In this lesson, you can see what you need to do to get band seven in the IELTS speaking exam.
To get band seven in the IELTS speaking exam, you need to speak at a high level. There’s no other way; no one gets band seven for IELTS without speaking really good English.
In this video, you’ll see exactly what to do to get band seven in the four parts of your IELTS speaking score. You’ll also see some common problems that IELTS candidates have, and we’ll share some practical exercises to help you prepare for your speaking exam and improve your IELTS speaking score!
QUIZ: IELTS Speaking Exam Band 7
Test your knowledge of the ideas mentioned in this lesson and what you have to do in the IELTS speaking test if you want to get band 7.
There are 20 true/false or multiple-choice questions to make sure that you know how the score scheme works and what you have to do in each part of the test. If you need to, you can check the score scheme here.
At the end of the quiz, click ‘Finish Quiz’ and ‘View Questions’ to see all the correct answers and explanations. Good luck!
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How many parts are there in the IELTS speaking exam?CorrectIncorrect
Tick the part(s) of the IELTS speaking exam in which the examiner asks you a question (or questions).CorrectIncorrect
You can tick more than one part!
In which part(s) of the IELTS speaking exam are you allowed a minute to prepare before you speak?CorrectIncorrect
Which is not one of the scoring criteria for the IELTS speaking exam?CorrectIncorrect
The correct answer here is a criteria in the scoring scheme for IELTS writing, not speaking.
True or false: ‘fluency’ means that when you speak, you sound like a native speaker.CorrectIncorrect
True of false: if you hesitate or correct yourself sometimes, it is still possible to get band 7 for fluency and coherence.CorrectIncorrect
‘Coherence’ is a term you will see in the IELTS score scheme for both speaking and writing. In the speaking exam, you are assessed for ‘fluency and coherence’, while in the writing exam, there is an assessment category called ‘coherence and cohesion’.
Which two statements describe coherence?CorrectIncorrect
Look at what the scoring scheme says for fluency and coherence at band 7:
the candidate ‘uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility’.
If they are used correctly, ‘discourse markers’ – also known as ‘linking words’ – prepare your listener for what you are about to say. Tick all the words below that are discourse markers.CorrectIncorrect
Three answers are discourse markers.
True or false: if you use too many linking words, or use them incorrectly, your fluency and coherence score will be lower than band 7.CorrectIncorrect
Tick the terms that are features of ‘lexical resource’, otherwise known as vocabulary.CorrectIncorrect
Two refer to vocabulary, one to grammar and one to pronunciation.
Look at part of the scoring scheme for lexical resource at band 7:
the candidate ‘uses some less common and idiomatic vocabulary and shows some awareness of style and collocation, with some inappropriate choices’.
Which statement describes ‘style’? Choose one answer.CorrectIncorrect
‘Collocation’ means a combination of words that are commonly used together. Which of these sentences contains an example of a collocation mistake – that is, a word combination that is not commonly used?CorrectIncorrect
All these sentences contain a mistake, but three of them are problems with grammar. Only one – the answer you’re looking for – contains a combination of words that nobody uses.
The scoring scheme says that a band 7 candidate ‘uses paraphrase effectively’.
Which of these sentences uses paraphrase effectively to avoid repetition? Choose one answer.CorrectIncorrect
True or false: to get a band 7 score for grammatical range and accuracy, you must try to use a range of sentence structures, but it doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make.CorrectIncorrect
The scoring scheme for band 7 says that you need to use a ‘range of complex structures’. What does ‘complex’ mean here?CorrectIncorrect
Which of these contains a complex sentence? Choose one answer.CorrectIncorrect
There’s a lot to think about here. Remember that a complex sentence has two or more clauses, each clause has a subject and a verb. Some of these sentences are compound sentences – where the clauses are equal – but in a complex sentence, one clause is more important than another.
To produce error-free sentences, first you need to identify what your most frequent errors are. Which of these things are examples of grammatical errors? Choose two answers.CorrectIncorrect
There is one example of an error with grammatical form and another where the problem is with function – that is, how grammar is used. The two incorrect options here are problems with register and pronunciation.
To get band 7 for pronunciation, you need to use ‘features of natural speech’.
Which of these are pronunciation features in natural speech? Choose two answers.CorrectIncorrect
When we talk about pronunciation, we’re thinking of how words sound, not so much what they mean.
In the lesson, we referred to word stress, sentence stress and intonation. Which of these things is an example of word stress?CorrectIncorrect
True or false: if there are some English sounds that you can’t pronounce because they don’t exist in your language, this is not a problem in the IELTS exam.CorrectIncorrect
Do you sail on the sea in a ‘ship’ or a ‘sheep’?
But first, I just mentioned “the four parts of your IELTS speaking score.” Do you know what those are?
1. How Your IELTS Speaking Score Works
Your final IELTS speaking score is actually an average of four different scores.
First is fluency and coherence. This means whether you can speak without pausing or hesitating, and whether you can answer questions fully and directly.
Next is lexical resource. This basically means ‘vocabulary’. This score focuses on your ability to use a wide range of vocabulary accurately.
