4 Myths about IELTS Speaking Exams

IELTS ENERGY ARTWORKBy Jessica Beck from All Ears English 

If one of your goals is to attend an English-speaking university, you will probably have to take the IELTS exam.

In fact, in many universities, IELTS is actually preferred to TOEFL. And, it’s not just for students.

People looking to immigrate to some English-speaking countries must also prove their English abilities by passing this test.

So, we know that for many people with huge, important, life-changing goals ahead of them, this test is a must.

It’s not easy but it’s not impossible!

I’ll be honest with you- it’s not easy! However, it’s also far from impossible.

If you prepare well, balancing your preparation time between improving your overall English ability and learning test strategies, you can definitely get the score you need, whether it’s a 6, a 7, or higher.

To do well, your English level must be high, but, you must also know what the examiners are looking for.

My job is to help people get the scores they need on the IELTS test. From teaching students about this exam for so many years, I know that the Speaking exam is one of the scariest parts.

Not just for test candidates, but for all language learners, simply opening your mouth and letting English flow out smoothly can seem like quite the terrifying challenge.

So, take a deep breath, relax, and be comforted with this thought: being yourself on the exam will help you in so many ways!

The examiner doesn’t expect you to be perfect! Perfection is impossible anyway, even for a native speaker.

If perfection isn’t our goal, what is? Communication.

Getting your ideas across.

That’s what matters, and that’s what the examiner is looking for.

To give you confidence and help soothe some of your test anxieties, here are four test tips you need to know.

1. Some students think they need perfect grammar. They don’t.

As I said, perfection is not our goal.

Stop worrying about something that is impossible!

The examiner cares more about hearing a variety of sentence structures than she/he does about hearing perfect grammar.

In fact, here’s how the scores break down for grammar:

  • Band 9- Can still have native speaker “slips”. Wide variety of sentence structures.
  • Band 8- Most sentences do not have mistakes. Wide variety of sentence structures.
  • Band 7- A lot of sentences do not have mistakes. Wide variety of sentence structures.
  • Band 6- Lots of mistakes, but the examiner can still understand everything you say. Variety of sentence structures.
  • Band 5- So many mistakes that the examiner can’t understand you sometimes and/or not a lot of sentence structures.
  • Band 4- So many mistakes that the examiner can’t understand you sometimes and/or mostly simple sentences.

(Remember you are graded on four things: Fluency and Coherence, Vocabulary, Grammar and Pronunciation. Read more about what the examiner grades you on HERE)

2. Some students think they must sound like a native speaker to get a good Pronunciation score. They don’t.

There are thousands of English accents.

The examiner does not expect you to sound like any specific one.

If the examiner can understand you, you can at least get a 6 for your Pronunciation score. In order to get a 7 or higher in this category, simply put some emotion in your voice.

Sound excited.


Letting yourself smile and showing your personality through your voice will not only relax you, it will relax the examiner as well.

3. Some students think they must use formal vocabulary all the time. They don’t.

The Speaking exam is in 3 Parts.

Part 1 asks you informal personal questions, so you should naturally use some informal vocabulary, like slang, and use some idioms.

In fact, in order to get a 7 or higher for vocabulary, you must use some “interesting” language. Basically, that means language that doesn’t just come from a textbook.

This same advice is true for Speaking Part 2 as well.

Part 3, however, involves more serious questions.

In answering these, it is a good idea to use some more formal, serious, phrases, such as, “I am of the opinion that…”, “In my view…”, and “Some hold the belief that…; nevertheless, I honestly feel that…”.

4. The directions for Speaking Part 2 say that you should talk for 1 to 2 minutes. However, that’s not exactly true.

In Speaking Part 2, you are given a topic card, and the examiner asks you to speak about the topic for 1 to 2 minutes. However, if you only speak for 1 minute and stop, this will hurt your Fluency and Coherence score.

You must speak for the full 2 minutes.

The examiner keeps track of the time so you don’t have to.

You have enough to worry about! Therefore, do not worry about the time.

Just keep talking in Part 2 until the examiner says “Thank you” and asks you to stop talking.

The IELTS exam is a difficult test, but a fair one.

All examiners grade you on the same criteria.

If you know what they want, you can go into the test with more confidence, feeling more relaxed, and this will help you get the highest score possible.

Want to learn more?

For more tips and strategies on preparing for the IELTS exam, get the 7 Easy Steps for a 7 or Higher.

Also, listen to our podcast, IELTS Energy, on iTunes, Stitcher or online.

We are here to help you get that score you need!

Also, learn about the passing the TOEFL exam: