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Improving fluency

Learn strategies to improve your fluency and increase your band score in the IELTS speaking test.
4 students walk in an Australian park
© Macquarie University
Let’s analyse Ming Wei’s first set of answers in terms of fluency.
She is willing to speak at length; however, some problems affect her fluency:
  • Instances of hesitation (i.e. uhm) and unnecessary repetition of words and phrases (e.g. “… It is one of the … one of the…”, “…it is located at the … at the coast”).
  • Slight overuse of the phrases you know and actually which affects the flow of ideas.
  • Overly fast speech at times.
Ming Wei’s second attempt improved in terms of fluency because she considered the following features:

Continuity

Effective responses are continuous and have few hesitations. Continuity is affected by three aspects:
  • Hesitation: This occurs when speakers pause in the middle or at the end of an idea. They usually say uhm or ahh. While this is a natural part of speech, too much hesitation affects the flow of ideas. The examiner considers this in the score for fluency.
  • Repetition: Unnecessary repetition of words and short phrases in the middle of a sentence should be avoided as they impact the flow of ideas.
  • Crutch words: Using words or phrases like you know, like and actually can make you sound natural, but not when used repeatedly within one single answer. Other common crutch words are: I mean and so.

Fillers

Fillers are set words or phrases for use when you cannot think of a word or expression, or you want to avoid hesitation or long pauses. They are very useful as they give you time to organise ideas or think of content.
Some common fillers include:
To be honest…, What I mean is…, You know what I mean?…, It’s difficult to say, but…, Actually…, In fact…, Well…, You see…, I suppose…
An effective way of starting an answer is with a filler. For example, if the question is: What do you do on the weekends?
Instead of directly saying: “I go to the beach on the weekends.”
You could use a filler like this: “There are many things I do on the weekends, but I usually go to the beach.”
The fillers below can also be quite useful when starting answers in Part 3 of the test:
That’s a good/interesting question!…, Well, I hadn’t thought about that before, but…, Let me think…, Let me see…, I’m not quite sure about that, but…

Pace

Pace refers to how fast or slowly you speak. Try to speak at a natural pace; that is, do not speak too slowly or too quickly. If you speak too slowly, your flow of ideas may be lost. On the other hand, if you speak too quickly, the examiner may find it difficult to understand you. Both of these can impact your score for fluency and pronunciation.

Speaking practice

Questions about hometowns are common in Part 1. Answer the same three questions as Ming Wei and focus on the features above. Click on this Padlet link, and record your answers. Give some constructive feedback to other participants.
© Macquarie University
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Improve your IELTS Speaking score

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