Third is grammatical range and accuracy. To get a high score here, you need to use a wide range of grammar structures without making mistakes.
Finally, you get a score for pronunciation. This depends both on how clear your pronunciation is, and whether you use features of native speech, like natural intonation.
We’ll look at these four scores in more detail during this class.
If you want to read the scoring system, you can, and you should! Read the IELTS Speaking Band Descriptors.
Let’s start with your fluency and coherence score, and what you can do to improve it.
2. Improving Your IELTS Fluency Score
To get band seven in your fluency and coherence score, you need to speak without hesitating much, stay on topic, and use linking words well.
It’s okay to hesitate occasionally, for example because you need one or two seconds to remember a word. However, if you hesitate often, then getting band seven is difficult.
‘Linking words’ here includes very simple connectors, like and, but or for example.
You don’t need to use formal or academic language in your IELTS speaking test. In fact, it could even hurt your score.
So, what should you do?
First, identify your biggest weakness. Here are some common problems which could stop you getting band seven:
- You pause and hesitate a lot when you speak.
- You give short answers.
- You go off-topic.
- You speak in short, simple sentences, without using linking words.
What do you think; what’s your number one problem?
It’s important to choose one. To improve, it’s better to focus on one thing at a time.
Got an idea? So, here’s what you do.
Choose a common IELTS speaking topic. Here are some ideas: free time, food, your hometown, your job, your home, travel, shopping, music, technology, or films and TV.
This isn’t a complete list, but it’s enough to get you started!
Choose one topic and record yourself talking about it for one minute. Listen to the recording.
Next, check for problems. For example, if you said your biggest weakness is hesitating and pausing, then listen to your recording and count the number of times you pause. Count every time you stop, every time you say ‘um’, ‘er’ or anything like that.
Then, repeat the task, and try to improve.
For example, if you’re working on hesitations and pauses, then try to get fewer hesitations and pauses the second time.
If you’re working on giving longer answers, then try to get closer to one minute.
After you improve your answer, set yourself a new challenge. For example, you can choose a different topic, or you can try to talk for longer. Try to talk for two minutes without hesitating, or three.
You might need some help here. For example, students who go off topic generally don’t realise they’re going off topic; that’s part of the problem.
In this case, you might need feedback from a friend or a teacher.
Use of linking words is more difficult to practice by yourself, but here’s a simple exercise you can do: write down a list of simple linking words, like this:
- for example
Do the same activity: choose a topic and speak for one minute. Try to use all of the linking words on your list.
Listen to your recording, and cross off the linking words when you use them. If you don’t use them all, try again. If you can use them all, make the task more difficult: make your list longer, and try to speak for more time.
Practice regularly with different topics, and your fluency should improve. Next, what about your vocabulary score?
3. Improving Your IELTS Vocabulary Score
To get band seven for your vocabulary score in your IELTS speaking test, you need to: use vocabulary to talk about different topics, use some less common vocabulary, use collocations, use register appropriately, and use paraphrase.
Let’s see what these things mean!
‘Collocations’ are word combinations. For example, think about the word complex. What things can be complex?
You could have a complex situation, a complex question, a complex personality, or a complex idea.
There are others, but that’s not the point.
It’s not enough to know a word, like complex, you also need to know how to combine the words you know.
‘Register’ means whether the language you use is formal or informal. In the IELTS speaking test, the most common mistake is trying to speak much too formally.
If you use words in an unnatural way, it will hurt your score. Your goal is to communicate clearly and naturally, not formally.
Finally, ‘paraphrase’ means using a range of language to avoid repetition. Let’s look at an example.
The examiner asks: “Tell me about your free time.”
- In my free time, I enjoy reading books. Whenever I have free time, I like to read different kinds of books, especially historical fiction or fantasy. I usually have free time at the weekends, so I read books as much as I can.
In many ways, this is a good answer. However, there’s a problem; can you see it?
It’s too repetitive. The candidate uses the words free time and read books too much.
Paraphrase means that you use different language to avoid this. For example:
- In my free time, I enjoy reading books. Whenever I have some time to myself, I like to sit down with a good book, especially historical fiction or fantasy. I don’t have to work at the weekends, which lets me read as much as I want.
This answer has the same ideas as the first answer you saw, but it uses a wider range of language to avoid repetition.
So, now you know what you need to do to get band seven for vocabulary. But, how can you improve?
First, focus on collocations. Most IELTS students who we meet have enough vocabulary to get band seven, but they can’t combine the words they know correctly.
Here’s an exercise: read something in English every day. It can be anything: a news article, a blog post, part of a story… Anything is fine.
In the text, try to find 5-10 new collocations using only words you already know.
The idea is not to learn new words; instead, your goal is to find new ways to use your existing vocabulary.
You can also use a dictionary to find new collocations.
For example, imagine that you’re reading a news article and you see the phrase energy use.
You already know the words energy and use, so you learn this collocation.
Next, look up the word energy in the dictionary, and find 2-3 more collocations, like:
- energy consumption
- green energy
- conserve energy
Keep track of your new collocations using digital flashcard apps like Quizlet or Anki.
