Have you ever thought that the IELTS Speaking test is about more than just speaking? In this post, we will look at the psychological aspects of the test, and think about how you can utilise them to improve your score — especially if you are on the borderline between two IELTS bands.
What are the psychological aspects?
Let’s look at the science.
In the book Thinking Fast and Slow, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes the two systems of the human mind. System One is our unconscious thought; a constant monitoring of our environment, including the people around us. System Two is the ‘conscious, reasoning self that has beliefs, makes choices and decides what to think about and what to do’. We tend to identify ourselves with System Two, but System One has a much greater influence on us than we think. Our unconscious thoughts account for up to 90% of our ‘thinking’.
How does this help you?
The IELTS Speaking examiner is not supposed to take your personality into account when grading you. Whether they like you or not is irrelevant to your level of English. But examiners are not machines; they are human, and their System One will be making all sorts of unconscious judgments about you.
If you’re friendly and polite, and you smile and make eye contact, those judgments will be positive. Likewise, if you look at the recorder the whole time while you’re talking and walk out without saying goodbye, those judgements will be negative.
If you are on the borderline between one IELTS band score and another, a good impression could unconsciously nudge the examiner to give you the higher mark. What’s more, being polite and friendly isn’t a lot of effort. There are a few things you can do before the test to be on your best form, but otherwise it doesn’t take any preparation at all to make a good first impression. But that could make all the difference to your overall score.
There are other scientific aspects of the IELTS test too. See what science says about stress management and confidence. In the meantime, keep practising for your IELTS Speaking test and check out some Road to IELTS support materials and tutorials here.