Sunday, April 10, 2011

IELTS speaking test

Introduction and Interview

This first section of the IELTS Speaking exam lasts about 4-5 minutes and gives the examiner the chance to find out a little about you through some simple 'getting-to-know-you' questions. These will be questions that you'll have something to talk about such as your family, where you come from and what your interests are. This is also YOUR chance to get off to a good start!

Example Questions:

* Q: Tell me a little about where you come from?
* Q: Do you enjoy studying English?
* Q: Why are you taking the IELTS exam?
* Q: Have you got any interests or hobbies?

Impress the examiner with your ability to give full answers to his or her questions.

Top Tips!

* Avoid short, 'yes', 'no' answers.
Q: Tell me a little about where you come from?
A: I'm from Coimbra. It's a city in the central part of Portugal. It's a very histirical city and we have one of the oldest universities in Europe.
* Use examples to back up statements.
Q: Do you enjoy studying English?
A: Oh yes! I went to England last year and loved being able to communicate with local people. And knowing a second language means you have access to a whole new culture ... new authors, English films.
* Give the examiner a picture of you.
Q: Why are you taking the IELTS exam?
A: I'm taking an IELTS course in India in order to go to university in the UK. I've been accepted on a Business course in London but need to get the right IELTS score so I've been doing lots of IELTS Speaking practice.
* Q: Have you got any interests or hobbies?
A: Not really. I like watching football and read books quite often, but I don't have any hobbies really. Hopefully one day I'll discover a hidden interest!

Part 1: Troubleshooting

What if the examiner asks you a question you don't understand? How should you respond in a situation like this?

You may have problems understanding a question. The simple answer is: ask for clarification. If it was a word or phrase you didn't quite understand just say something on the lines of:

"Sorry but could you explain what you mean by ........"
"I haven't come across that word/expression before. Could you explain what you mean?"

If you just didn't understand what the interviewer has said, ask them to repeat the question:

"Sorry, I didn't catch that. Could you say that again?"
"Excuse me. Could you repeat that?"

And if you're looking for clarification ask the interviewer to confirm what you think was asked:

"Do you mean ........"
"When you say ........, are you asking/do you mean ........?"

Hopefully, these simple questions will get the interview back on track and you'll also have impressed the interviewer with your conversation skills.

Part 2: The Long Turn

In Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking exam you have to speak for between 1 and 2 minutes on a set topic based on information on a card the examiner will give you. You'll be a given a minute to prepare what you want to say - just enough time to jot down some ideas to help give your talk structure and interest.

Example Topics:

* Example 1: Describe a teacher you have fond memories of.

You should say:

when this was
where you were studying when you met
which subject they taught you
and what it was about the person that makes them so memorable.

* Example 2: Describe an item of technology you use that you couldn't do without.

You should say:

what this technology is
when you first started using it
how you use it
and why it's so essential for you.

Top Tips!

* Make the most of your preparation time and make notes.
* Structure your talk with an introduction, main body and conclusion. Signpost your talk at the end with words or expressions like 'So ...', 'As you can see ...', 'To sum up ...'.
* Add personal details such as short anecdotes to help make your talk interesting.
* Don't speak too fast. Pause between sentences and try to relax.

Part 2: Troubeshooting

Many people preparing for the IELTS long turn worry how they can finish what they want to say in the time available. The best way to get the timing right is to practise making short talks on various topics on your own. (Or in front of a friend if you're feeling brave!) Try building in a short introduction and conclusion to give your talk structure. You'll almost certainly overrun or finish too quickly at first but the more you practise the sooner you'll get a feel for the time available. And remember, we often feel nervous when presenting and this can often lead to us speaking too quickly. Try not to rush. Regular pauses between sentences will help you control the pace of your talk and the examiner will find it easier to follow what you're saying.

Part 3: Two-Way Discussion

In Part 3 of the IELTS interview, which lasts between 4-5 minutes, you will participate in a discussion with the examiner based on the topic in Part 2. The examiner is likely to ask you questions based on your experience or opinion of the subject.

Example Questions:

* Topic = Sport you watch or participate in
Q: How important is it for young people to be involved in sport?
Q: Which sports are particulalry popular in your country?
Q: What would you recommend to someone thinking about taking up a new sporting interest?

* Topic = Somebody who has been an important friend to you
Q: Why are friends so important to us?
Q: Which qualities do you most value in a friend?
Q: Is it common to have a 'best friend' as we get older?

Top Tips!

* Again, avoid short, 'yes', 'no' answers.
* Use personal anecdotes to help yourself make a point or express an opinion.
* Use expressions to allow yourself time to think. For example: 'That's a good question.', 'Well, let me think ...'
* Refer to stories in the news to help make a point .

Part 3: Troubleshooting

Many non-native speakers about to attend an IELTS interview are understandably worried about making mistakes in their use of English. How important is it to be accurate and should you try to self-correct any mistakes you make? The fact that you have a good level of English will certainly be an asset and the interviewer will be reassured if you can speak clearly and reasonably accurately. Self-correction is a good way of showing the interviewer that you're aware of having made a mistake. However, don't go mad trying to correct each and every error! Remember, you should also be demonstrating your fluency skills as well. Monitoring your speech TOO closely and self-correcting every mistake will slow you down and make you sound rather hesitant. Remember this: the interviewer will be interested in WHAT you have to say as well as how you say it so try to concentrate on this fact and worry less about speaking 'perfect' English!

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