How can I practice my IELTS speaking?

How can I practice my IELTS speaking?

Published: Jul 2, 2024 | By: Lucas Weaver

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Preparing for the IELTS Speaking test can be a bit nerve-wracking, but with the right approach, you can boost your confidence and improve your performance. Here are some effective ways to practice your IELTS Speaking skills:

Understand the Test Format

The IELTS Speaking test is divided into three parts:

Part 1: Introduction and Interview (4-5 minutes)

Part 2: Long Turn (3-4 minutes)

Part 3: Discussion (4-5 minutes)

Getting to know the structure of the IELTS Speaking test can significantly reduce your anxiety and help you focus your practice more effectively. Here's a detailed look at each part:

Part 1: Introduction and Interview (4-5 minutes)

In this section, the examiner will introduce themselves and ask you to introduce yourself. This part is designed to help you relax and settle into the test environment. The questions in this section are typically about familiar topics such as:

  • Your Home and Family: "Can you describe your hometown?" or "Do you have a large family?"

  • Work or Study: "What do you do for a living?" or "What are you studying?"

  • Hobbies and Interests: "What do you like to do in your free time?" or "Do you enjoy reading books?"

Tips for Part 1:

  • Be Natural: Answer naturally as if you're having a conversation with a friend.

  • Expand Your Answers: Don't just give yes or no answers. Add a bit more detail to show your fluency.

  • Practice Common Questions: Familiarize yourself with common topics and practice answering them in a clear and structured way.

Part 2: Long Turn (3-4 minutes)

This part tests your ability to speak at length on a given topic. You'll be given a task card with a topic and a few bullet points to cover. You have 1 minute to prepare and then you must speak for 1-2 minutes.

Example Topics:

  • "Describe a memorable holiday you have had."

  • "Talk about a book that you recently read."

  • "Describe a person who has influenced you."

Tips for Part 2:

  • Structure Your Talk: Use the bullet points on the task card to organize your talk. For example, if the card asks you to describe a memorable holiday, you might structure it like this:

    • Where you went

    • Who you went with

    • What you did

    • Why it was memorable

  • Use Your Preparation Time Wisely: Jot down some key points or keywords to guide you.

  • Practice Speaking for 2 Minutes: Time yourself to ensure you can speak for the full 2 minutes without running out of things to say.

Part 3: Discussion (4-5 minutes)

In this section, the examiner will engage you in a discussion related to the topic from Part 2 but on a broader or more abstract level. The questions are designed to encourage you to express your opinions, analyze issues, and discuss hypothetical situations.

Example Questions:

  • "How do you think tourism affects the environment?"

  • "What are the benefits and drawbacks of living in a big city?"

  • "How do you think education will change in the future?"

Tips for Part 3:

  • Express Your Opinions Clearly: Don't be afraid to give your opinion, but make sure you support it with reasons and examples.

  • Develop Your Answers: Aim to speak in more depth. Explain your ideas and explore different aspects of the topic.

  • Stay Calm and Think Critically: If you need a moment to think, it's okay to pause briefly. Use phrases like "That's an interesting question" to give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts.

Practice with Sample Questions & Tests

Practicing with sample test questions using practice IELTS speaking tests  is one of the most effective ways to prepare for the exam. Here's how you can make the most of your practice sessions:

Start with Common Topics

Begin by practicing questions on topics that are familiar and easy to talk about. Common topics include:

  • Family: "Can you describe your family?" or "Do you spend a lot of time with your family?"

  • Work: "What do you do for a living?" or "What do you like about your job?"

  • Studies: "What are you studying?" or "Why did you choose your field of study?"

  • Hobbies: "What do you do in your free time?" or "Do you have any hobbies?"

Starting with these topics helps you get comfortable with speaking about subjects you know well. This builds your confidence and helps you practice structuring your answers.

Gradually Move to More Complex Topics

Once you're comfortable with common topics, gradually move on to more complex and abstract topics. These might include:

  • Technology: "How has technology changed the way we communicate?" or "Do you think technology has improved our lives?"

  • Environment: "What can individuals do to help protect the environment?" or "What are the biggest environmental challenges in your country?"

  • Society: "How important is it to help others in your community?" or "What are some common social issues in your country?"

These topics often require you to think more critically and express your opinions and ideas in a more detailed and structured manner.

Use Authentic IELTS Practice Materials

Using authentic IELTS practice materials can give you a better sense of what to expect on the actual test. Look for:

  • Official IELTS Practice Tests: These provide a range of sample questions and scenarios similar to what you'll encounter on the test.

