How to build Speaking Fluency for the IELTS Speaking Part and score a higher band in the exam?

The main reason you do not score a higher band in your IELTS Speaking part is because you focus too much on delivering the answer to a task and not enough on fluency. Many of my students realised that it’s not all about the content of the answer but how it’s articulated.

 

So what strategies do you need to implement to  improve your Speaking Fluency for the IELTS Speaking exam?
  1. Practise speaking in English aloud to yourself when you’re alone

  2. Follow a practice routine

  3. Use native English speakers’ pausing techniques

  4. Relax while speaking which results in more natural speed and rhythm

 

There’s actually a lot to consider when you’re preparing for the IELTS Speaking test and you might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of points to bear in mind when answering the topic. Read on and learn strategies to improve your Speaking fluency for the IELTS exam.

  1. Practising speaking in English 

Have a conversation in English either with a fellow student or a native speaker. Sometimes, having someone to talk to in English might not be possible, so equally beneficial and useful is to practise speaking aloud to yourself when you are alone.

  1. Follow a practise routine

An IELTS examiner is looking for Fluency which refers to speaking with accuracy and natural speed. You can build both by working on your:

  • Pronunciation and Intonation (very often neglected by many students)
  • Coherence (rarely achieved by test-takers) 
  • Grammatical correctness (cover at lengths in various IELTS coursebooks)
  • Correct use of vocabulary (cover at lengths in various IELTS coursebooks)
  • Use of a variety of vocabulary(cover at lengths in various IELTS coursebooks)

You can isolate these features and practise them daily. Pay attention to the first two points – Pronunciation & Intonation and Coherence, as these are seldom executed well during the Speaking part. Hence, more information and actionable tips on how to improve your English Pronunciation & Intonation as well as Coherence are included further in this post.

  1. Avoid translating

You won’t achieve a higher band in IELTS if you still translate phrases from your own language into English. This simply prevents you from speaking fluently and naturally. Avoid translating by practising simple and more elaborate phrases in English until you can use them with the same fluency as you can use your own language. Then build up from those phrases to more complex sentences.

  1. Start using pausing techniques

When native English speakers are thinking or are searching for a better way to say something, they use fillers such as uh or um. Using these pausing techniques, will help you sound more natural.

  1. Relax when speaking

Do you think you’re the only one making mistakes when speaking in English? As a matter of fact lots of native English speakers make mistakes, too. They repeat phrases, correct themselves, and hesitate. Don’t let your errors in speaking undermine your confidence and jeopardise your IELTS exam. 

  1. Use natural speed and rhythm to train yourself in fluency

Listen carefully to native English speakers and to use the same speed and rhythms that they do. You can start imitating native English speakers by using audio recordings and listening scripts of the coursebooks you’ve been learning from. Start the recording, mark the pauses, stresses, and intonation patterns that you hear in the recordings. Wait a few seconds and then start repeating what the speaker says.If you have difficulty, listen and repeat the particular words or phrases that are causing you trouble. Then go back to the beginning of the recording and start again as often as necessary. Continue this practice until you can follow the speaker fluently. Any of the listening passages in this text could be used to practise this method.

 

Improve your Pronunciation & Intonation for the Speaking part for the IELTS exam 

English, like any other language, has certain pronunciation and intonation features that you need to become familiar with and imitate in order to produce speech that sounds like that of a native speaker. The closer you are to achieving this goal, the higher your score will be on the Speaking section of the IELTS exam. The most important speech features that you need to be familiar with are:

Stress patterns

Even if you put all the correct sounds together, you may not be understood unless you use the correct stress patterns. Stress refers to the emphasis you place on certain words in a sentence or on a syllable within a word. A stressed word or syllable is louder, longer, and higher pitched than unstressed words or syllables. Your IELTS examiner will expect you to use appropriate stress and intonation patterns as they indicate a proficient speaker or English.

