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So, you’re going to take the IELTS Speaking test and now you’re wondering how to get the score you need. The IELTS speaking examiner will use four specific criteria to rate your performance. Understanding these criteria will help you prepare to do your best on the test. In this article, we will focus on Grammatical Range and Accuracy because it is the part that candidates worry about the most.
How is the IELTS Speaking test graded?
IELTS Speaking is marked on four areas of speaking skill.
1. Fluency & Coherence
The focus is on the person’s ability to speak naturally and at an appropriate speed. In order to achieve a good score, you must avoid pauses between words while remaining easy to understand.
2. Lexical Resource
This is about your vocabulary and the key is to use a wide variety of words. Try to use some higher–level language, or even some idioms and expressions.
Basically, the examiner is marking you on how easy it is to understand your speech. They are also listening for your use of common pronunciation features; such as rhythm, individual sounds, and word stress.
4. Grammatical Range & Accuracy
This part of the IELTS Speaking score is about the number of grammar mistakes in your sentences. However, the complexity of your language structures is equally important.
What is Grammatical Range?
First, what does “Grammatical Range” really mean? Range refers to showing a wide variety of different language structures.
Sentences with only one subject and one verb are simple structures. Whereas sentences with more than one subject and verb are complex.
Look at the two possible responses to a question below:
- Examiner: “What is one of your happy childhood memories?”
- Candidate 1: “I went on a family vacation to Miami and it was so fun.”
- Candidate 2: Driving to Miami with my family was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I would love to take that trip again if I could.
While both candidates give correct responses, we can see that Candidate 2’s answer is better, but why?
- Candidate 1 spoke in a full sentence with two clauses. This shows they can use simple sentence structures and join ideas together with connecting words.
- Candidate 2 used a gerund as a subject, and a past tense clause combined with a future tense clause. They then went on to use a second conditional sentence. This is an example of a complex sentence that examiners are looking for when they mark IELTS Speaking candidates on Grammatical Range.
What is Grammatical Accuracy?
The IELTS Speaking examiner looks for a variety of language structures, and a high level of accuracy. This means you should balance your attempts at complex language with how many grammar mistakes you make. Everyone makes small errors, even fluent English speakers. However, if your grammar mistakes make it difficult to understand your meaning, they will lower your score on the IELTS Speaking test.
Another potential problem is if you make systematic grammar errors. This means that you make the same mistake many times. It implies that you do not know the correct language to use. Consider the following two responses:
- Examiner: “How do you like to celebrate your birthday?”
- Candidate 1: “Celebrate my birthday is so fun for me because is my special day.”
- Candidate 2: “Celebrating my birthday is so fun for me because is my special day.”
- (Correct: Celebrating my birthday is so fun for me because it is my special day.)
Both candidates make at least one mistake, but Candidate 2’s answer is better because they make fewer mistakes.
- Candidate 2 shows a better understanding of English grammar and makes fewer mistakes. Although they forget a subject (“it”), they correctly use “celebrating” as the subject in the first clause.
- Candidate 1, however, fails to use a subject in the first and second clauses, showing a lack of grammatical knowledge. Try to avoid making the same error repeatedly or too many mistakes in general.
How can I score well in Grammatical Range and Accuracy?
Now that you know how the IELTS examiner evaluates your grammatical range and accuracy, how can you improve? The following ten tips have helped many IELTS candidates, and they can help you too.
Tip 1: Avoid using only simple patterns
Push yourself to use complex sentences with more than one clause. Conditionals, relative clauses, and subordination are useful strategies for making your sentences complex.
Tip 2: Connecting phrases
Tip 3: Adverbs
Adverbs can elevate your language by modifying verbs and adding your opinion to sentences. Try using comment adverbs at the beginning of your sentences (e.g., fortunately, unfortunately, ideally, basically, in fact, actually, etc.).
Tip 4: Indirect questions
English learners tend to avoid using indirect questions, although fluent English speakers often use them. Therefore, you can impress your examiner by using one or two. Just remember to put the subject before the verb. For example, “I don’t remember how old I was when I got my first pet.”
Tip 5: Passive voice
Put the object at the beginning of the sentence followed by the conjugated verb “be” and the past participle. This structure can sound more formal, as well as add variety to your sentences. It could be as simple as “I was invited to a party” or “my sweater is made of wool”. Find out more about the passive voice.
Tip 6: Use a variety of verb tenses
If you only use simple present and past verbs, the examiner will think those are the only tenses you know. Include some present perfect and past continuous, for example, to demonstrate your range.
Tip 7: Gerunds as subjects
Using a gerund verb as a subject is a simple way to show grammatical range.
(Note: Notice the word “using” in the above sentence is a gerund turned into the subject.)
Tip 8: Practice with a friend
The IELTS Speaking test is meant to be a conversation. The best way to practice is to spend time speaking in English with someone you feel comfortable with.
Tip 9: Record yourself
Listening to yourself speaking will make you aware of the mistakes you’re making. You can also notice how many structures you are using.
Tip 10: Take a language class
The IELTS Speaking test is your opportunity to demonstrate all the English grammar you’ve learned. Incorporate some of the tips in this article to achieve the score you want. Try to relax and feel confident in the work you have put into your preparation. Confidence will also help you make fewer grammar mistakes.
If you are located in Vancouver or Toronto, Canada, contact our program advisors at ILAC to talk about your English goals.
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