  • IELTS Preparation Books: Many books include practice questions, model answers, and tips for improving your speaking skills.

  • Online Resources: Websites and apps dedicated to IELTS preparation often have a wealth of practice questions and interactive activities.

Record Yourself

Recording yourself while speaking is a powerful tool in your IELTS Speaking test preparation. Here’s why and how you should incorporate this practice into your routine:

Evaluate Your Pronunciation, Fluency, and Coherence

When you listen to your recordings, you can objectively evaluate key aspects of your speaking:

  • Pronunciation: Listen for clarity and accuracy in how you pronounce words. Pay attention to any recurring mistakes and work on correcting them.

  • Fluency: Notice if you speak smoothly or if there are frequent pauses and hesitations. Fluency is about the flow of your speech and being able to speak without unnatural breaks.

  • Coherence: Check if your answers are well-organized and easy to follow. Are your ideas connected logically? Do you use linking words effectively?

Identify Areas Where You Need Improvement

Self-evaluation through recordings can help you pinpoint specific areas that need work:

  • Word Choice: Are you using a varied vocabulary, or do you find yourself repeating the same words? Recording yourself can highlight gaps in your lexical range.

  • Grammar: Are you making consistent grammatical errors? Listening to yourself can make you aware of mistakes in verb tenses, sentence structures, and other grammatical areas.

  • Pace: Are you speaking too quickly or too slowly? Adjusting your pace can improve your clarity and make your speech easier to understand.

(Don’t think you can do these on your own? You’re probably right! Try using your very own AI IELTS Speaking Coach to do all the work for you.)

ai ielts speaking preparation

Track Your Progress Over Time

Regularly recording your speaking practice allows you to monitor your development:

  • Baseline Recording: Start by making an initial recording to establish your current speaking level. This will serve as your baseline.

  • Periodic Check-ins: Make recordings at regular intervals, such as weekly or biweekly. Compare these to your baseline to see how you’ve improved.

  • Identify Trends: Over time, you’ll be able to see patterns in your progress. Are there persistent issues, or have you significantly improved in certain areas?

How to Effectively Record Yourself

Here are some tips to make the most out of recording your practice:

  1. Use Simple Tools: Your smartphone or computer’s voice recording app is sufficient. The key is to ensure the audio quality is clear.

  2. Set Up a Quiet Environment: Find a quiet place to record to avoid background noise that can make it hard to evaluate your speech accurately.

  3. Simulate Test Conditions: Try to replicate the test environment as closely as possible. Time your responses and follow the format of the IELTS Speaking test.

  4. Review with a Critical Ear: When you listen back, do so critically. Note down specific points for improvement rather than just getting a general impression.

  5. Seek External Feedback: If possible, share your recordings with a teacher, tutor, or friend who can provide constructive feedback.

By regularly recording and reviewing your speaking practice, you can gain valuable insights into your performance, identify areas for improvement, and track your progress effectively. This method helps you refine your speaking skills and builds the confidence you need to excel in the IELTS Speaking test.

use technology to prepare for ielts speaking exam

Use Technology

There are many online tools designed to help with IELTS speaking preparation. Let me take some time to tell you about the one that I’ve built here at Weaver School.

AI IELTS Speaking Coach

I’ve built an AI tool to practice for the IELTS speaking exam using all of the steps I’ve just outlined above. You can use the tool to:

  1. Listen to the real audio questions, just like you would on the exam

  2. Record your answers to the questions and then listen to them

  3. Get detailed feedback on your answers, including word level and choice, pronunciation, and relevance of your answer to the question.

How does this help you?

First of all, it helps you practice the IELTS speaking exam in a way that’s almost exactly like the exam. You get to practice under nearly the same conditions that you would face in the real exam.

Secondly, you get access to highly refined AI expertise in your feedback that you wouldn’t get from just a friend or an inexperienced teacher.

Even an experienced language teacher can’t tell you immediately after you finish speaking all the words you used and whether they were C1 or B2. 

With your personal AI IELTS speaking coach, you can practice taking IELTS speaking exams over and over until you feel confident enough to pass your exam.

Give it a try today and see how much it can benefit you.

weaver school ielts speaking preparation

Join IELTS Preparation Classes

If you prefer a structured approach to learning, joining an IELTS preparation class can be incredibly beneficial. Here’s why these classes are a great option and what you can expect:

Guided Practice Sessions

IELTS preparation classes offer guided practice sessions that can help you:

  • Structured Learning: The classes follow a structured curriculum, covering all parts of the IELTS Speaking test systematically. This ensures you don’t miss any important aspects.

