IELTS Practice Tests

IELTS Speaking Test Additional tips and hints

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IELTS Speaking Test Additional tips and hints

Additional Tips

  1. Giving examples
  2. Paraphrasing
  3. Vague language
  4. Asking for help
  5. Example interview scripts
  6. Suggested further reading
  1. Giving examples

Sometimes you can finish your answer with an example structure but you do not need to do this with every question; one or two times in the speaking test is more than enough.

Look at the previous answer to the “problem” question.

It’s universally accepted that there a few hazards involved with the increase in the use of private cars. Essentially, one fundamental concern is probably that it leads to an increase in pollution. This fact is unmistakably perturbing because we are facing huge global pollution problems at the moment. Additionally, another major cause for concern has to be the fact that cars consume huge amounts of our energy resources. And the underlying repercussions of this are that we will soon be confronted with a global energy crisis.”

It would be quite easy to add an example to this answer:

Actually I think this idea is best illustrated with the example of oil which is running out at an alarming rate.

You don’t get extra marks simply for adding an example. However, your score will be influenced because you have used a complex linking structure:

Actually I think this idea is best illustrated with the example of…

Use the following structures to introduce an example:

  • In fact, this concept can be illustrated by the example of…
  • As a matter of fact, this point can be demonstrated with the case of…
  • In actual fact, this notion can be confirmed by the example of…
  1. Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is extremely important in the speaking test because it directly affects your vocabulary score.

To achieve a vocabulary score of 7 or 8, the examiner needs to hear at least one example of effective paraphrasing. Paraphrasing means saying or explaining something in your own words. In the speaking test it is used to explain vocabulary gaps (words that you don’t know in English).

A good tip for paraphrasing is the “forget-explain-remember” rule. With this strategy you deliberately forget a particular word. Then you explain the word and then you remember the word. Look at the following example:

An additional problem with cars is that they produce a lot of …em… I can’t remember the word, but it’s the gas that comes out of the car exhaust…oh yeah…carbon monoxide. That’s what I mean.

In this example the candidate has produced some effective paraphrase and used a complex vocabulary item (carbon monoxide), so the vocabulary score has been influenced in two ways.

It is usually a good idea to think of some examples of this before the test, but the following examples should be quite helpful because they can be used for many topics.

For buildings: architecture, interior décor, elevator, escalator.

For people: optimistic, open-minded, assertive, sarcastic.

For objects: warranty, guarantee, replacement.

It really doesn’t matter which word you decide to paraphrase as long as it’s an uncommon vocabulary item.

In addition, many Chinese words can be paraphrased, especially if there is no exact English equivalent, such as:

Huo Guo, it’s a type of dish that is served in a pot and the pot is usually heated on the table, so the food is cooked in from of you.

This example of paraphrasing is worth more marks than simple saying “hot-pot”.

Placeholders

Placeholders are words that replace something when a speaker does not know or cannot remember the name of something or someone: “You need to use a thingummy when you open a bottle of red wine.”

Grammatically these simply replace the name of the person or object that the speaker cannot remember and never change their form. Other placeholders include:

whatsit                  thingy                    thingummy

When you paraphrase, try to use one of these placeholders. Look at the following example:

One of the major problems with shopping online is that there are loads of err… what is called…

You may think this is not a very good way to impress your examiner, but this is exactly what native speakers do when they forget a word.

When you paraphrase you need to first let the examiner know that you have forgotten the word (or you don’t know the word in English). Use the following linking phrases to begin paraphrasing:

  • I can’t remember the English word; I’ll have to explain what I mean here.
  • Actually, I can’t seem to remember the word; let me try to put it into plain words.
  • The word has slipped my mind; I’ll try to paraphrase it for you.

Use the following language to explain your word:

  • Well what it is… it is a kind / type of…
  • In some ways it’s similar to…
  • actually something like a…

Continue your paraphrasing with:

  • And it’s made from…
  • It’s often found…
  • It’s used by / for…
  • It involves…
  • One of the most unique features of X is that…
  • And I should also mention that…

Then “remember” the word:

Oh… I think I’ve just remembered it; the word I’m looking for is X.

