So what do you need to focus on to achieve a band 9 in one of the most nerve racking sections in the IELTS exam. The speaking test can be daunting for many, and rightly so because the spotlight is suddenly on you!
In simple words you need fluency, confidence, spontaneity and coherence to score a 9 band in speaking. But this would be an oversimplification of the problem.
Below, we detail out how to make yourself comfortable with the test, and dig deeper into the exam format and the examiner’s expectation. If you can use the wisdom here, achieving the dream of a band 9 is not far-fetched.
What is the perfect answer?
To begin answering a question, you must consider the following points:
1. Be relevant: When answering a question, take a few seconds to align your thoughts completely. If a question is about which sport you like, it is very easy to end up talking about your favourite sports person instead.
2. Stick to the facts, never give memorized answers: When answering a question, do not try to impress the examiner by giving prepared information. Remember, you don’t get marks for just any information, not on how interesting your life is. For example, the question could be – ‘Does your family have a dog? The answer to this is either a – ‘Yes, we have a dog and we call it Buddy’ or ‘No, we never had a dog, no one is really fond of pets in my family’. This is a perfectly good answer.
3. Single words don’t cut it: Sometimes you may be asked a question to which the answer could be a single word answer. In such cases, you may use the question as a reference to complete or extend the answer. For example: ‘Do all your family members live together?’ Answer with ‘No/yes, all my family members do/do not live together’ instead of just a ‘No’.
Section 1 – Stick to fast, give an honest answer, do not give one word answers!
This section is easy and is more like a chat with the examiner who will ask you basic question concerning you and your life. Treat this section like a conversation and try to be simple in answering direct questions as mentioned above.
Section 2 – Use the one minute to make notes, speak at length, do NOT repeat!
Section 2 is cue card based and you are judged for speaking at length. You must speak an average of at least two minutes. As part of the cue card, you are asked specific questions related to current issues, experiences or asked to describe scenarios in detail.
How to approach cue card questions?
The trick here is break down the main questions of the cue card into several little questions and keyword. For example, if you are asked about your favourite vacation, the cue card may look like:
Can you talk about your favorite vacation, you must say:
1. Where did you take this vacation?
2. Who was with you?
3. Why is it your favorite vacation?
To be able to speak for 2 minutes or more on this cue card, you should break it down further like this:
Where did you take this vacation?
Where did I go?
What type of holiday? beach, hill-station, trekking, pilgrimage
When did I go?
Who all went with me? – friends? family? tour?
What was so interesting about this vacation and:
Why is it your favorite vacation?
What did we all do?
How was the weather?
Was the place beautiful? special? why?
Hotel stays – were they special?
How did we have fun?
Any special experiences?
When you get a minute to prepare your answer, breaking the question down and noting the keywords give you enough “material” to develop a rich and long answer. You need to refer to these notes.
Section 3 – Give an opinion, support it with an argument:
Consider this section as a continuation of the previous section because most likely you are asked questions that are a deeper exploration of the second section.
For example, if the previous section is about your favourite advertisement to date, the third section maybe about your opinion regarding today’s marketing scenario.
Key to a good answer :
1. In this section you are expected to have an opinion regarding the subject matter, negative or positive.
Divide your answer in your head into two parts:
• The opinion
• The reason or argument supporting the opinion
For example, to answer the question, “How is tourism industry in your country?”
Opinion – I think tourism is highly under-developed in my country…
Argument – Given the vast geography, cultural diversity and geographical variety, India should be the tourism capital of the world. But barring a few places like Goa and Rajasthan, not many places have great infrastructure to attract tourists.
Disclaimer – Do not try to be right, Take a stand and support it!
Do not worry about how good or bad your opinion is, you are not judged on your character or thoughts. Stay true to how you feel about the subject matter at hand.
Consider achieving a 9 in the IELTS exam only and only if you have done the following tasks:
1. Mock practice with a friend: As many times you hear this tip, it never stands to fail the test of time. So, stop procrastinating the first step is practice. Grab someone you know and begin.
2. You have explored all possible topics: Don’t be caught by surprise by the question you are asked. There are many practice tests that you can find online which will give you an idea of what kind of questions you may expect.
3. You have built vocabulary around each topic: if you are talking about a train trip you took, your vocabulary could include the following: station, bogey, platform, berth, rail tracks, ticket collector, passenger, boarding, arrival and so on.
4. You have recorded yourself: You will never know what you sound like unless you hear yourself, so go ahead whip out that phone and record your progress. The analysis that you can do here is – the number of words in a minute, the pronunciation, the tone of your voice, the fluidity and the mistakes that you make repeatedly.
5. Practiced confidence: The trick with practicing with a friend is not just to be able to hold a conversation but do it like it is a language you are well versed and fluent in. In fact, you may not be very fluent, but having confidence is always a bonus when speaking, it can trick people into believing that you are in fact comfortable using English.
IELTS speaking vocabulary for band 9
How to work on your vocabulary? Going through long word lists does no good at all to improve your ‘active vocabulary’. Active vocabulary is what you can remember and use on a frequent basis while conversing and writing. Thus, a better approach would be to keep a repository of phrases and genre specific vocabulary and refer to them every time you practice a mock speaking test.
1. Practice opening lines: Having a strong opening when answering opinion based questions can get you bonus points. Practice these:
a. I am of the opinion that
b. My experience with this matter has been
c. In my experience
d. According to my knowledge
e. I have a negative/positive take on this subject
2. Listing vocabulary: When you are trying to drive home the point it is good to break it down into sections that you can easily explain by numbering them. Try these:
a. I agree/disagree for 3 reasons or for the following reasons
b. Firstly…, secondly…, thirdly… and so on
c. My opinion is based on the following reasons
d. There are 4 reasons to support this argument
3. Concluding Vocabulary: To avoid sounding abrupt when finishing your dialogue, practice using these:
e. All in all, this is what I believe…
f. In conclusion, I would like to…
g. In the end, I think
h. I would like to end this by saying…
i. I would like to conclude by saying…
4. Genre specific words: This is one list you need to compile yourself but it is easy to find with a simple web-search. Here is a list of genres for which you can populate important words. We have done the first three for you
• Home town – Small city, City-centre, outskirts, traditionally, famous for, main occupation, known for, monument, history, Victorian architecture, British era
• Interests and hobbies – fond of, passionate about, great interest, good at, would love to,
• Travel and vacation – itinerary, lodging and boarding, serene beaches, valley, homestay, sightseeing, cuisine, local-food etc
• Social network