  • Regular Practice: Consistent practice is crucial for improvement. Classes typically include regular speaking exercises, helping you build your skills over time.

  • Real-time Practice: You’ll practice in a setting that mimics the actual test environment, which can help reduce test-day anxiety and make you feel more comfortable.

Feedback from Experienced Instructors

One of the biggest advantages of joining a preparation class is the feedback you receive from experienced instructors:

  • Expert Guidance: Instructors with experience in teaching IELTS can provide you with valuable insights and tips that you might not find on your own.

  • Personalized Feedback: Instructors can give you personalized feedback based on your performance. They can pinpoint specific areas where you need improvement and offer targeted advice.

  • Immediate Correction: During practice sessions, instructors can correct your mistakes in real-time, helping you learn and adjust immediately.

Choosing the Right Class

To get the most out of an IELTS preparation class, it’s important to choose the right one:

  1. Research: Look for classes with good reviews and success rates. Check if the instructors are qualified and experienced.

  2. Class Size: Smaller classes can offer more personalized attention and feedback.

  3. Flexibility: Ensure the class schedule fits your availability. Some classes offer flexible timings or online options.

  4. Curriculum: Review the class curriculum to ensure it covers all aspects of the IELTS Speaking test comprehensively.

Benefits Beyond Speaking

While the primary focus might be on speaking, IELTS preparation classes often help improve other skills as well:

  • Listening and Understanding: Participating in discussions and listening to instructors can enhance your listening skills.

  • Reading and Writing: Many classes offer comprehensive preparation, covering all four sections of the IELTS test.

By joining an IELTS preparation class, you can benefit from a structured learning environment, expert feedback, and tailored strategies, all of which can significantly enhance your performance in the IELTS Speaking test.

Manage Your Nerves

Feeling nervous before the IELTS Speaking test is completely normal, but managing your nerves is essential for performing well. Here are some effective ways to calm your nerves:

Practice Deep Breathing Techniques

Deep breathing can help reduce anxiety and improve focus. Try this simple exercise:

  • Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four.

  • Hold your breath for a count of four.

  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four. Repeat a few times until you feel more relaxed.

Visualize Yourself Succeeding

Visualization is a powerful tool. Spend a few minutes each day imagining yourself performing confidently and successfully during the test. Picture the test environment, hear your voice speaking clearly, and see the examiner's positive reactions. This can boost your confidence and reduce anxiety.

Remember the Examiner is There to Help

Keep in mind that the examiner wants you to do your best. They are trained to be supportive and objective. Approach the test as a conversation rather than an interrogation. This mindset can help you relax and perform more naturally.

By practicing deep breathing, visualizing success, and remembering that the examiner is there to help, you can effectively manage your nerves and improve your performance on the IELTS Speaking test.

Get Feedback

Constructive feedback is essential for improving your IELTS Speaking skills. Here’s how you can effectively use feedback to enhance your performance:

Sources of Feedback

  • Teacher or Tutor: An experienced teacher or tutor can provide professional and targeted feedback. They can help you understand your strengths and identify specific areas that need improvement.

  • Speaking Partner: Practicing with a speaking partner, especially someone who is also preparing for IELTS, can offer mutual feedback. Peer feedback can highlight different perspectives and areas you might overlook.

  • Apps and Online Platforms: Many language learning apps and online platforms offer automated feedback on your speaking (one of the best is my AI IELTS Speaking Coach). These tools can analyze your pronunciation, fluency, and coherence, providing instant and actionable insights.

Using Feedback Effectively

  • Identify Strengths: Understand what you’re doing well. This helps build confidence and reinforces positive speaking habits.

  • Spot Weaknesses: Pay attention to recurring issues, whether it’s pronunciation, grammar, or coherence. Knowing your weak spots allows you to focus your practice on these areas.

  • Set Goals: Use the feedback to set specific, achievable goals. For example, if you’re consistently making the same grammatical error, set a goal to correct it in your next practice session.

  • Track Progress: Regular feedback helps you monitor your progress over time. Keep a record of feedback points and review them periodically to see how much you’ve improved.

By actively seeking and using constructive feedback, you can make significant strides in your IELTS Speaking preparation. It helps you build on your strengths and systematically address your weaknesses, leading to overall improvement and better test performance.

