test day.

Thirdly, on test day make sure you warm-up before the speaking test by doing some simple speaking exercises. You could have a friend come with you to practice with on the journey to the test centre, phone an English speaking friend or even practice with other candidates waiting to take the test. This just helps you get into the right mind-set for the test and helps ‘loosen your tongue’ for the test.

5. Worrying about what the examiner thinks about your opinions – The examiners are there to judge your English language ability only. Your actual opinion counts for nothing. It does not have to be original, creative or entertaining. You are not there to impress the examiner in this way.

Your task is to impress the examiner with your ability to express your thoughts and opinions clearly, whatever they are, no matter how boring you think they may be.

6. Expecting help from the examiner – Whilst the examiner will stop you from speaking if you have spoken for long enough on part 2 of the speaking test. Do not expect them to give you any further direction such as telling you to speak faster, slower or reminding you to talk about certain points. Their job is to prompt you to speak and listen to you speak, not to coach or direct you too much. Simply follow the instructions you are given.

7. Trying to use long complicated words – This will often make you sound unnatural especially if they are used incorrectly. It is far better to use the words that you are 100% confident about using, and that are correct in the context of a sentence.

You do not get marks for how complex your vocabulary is or how long the words you use are, unless you use them correctly and in the right way.

8. Trying to show off your range of grammar – Similar to the last point. Don’t try and insert different types of grammar for no reason. For example, some students try to use different conditionals in their test but often do so at the expense of their natural fluency.

Once more, the examiner will spot it if you repeat a grammar structure methodically in a context that is not quite the right time to. It is quite possible to score highly by simply using the tenses and grammar points that are appropriate to the questions and nothing more.

9. Using overly informal language – The examiner is not your friend and you should speak to them as such. This means that you should be careful to maintain a certain formality in your language. Avoid using slang that you might have picked up from the movies, or English speaking friends. This means phrases such as ‘G’day mate’, are not appropriate, even if you are taking the test in Australia!

10. Stressing over your accent – Whilst you are judged on your pronunciation, this is different from your accent. Your accent is how you sound. For example, I have an accent that is from the north of England, you may have an accent that means people can guess you are from India, or China, but it is whether you speak clearly with the correct intonation that counts.

It is absolutely fine to sound like you are from a country that is not Britain, or America just so long as you can be clearly understood and that your own original accent does not prevent this.

There we have it, 10 ways to make sure you do not damage your own IELTS speaking test score. Remember, practice and get feedback on your performance to improve your chances of success. Why not get a copy of our IELTS ‘Cheat Sheet’ which shows you exactly how to write a band 7 essay, simply fill in the form in the top right of the page.

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