Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

February 15, 2012

My IELTS Speaking Test is tomorrow – Can you help me TODAY?

This is a cry that I get often.  I really don’t understand why people leave it so late. Going over the exam procedure, making sure that you know what to do and when things are happening, checking the times etc.. is one thing you should do the night before, but trying to address the whole speaking test the night before or even in the days before the exam begs the question – should you even be doing the exam?

In actual fact my advice to students the night before their exam is (when they have checked the points mentioned above) to relax, watch a movie, read a book or magazine (in English) and go to bed early!

Frankly I would not be prepared to give this kind of last-minute coaching for two reasons. Firstly it wouldn’t be helpful and I don’t want anybody investing their time and money in something that isn’t going to help them to succeed and secondly, I have a feeling that if the result wasn’t the one wanted then I’d probably get the blame! So, my BIG message to all IELTS students in this post is please, please don’t leave things to the last-minute.

If you take a driving test do you get into the car the day before for the first time? Language is a skill the more you practice the better you get generally. Speaking is the most fundamental part of a language and you just need to find opportunities to practice. If you can’t speak well how on earth will you manage in your new country, your new job, or your new study? That’s what the IELTS is testing! Do you have the right level of English to succeed in the venture that you are embarking upon?

Your approach to preparation in the IELTS tells me a lot about how you will succeed. I meet students who are organised, who have a plan and who create a process for their learning and their preparation. They balance their general English practice with their IELTS test practice and know that it is impossible to get a good band without both. They are usually successful. I also meet students who keep on just ‘having a go’. This approach to the IELTS exam is VERY EXPENSIVE and will not guarantee you success. If you do not get exposure to English except via the Cambridge practice tests then getting a high band score is going to take a VERY long time and in some cases where a student’s English is not of a high level it will be impossible.

There are no short cuts. Either you have the language or not and no amount of IELTS practice can make up for a lack of good English language skills just as really great language may still not get you your score if you don’t prepare well for the exam itself.

So, particularly in the speaking, make sure you give yourself the best chance and start to practice as soon as you can and way before you go into the exam.

When it comes to speaking there is no substitute for actually doing it, getting out into the world and creating opportunities to use English with other people. These don’t have to be English native speakers – you can practice with other people who speak well or with other IELTS candidates who are looking for the same band score as you.

Yesterday I was speaking to Zakir from Pakistan. He is taking his test this week and he told me how in the last test he only scored a low score but wanted to get a 6 or 6.5 this time. His strategy for improving his score is to speak every day with a friend who is about the same level and they go through the test pretending one of them is the examiner and the other the IELTS candidate. They choose lots of topics and ask and answer the questions as if it were the real exam. They also take some time to chat as well. I was amazed at his level of fluency and confidence through using this simple technique to improve his speaking.  If you don’t have the chance to speak to a teacher, join a class or converse with English speakers then a simple arrangement like this will really help you to get some fluency and use your English.

On my Gapfillers site I encourage members to find speaking buddies – other members who are on the same IELTS journey who they can connect with on Skype in order to practise the speaking. I also run speaking workshops where we practise the test and talk about how to approach the speaking using practice exercises to improve performance. The speaking may only be a short part of the test but I really feel that it is one in which you can have a lot of influence over your score so it’s really worth making that extra effort to make it good!

So, here are some tips to improve your speaking:

  • Find speaking buddies to practise with
  • Record yourself – it’s good to hear how you sound and this will help you to hear where you hesitate or where your speaking might not be clear
  • Take any opportunity you can to speak – join a local English club or start one yourself! Look for an online one or start one yourself
  • Choose some topics write them on bits of paper, fold these up, put them in a container – everyday choose one at random and speak about it non-stop for 1 minute (then extend to 2 minutes) Choose some ‘silly’ topics like oranges or purple shoes etc.. if you can manage 2 minutes on this then the IELTS Part Two will not be a problem
  • Don’t stick to IELTS books go beyond this and just get out into the world to found opportunities if you have a wider experience then you will have much more to say in the IELTS exam
  • For pronunciation find recordings of poems or other short pieces and try to imitate the speakers – record yourself and compare

Finally, look at the video at the top of this post. There is a question at the very end. Make sure that YOUR answer is YES!