By improving your knowledge of collocations, you’ll be able to use a wider range of vocabulary in your IELTS speaking exam, and this will also help you to paraphrase.
It’s also important to read and listen in English regularly to build your vocabulary, although this is a long process.
Next, what about your grammar score?
4. Improving Your IELTS Grammar Score
To get band seven for grammar, you need to do two things.
One: you need to use a range of ‘complex grammatical structures’.
Two: you need to make ‘frequent error-free sentences’.
‘Complex structures’ here does not mean that you need to use very formal or academic language, as we mentioned before.
It means that you need to use different verb tenses, sentence structures, conjunctions and so on.
For example, imagine the examiner asks you:
- What kind of food do you prefer?
- I prefer Asian food. I like strong flavours and spicy food, so I particularly like Thai food, Indian food, and so on. I’m quite keen on Japanese food as well. I think Indian food is probably my favourite.
This is a good answer in many ways, but it does not have enough grammatical range to get band seven. Can you see why?
There are four sentences all starting with the same word: ‘I.’ All of the verbs are in the present tense. Also, only one sentence has a conjunction.
To get a higher score, you need to use a wider range of grammar, like this:
- I prefer Asian food, such as Thai, Indian, and so on, because I’ve always been a big fan of spicy food with strong flavours. I tried Japanese food a few weeks ago, and I like it, although I’d say that Indian food is probably my favourite.
Think about two things here.
One: the meaning is the same. You’re expressing the same ideas.
Two: you’re not using very complicated or formal language.
What changed? We combined the four sentences into two, using words like because and although. This will also help your fluency and coherence score!
We’ve also used a wider range of verb forms, such as the present perfect, the past simple, or the modal verb would.
However, for most IELTS candidates, accuracy is more important for band seven.
Remember that for band seven, you have to produce ‘frequent error-free sentences’.
Think about the words ‘error-free’. That means no mistakes. No mistakes with prepositions, no mistakes with the, no mistakes with verb tenses; no mistakes at all, even small ones.
If you’ve been studying English for a long time, you probably have some bad habits. For example:
- You forget the ‘s’ on 3rd person verbs, so you say ‘she go’ instead of ‘she goes’.
- You forget to use past forms, so you use present verbs to talk about the past.
- You make mistakes with prepositions, like using at, in or on to talk about time.
- You use will to talk about everything in the future, instead of using going to or the present continuous when you need to.
These are some of the most common examples, but there are more!
The point is: you probably make more mistakes than you realise. To get band seven for IELTS speaking, you need to get rid of these bad habits.
So, what should you do?
First, identify five common mistakes which you make. If you don’t know, you might need to ask a teacher for feedback.
Next, choose one mistake to work on, then choose a topic and record yourself speaking, like you did before.
Choose a topic which fits the grammar you’re practicing. For example, if you forget to use past tenses, choose a topic which is about the past.
Listen to the recording and count the mistakes you make. Only focus on one grammar mistake at one time.
Repeat until you can speak for one minute without mistakes.
Then, try again with a different mistake, or a different topic.
In this way, you can learn to speak more accurately, and get a better IELTS speaking score for your grammar.
Finally, what about pronunciation?
5. Improving Your IELTS Pronunciation Score
To get band seven for pronunciation, you need to be easy to understand and use ‘features of natural speech’.
What does that mean?
For IELTS, this mostly means: intonation, weak forms, word stress, sentence stress, and linking.
An important point: your accent does not matter for your IELTS score, so long as you’re easy to understand. You don’t have to speak with a British accent or an American accent.
Pronunciation is hard to improve by yourself. You need feedback from a professional teacher to work on pronunciation.
However, there are some things you can do in your own time.
First, think about the list of pronunciation features we mentioned:
- weak forms
- word stress
- sentence stress
Do you know what these are? If not, find out! There are many resources online to help you. You can also find many free videos on our website and our channel which can help you to practice these pronunciation points.
Next, choose the point you find most difficult, and work on that with your teacher.
If you can only study by yourself, this will be difficult. But, here are some tips that could help you:
- Find English songs, and sing along to them with the lyrics.
- Find videos or recordings of famous speeches, and try to copy them. This is very good for your intonation and stress.
- Find audio sources in English—podcasts, radio shows, YouTube videos—anything will do! Try to copy what you hear with the same accent. This isn’t because accent matters, but when you copy the accent, you’ll hopefully copy a lot of the natural features as well.
Also, you should make sure you’re pronouncing all English sounds correctly.
For example, can you pronounce ‘th’ sounds, or do you change it to a /d/ or a /z/ sound?
Like everything else, you should first identify which sounds you have problems with.
Practice the sounds with your teacher. Ask your teacher to correct you every time you make a mistake. This way, you’ll improve quickly.
Okay, now you should understand what you have to do to get band seven in your IELTS speaking exam.
Getting band seven in IELTS speaking is not easy! Expect that you’ll need to spend a lot of time and effort to get there.
Good luck with your IELTS tests!
Thanks for watching this lesson from Oxford Online English, and see you next time!