The IELTS Speaking Exam terrifies many students, but it shouldn’t. If you are prepared, you have nothing to worry about. Don’t view the examiner as your enemy; view him as your friend.

IELTS Difficulties

A few years ago I had a Chinese student called Joe. He really wanted to go to Australia, and he needed to get IELTS 7 in every part of the exam. Even before I started to coach him, he could get an 8 or even a 9 in the speaking and listening exam, so he asked me to help him with his speaking and writing. Writing is my specialty, and so I very quickly helped him get his writing from a 6 to a 7.5. However, no matter how hard we tried, he just couldn’t boost his IELTS speaking score.

What was wrong?

Joe spoke English amazingly well. We could sit down and talk about anything and he would understand all that I said, while expressing himself perfectly. It frustrated him that he couldn’t get more than a 5.5 in the IELTS speaking exam. I was also frustrated because in our practice exams, he would invariably get a really good score. We practiced all kinds of questions on all kinds of topics, and he could answer anything.

The problem, however, was Joe’s nerves. He viewed me as his friend, but the examiner as his nemesis.

Every time Joe went to the IELTS exam, he had the idea in his head that he could ace the reading and listening exams, and after a while he knew he could do really well on the writing exam, too. But he had this feeling that speaking would be impossible, and every time he sat down opposite the examiner, he was overwhelmed with nerves. He felt the examiner judging him and tried hard to say what he felt he should say.

Solving Joe’s Speaking Problems

We spent a lot of time together working on Joe’s problems with the IELTS speaking exam. Eventually, the answer wasn’t in learning more idioms or phrases. The answer was to learn some simple mental techniques to prepare him for the exam.

In exam conditions, people naturally get nervous, but they get more nervous looking at a person than a piece of paper. With Joe, I had to coach him to view the examiner not as some sort of monster, but a real human being. In China, there aren’t many white people outside of the big cities, and most of the IELTS examiners there are white. So I took Joe to meet my friends. We spoke with regular people in English and Joe got used to speaking with “foreigners.” The results were astounding. Joe’s score shot up from 5.5 to 8. He spoke with his examiners just as he spoke with me.

You can also do some pronunciation practice at home to help your confidence improve: 

The Lesson you Should Learn

What can you learn from Joe’s story?

Don’t view the examiner as some inhuman monster. They are just a person doing a job. You needn’t fear them! You don’t have to impress them with your ideas and language. Just speak naturally. Many students forget that the IELTS exam is at its core just a test of your English ability. If you can speak English well, you should be able to get a good grade. Don’t let your nerves hold you back.