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The 3 biggest mistakes people make on the IELTS speaking test

You’re studying hard for the IELTS test, hoping to get a good score. But do you know the three biggest mistakes that candidates make on the Speaking test? Read on to find out what they are and how to avoid them.

1) Memorizing answers

Many students think they can memorize answers to the speaking test. There are websites and even books that list hundreds of IELTS speaking questions, along with sample answers that they tell you to memorize. Many people think memorizing long, complex answers with a lot of difficult words will get them a high score. However, there are a few problems with this.

First of all, grammar and vocabulary only count for half of your Speaking score. The examiner is also listening for your fluency & coherence and your pronunciation. While memorized answers might score high for grammar and vocabulary, they are likely to lower your scores in fluency & coherence and pronunciation. It’s hard to sound natural when repeating something you’ve memorized. It sounds flat, with no emotion, and no intonation. In addition, the sentence(s) you’ve memorized might not be a good answer to the examiner’s question. If your answers are not relevant to the examiner’s question, your fluebrain-770044_1920ncy & coherence score will go down.

Secondly, examiners are trained to spot memorized language. Like I said, it sounds different. The pronunciation is unnatural. Also, if a low-level student suddenly starts using high-level grammar and vocabulary, it stands out, and examiners can tell that the high-level phrases are just memorized. If the examiner knows you’ve memorized something, it won’t help your score.

My suggestion: Take all the hours you spend memorizing “excellent” IELTS answers, and use them to practice speaking instead. Talk with friends or join a speaking club. Or, spend that time learning new words that will improve your vocabulary and allow you to express your own ideas more clearly. That’s what gets you a high score on the IELTS Speaking.

2) Not taking notes on Part 2

In Part 2 of the Speaking test, the examiner gives you a topic. You have to speak about that topic, by yourself, for 2 minutes. Before you speak, you have 1 minute to make notes on a blank sheet of paper.

Most IELTS students I see make notes. But some don’t. I’ve never understood why. Perhaps they think the topic is easy. Or perhaps they think they will impress the examiner if they speak without preparing. So they read the topic card and tell the examiner they don’t need to make notes. They start speaking right away.

But you know what? Almost all of them end up stopping before their 2 minutes are finished. Many of them stop after less than 1 minute! They’ve run out of things to say, because they didn’t think about their topic. This hurts their score, because they don’t talk for the full time. I always feel sorry for these people, because they could improve their score simply by doing what the examiner suggests.

3) Not dressing appropriately

There is no dress code for the IELTS exam. Some people come in wearing a suit and tie. Others wear a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. They look like they’re going to the beach!

I think dressing too casually can be a problem for two reasons.

First of all, it doesn’t make a good impression on the examiner. To be clear, the examiner is not giving you a score based on your appearance. They’re only scoring you on your language. However, if you show up wearing your pajamas, this will make a negative impression on the examiner. Dressing well is one part of appearing confident and professional. You can also help yourself by making eye contact with the examiner and by speaking clearly and loudly.
However, the real reason I think you should dress well is that it helps you not just look more confident, but actually be more confident. Wear something that makes you feel smart, intelligent, powerful. If this is a suit, fine. If it’s a good pair of jeans and some nice shoes, that’s fine as well. Do you have a pair of lucky socks? Put those on too! The more confident you feel, the less nervous you’ll be, and the better you’ll speak.