  1. Vague Language

One language feature that sounds like native-speaker English is vague language. Vague language is best described language that is not exact.

Look at the following example:

You usually need to buy them in a special shop like a craft shop or somewhere like that.

The phrase “or somewhere like that” is vague language.

Use the following vague language in your answers:

Rounding up the time:

I arrived about half past six.

When I arrived it was almost half past six.

When I arrived it was half six-ish.

It was nearly half past six when we arrived.

List completers include words such as things and stuff.

  • I usually watch documentaries and things like that.
  • I usually watch documentaries and stuff like that.
  • I’m quite fond of reading magazines and things / stuff.
  • I might buy a book or something like that.
  • I usually buy books and DVDs or stuff like that.
  • I might buy a book or whatever.
  • I might go to the park or whatever.
  • I might go with my classmates or whoever.

Do not use too many list completers in your speaking test. A good guideline would be 4 or 5 examples across the whole interview.

Quantities

Vague language is very common with numbers when expressing quantity, frequency or the time. Lower numbers are often expressed by phrases such as: a couple of, a few. Whereas, larger numbers are rounded up with: about, around or replaced with: lots of, loads of.

With vague language, “a couple” does not usually mean “two”; it can mean “up to three” or even “four”. When you do not want to give accurate numbers, you can use the following:

  • There were about 30 odd students in my class.
  • There were about 30 or so people at the party.
  • She’s not that old.
  • I’d say she’s about 40-ish.
  • There are a lot of / lots of / loads of choices.
  • I’ve been to Beijing a couple of / a few times.
  • I think I saw about / around 10 or so.
  1. Asking for help

In the speaking test there are strict rules about how much help the examiner can give you. These rules are different for each Part of the test.

In Part One the examiner is allowed to repeal the question TWO TIMES if you don’t understand it. lf you don’t understand a certain word and ask about that word, the examiner is not allowed to explain it; the question will be repeated in exactly the same way.

If you do not understand the question in Part One or if you just didn’t hear it clearly, it is fine to ask the examiner to repeat it. Use the following language:

  • I’m sorry I didn’t quite catch the question; could you ask it again please?
  • I’m sorry I missed that one; could you repeat it please?

As a rule, if this happens two or three times in Part One, there will be no problem. If it happens more than 4 times, then the examiner will reduce your fluency score (usually by one point, i.e. 5 will be reduced to 4).

In Part Two, it is unlikely that you will need the examiner to repeat anything because the examiner doesn’t actually say much. However, if there is a word on the topic card that you don’t understand, then the examiner is allowed to quickly explain that word to you (usually by replacing it with an easier word or giving an example). You can avoid this problem by checking all the topic cards featured in this book.

In Part Three the rules are less strict. The examiner will explain vocabulary, change the wording of questions or simplify the questions whenever necessary. This shouldn’t happen very often because when Part Three begins the examiner should have a very clear idea of your language level and he / she will ask the questions in a way in which you should be able to understand quite easily.

  1. Exam interview scripts

The following pages give a clear picture of what a complete interview looks like.

Remember that your interview might be slightly different to these because the number of questions asked will depend on the length of your answers.

This section is only intended to give you a full picture of what the whole interview looks like on paper. For the first example there are suggestions of what type of answer structure to use.

Interview 1

Good afternoon, my name is… Can you tell me your full name please?

OK, can I see your ID card please?

In this first part like to ask you some questions about yourself. So first of all let’s talk about where you live. Do you live in a house or a fat? (Simple direct answer)

Tell me the good things about your house or flat. (Use Part One “Liking” structure)

Is there anything you don’t like about it? (Use Part One “Disliking” structure)

Do you think you will move to another area in the future? (Use Part One “Would” structure)

Now let’s move on to talking about reading. Do you like reading? (Use Part One “Liking” structure)

How often do you read? (Use Part One “It depends” structure)

Where do you normally read? (Use Part One “It depends” structure)

What types of books are popular in your country nowadays? (Use Part One “Types of” structure)

Let’s talk about music now. What types of music do you like listening to? (Why?) (Use a mix of Part One “Types of” and “Liking” structures)

How much time do you spend listening to music? (Use Part One “It depends” structure)

Where do you usually listen to music? (Use Part One “It depends” structure)

OK, now I’m going to give you a topic and like you to talk about it for one to two minutes. Before you talk you’ll have one to two minutes to think about what you are going to say and you can make some notes if you wish, do you understand?

