Understanding IELTS Speaking Score

Let’s make sense of your IELTS Speaking Test results!

So, you just took the test for the first time and the band score you achieved was a bit far off what you expected?

Let me start by saying: “Well! Don’t worry! You’re not the only one!”

The majority of people fail to grasp the scale of the test before they actually take one, the amount of general knowledge and linguistic skills required, let alone the physical hardship of sitting in the same spot for hours! It’s no surprise that on average, it take an individual a minimum of 2 tests to take the result they need!

Ok then! What do you need to fix in order to improve your speaking score? In this article, I’ll try and explain why sometimes your score does not improve even as you upgrade your speaking skills and what you really need to focus on based on the results you have achieved so far.

✅ What do I need for each module of IELTS Speaking test?

To understand what you need to target, first you need to look at the sheet your examiner uses to score you on. In this case, we will be looking at the ‘PUBLIC” scoring rubric found on IELTS.ORG .

Fluency and Coherence: What the IELTS examiner evaluates here is your ability to understand each question, show an initial reaction and continue to elaborate without hesitation. Your response has to be completely relevant to the question and should follow a logical pattern that satisfies your listener. What examiners are specially sensitive to is use of memorized structures and phrases (usually easily detected when used in response to a question that does not need such language). Use of “Gap Fillers” and ‘Conjunctions’ to avoid long pauses and to create a coherent response respectively are of great value and should by all means be administered.

Lexical Resources: In this module, the examiner will evaluate your knowledge of vocabulary, both semantically (your range of vocabulary, idioms and colloquial) and pragmatically (your ability to choose the right word for the right place). To clarify the semantic part, I’d like to break them down into 3 groups. For scores up to 4, you need to show your ability to understand and use basic vocabulary (words that are simple and do not have multiple parts). As you go higher up towards scores up to 6, you need to show that you have adequate knowledge of Compound words (words with Prefixes and Suffixes, and usage of different Parts of Speech in different structures). Finally, if you are aiming for the top range of 6.5 and higher, you need to show your knowledge of idioms and colloquial language, not to mention pragmatic accuracy and diversity in conversation.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy: Speaking correctly is one thing, showing off the wide spectrum of your knowledge is another. IELTS Speaking Test is designed to check your ability in use of tenses, phrases and clauses (Part 1), use of descriptive language including relative and noun clauses (Part 2) and your expertise in delivering a discussion using Complicated structures such as Parallel  forms (conditional sentences, Participle clauses, etc.) Want to check your overall grammatical range and accuracy? We suggest you took the Diagnosis Test on Peterson’s Master TOEFL Writing Skills (originally intended for TOEFL writing but checks all the boxes for the most part).

Pronunciation: This module is all about accurate pronunciation, stress and intonation patterns and consistency in the delivery of a well sorted response. First, let’s get it out of the way: SPEED AND ACCENT DO NOT AFFECT YOUR SPEAKING TEST SCORE. So! Do not sacrifice correct pronunciation for fancy accent tricks and mesmerizing speed. Slow down and demonstrate your ability to Pronounce English phonetics as intended, emphasize stressed syllables correctly and extend syllable time intervals where necessary. Add pragmatically correct intonation to all this and you have a native-like utterance that guarantees a high score (and might compensate for few mistakes you may have made in other modules!)

✅ Why does my score not improve even after learning a whole lot of idioms and expressions?

Like I explained earlier, examiners are very sensitive towards grammars, pieces of vocabulary or idioms that feel memorized. But to add to that, you need to understand how Cambridge Level System (CEFR) works. You may have actually improved your skills, but perhaps not enough to take you from being a B2 learner to a C1. That is why sometimes it is more difficult to see a change in our scores if we are trying to go from a 6.5 to a 7 or from a 4.5 to a 5.5. However, it seems more attainable to go from a 6 to a 6.5 or from a 4 to a 4.5.

Want to start practicing on all that matters? Let get going!

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