Every word in English has a stress pattern. Using the wrong stress pattern can cause misunderstandings. In some cases, the stress pattern or a word can determine its part of speech. Look at the following noun-verb pairs of words. They are alike except for the stress pattern. The nouns are stressed on the first syllable and the verbs are stressed on the second. The stressed syllables are shown in CAPITAL letters.

present   PREsent (noun)       a thing given to someone as a gift
preSENT (verb)   formally introduce (someone) to someone else
record  REcord (noun)   a written documentation
reCORD (verb) to make an audio recording
addict  ADDict (noun) a person who is addicted to a particular substance 
addICTed (verb) to cause or become physically or psychologically dependant on an addictive substance
conflict CONflict (noun) a fight, battle or struggle especially a prolonged struggle
conFLICT (verb)       to come into collision or disagreement
increase INcrease (noun) growth or augmentation in numbers, size, strength, quality, etc.
inCREASE (verb)        to make greater, an in number, size, strength or quality
produce PROduce (noun)  something that is produced; agricultural products collectively, especially vegetables or fruit
proDUCE (verb) to bring into existence, give rise to
address ADdress (noun) a place where a person or organisation may be communicated with
adDRESS (verb) to mark directions for delivery
attribute ATtribute (noun) a quality, character or characteristic ascribed to someone or something
atTRIbute (verb) to explain (something) by indicating a cause 
exploit EXploit (noun) a notable, memorable, or heroic act
exPLOIT (verb) to make use of meanly or unfairly for one’s own advantage
subject SUBject (noun) one that is placed under authority or control
subJECT (verb) to cause or force to undergo or endure (something unpleasant)
entrance            ENtrance (noun) power or permission to enter 
enTRANCE (verb)          to put into a trance 

Other noun-verb stress pattern pairs are: 

conduct, console, content, contest, contrast, converse, convert, decrease, default, desert, extract, invalid, import, insult, object, perfect, permit, pervert, project protest, recall, refuse, reject, suspect.

 

Adding suffixes often changes the stress pattern of a word. Look at the following forms of the word authority.

Noun 

Verb 

Adjective

Adverb

auTHORity AUthorise auTHORitative auTHORitatively
admiRAtion  adMIre ADmirable ADmirably
aGREEment  aGREE aGREEable aGREEably
appliCAtion aPPLY aPPLIcable aPPLIcably
leGAlity LEgalise LEgal LEgally

The stress pattern of a sentence indicates the main focus of the sentence. A change in the stress pattern of a sentence can change its meaning. Compare these examples:

TOM increased the value of this establishment. (It was Tom – not James – who increased the value of this establishment.)

Tom INCREASED the value of this establishment. (Tom increased the value of this establishment- he did not decrease it.)

Tom increased the value of THIS establishment. (Tom didn’t increase the value of any establishment but this one.)

Tom increased the value of this ESTABLISHMENT. (Tom didn’t increase the value of this car).

Stressing the wrong word in a sentence may cause confusion about the meaning you want to express.

 

Rhythm patterns

Rhythm refers to the timing patterns of a language, and every language has a different rhythm. In English rhythm patterns  are based on stress. Stressed words or the stressed parts of words occur at regular intervals of time and are given an equal amount of speech time. Unstressed words or parts of words fit in between these intervals. 

Content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) are stressed or have a stressed syllable, whereas function words (helping verbs, prepositions, articles, etc.) are usually not stressed. Look at the following sentence:

Tim stormed into the room and closed the door.

The words Tim, stormed, and room are one-syllable content words, and each one is stressed. The words closed and door are also content words with a stressed syllable. The words into, and, and the are function words, hence they are not stressed.

The stressed words and stressed syllables in the example above are all given the same amount of speech time and the unstressed words and syllables are spoken faster, softer, lower pitched, and with relaxed vowel sounds.

To maintain a steady rhythm pattern, speakers often use contractions and relaxed vowels. They reduce words by dropping the final vowels or consonants. They link the end of a word with the beginning of the following word. 

Can you say these sentences? 

  1. Izzi gonna joi nus?
  2. An I’d like ta stay fera while
  3. D’ya wanna go wi thim? 
  4. Alaska. 

Intonation patterns

Intonation patterns involve changes in pitch. When you hear people talking in English you can notice that their voices are going up or down, depending on what they’re saying. Intonation is different from the pitch changes in stressed syllables because it frequently covers longer units of speech, such as clauses or complete sentences. That said, sometimes the pitch change occurs within a single word.

A range of information can be understood through intonation patterns. A falling pitch at the end of a sentence signals that the speaker has completed a statement or an idea. Falling pitch is also used at the end of a wh-question. A rise at the end of a sentence signals that the speaker is asking a yes-no question.