I’d like you to describe the type of clothes you like wearing. (One minute preparation)

OK, so remember you have one to two minutes for this, so don’t worry if I stop you. I’ll tell you when the time is up… Can you start speaking now please?

Topic Card

Describe the type of clothes you like wearing.

You should say:

What kind of clothes you usually like to wear

Why you like these clothes

Where you buy them

Whether these clothes are popular in your country.

OK, we’ve been talking about clothes that you wear and now like to discuss with you one or two more general questions related to this. So first of all let’s consider clothes and fashion. Do men and women have different ideas about fashion? (Use Part Three “Comparing” structure)

Why do teenagers like to follow fashion? (Use Part Three “Why” structure)

What are the disadvantages of following fashion? (Use Part Three “Disadvantages” structure)

OK, now let’s move on to talk about uniforms. Why do some companies prefer their staff to wear uniforms? (Use Part Three “Why” structure)

Interview 2

Good afternoon, my name is… Can you tell me your full name please?

  1. can I see your ID card please?

In this first part I’d like to ask you some questions about yourself. So first of all let’s talk about where you live. Tell me about the area that you live in. What do you like about the area? Is there anything you don’t like about the area? Do you think you will continue to live in this place for a long time?

Now let’s move on to talk about films. How often do you watch films? What types of films do you like watching? Do you prefer watching films alone or with someone else? Is it better watching films at home or in the cinema?

Let’s talk about birthdays now. Do you usually spend your birthday with your friends or with your family? What do children generally do on their birthdays in China? Are birthdays important? What is the most important birthday or age which is celebrated in China?

OK, now I’m going to give you a topic and I’d like you to talk about it for one to two minutes. Before you talk you’ll have one to two minutes to think about what you are going to say and you can make some notes if you wish, do you understand?

I’d like you to describe some help which you received in the past. (One minute preparation)

OK, so remember you have one to two minutes for this so don’t worry if I stop you. I’ll tell you when the time is up… Can you start speaking now please?

Topic Card

                Describe the help which you received in the past.

                You should say:

                               What type of help you received

                               Who helped you

                               Why you needed this help

                How you felt after you received this help.

OK, we’ve been talking about the help you received in the past and now I’d like to discuss with you one or two more general questions related to this. So first of all let’s consider different kinds of help. Generally, what kinds of help do people often need in their lives?

Do you think, in general, society is helpful?

Do you think people were more helpful in the past than they are nowadays?

What kinds of help will people need in the future?

 

Interview 3

Good afternoon, my name is… Can you tell me your full name please?

OK, can I see your ID card please?

In this first Part I’d like to ask you some questions about yourself. So first of all let’s talk about what you do. Do you work or are you a student?

What are you studying?

Why did you choose this college / university?

What’s good about where you’re studying?

What would you like to do after your studies?

Let’s move on to talk about collecting things. Have you ever collected anything?

What things do people collect in your country?

Why do people like collecting things?

Would you like to start collecting something new in the future?

Now let’s talk about weather. What’s the weather like where you live?

What do you do when the weather is bad?

What type of weather do you like best?

Would you like to have that type of weather all year round?

OK, now going to give you a topic and I’d like you to talk about it for one to two minutes. Before you talk have one to two minutes to think about what you are going to say and you can make some notes if you wish, do you understand?

I’d like you to describe your childhood home. (One minute preparation)

OK, so remember you have one to two minutes for this, so don’t worry if I stop you. I’ll tell you when the time is up… Can you start speaking now please?

Topic Card

Describe your childhood home.

You should say:

Where this place is located

What type of house it is

How long you lived there

What you liked about this place.

OK, we’ve been talking about your childhood home and now I’d like to discuss with you one or two more general questions related to this. So first of all let’s consider different kinds of houses. Are houses nowadays different to houses in the past?

What kinds of houses will be common in the future?

What are the advantages of living in an old house?

Why do some people like to move to a different home?

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