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How to prep for the Speaking exam

How are you preparing for your speaking exam? Are you reading lots of books? Trying to memorize “the best” IELTS speaking answers?

Or are you taking speaking lessons? Going out with English-speaking friends? Talking to a conversation partner on Skype?

A lot of students think they can study for the speaking exam by reading lots of model speaking answers in books, or memorizing lists of vocabulary. While this might improve your vocab and even your grammar, there’s a serious problem with this: it won’t improve your speaking.

Why? To get better at the speaking exam, you have to…speak! (A big surprise, I know.) In the speaking exam, the examiner is assessing you on four criteria:

1) Fluency & Coherence

2) Vocabulary (“Lexical Resource”)

3) Grammar

4) Pronunciation

(Click here to read the full description of the official IELTS speaking criteria.)

While you can certainly improve your Vocabulary and Grammar through reading, writing, and studying from books, this won’t help you with Fluency or Pronunciation. (Fluency is how much you speak, and how often you pause. The more you can say, the better. The fewer pauses and hesitations you have, the better.) The only way to get better at these is to speak—a lot.

In my experience, many students get high scores for Reading and Listening, but low scores on Speaking. This is because they don’t get enough practice speaking. This isn’t their fault—many people have limited opportunities to speak English on a daily basis.

So here are my top 5 tips for getting more speaking practice outside of the classroom—for free!

  1. Join a speaking club

Many schools and universities have English speaking clubs, where students get together every week and practice English. They do it in fun, comfortable places like bars, cafes, parks and other locations. If you can’t find a speaking club near you, get some friends together and make your own!

  1. Get a speaking buddy

Sometimes it’s easier to talk to just one person. Do you have a friend preparing for IELTS? You can practice together. Make sure you speak only English! It’s easy to get distracted and speak in your own language if you’re not careful.

  1. Find a conversation partner online

Don’t have anyone in your local area to talk to? Find someone online. There are plenty of websites that connect people through Skype and other chat services. Just search for “English conversation partner”.

  1. Record yourself

Sometimes it can be helpful to record yourself and listen back to it. You can hear the mistakes you make—especially in pronunciation—and practice speaking over and over until you fix them. If you have a speaking buddy, you can record each other.

  1. Take a speaking class

Okay, so this one isn’t free. But it can be helpful to get advice and feedback from an experienced IELTS teacher. You’ll also have a group of classmates that you can learn from. Before you sign up for the class, make sure that your teacher knows a lot about the IELTS exam so they can give you good feedback. Also, make sure that you’ll have lots of chances to speak in the lessons—not just listen to the teacher!

And if you want to evaluate your own Speaking, you can download the FREE speaking checklist below!

IELTS Speaking checklist