The statement intonation pattern:

Sarah confronted her teacher. (intonation falls at the end of the sentence)

The question intonation patterns:

What happened between Sarah and her teacher? (intonation goes up at the end of the sentence)

Sarah confronted her teacher? (intonation goes up at the end of the sentence)

 

A rise at the end of a phrase or clause indicates that the speaker has more to say. A drop indicates that the speaker is finished.

Intonation patterns can also signal the speaker’s attitude and emotions. Speakers show their certainty, enthusiasm, anger, excitement, etc., through subtle shifts in intonation. 

Why you should practise with Cohesion before the IELTS Speaking exam?

Cohesion refers to how well the idea in your spoken response fit together. You will sound more fluent and get a higher score on the IELTS speaking tasks if your responses are cohesive. You can achieve cohesion by using the techniques described below.

Organising your ideas

Your listeners will understand your talk better if you organise what you say in a logical sequence or linear pattern. This means that you tell the listeners what you are going to talk about and then go through the points you want to make. The most common pattern of organisation is outlined below:

Introductory statement
Point 1
Point 2
Point 3
Concluding statement

 

An example of this pattern is shown below:

Becoming a beekeeper has many advantages for the collector
  1. honey made locally from your own bees
  2. pollination
  3. low maintenance
The experience is a learning experience for the collector who helps conserve bees and protect their habitat.

 

Using transitional expressions to link your ideas

Connecting ideas by using transition words and phrases tells your listeners the relationship of one idea to the next. You can signal to your listener that you are going to put the events in a sequence, add information, or make a comparison. You can signal that you want to emphasize or clarify a point. Using transition words and phrases helps your listener follow the flow of your ideas. Read the following example without transitional expressions: 

 

In my physics class, we did lots of experiments that helped clarify scientific principles. I understood those principles better by doing those experiments. 

These sentences would flow better if the speaker used transitional expressions as in the following example:

In my physics class, we did lots of experiments that helped clarify scientific principles. As a result, I  understood those principles better.

 

Here are some great examples of linking words and phrases you should use in your Speaking and Writing part of the IELTS exam.

What words to use to connect ideas between sentences or paragraphs (transition words)?

Transitional expressions can be used to link ideas between sentences or paragraphs. There are a variety of different categories of transition words and phrases, and most of them are listed below. Not all the words in the same category are interchangeable. 

 

Linking words that signal that additional information will follow: 

first, second, third, etc. not only…but also… in addition moreover 
following this further not to mention indeed further
additionally furthermore equally important in fact
likewise as well, as well as what is more finally
further besides, besides that likewise last, lastly

 

Linking words that signal that specific examples will be given:

especially on this occasion in this case, in another case in this situation
for example, an example for instance specifically including
notably particularly, in particular take the case of to demonstrate
to illustrate namely as an illustration

 

Words and phrases that signal that clarify information that has been presented:

I mean under certain circumstances to put it another way in this case
that is to say in other words up to a point

 

Words that signal that emphasize information which has been presented or will be presented:

extremely surprisingly in any case undoubtedly
forever above all in any event unquestionably
obviously absolutely undeniably definitely
as a matter of fact certainly without a doubt naturally
besides emphatically more importantly without reservation

 

Words to signal that a cause-and-effect relationship will be presented:

accordingly as, as a result being that due to (the fact that)
for the simple reason that, for this reason hence consequently, as a consequence in view of (the fact that)
owing to (the fact that) seeing that since thus

 

Words and phrased to signal that the information already presented will be compared or contrasted with new information:

after all although, although this is true on the contrary compared to/with, in comparison, by comparison
nevertheless at the same time on the other hand conversely
nonetheless notwithstanding balanced against similarly
when in fact for all that in contrast whereas
in the same manner/way while this is true likewise yet

 

Words that signal a time relationship:

after, after a while in the future currently next
afterwards at first, at last, at the same time later finally, in the end
initially in the meantime during first of all, first, second, third, etc.
in the first place last, last but not least, lastly meanwhile formerly
as soon as before, before long, before this eventually previously
simultaneously soon, soon atter immediately before, immediately following subsequently

 

Word that introduce disagreement or conflict:

