Truly it is not uncommon to feel unsettled about the IELTS speaking test. Chances are that you could be interviewed by a native speaker (a British or Australian American) whose fluency and accent could be a bit intimidating, and you could be asked questions about issues you are not so conversant with. 

But, here...

the real truth is that your African/Asian/Caribbean accent is not a deterrent at all! Your confidence and audibility will more than suffice for that.  And guess what...you are not being tested for facts! And there are just about numerous tips to get by unfamiliar questions while sounding fluent still!

Now let's take you through vital nuggets to bear in mind as you plan to go in for the speaking test...


BE Confident

This may sound easier than it is to practice, but look… It is a conversation where you are given the free reins to express yourself more than the other person. It is not a job application or a visa interview. Simply put, your interviewer does not have more social standing than you. And your race is even an advantage! Yes, "they want to get to meet you"-- your unique socio-cultural perspectives on common issues are interesting to get to know! So, like I love to tell my students, "Just flow!"


BE Natural

There is absolutely no need to be uptight. Be wary of sounding like you’re giving a memorized speech or a lecture, and you do not have to sound like an intellectual too, especially on the second part of the test.

The one minute you are given to prepare during this stage is not so that you can write down a full script and then go on to give a rehearsed speech. It is simply to help you scribble key pointers in single words or phrases that you should expand on as you speak. More like what you have in the picture below...

Treat the entire speaking test as you would with a friend answering and asking questions about casual and familiar things. Again, "flow."


DO NOT give monosyllabic or brisk responses

Avoid sounding like you’re bored with the conversation by answering in monosyllables. You want to be interesting all through the gist; hence, ensure to add one or two supporting details to even questions that seem close-ended. And be creative.  For instance, when asked,

“Do you enjoy football?”   You shouldn’t just say

“No, I don’t.”

In a normal conversation, your listener might be discouraged from keeping up with the engagement. You rather want to say something like

“Not exactly. I only happen to watch live matches a few times just to keep my friends company.”


FEEL Free to ask for clarity

If you do not hear the question clearly enough, it is not wrong to ask the interviewer to repeat himself, but you must do this properly in good, polite English. Expressions like the following could suffice:

“Can you please repeat that?"

“Oh, I’m not sure I got that clearly enough?”

“Excuse me, could you please go over the question again?"

Do not use wrong, colloquial expressions like…

“Come again”



“You said?”

More than anything else, this helps you ease off some tension; it is simple reverse psychology to ask back questions to an interviewer to whom you subconsciously feel slightly inferior. It helps you regain some confidence too.


BE Audible

Of course, you are graded based on pronunciation. But you do not necessarily have to sound like a native speaker. Many of my students for whom English is not a first language have scored above a 7 on speaking, even with a bit of mother tongue interference here and there. While it is fantastic to have a British or Australian American accent, as you can easily pronounce English words with the proper syllables and stresses that way, it is just as great to be clearer with your pronunciation as a second language user. It makes up for all the natural English pronunciation flaws you could have.

Do not try to play British copycat by speaking through your nostrils! Trust me, you would sound really awkward especially when you do not speak that way usually.

Now this is just about the most important fact...


HAVE an Instructor guide you through practice

Nothing beats regular practice before taking the test. A qualified instructor could be highly useful in zapping you when you make consistent grammar flaws and help you reconstruct your wrong sentences moving forward. You would equally need a good tutor to assist you with sounding more fluent—how and what sort of supporting details to add to questions on all three parts of the speaking test.

 Alternatively, you could record yourself responding to past speaking questions, listen back, and address your spotted errors yourself.

Do have a blast!

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