Original IELTS Resources by Ryan who also runs an IELTS network forum www.ieltsnetwork.com and an IELTS related podcast www.ieltsielts.com/more/podcast/ , where he interviews successful IELTS candidates.
Here you are, in the speaking part of the IELTS test. You’ve just completed part one and you think it went well. Here comes part two. The nerves creep in. The examiner asks you to speak for two minutes about …
The spot light is firmly fixed on you. You’ve got to come up with the content of your answer within a few seconds and then you’ve got to speak coherently and fluently for two whole minutes.
Ryan has invited me here to share with you the three essential techniques for sounding fluent when you speak in part two of the test.
I’m Ashley Howard. I am a professional voice coach. I have an MA in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, I’ve been coaching for over 12 years and I’m the author of The Complete English Pronunciation Roadmap that guides non-native speakers to speaking English with more clarity and confidence.
Technique #1 Think In Chunks
This is part of a transcript of a real candidate that performed very well in this part of the exam:
“Recently, I took a coach from Toronto to Montreal to visit my brother. It is a journey that normally takes about 5 hours, but this bus company stops halfway for a 30 minute break.”
When we listen to someone speaking (in any language) we are always asking ourselves, ‘what’s the most important information?’. This might vary for a number of reasons, but some speakers help the listener and some don’t. In the exam, you need to help the examiner!
In English, one of the ways we do this is by dividing up our sentences into sections (chunks) that contain one of those important bits of information. For example:
“Recently / I took a coach / from Toronto / to Montreal / to visit my brother. / It is a journey that normally takes / about 5 hours, / but this bus company / stops halfway / for a 30 minute break.”
Now it is not just the highlighted words that are vital in helping the examiner follow your story but the forward-slashes that segment those important words. In my world, this combo is called tonic syllables and tone units (feel free to google it) but I prefer to call it ‘chunking’.
Try speaking the example aloud: emphasise the highlighted words and add a slight pause at every forward-slash (sometimes it might just be a split-second, other times it might feel more appropriate for it to be a second or two).
Depending on your first language, this will most likely feel very different to the way you usually speak, but to a native speaker (and more importantly your examiner), it’ll make you sound super fluent because you’ll be indicating the important words but also giving them the space to digest what you are saying.
Technique #2 Tell A Story
If you think about it, everything we say is storytelling. Right now, I’m telling you the story about how telling a story will help you in the speaking test. Just a moment ago I was telling you the story about ‘chunking’. Whether it’s fact or fiction, formal or informal, serious or silly, everything is a story.
There are many things I could say on the role of storytelling in helping you sound more fluent, but the most essential is to recognise that you are like a tour guide. The best tour guides know where to start and where to finish. They know exactly what to point out on the journey. And they know when enough is enough and when to say more.
So, how well are you guiding the examiner with your voice? Are you indicating when there is an important ‘landmark’ coming up in your story? Are you indicating where they are on the journey: beginning, middle or end?
All of these things are to do with the way we use our voice: essentially, intonation. Are we changing the pitch of our voice at the right moments?
Try this: speak this next section of the transcript above, and on the highlighted words, change the pitch of your voice to a slightly higher note:
“I chose / to travel by public transportation / because I don’t / like driving / long distances. / When I travel via bus, / I can read / or work / on my computer / or sleep. / I find this helps me arrive relaxed. / In fact, / I often opt for the public transportation option / if I can.”
So from the previous section, the examiner knows that the speaker is travelling by coach. And if you changed the pitch/intonation of the highlighted words above, then this is the story they will have heard: chose, public, don’t, driving, distances, bus, read, work, computer, sleep, relaxed, often, can. They will have got the story and marked you as fluent.
Technique #3 Keep The Frontal Lobes Functioning
The frontal lobes are the parts of the brain that come in really handy when we want to communicate. They control language, emotional expressions, memory, judgement and problem solving. All of these would be useful to have in the speaking test. But under stress (the kind you might be feeling in the exam), they are prone to shutting down because what’s called the autonomic nervous system thinks it is a life or death situation. Did you know that one of the things that is under conscious control that can keep your frontal lobes functioning is breathing?
Now, whilst you won’t stop breathing in the test, you might not be taking every opportunity you can. It is these missed opportunities which can stop you from thinking at your best.
And ‘chunking’ can help you with this too! Note – I’m NOT suggesting that you breath at every forward-slash, but instead of trying to breath only at the end of a thought, maybe you could take a few breaths on the journey. Try it with this:
“ (BREATHE) The price, however, / was a little steep. / (BREATHE) I think I paid $110 / for a return ticket, / (BREATHE) which, to me, / is quite expensive. / (BREATHE) I suppose it would have been cheaper to drive, / (BREATHE) but I feel arriving fresh / is money well spent. / (BREATHE) So, on the whole, / the entire experience was a positive one. / (BREATHE) I would highly recommend it / to anyone.”
So, tell your story by modulating the pitch of your voice, chunk your sentences into bite sized pieces with one important piece of information, and be sure to breathe more regularly.
This exercise pushes you to repeat Task 2 sentence structures over and over again to help familiarise you with accurate grammatical and lexical forms. If you find this exercise helpful, don’t forget to sign up for my email newsletter to receive my IELTS materials directly to your email!
How would you structure your response if given one of these questions:
1.Some people think that residents must take responsibility for cleaning and tidying up their neighbourhood. Others believe that the government should take care of it. Discuss and include your own opinion.
2.Nowadays most people spend less time at their homes. What are the causes of this? What are the effects on society?
3. In many countries fast food has become a part of life. It has greatly affected people’s lifestyle. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Give your opinion and relevant examples.
Watch this video for a few ideas:
IELTS essay structures for real 2019 questions! - YouTube
Whether you are a first-time IELTS taker or someone that needs to resit the exam, this document can provide some direction regarding how to prepare effectively. Before we begin, it is important to remember that the IELTS is a language proficiency exam, and thus preparing for it goes beyond simply reading a few textbooks and watching a few YouTube videos. You will see the word “actively” on this page several times. This word is used to highlight the importance of taking initiative in your studies and documenting your progression as your language improves. Be sure not to let yourself confuse passive study approaches (i.e. half-listening to a BBC podcast episode while gazing out a bus window) with active study approaches (i.e. listening to a BBC podcast episode more than once and noting/mimicking/reviewing all new language items you hear). To arrive at an effective IELTS preparation strategy, complete the following 4 steps and…(more)
Nowadays, the most important task is the protection of the environment for future generations. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Although there are many pressing issues in the world today, preservation of the environment for future generations is an extremely important concern. I thus agree that humanity should prioritise its address of issues that affect the natural world. I will support this position by looking at the environment’s role in human health and the manner in which it provides various sources of energy for human activity.
Firstly, environmental neglect can lead to a serious decline in the healthfulness of people. For example, the quality of air in countries with heavy manufacturing industries is often so low that extended exposure can be carcinogenic. The ramifications of this can be problematic for many generations, as pervasive illness can make it impossible for communities to build wealth and dig their way out of poverty. This is thus one clear reason why attention to the wellbeing of the natural world is paramount.
Further, reckless use of energy sources can have detrimental effects that last into subsequent generations. For instance, deforestation in parts of Canada and Northern Europe in the 20th Century has altered timber resources in these regions in ways that will require several decades to restore. If these resources are not replenished, the responsibility will fall the shoulders of future generations, which is a burden that could make these people less competitive globally.
As the above makes clear, ensuring posterity’s inheritance of a healthy natural environment is critical for many reasons. I hope human intelligence and ingenuity continue to work towards making this possible.