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Adding intonation

Learn about using intonation in the IELTS speaking test. Improve your band score in pronunciation.
woman with microphone speaking to a crowded room
© Macquarie University

Throughout the course, we have introduced you to several pronunciation features which you can easily implement to improve your pronunciation performance: word and sentence stress, connected speech and chunking/pausing. Let’s now talk about intonation.

Also called “the music of languages”, intonation is the rise and fall of your voice when you speak. Perhaps you do not even think about it, but you use this as a communication tool when you use your mother tongue, and you should try to do the same when speaking in English, and of course, in your IELTS Speaking Test.

Adding the correct intonation to your spoken ideas will help you express what you want to say more clearly, effectively and accurately. However, using the wrong intonation can lead changes in the meaning of what you want to say, even if the words might say something else.

The most common intonations used are:

  • Statements: If you are giving information and you are certain about it.

  • Questions: A rising intonation will indicate that the sentence is a question.

  • Incomplete statements: This intonation will show that your idea is not complete, that you have more to say.

  • Doubts: If you are giving information but you are not certain about it.

  • Emotions: Depending on your idea and the context, you can express excitement, happiness or surprise.

Listening to Ari’s second set of answers, you may have noticed that intonation is one aspect that he considerably improved. His first answers came across quite flat, and this may be interpreted as unwillingness and lack of interest to answer the questions. In his second attempt, on the other hand, Ari uses various types of intonations to his ideas, and this helped him convey clearer ideas.


Listen to the sentence below being said with six different intonations. What is the speaker trying to convey in each time? Choose from the following:

  • Sadness
  • Incomplete statement
  • Question
  • Happiness
  • Statement
  • Doubt
Sentence: I got a 6.5 in IELTS
Audio 1 Audio 2 Audio 3
Audio 4 Audio 5 Audio 6

Download the intonation answers document below to check your answers.

© Macquarie University
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