English Speaking Exam

If you are learning English and are planning on doing an English proficiency exam – such as the IELTS – you will be required to take exams in Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.

Each exam will require you to study and prepare appropriately in terms of vocabulary and grammar and you are able to revise and practise, but the Speaking exam is one exam which many students stress about because you can feel like you can’t prepare for it like the other exams.  

For the Speaking exam you need to have a grasp of vocabulary and grammar but you also need to be able to think on your feet. Even though you may be familiar with the format of the exam, you never know what the examiner is going to ask you or what you should or shouldn’t say.

If you look online, there is loads of information out there on what you should do in your Speaking exam, but in fact there are many things you shouldn’t do, which will help you just as much.

At the UCT English Language Centre we prepare many students for the IELTS exam (read here for part 1, and here for part 2 on strategies for the IELTS writing exam) and so here are our 5 tips on what not to do in your English Speaking exam:

1. Don’t prepare answers

It is a good idea to predict what kind of questions you will be asked but it is not a good idea to prepare answers to those questions and learn them off by heart. If you do, you will sound rehearsed and unnatural. Instead, try and imagine you are chatting to a friend and answer how you would in a normal conversation.

2.Don’t say too little…but don’t say too much

Try not to answer in one-word answers but also try not to answer with an essay! Rather answer the question in one or two sentences, add on an extra piece of information and then stop.

3. Don’t worry about what you are saying

The content of what you are saying does not really matter; what really matters is the language you use to say it. Don’t feel like you need to have a really exciting story to tell, but make sure you use good language.

4. Don’t worry about pausing

We all pause or hesitate at some point when we are talking. This is when we are thinking about what we are going to say next and is natural. In your exam, it is perfectly acceptable for you to pause – you are not expected to respond immediately. Don’t pause for too long, though, and make use of fillers and hesitation markers so the examiner knows you are going to start speaking soon.

5. Don’t smoke before the exam

It might sound silly but nobody wants to smell your cigarette while they are chatting to you and the examiner is no different! Save your cigarette for your celebrations afterwards.

A Speaking exam isn’t something to be frightened of. Make sure you know what to expect and remember not to do these 5 things and you’re sure to be very successful in your Speaking exam.


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