What is Pronunciation in IELTS Speaking?


Table of Contents

by Volodymyr Prystai

IELTS Expert


IELTS Speaking is the shortest part of the exam. It is an 11-14 minute interview with an examiner, which consists of 3 parts.

Your Speaking test can take place on the same day, after the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections, or it can be held the day before or the week after. (It usually depends on the availability of the examiners, and the number of candidates.)

Part 1 includes personal questions and lasts about 4-5 minutes. You will have to answer simple questions about your preferences and experience. Part 2 is the “long turn” or a talk. Here, candidates receive a card with a question, have 1 minute to prepare, and then speak for 2 minutes on a familiar topic. Part 3 includes abstract questions which are based on the topic from Part 2. The examiner will ask you about your opinions and views on abstract topics. This part is 4-5 minutes long. 

How is the IELTS Speaking test graded?

IELTS Speaking is marked according to 4 criteria:  

1. Fluency & Coherence

This criterion is about making sense.  

  • Your answers should not be too short. 
  • The questions should be answered and supported with details like examples, reasons, and effects.
  • Answers should also be connected using various linking expressions (in addition, however, consequently, for example…).
  • Don’t pause or self-correct yourself often. 

Read our blog post about Fluency & Coherence here.

2. Lexical Resource

This is about the vocabulary you use.

  • A good answer uses vocabulary which is relevant to the topic.
  • Use a number of collocations (these are 2-3 word expressions, such as make a decision, set goals for yourself, vivid imagination…).
  • Also, use less common words (instead of good you can use beneficial).
  • Perhaps use an idiom, if it’s relevant (a piece of cake, the hustle and bustle…) 

Read our blog post about Lexical Resource tips here. 

3. Pronunciation

This criterion marks how easy it is to understand what you’re saying.

  • Pronunciation is NOT about the accent (any speaker – including a native English speaker – has an accent).
  • Intonation, individual sounds, and word and sentence stress play a crucial role here.
4. Grammatical Range & Accuracy

This is all about grammar.

  • Show that you can use grammar accurately (your tenses are used appropriately, word order is correct, and the subjects and verbs agree, e.g. he goes not he go).
  • Also, show you can use a variety of patterns (relative clauses, conditional sentences, passives, comparative and Superlative adjectives, modal verbs, etc).
  • Produce a balanced combination of simple and complex sentences. Complex sentences are sentences that usually consist of 2 or 3 clauses (for example, I believe that subsidizing sports centres is a positive step because it can encourage the public to improve their fitness levels, which in turn can lead to a healthier population.) 

Read our blog post about Grammatical Range and Accuracy here.

What does pronunciation mean?

Let’s now consider those features of pronunciation more closely. 


Firstly, pronunciation includes correctly using word stress (for example, devElopment not develOpment).

Next, pronunciation involves sentence stress, where more important words are stressed. For example, “It is good to be relaxed, not “It is good to be relaxed”. Here, the word “to” is not an important word, and should not sound stronger than other adjectives or verbs.

Connected Speech

Then, there is connected speech. You should not make long pauses between words and pronounce them separately. When speaking, it is hard to focus on the main idea if someone makes long pauses between words. Try to speak by connecting those words together without any big pauses. 


Another aspect is intonation. Candidates should vary the pitch of their voice to sound more interesting and engaging. Intonation is also used to express different emotions – in other words, to sound more natural. 

All these have one common aim – to make your speech understandable and intelligible.

Common pronunciation mistakes

In order to improve, first be aware of your own pronunciation difficulties. These often depend on your native language(s) or the language(s) you learned first because different languages have different sound systems. As a result, this can influence your pronunciation of English.

Some people miss the “s” at the end of nouns (which also results in a grammar error). Others tend to have wrong stress in some words (such as Event, instead of evEnt) or pronounce silent letters (for example, the “w” in sword is silent, so you’d say “sord”).

Tips to practice your pronunciation

Here are some practical tips you can use to practice pronunciation, which you should try to do every day: 

Tip 1: Pick a short paragraph of any text and read it aloud slowly

Make sure you check the pronunciation of any words you are not certain of. Focus on individual sounds in every word, making sure you pronounce every ending or suffix appropriately. At the same time, it can warm up your facial muscles which are involved in the pronunciation of English language sounds.

Tip 2: Now read the same paragraph at your regular pace

Focus on intonation and sentence stress. At the end of a sentence, your intonation should usually go down. Stress more important words (these are normally nouns, verbs, and adverbs).

Tip 3: Finally, read the same paragraph a bit more quickly than you usually do

This time focus on connected speech, that is how you connect words in sentences, making pauses only when needed (e.g. at the end of a sentence, or when there is a comma). 

Tip 4: You can also watch movies, sitcoms, etc. and pay attention to pronunciation patterns

For example, try to notice how people respond to different questions, and what their intonation is. Regular watching can help you develop a better understanding of the “melody” of English.


To sum up, pronunciation is an important aspect of not only IELTS Speaking, but of the English language. It requires regular practice. And remember, the most important point about pronunciation is to be clear, and intelligible.

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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