IELTS Speaking Tips: How to Achieve 7.0

IELTS Speaking Band 7 is the target for many of my students.

But why is it so difficult to get a 7.0 score in IELTS Speaking when your other module scores are higher?

One reason is that speaking is very much a skill, rather than a set of knowledge, so it takes longer to acquire. The best way to improve is with continual practice, ideally with feedback from a teacher.

Lack of understanding of the assessment criteria also causes IELTS students to focus on the wrong things. For example, they may worry about tiny features of pronunciation and trying to sound like a native speaker. These efforts can make a difference, but pronunciation is only 25% of your score in IELTS Speaking.

And what percentage of the IELTS Speaking score is based on having an interesting life story and knowing the solutions to all the world’s problems? 0%!

What really helps is to understand how IELTS Speaking scores are calculated and then make a positive effort to demonstrate those exact skills to the examiner. That’s why I’ve based these IELTS Speaking tips on the public version of the IELTS Speaking assessment criteria. I’ve also written more about how to achieve IELTS Band 7 in a previous post.

IELTS Speaking Tip 1: Keep talking

According to the assessment criteria, an IELTS Band 7 candidate:

Speaks at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence

In IELTS Speaking, your score goes up when you say more, even if that results in more errors. That’s because IELTS is a test of what you CAN do, not what you can’t. So say as much as you can in response to the question, until you run out of ideas or start repeating yourself. It’s not a bad thing if the examiner has to interrupt you.

IELTS Speaking Tip 2: Use an idiom or two

According to the assessment criteria, an IELTS Band 7 candidate:

Uses some less common and idiomatic vocabulary and shows some awareness of style and collocation

The IELTS examiner is listening for evidence that you can go beyond ‘textbook English’ and start using real, idiomatic English. So impress the examiner by including a few idiomatic phrases like “I’m a bundle of nerves” to mean “I’m nervous”. You can find a good starter list of idioms on Wikipedia and for iOS users there’s even an idioms app.

IELTS Speaking Tip 3: Paraphrase the question

According to the assessment criteria, an IELTS Band 7 candidate:

Uses paraphrase effectively

If the examiner asks you a question and you can immediately think of a way to paraphrase it—i.e. express the same meaning in other words—go ahead and say something like “Oh, you mean (paraphrase question)?” This is a very effective strategy to demonstrate one of the core skills that the examiner is listening for. Try to do this two or three times during the test.

IELTS Speaking Tip 4: Use linking words to connect your ideas

According to the assessment criteria, an IELTS Band 7 candidate:

Uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility

What does this mean in normal English? It means that you use a range of expressions like ‘in other words’, ‘also’, ‘however’ and ‘on the other hand’ to connect your ideas. The key word is range. The examiner doesn’t want to hear you say ‘on the other hand’ a hundred times! So record yourself speaking and notice if you use a phrase like ‘on the other hand’ too much. If so, use a different phrase instead. Now you can start demonstrating a good range of linking words.

IELTS Speaking Tip 5: Don’t be afraid of mistakes

According to the assessment criteria, an IELTS Band 7 candidate:

Frequently produces error-free sentences, though some grammatical mistakes persist

That means it’s possible to make some mistakes and still get IELTS 7.0 or 7.5. However, some candidates score poorly because they worry too much about mistakes. As a result, they speak too slowly and their mistakes become MORE obvious! It’s more important to demonstrate fluency (See Tip #1) than it is to produce error-free speech. Of course, it’s also good to correct yourself if you do notice a mistake.


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