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!
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:
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:
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:
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!