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there 🙂





  1. […] background-position: 50% 0px; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } rliberni.wordpress.com – Today, 5:19 […]

    Pingback by My IELTS Speaking Test is tomorrow – Can you help me TODAY ... | The world of IELTS | Scoop.it — February 24, 2012 @ 11:20 am | Reply

  2. Well, I am not a native speaker. I am planning to undertake an undergraduate degree in the UK.I have just got my IELTS results with Listening 7.5, Reading 6.5, Writing 6.0 and speaking 5.5 😦 with overall band score of 6.5.However, my university asks for overall band score of 6.0.What I am worried is I am not sure whether my speaking test score is equals to Level Test Upper Intermediate (B2) which is the band (Level Test Upper Intermediate (B2)) visa officials ask.I was wondering if any one could please clarify it for me.Please do provide links if necessary.
    Thanks a lot.:)

    Comment by birthday parties san francisco — February 28, 2012 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

    • I would say that a 5.5 is below the level of B2 that you require. You need to be getting a 6 or 6.5 for upper intermediate. Your other scores are better which suggests that you are not getting enough speaking practice. You need to find opportunities to speak and improve your fluency.

      Comment by rliberni — February 28, 2012 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

  3. About IELTS
    IELTS stands for ‘International English Language Testing System’. It is an international standardized test of English language proficiency. It is jointly managed by University of Cambridge ESOL Examination, the British Council and IDP Education Australia, and was established in 1989.
    The tests are administered at centers throughout the world. Internationally, universities, professional bodies, government agencies and immigration authorities of countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia recognize it.

    The International English Language testing System is designed to assess the language ability of candidates who need to study or work where English is the language of communication and instruction. It covers four basic language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking.

    IELTS is a compulsory exam for admission into universities and training programs in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada

    Comment by jon — June 15, 2012 @ 6:18 am | Reply

    • Thank you for your explanation Jon.

      Comment by rliberni — June 20, 2012 @ 6:14 pm | Reply

  4. I’m fortunate enough that I speak English rather well, and that I somehow pick up languages pretty quick. I did the IELTS Test for the General Module, scored an overall 8.0 score without going over-board with the preparation.

    The only thing I did prepare was for the format of the test and get used to listening part. The key thing is that you should be relaxed and read the questions before the tape is played, so that you target the answers you need.
    The reading test is fairly straight-forward, can’t really add much here, except that having a wide range of vocabulary will help. There’s ample time to review answers after you’ve finished the test.
    The writing test needs some degree of practise if you write slowly, I worked on that a little bit and it does help come test-time.
    The speaking test : let’s be honest, I just improvised all the way through. I knew about the 3 sections of the speaking test but since you’re given a random topic during the test, you basically have to think of something on the spot. You’re given 1 or 2 minutes to make notes on what you’ll say but I didn’t even take that as I was going to improvise anyway, and I told that to the examiner “Do I have to wait for 1 minute before speaking ? I’m going to be saying what comes to my mind anyway.”. The speaking test is about fluency and how accurate you are in your speech. Just speak with people in English and that should help you out.

    I scored respectively : 7.5 (Listening) ; 8.0 (Reading) ; 7.0 (Writing) ; 8.5 (Speaking), with a grand total of 4 hours of preparation.

    Comment by KimKas — July 31, 2012 @ 8:43 am | Reply

    • Dear Kim Kas thank you for your comment and sorry for the long delay in replying. You have hit the nail on the head with this and I agree absolutely the key to IELTS is great English language skills. You are fortunate to have these and so the exam does not pose any great problems for you. To be honest this is the way students SHOULD approach the exam – make sure they have great English skills first and then spend a few hours preparing. However, the reality is much different. Many students take the exam without improving their English skills and think that just by taking it over and over they will finally reach their goal. Some do but many give up. This is hardly surprising as you do, as you point out, need to practise your English first before you practise your IELTS. The blog post was written for those people who contact me a few days before their exam for speaking practice having never spoken English to anybody at all and whose skills are not up to the band that they seek.

      I’m not sure that ‘improvise’ is the right word, you communicated – this is not a game you either communicate well or you don’t. If you are a good English speaker then you are able to take the topic and produce a good answer as you know the vocabulary and stucture that is appropriate in the context. I would be able to do exactly the same in the speaking test as well but it has to be an appropriate answer or you don’t achieve the score you want.

      Your advice is sound GET GOOD AT ENGLISH and then spend a little time learning the test format.

      Comment by rliberni — August 18, 2012 @ 8:35 am | Reply

  5. thanks for these tips! IELTS speaking is really nerve-wracking! I hope I will be able to ace this test because I wanted to follow my dreams of working in an English-speaking country.

    Comment by Marie — February 28, 2013 @ 6:15 am | Reply

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