speaking task

Common speaking mistakes in IELTS – Part 1


I’m starting a new series to help students learn from my experience of COMMON mistakes students make in IELTS speaking test. Since explaining all these mistakes and related corrections will take a few articles, I’m using the term “series.” So, enjoy the first article.

The biggest mistake students make is that they often fail to greet the examiner with a polite “Hello.” An informal equivalent of ‘hello’ is “Hi.” 

I understand that IELTS is an exam and, as in all exams, we answer the questions asked only. Right? Wrong. IELTS speaking test judges your English communication skills. The first part of the speaking test is called “interview”, however, I prefer to call it “breaking the ice”. This process involves short, friendly, normal conversation to open things up before the cue-card section. And breaking the ice begins with a hello. Listen to the audio attached for proper pronunciation.

This brings me to the second mistake. Students often speak in a monotonous voice. English, like all other languages, demands stress on certain words of a sentence. This is also termed as Intonation. For instance, What IS it? Where IS he? How ARE you? Listen to the audio to better understand how stress on the right words.

Now, read the following conversation:

Q: Where are you going?

A: To the library. You want to join me?

To the library – not I’m going to the library. Similarly:

Q: How do you spend your free time? (a common IELTS question)

A: Well, I prefer reading books.

Never say I spend my free time by reading books. In the English language, as in almost all languages, it is unnatural and unusual to repeat the information supplied in the question. That’s THE MOST common mistake most students make.

Q: Do you like history?

A: Yes I like history. Oops! Bands gone. You’ve made a blunder if you gave this answer.

IELTS often asks questions on activities that you may not be interested in. For instance, do you like taking photographs? Students should abstain from saying NO or YES. There could be better answers. For instance:

Q: Do you like playing golf?

A: Well, I’ve never tried. But I’d love to.

In the audio notice, the pronunciation of ‘I’ve’ and ‘I’d’. Also, notice the intonation on verbs – tries and love.

Q: Do you like reading books?

A: Professionally I’m very busy and personally I prefer painting. So, I’m not into books. 

Also, note the intonation on intensifier very and verb prefer.

I also recommend students to use the negative question to stress their point. For instance, in a cue-card question on neighbors, you can say “neighbors are meant to help each other. Are they not?” A negative question is used to assert a speaker’s belief that the assumption (neighbors are meant to help each other) is true.

Q: Do you like chocolates?

A: Everybody loves chocolates. Isn’t it? 

Note: I’ve not repeated information given in the question (the word LIKE).

Stay tuned for more interesting tips and do not forget to visit our Facebook Page. Please read my page on How to Improve your Vocabulary.

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Categories: speaking task

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