How would you describe your English abilities? Are you able to have a conversation with native-English speakers? Do you sometimes catch yourself making mistakes and correct yourself? Do you think your speech is error free? As strong as your English skills may be, there is always room for improvement. When a student reaches the benchmark of upper-intermediate, he or she is often able to communicate fairly well even if there are small grammar errors and words are incorrectly used. That same student is able to self correct some mistakes, extend ideas, and speak about a variety of familiar topics. What’s often misunderstood is the notion that once you are able to speak with the locals, your English-speaking abilities are no longer in need of improvement. And that can be a big reason why so many candidates get stuck at band 6 on the speaking section of the IELTS exam. Here are some tips for how to improve from band 6 to band 7 on the IELTS Speaking Test.
Avoid Informal Language
Idioms and phrasal verbs are great for showing a depth of knowledge of English vocabulary, but slang and informal language should be avoided on your speaking exam. Slang such as ‘sick’ to mean good or great might be appropriate in a film or when you are speaking with friends, but not on the IELTS exam. Even informal contractions such as ‘gonna’ in replace of ‘going to’ and ‘wanna’ instead of ‘want to’ do not show a rich understanding of English vocabulary.
Speaking quickly doesn’t mean that you can speak well and it is not the same as fluency. Speaking too fast may negatively affect your pronunciation, result in repetition of phrases or words, or lead to a breakdown in coherence. In short, you may be speaking faster than you can even think of your answers. Conversely, speaking too slowly while carefully considering every word and phrase will not be helpful either. Granted, your accuracy may improve, but your fluency will suffer. Here’s a simple piece of advice: treat the speaking test like a conversation or comfortable job interview.
We all use certain words when we are in the middle of a thought or searching for a word. Some examples are uh, um, yeah, you know, cos’, well, and like. And since we use these words without thinking about them, it’s recommended that you record yourself speaking, take an IELTS speaking class, or hire an IELTS tutor to minimize the number of times you use fillers. To be clear, it’s perfectly normal to use these fillers, but when you’re nervous you may use them more than normal and that could ultimately lower your speaking score.
Use Markers and Connectors
Accurately used markers (in my opinion, actually, if I’m not wrong, maybe you know, maybe you’ve heard) are one of the keys to reaching band 7. Incorrectly used, they are also a sure way to keep you at band 6. It’s not simply a matter of memorizing three or four discourse markers and randomly saying them in your answers. Understanding the use of these phrases and when they are most appropriate will show the examiner that you are an advanced English speaker.
Mispronunciation or a loss of clarity can be a reason some candidates are stuck at 6. Hiring an IELTS tutor is one solution. If you are interested, you can arrange private lessons with a qualified and experienced instructor. Click here for more information. You can also follow an English-speaking series on Netflix or YouTube, repeat what the characters say and record yourself for accuracy. Pay attention to word stress, tone, and rhythm. There are also speaking drills on YouTube.
If you’re still wondering how to improve from band 6 to band 7 on the IELTS Speaking Test, watch the following interview with one of our IELTS experts: How to go from band 6 to 7
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By Bryan Candy