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  • Writer's pictureSte Sharpe

IELTS Myth…should I memorise answers to example IELTS Speaking Test questions?


Over my many years of teaching IELTS, students have asked me about some “useful techniques" to help them prepare for the IELTS Speaking Test. One which baffles me and probably causes more stress than needed is…

‘Memorising example speaking test questions will get me a higher band score’

If you have been doing this, then I’m sorry to disappoint you… it’s not going to work!

There are hundreds of websites out there offering example answers, but don’t get sucked in.

Want to know why…read the rest of this post.

Why is trying to memorise example IELTS Speaking Test questions a bad thing?

First of all, you don’t know what topics the IELTS examiner is going to ask you on the test day. Yes, they will ask you about familiar topics in part 1 and part 2, then more abstract topics in part 3, but you don’t know what the specific topics will be.

Second of all, you could spend a large amount of your time trying to learn examples to a range of topics, only to find out that the examiner doesn’t ask you about any of those topics, so you’ll have wasted all that time and energy trying to learn how to answer questions on specific topics to not be asked any of them- a total waste of time! Not only that, the process of learning all those example answers would be stressful- life’s hard enough as it is!

Lastly, if the examiner does ask you a question on a topic you’ve memorised (lucky you!), you’ll sound unnatural when you answer, and trust me, the examiner will know and it won’t help you improve your IELTS band score.

Are there any benefits to learning some example answers?

Using example answers to IELTS Speaking Test questions can help if you take the right approach.

Look at the example question and answer below I found on the Internet:

Q.How often do you go out with your friends?

A.The frequency of my outings with friends varies. On average, I try to meet up with my friends at least once or twice a month. However, there are times when our schedules clash and it’s challenging to find a common time to get together. Nevertheless, I cherish the moments we do spend together, as they offer an opportunity to unwind, catch up on each other's lives, and strengthen our friendships.

After having read through this, I can see there’s an odd mixture of formal and informal language used together: the frequency of my outings…I cherish the moments…they offer an opportunity…unwind, catch up on each other’s lives…

Although this mixture sounds odd, there are some really useful phrases that you can learn and apply to different topics:

Try to meet up with (someone)

To get together (with someone)

It’s challenging to (do something)

To unwind

To catch up on (something)

These phrases, or collocations which are words which usually occur together, are a great way to expand your range of vocabulary and show the examiner your understanding of how to use them. In my previous post about Lexical Resource, I talked about the importance of this when aiming to achieve a band 7 or higher in the IELTS Speaking Test.

OK, so I should learn certain phrases (or collocations) from example answers to help improve my vocabulary. What about my fluency, grammar and pronunciation?

In my previous posts where I talked about the IELTS Speaking Test descriptors Fluency and Coherence, Grammatical Range and Accuracy and Pronunciation, I suggest specific ways to help you improve your overall speaking.

Remember that IELTS is an evaluation of your current level of English, so if you want to get a band 7, your overall English level already needs to be at that level.

The IELTS Speaking Test is very informal and encourages you to use the English you know in a very natural way, so memorising answers to questions on topics that the examiner might not ask you won’t only be stressful and a waste of time, but it’ll also make you sound very unnatural.

What else should I do?

If you’re applying for the Academic IELTS Test and need some help and guidance on your speaking, then check out my online IELTS Speaking Course where you’ll not only learn all about the IELTS Speaking Test format, but you’ll also be able to expand your range of language on several topics to ensure you feel prepared and ready to give your best on the test day.

You can also join my Telegram Channel (see the link at the bottom of the web page) where you’ll receive free resources to develop your language skills.

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