IELTS SPEAKING: KNOWING HOW YOUR SPOKEN ENGLISH IS GRADED

IELTS GRADING SYSTEM
For those who are having exercise with IELTS, it is definitely important to know the score, although it is just a rough prediction. Grading IELTS Listening and Reading Section is not actually difficult since we have the score table. We just need to count the wrong answers (counting the wrong answers is easier because I assume you have more correct answers), and see what band score you get by having that “x number” of correct answers. In contrary, assessing Speaking can be quite challenging especially if you are not a native speaker (me neither, so cheers! 😁 ) or if you are not an official IELTS assessor. I have been looking for the information about how IELTS speaking is scored here and there, and finally formulate a simple way to predict the score. Although, again, it is just a rough estimation.

It is believed that there are four main criteria graded in IELTS Speaking, namely the:

Fluency and Coherence
How fluent is your speech and how you arrange your ideas

Pronounciation
How precisely you pronounce the words 

Lexical Resource
How you use a range of vocabulary accurately

Grammatical Range and Accuracy
How you accurately use various English grammar



These main criteria have several sub criteria explained as follows:

Fluency and Coherence

  • Fluency is a combination of:



a. The pace of your speech

b. The length of your answers

c. The use of pauses, intonation, tempo, and other prosodic features

  • Coherence is your ability to:


a. Develop your answers

b. Give a direct answers

c. Add relevant details and additional information

d. Connect your ideas by using cohesive device or linking words

Common Mistakes

You should not speak too slow or too fast. If you speak to slow, you may run out of time, your speech sounds like a prepared speech, and you sound like you are stuttering. If you speak too fast, your pronounciation is compromised and your speech may not sound clear. This is ugly since the main idea of speaking is to have a real sense communication and make other person(s) understand you. Whatever happens, keep everything moderate, including your speech rate.


The main idea of speaking is to have a real human communication and make the person you are talking to understand what you say. Keep everything moderate 


You also need to give a real comprehensive answer with a proper length. Giving too short answers will make it not possible for the assessor to grade your skill (you can never give answer like “No, I don’t” and expect the assessor to be able to grade your vocabulary and grammar, no way). However, you also need to avoid giving too long and tedious answers since it is more likely that you will digress. 

Let’s go back to basic: Be moderate!

Some test takers sometimes really have problems regarding relevancy. They give an answer that does not answer the question at all. I have an IELTS sample video for speaking in which the assessor asked:

In your opinion, can a solitary hobby help a person with their social life?

and the answer was like:

Yes, because staying at home and playing video games or watching movies can help people kill the time.

Bold words indicate keywords*

The answer is not at all relevant since the question needs him to explain whether solitary hobby, a hobby that we can do on your own, can help a person with his/her social life. So, it has to be a solitary hobby and it has to be about social life. The answer contains keywords like staying at home, playing video games, watching TV, and kill the time that do not sound very social (unless you involve other people like inviting your friends, probably?)

Some test takers also find it difficult to link one idea with other ideas. So they speak and speak and speak, explaining idea a and idea b and idea c without realizing that idea a,b, and c are not at all related. To avoid this, remember to use linking words such as In addition, furthermore, besides, etc. (if, say, idea a agrees with idea b) or despite, on the other hand, in contrary, etc. (if, say, idea a contradicts idea b).

Pronounciation

Some criteria that make your pronounciation a good pronounciation are:

  • Basic word pronounciation
  • The use of liaison
  • Correct stress
  • Intonation


Common Mistakes and Misconception

Many students are worried about using British or American accent and I always tell them not to worry about accents. This happens since they are not native speakers and the assessor surely understands that accent is particularly retained by the native speakers whose first language is English. As a test taker, what we need to do is having a correct basic pronounciation (although having accent is preferable since you will sound more natural if you do).

For example: 
The first high front unrounded vowel “i” in the word “direction” can be either pronounced using more stressed diphtong which is probably typical to British accent and thus will sound like you are having the sound [ay] between d and r, or simply using a schwa just the way Americans say it so we have [də’rekʃn] instead [daɪrekʃn].

[də’rekʃn] and [daɪrekʃn] are IPA transcription for the word direction, commonly used in the study of phonetics and phonolgy. Just don’t bother with it*

Stress is one of many prosodic features that even I, a beginner linguist, find it hard to distinguish. Native speakers, however, have some kind of innate capacity to realize the difference between the stressed and the unstressed. If you are not a native speaker, don’t bother with stress, and don’t be stressed out.

Lexical Resource

This is where y’all demonstrate your ability to use profound English vocabulary (paraphrasing will be important here) to discuss a range of different topics. You need to use vocabulary accurately and you have to be able to express yourself when you are unable to find the English equivalent that correlates with certain word in your first language.

Major Confusion

I once read somewhere in a book,or was it in a web? or, was I told by somebody? Well I’m not sure. But I  heard a rumour that we need to present 3 uncommon words (should I call it uncommon?) in our speech. Do not jump to any conclusion, this is just a rumour and rumour can be so misleading. If you know anything about the use of fancy words in IELTS Speaking, please let me know.

But, it is definitely a must that you avoid using the same word over and over again. Try to paraphrase the words and make complex sentences. This is actually better since you can get higher score at grammar and lexical resources at once.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

There are two important points that we have to note here.

  • First, you need to avoid any grammatical error, especially those that are related to tenses. You still remember that English has a strict rule for Verb namely the Tenses and Aspect, right? Please go to this link if you forget English Grammar

    < li>Second, do not use too simple sentences all the time. This will result in an extremely low score for sentence complexity. But, do not use too stringy sentences either, since it may result in syntactical ambiguity, or worse, the difficulty to understand what you say.

When Your Speech Is Assessed?

The assessor will grade your speaking real time. However, they also use a recorder so I presume they also assess the speaking (more meticulously) by using the recorded speech. It is important that you concentrate from beginning to end.


“In IELTS Speaking, you will mostly be graded real time from beginning to end that you must concentrate all the time”


How The Band Is Calculated?

Each criterion weighs the same, so give your best shot for each criterion. The score range from 0 to 9, as we commonly know. The score for each criterion will be summed up and then divided by 4 to get the average. And voila, that’s your final score.

Say, Bobby’s score on IELTS Speaking is described as below:

Coherence          4.0 
Pronounciation   7.5
Vocabulary         8.0
Grammar            8.5

The overall score for the four criteria is 28, divided by four and that’d be 7.0


“Each criterion in IELTS Speaking weighs the same, and one rotten apple may destroy a basket of apples”


You see that the scores for Pronounciation, Vocabulary, and Grammar are extremely high and Bobby almost got a real satisfying result. But Coherence kinda drag the other criteria down and Bobby end up getting 7.0. This is why you should not focus on certain criteria and neglect the others.

That’s all for now, if you feel like getting more information, please read another post about IELTS Speaking by clicking this link

Arranging Ideas in IELTS Speaking

Strategies for IELTS Speaking

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