Speaking tips for exams
So you’ve got a big exam tomorrow. Maybe it’s the IELTS? FCE? CAE, even? You’ve studied hard, but you’re concerned about the speaking because, let’s be honest, it’s quite difficult to study for. Well, let me tell you that you have nothing to worry about. Simply, follow this very useful mini-guide to get you on your way.
1.Speak, speak, speak!
The first thing to say is: speak as much as you can, without talking so fast that no-one can understand you! If you can’t remember a word, don’t worry. Where possible, talk around it (the fancy word is ‘circumlocute’). For example, if it’s a noun, try and describe it. If it’s a verb, try and think of a similar action. Or, if it’s an adjective, use another word. You cannot spend 15 seconds trying to think of a word in silence – you must find a way to continue. The examiner might consider it a slight error if you don’t use the correct word – but you will receive a much lower mark if you don’t say anything at all. In addition to this, you should try to speak as fluently as possible. Try not to repeat yourself, and try not to pause too much!
2. Develop your answers
Secondly, you need to try to develop your answers whenever possible. If you give an opinion, remember to say why you think this. ‘I prefer the countryside to the city’ is a perfectly legitimate opinion. But, ‘I prefer the countryside to the city because it’s much cleaner, there’s less pollution and it’s so quiet’ is much better to say in an exam.
If you’re making an argument, remember to develop it, using linking words like ‘furthermore’, ‘also’, ‘moreover’, etc. If you’re talking about two different points of view (for example, in IELTS Part 3, or CAE part 4), remember to compare and contrast using words like ‘however’, ‘on the other hand’, and ‘whereas.’ Of course, there are loads more which I’m sure you’ve learned already! All of this links to saying as much as possible, but you will get much higher marks if you manage to link everything you’re saying together.
3. Don’t be scared to ask for clarification
Furthermore, you mustn’t be scared to ask for clarification if you didn’t hear the question, or you didn’t understand it fully. The examiner will always be happy to repeat, and sometimes explain, the question. This will not affect your final mark. It can also be quite a good tactic to give yourself a bit more time to think about how you’re going to reply!
Also, if you’re worried that you won’t have enough time to consider what you’re going to say, learn some phrases which are perfectly natural. These are used by native speakers all the time when they’re thinking. And, most importantly, they help you stall for time. For example: ‘oh, that’s a good question!’ or, ‘Oh, I hadn’t really ever thought about that, but…’ or something else like this. If you’re still concerned (and you shouldn’t be, I promise!) you can ask your teacher for more ‘stalling phrases.’ Or, just use Google, which will give you more than enough phrases.
4. Enjoy yourself!
Finally, I should add that you should try and enjoy yourself as much as possible! I know that in an exam situation you will probably be nervous. But, as much as possible, you should try to hide this. Speak confidently, clearly, and try to smile. The examiner is not some crazy horrible monster, but instead, they are a human being who wants you to do as well as you can. And, I’m sure that if you follow these tips, you will get exactly what you want out of your speaking exam.
Good luck! I’m sure you’ll be fantastic.