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IELTS Speaking: Good speakers make mistakes

IELTS Speaking: Good speakers make mistakes

The IELTS Speaking test is the shortest test of the four modules: it lasts between 11-14 minutes. It can, however, feel like the longest 14 minutes of your life, as they determine your future. Nervousness and lack of preparation are your biggest enemies. They can knock your confidence, and can have you making mistakes. In this post, I’m going to focus on the second point and show you why you shouldn’t worry about making speaking mistakes.

Four key tips

It’s a mistake to be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes are an important part of your learning process. Here are my top four suggestions for developing your skills for the IELTS Speaking test:

  1. Take risks
    Good speakers are not afraid to make mistakes. It can feel risky when you first start speaking because you don’t want to say the wrong thing. Don’t feel embarrassed when you speak. The more you speak, the more your confidence will grow.
  2. Keep it simple
    Avoid complicated subjects, difficult vocabulary and grammar that you are not sure of.
  3. Take your time
    Don’t hurry, take it easy. You don’t have to talk like a native speaker.
  4. Record yourself
    You have to talk for two minutes in Part 2, so it is good practice to time yourself and check your own speaking. This will enable you to identify your weak areas, the areas in which you tend to make speaking mistakes, and to work on them.

What if I can’t find the right word?

Don’t panic, take a deep breath and continue talking. The examiner is looking for your fluency and cohesion; not remembering one or two words won’t do that much harm. To learn more about what fluency and cohesion are, watch this 5-minute video from the British Council. 

If you are caught in a situation where you don’t remember a word, you can:

  • approximate — use a word with roughly the same meaning. For example, a ‘violin’ is a ‘musical instrument’.
  • describe something to explain its meaning. For example a ‘modem’ is ‘the small box that connects you to the Internet’ or
  • use an all-purpose word, like ‘thing’.

In the test, keep it simple and focus on avoiding errors that prevent the examiner understanding you.

Building confidence

There are plenty of things you can do to build your confidence before the IELTS Speaking test. Preparation is key. Before you start practising for the Speaking test, you should know exactly what the examiners are looking for. This will inform how and what you prepare. Outside of test practice, there are practical steps you can take to keep your mind and body ready for the test. Take a look at these tips here.


  1. Bibin Ealoor says:

    The British Council website lists 4 assessment criteria for IELTS Speaking – fluency and coherence, pronunciation, grammatical accuracy and lexical resources. So, I am concerned if we speak with a specific accent, would it affect the band score? Please advise.

  2. glaiza ramos says:

    Hello..I wanna ask if I can use a scratch paper for the IELTS writing before transferring my final essay on an answer sheet..I’m having a hard time writing my essay directly on an answer sheet.

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