The IELTS Speaking test is the shortest test in all four modules: it lasts between 11-14 minutes. You might be forgiven, however, if you think of these 14 minutes as the longest in your lifetime, as they determine your future. Nervousness and lack of preparation are your biggest enemies, so what are you going to do about them? And should you be worried about making speaking mistakes? Here are my suggestions:
- Take risks
Good speakers are not afraid to make mistakes. Don’t feel embarrassed when you speak. The more you speak, the more your confidence will grow.
- Keep it simple
Avoid complicated subjects, difficult vocabulary and grammar that you are not sure of.
- Take your time
Don’t hurry, take it easy. You don’t have to talk like a native speaker.
- 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 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’.
What about making mistakes?
It’s a mistake to be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes are important because you can learn from them. They are an important part of your learning process. By recording yourself, you can find out what areas you need to work on.
In the test, keep it simple and only avoid errors that prevent the examiner understanding you.
Now read about a different kind of mistake: avoiding spelling and punctuation mistakes in the Writing test.