Your IELTS Speaking Score is evaluated based on 4 different categories. These categories are: Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, and Pronunciation.
Each category is evaluated on a scale of 0 to 9. The results are then averaged into your total speaking score. This score is often called a “Band.” So a student who performs all categories perfectly will receive Band 9.
But teacher, what do those categories mean??
Let’s take a look at them one by one.
Fluency and Coherence is an evaluation of the flow and speed of your speech. This means that you speak continuously, avoiding too many stops for “Ah…” or “Um…” Behaviours like waiting a very long time to begin, giving a one word answer, or repeating the same words many times will probably cause your Fluency and Coherence score to go down.
To the right you can see a sample of the criteria used by IELTS examiners. Note: This is not exactly what examiners use, but it is very similar.
How can I improve my Fluency and Coherence?
- Relax! Fluency problems are often caused by nervousness and poor preparation. Make sure that you practice speaking whenever possible so that you feel comfortable during the exam.
- Avoid Repetition! Make sure you learn useful vocabulary words that are related to common IELTS topics. This way, you can speak for a long time without repeating yourself.
Lexical Resource means vocabulary. You must use words accurately to answer the question you are asked. Don’t just stick to easy words! Many examiners prefer for you to attempt to use high level words instead of sticking to the easy words that you know.
How can I improve my Lexical Resource?
- Keep a list of new words! Of course, it’s good to learn new words in the dictionary. However, it’s more important for you to USE new words whenever possible. Write sentences using new words and read them out loud. Make sure you can pronounce them correctly.
- Be brave! Many people feel uncomfortable using new words during an exam, but you must give it a try. Using simple, familiar words is not likely to raise your speaking score above Band 5.
Grammatical Range and Accuracy is of course, your grammar. It means using grammar well, but it also means using complex grammar forms. It’s not enough to say, “Exercise makes us healthy.” We must try to make longer, more academic sentences such as, “Exercise is beneficial because it improves circulation and releases endorphins in the brain.”
How can I improve my Grammatical Range?
- Nail the basics! Make sure your basic grammar is perfect. The examiner will notice if you make common mistakes such as “She do her homework” rather than “She does her homework.”
- Practice saying longer sentences! It’s a good idea to find articles with academic grammar and practice reading them aloud. Say them many times until you can read them fluently and automatically.
Finally, there is Pronunciation. The Pronunciation category includes things like basic pronunciation, word stress, sentence stress, and overall expression. To put it simply, Pronunciation is an evaluation of how well the examiner can understand you. Even if you have wonderful vocabulary and perfect grammar, your score will be negatively affected by bad pronunciation.
How can I improve my pronunciation?
- Listen to others and Repeat! Listen to native speakers whenever you can and say words and phrases just like they do. This website provides many resources to help with this!
- Record yourself! Use a smart phone or computer to record yourself saying sentences in English. Do you sound like a native speaker?