Words that make a concession or compromise about a point:

admittedly naturally be that as it may though, even though
albeit although in any event in the event that
given that at least but even so yet
granted that, granting that I admit that in either event still

 

Word that dismiss a previous statement or argument:

all the same in the event that whatever happens in any event
in any case it may appear that besides regardless
either way in either case, in either event rather even if

 

Word that point out a contradiction:

conversely but, however when in fact in contrast
despite in spite of by way of contrast instead 

 

Words that indicate reservations:

notwithstanding, regardless, indeed, nevertheless, nonetheless

 

Words that indicate a digression to a previous point or resuming after a digression or interruption:

to get back to the point by the way as I was saying incidentally
at any rate  anyway to return to the subject to change the topic

 

Words that point out conditions:

although, only if, providing that, unless, as/so long as, on (the) condition (that) provided that

 

Words and phrases that signal that a summary or conclusion will be presented:

given these facts hence as a result as I have shown
accordingly in conclusion, to conclude as I have said, as I stated overall
all in all, all together in short on the whole as indicated above/earlier
since as mentioned, as I mentioned as noted earlier, as has been noted, as I have noted summing up, in summary, to summarize
briefly, in brief, to put it briefly by and large consequently finally

 

Practise connecting ideas using transitional expressions with these sentences: 

  1. We had to hand in our essays on time. They wouldn’t be marked
  2. I admired my high school history teacher for several reasons. He could explain historical events as if he were telling a story.
  3. The rain poured down for several days. The river banks in the city overflowed.
  4. The rain forest provides us with many products. The forests are being cleared for crops.

 

Using parallel structures

Your IELTS examiner can understand the flow of your ideas better if you use parallel structures when you speak. Read the following incorrect example:

 

My teacher gave interesting assignments and motivating the students.

 

The examiner may be confused because you have mixed different grammatical structures. Do you mean: My teacher gave interesting and motivating assignments to the students?

In this sentence, interesting and motivating are parallel adjectives. Or do you mean: My teacher gave interesting assignments and motivated the students? In this sentence, gave and motivated are parallel verbs. 

Many sentences present information in a list or series. The items in the list or series must have parallel structures. Notice how the words in the following sentences are parallel (use the same word form or phrasing):

Nouns: The children played on the swings, slides, and seesaw.
Gerunds: Reading, writing, and speaking are important skills to learn.
Infinitives: After her accident, Allie had to learn how to speak, to walk, and to write again.
Verbs: We will run, swim, and play at the beach.
Adjectives: Betty is short, stocky, and vivacious.
Adverbs: This car runs efficiently, quietly, and dependably.
Subjects: Vendors selling postcards, artists drawing on the pavement, and folk singers strumming guitars can all be seen at the summer festival in the park.
Phrases: For all her years of triumph and tragedy, of glory and ruin, of hope and despair, the actress was still able to draw a crowd.
Clauses: Creating a map is a compromise of what needs to be shown, what can be shown in terms of map design, and what mapmakers would like to include.

Rephrasing or replacing key words

If you keep repeating a word or phrase in your IELTS Speaking exam, the examiner can get confused. Read the following example:

My teacher wrote the assignment on the chalkboard. The assignment was on the chalkboard until the teacher erased the assignment after we had all done the assignment.

 

Your ideas would be clearer if the repeated words were replaced with other expressions or with pronouns. Look at the way this example can be improved:

 

My teacher wrote the assignment on the chalkboard. She erased the board after we had all completed the task.

 

The word assignment has been replaced with task; the word teacher with she; and the word chalkboard with board. 

 

Using consistent tense, person, and number

You can confused your IELTS examiner if you are not consistent. Look at the following example:

My teacher brought five paper bags to school one day. He put us into groups and gave each group a bag. You have to take the objects out of the bags in turn and then a person has to tell a story involving the object from the bag.

The examiner might get confused by the change from the past tense to the present tense, and the change from us to you and then to a person. You can also confuse the IELTS examiner by the change from the plural form objects and bags to the singular forms object and bag.

Help your examiner follow your ideas better by providing consistency.

Look at the way this example was improved:

One day my teacher put us into five different groups. He gave each group a bag and told us to take turns pulling out an object and telling the other members of the group a story involving that object.