What if the examiner asks you a question you don’t understand? How should you respond in a situation like this?
You may have problems understanding a question. The simple answer is: ask for clarification. If it was a word or phrase you didn’t quite understand just say something on the lines of:
“Sorry but could you explain what you mean by ……..”
“I haven’t come across that word/expression before. Could you explain what you mean?”
If you just didn’t understand what the interviewer has said, ask them to repeat the question:
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you say that again?”
“Excuse me. Could you repeat that?”
If you’re looking for clarification ask the interviewer to confirm what you think was asked:
“Do you mean ……..”
“When you say …….., are you asking/do you mean ……..?”
These simple questions will get the interview back on track and you’ll also have impressed the interviewer with your conversation skills.
The questions are easy, so the examiner cannot be sure of your level from only Part 1. You can give very easy answers, but this is a chance to make a good impression. If you give easy answers, the examiner will not know if you are Band 4 or maybe Band 5. If you give good, specific answers with explanations, the examiner will think you could be Band 6 or Band 7!
You can use this time to practice making good sentences. If you wait until Part 2 and Part 3 to give longer answers, you might not do so well. Athletes and musicians always take time to warm up. You should too!
In Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking exam you have to speak for between 1 and 2 minutes on a set topic based on information on a card the examiner will give you. You’ll be a given a minute to prepare what you want to say – just enough time to jot down some ideas to help give your talk structure and interest.
• Example 1: Describe a teacher you have fond memories of.
You should say:
when this was
where you were studying when you met
which subject they taught you
and what it was about the person that makes them so memorable.
• Example 2: Describe an item of technology you use that you couldn’t do without.
You should say:
what this technology is
when you first started using it
how you use it
and why it’s so essential for you.
• Make the most of your preparation time and make notes.
• Structure your talk with an introduction, main body and conclusion. Signpost your talk at the end with words or expressions like ‘So …’, ‘As you can see …’, ‘To sum up …’.
• Add personal details such as short anecdotes to help make your talk interesting.
• Don’t speak too fast. Pause between sentences and try to relax.
The biggest mistake students make is to not take notes. The examiner will give you a piece of paper and a pencil to take notes because speaking for two minutes without stopping is not easy. Even native English speakers will have trouble speaking for two minutes! Students who don’t take notes often say, “Uh, I think maybe, um…. Um…, well… It seems to me…”. “Uh” and “Um” are Band ZERO! – Do not say them.
Use notes to help you remember what you want to say. If not, you WILL get a low score.
In Part 3 of the IELTS interview, which lasts between 4-5 minutes, you will participate in a discussion with the examiner based on the topic in Part 2. The examiner is likely to ask you questions based on your experience or opinion of the subject.
• Topic = Sport you watch or participate in
Q: How important is it for young people to be involved in sport?
Q: Which sports are particularly popular in your country?
Q: What would you recommend to someone thinking about taking up a new sporting interest?
• Topic = Somebody who has been an important friend to you
Q: Why are friends so important to us?
Q: Which qualities do you most value in a friend?
Q: Is it common to have a ‘best friend’ as we get older?
• Again, avoid short, ‘yes’, ‘no’ answers.
• Use personal anecdotes to help yourself make a point or express an opinion.
• Use expressions to allow yourself time to think. For example: ‘That’s a good question.’, ‘Well, let me think …’
• Refer to stories in the news to help make a point.
• Do NOT take so much time. Two sentences for each answer is usually enough. If you have a long introduction, the examiner will think you don’t know how to answer the question.
• Use the General-Specific technique. As soon as you hear the question, give a general opinion about the topic. Then give a specific reason or example in the next sentence or two.
The fact that you have a good level of English will certainly be an asset and the interviewer will be reassured if you can speak clearly and reasonably accurately.
Self-correction is a good way of showing the interviewer that you’re aware of having made a mistake. However, don’t go mad trying to correct each and every error! Remember, you should also be demonstrating your fluency skills as well. Monitoring your speech TOO closely and self-correcting every mistake will slow you down and make you sound rather hesitant.