Focus on All Four Criteria

The IELTS Speaking test evaluates your performance based on four key criteria. To score well, it's important to balance your practice to improve in all these areas:

1. Fluency and Coherence

Fluency refers to how smoothly you can speak without unnecessary pauses, while coherence is about the logical flow and clarity of your ideas.

Tips to Improve:

  • Practice Speaking Continuously: Choose a topic and speak about it for a few minutes without stopping. This helps build fluency.

  • Organize Your Thoughts: Use linking words and phrases like “firstly,” “on the other hand,” and “in conclusion” to connect your ideas logically.

  • Avoid Fillers: Try to minimize the use of fillers such as “um,” “uh,” and “like.”

2. Lexical Resource

This criterion assesses your range of vocabulary and ability to use it appropriately.

Tips to Improve:

  • Expand Your Vocabulary: Learn new words daily and try to use them in your speaking practice.

  • Use Synonyms: Avoid repeating the same words. Instead, use synonyms to show a wider vocabulary.

  • Practice Topic-Specific Vocabulary: Focus on learning words and phrases related to common IELTS topics like environment, technology, and education.

3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy

This refers to your ability to use a variety of grammatical structures correctly.

Tips to Improve:

  • Review Grammar Rules: Regularly review grammar rules and practice different structures such as tenses, conditional sentences, and passive voice.

  • Practice Complex Sentences: Incorporate complex and compound sentences into your speech to demonstrate grammatical range.

  • Self-Correction: Be mindful of your grammar while speaking. If you notice a mistake, correct it immediately.

4. Pronunciation

Pronunciation involves the clarity and accuracy of your spoken English, including intonation and stress.

Tips to Improve:

  • Listen and Imitate: Listen to native speakers and try to imitate their pronunciation. Pay attention to how they stress certain words and their intonation patterns.

  • Record Yourself: Recording your speech and listening to it can help you identify pronunciation errors.

  • Practice Problem Sounds: Focus on sounds that are difficult for you. Use online resources or pronunciation guides to practice these sounds.

Balancing Your Practice

To ensure you’re improving in all four criteria:

  • Create a Practice Schedule: Allocate time to focus on each criterion. For example, spend one day working on vocabulary and the next on grammar.

  • Use a Variety of Resources: Utilize books, apps, online courses, and speaking partners to practice different aspects of speaking.

  • Get Feedback: Regular feedback can help you identify which areas need more attention.

By balancing your practice across fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation, you can improve comprehensively and perform better in your IELTS Speaking test.

Simulate Exam Conditions

As your test date approaches, simulating exam conditions can help you become more comfortable and confident. Here’s how to do it effectively:

Time Yourself

  • Set a Timer: Use a timer to mimic the exact timing of the IELTS Speaking test sections. This includes:

    • Part 1: Introduction and Interview (4-5 minutes)

    • Part 2: Long Turn (3-4 minutes, with 1 minute for preparation)

    • Part 3: Discussion (4-5 minutes)

  • Practice Timing: Get used to speaking within these time limits. This helps you manage your time effectively and ensures you can fully develop your answers without running out of time or finishing too early.

Create a Quiet Environment

  • Find a Quiet Room: Choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. This helps replicate the test environment and allows you to focus completely on your speaking practice.

  • Minimize Distractions: Turn off your phone, close unnecessary tabs on your computer, and let others know you’re not to be disturbed during your practice session.

Go Through Test Sections Without Interruptions

  • Full Test Simulation: Go through all three parts of the test in one sitting. This helps you build stamina and get used to the flow of the test.

  • Use Realistic Questions: Use sample questions that reflect the actual IELTS test to make your practice more effective.

  • Record the Session: If possible, record your practice session. This allows you to review your performance and make necessary adjustments.

Benefits of Simulating Exam Conditions

By simulating exam conditions, you can:

  • Reduce Anxiety: Familiarizing yourself with the test format and environment can help reduce test-day nerves.

  • Improve Time Management: Practicing under timed conditions ensures you can manage your time effectively during the actual test.

  • Enhance Focus: A quiet, uninterrupted practice session helps you concentrate better and improve your performance.

By following these tips, you can improve your speaking skills and perform well in the IELTS Speaking test. 

No matter which method you choose, regularly practicing under exam conditions can give you the confidence and competence needed to succeed. Make sure to stay consistent.

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Lucas Weaver from the Weaver School

Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.

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