Tips for Organizing Your Speaking

March 25, 2019 by Lyla Hage Lyla Hage

As you may be aware, when you take your IELTS speaking exam you have a relatively short period of time to show your speaking abilities. One thing that's important to consider is how you can effectively communicate your thoughts and ideas. Organizing your speaking responses is the key to doing this.

Below are some tips to consider about how to organize your responses on the IELTS speaking exam.

Think for a few moments

Firstly, I recommend taking a moment or two to think about your answers before you start speaking. Quickly formulate your ideas in your head, then go for it. Remember your time is limited, so you can't think for too long before starting to speak.

While it's OK to take a few moments to think and organize your thoughts, you cannot stay silent for long. Remember that your IELTS examiner is assessing your speaking, so you have to speak! Ultimately, it’s better to say something that is a slightly disorganized or incomplete, rather than saying very little or nothing.

Smiling student counsellor facing IELTS student

Use your prep time wisely

For Part 2 of the speaking exam, you will be given paper and a pencil, and you'll have one minute to write down your ideas before beginning to speak. The intention here is to provide you with time to organize your thoughts and think about what you'll say. I strongly recommend using this one minute of preparation time to think, organize, and take a few notes, which you can refer to when you speak.

One other thing about Part 2 of the exam: ensure you carefully read and answer all parts of the question you're given.

Use linking/connecting words

Words like so, then, first, second, because, therefore, next, finally (and many more) are used for specific and important purposes when we speak. For example, they let the listener know you're making different points, moving on to another point, finishing your thoughts, giving a reason, making an argument, etc. They are extremely useful in helping to organize your ideas and also assisting the listener in following your thoughts. Be sure to include some in your answers!

If you're not sure, ask

Another tip for keeping your ideas organized is to ensure you understand the question. If you're not sure of the meaning of the question, or a word/phrase in the question, it is acceptable to ask your IELTS examiner to repeat or briefly explain it.

Keep in mind that your examiner will not go into a detailed explanation of the questions, and you should not ask for clarification or repetition for every question.

Male on the phone with speech bubbles on an orange background
Practice!

Another key point in helping to organize your speaking is to ensure you practice for your IELTS exam. There are loads of practice tests online, including here, where you can view practice questions, and look at sample answers, exam format and more.

Another good idea is to time yourself answering sample questions. I suggest recording yourself, listening to your responses, and checking your timing. Consider how well you're able to think, organize, and give an answer in one minute, two minutes, etc.

Remember you have a limited time to provide answers during the IELTS, and your examiner will stop you when you reach the time limit whether you have finished answering or not. Therefore, it's a good idea to practice answering sample questions before taking your IELTS.

A few final suggestions to keep in mind about your speaking exam:

Keep talking - I recommend continuing to talk during your exam until you're told by your examiner to stop. Don’t waste your opportunity to show your speaking abilities! Also, if you lose your train of thought when speaking, take a moment to think, then keep going.

Make it up - If you don’t know what to say, make something up. Although most people find it easier to talk about something that's true or something they've experienced. If you have to make it up, do so!

Good luck preparing for your speaking exam.



Lyla Hage

Lyla is an English language instructor working with international students and immigrants in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Lyla loves everything about her work, especially helping people reach their language and learning goals.

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