The IELTS Speaking Paper

The IELTS speaker paper for the academic and general training tests is a live interview with an IELTS examiner (the format and content are the same for both tests). Total speaking paper timing, which is structured in three parts, is between 11 and 14 minutes. The first and last exercises are 4-5 minutes, while the middle exercise is 3-4 minutes. According to IELTS, students are graded on fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation. All speaking exercises are recorded for later assessment by IELTS examiners. Test-takers receive a band score for the speaking paper of 0 to 9, which constitutes one-quarter of the total IELTS band score (also 0 to 9). The IELTS speaking paper may be scheduled on a different date than the rest of the exam. If possible, students are advised to take advantage of this policy, in which students may sit for the speaking examination up to a week before or after all other sections of the IELTS. An extra seven days to focus solely on speaking skills can have a significantly favorable impact on speaking paper scores.

IELTS Speaking Paper Exercises

The IELTS speaking paper includes three distinct exercises, which as noted above are roughly equal in length. The IELTS description of part 1 indicates that test-takers will be asked "questions on familiar topics," such as "hobbies, likes, and dislikes." Part 2 is based on a "booklet with a topic and some suggestions," which students must "talk about" for 1-2 minutes (note taking is allowed). For part 3, students answer "more detailed and abstract questions about the topic in part 2."

Examples of IELTS Speaking Paper Questions

The "familiar topics" covered in part 1 of the speaking paper may include school, home, or work. Examiners might ask students to "tell me something about your secondary school," "tell me where most people live in your home town," or "tell me about your working hours." The "candidate task cards" (booklets) included on part 2 will feature statements such as "describe a special event that takes place in your country" or "describe an interesting place you have visited." Test-takers will also be given suggestions for what to include in their responses, such as why an event is special or why a place they visited was interesting. The "detailed and abstract" questions featured in part 3 generally require students to interpret the significance of the issues raised on the task cards. A typical part 3 question on the special event task noted above may ask students why these events are important for people's lives or whether or not people should be given time off of work to attend.

IELTS Speaking Paper Skills

High scores on the IELTS speaking paper require a broad set of speaking skills, such as vocabulary, language conventions, expression of opinions, pronunciation, and use of intonation and tone of voice. Many of these abilities are reinforced by other sections of the IELTS, but pronunciation and vocal inflection are competencies that are specific to the speaking paper. An effective way to develop these vocal skills is to simply speak along with audio recordings while attempting to imitate the sounds as closely as possible. Speaking abilities can be assessed through conversations with native English speakers, and their reactions will be strong indicators of the effectiveness of spoken communication. Because many of the exercises on the IELTS speaking section are predictable, test-takers have no reason not to be fully prepared. Students should practice describing their school, home, and job, but they must also develop the ability to do so within the time constraints of the actual exam. The IELTS speaking paper is intended to evaluate functional communication, and this fact is quite helpful to preparation, allowing students to devise practice exercises in the context of their everyday lives.

Speaking Paper Requirements for Graduate Teaching Assistants

Some universities expect higher IELTS scores for teaching assistantships than they do for regular admission, and these higher score standards are most frequently associated with the speaking section. Because teaching assistants need to be easily understood by their students, the reasons for these policies are fairly obvious, although some research suggests that listening scores are more strongly correlated to effective teaching by non-native English speakers. For example, the IELTS standard for regular-admission graduate applicants to the University of Kansas is a total score of at least 6.5 and writing, reading, and listening scores of at least 6.0 (there are no specific speaking requirements for regular admission). Graduate Teaching Assistants at the University of Kansas, however, must achieve an IELTS speaking score no lower than 8, although the other IELTS standards are somewhat relaxed (total band score of 6.0 and at least 5.5 each on all other sections).

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