How to Speak in Part 1. Key Points.

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General information

In Part 1, the examiner is mainly testing you for two things:

  • everyday vocabulary 
  • basic grammar.

For almost every answer, you should give a two-part answer; first, a direct answer to the question and then add more information. A direct answer does not mean the same as an immediate answer. A direct answer means not an indirect answer. Indirect answers lower your coherence score. Here’s an example of an indirect answer:

         Question: «Do you work or are you a student?«

         Answer: «Oh, I’ve been working for five years.«

That answer does tell the examiner that you are working but it does so indirectly. The question asks you to choose between «A» and «B». In order to answer directly, first choose between A and B and then add some extra information. So a more suitable answer is, «I’m working. In fact, I’ve been working for five years.«

Start speaking

Sometimes it is suitable not to give an immediate answer. For example, when you need to think for a second before answering. Or when you want to make a comment about the question. This is natural even when you are speaking your native language. If you need time to think, tell the examiner that you need a second to consider the question; don’t sit there silently thinking about your answer

In other words, you should always start speaking immediately after the examiner asks a question. But what you say does not always have to immediately be the answer to the question. However, you should not need to speak this way very much in Part 1 because almost all questions in Part 1 are rather simple, information-seeking questions. This advice is more suitable for some Part 3 questions.

Provide new information

Be very willing to give the examiner a lot of information. Information includes your feelings and opinions. The best way to give new information is to include it in the same sentence as your direct answer. When you do this, you usually use a relative pronoun such as, «which» to make the whole sentence into a complex sentence. Showing this skill is a key point for getting 6 or more for grammar and 6 or more for the whole Speaking test.

When you give extra information, make sure it is new information, not information that everybody already knows.

Here’s an example of extra information that is not new information. «I study chemistry, which has a lot of experiments.» Almost everybody knows that the study of chemistry (usually) includes experiments. That’s almost like saying, «I study history, which is the story of the past.» But if you say, «I study chemistry, which has a lot of interesting experiments» then you are giving new information to the examiner – the information that the experiments are interesting to you.

Note that there are times when it is not suitable or natural to use a relative pronoun to connect the extra information to your basic answer. For example, if you say, «I’m working, which (is something) I’ve been doing for five years» then your answer will sound a little unnatural and forced.

Express your feelings or opinion

Express your feelings about things, your likes/dislikes, preferences, opinions. Even if the question did not directly ask you about your feelings. In other words, feel free to speak personally. First give a suitable direct answer to the question. And then, if you can’t think of any other suitable information to add, speak about your feelings on the topic of the question. Or, even feel free to include your feelings in your answer.

Whenever you answer a question about your feelings, opinion or your likes/dislikes, always include in your answer at least one reason why you have that opinion or feeling. Even such a general statement as, «I’m not sure why; that’s just how I feel.» would probably satisfy most examiners.

12 questions

The questions in Part 1 will come fast and you will get a total of about 12 questions, in three different topics. The examiner will quickly introduce each new topic with words such as, «Let’s talk about music now.» Listen carefully when the examiner announces the topic, because that information can help you anticipate what the questions will be.

The examiner will usually say nothing when you answer each question. Or he/she will say something very short, such as, «Ah!», «Mmm!», «OK», «Thank you», «Good!», «That’s interesting.» etc. The examiner will not (or should not) discuss the question with you.

You cannot ask the examiner questions such as, «I’m from Moscow – have you ever been there?» Or «I like basketball. Do you like it?» But ask the examiner to repeat the question if you didn’t understand it clearly. Just say a quick, «Pardon?» or «Sorry?» if you want the examiner to repeat the question. And you can and should ask the examiner questions such as, «Do you mean …?» Don’t be afraid to ask questions like that in order to seek clarification. Asking for clarification is a good communication skill and the examiner takes into consideration your communication skills when giving you your score.

Could you repeat that, please?

Sometimes the examiner asks you to repeat what you just said. Be careful about repeating exactly the same words. Try to change some of your words when you repeat your answer. If you repeat exactly the same words, sometimes the examiner will still not understand you! This is because the problem is often not just a pronunciation problem. It is a combination of two things – imperfect pronunciation and an unsuitable choice of words. 

In other words, if your pronunciation is clear and accurate but you use an unsuitable choice of words, the examiner will usually not ask you to repeat your answer because they will hear you clearly. Similarly, if your choice of words is suitable but your pronunciation is not perfect, the examiner will not ask you to repeat your answer. So, if the examiner asks to repeat a sentence, try to guess which words were unsuitable and try to change them when you repeat your sentence.

If you are asked to repeat a sentence, use a different word or two. Also clarify your meaning by giving an example. 

Alternatively, you could repeat your sentence using the same words that you spoke originally. But also include an example and say something such as, «In other words, …» or «What I mean is, ….«. 

Keep balance

The average length of each answer in Part 1 should be about 20 seconds. A few answers might be as short as 10 seconds. And one or two answers might be as long as 30 seconds. But most answers should be between 15 and 25 seconds. In this time, give as much information as possible.  

In general, try to keep a balance between longer and shorter answers within each topic. For example, if you first give two short answers in one topic, make the other answers in that topic longer. Or, if you first give two long answers, make the other answers in that topic shorter. In this way the examiner will ask you about 12 questions on three topics in about 4.5 minutes .

Don’t feel offended if the examiner interrupts you. It is part of the examiner’s job to control the timing of the test. In the speaking test, there are strict time limits on the parts of the test.

As mentioned above, do not think too long before you start to answer a question. Say something! If you can’t think of anything to say immediately, make a comment about the question. But don’t do that too often. For example, «That’s a difficult/unusual/interesting question.» Or, you could first say something such as, «Let me think about that.»

White lies

This is a Speaking test, not a police interview. That means you can tell white lies if it helps you to speak better. Especially to show vocabulary. The examiner is interested in your speaking ability. He does not care about the truth of the facts that you speak. However, try to tell the truth because you will speak more convincingly that way. For example, your intonation will more likely be correct without you even thinking about it. It will be easier to speak fluently when you only need to think of the English. And not first think of ideas and then think of the English.

Memorizing sentences

Do not memorize complete answers, word-for-word. Examiners don’t like answers like that. If they think your answers are memorized, they will ask you more difficult questions than they usually do. 90% of students who speak a completely memorized answer cannot hide that fact from an experienced examiner! 

Why do examiners dislike completely memorized answers? Firstly, the purpose of the speaking test is to assess how well you can communicate naturally in spoken English. Completely memorized answers are not considered to be natural communication. Also, you are not supposed to know what the test questions are! So don’t make it obvious that you do know a certain question is in the test.

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Рубрики: IELTS

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