5 tips to Teach IELTS Speaking like a pro

IELTS expert shares 5 tips & techniques for anyone who teaches or is planning to teach IELTS.

When it comes to teaching IELTS Speaking, even experienced IELTS tutors struggle with creating a solid curriculum as well as with conducting Speaking lessons productively. Allow me to share a couple of tips & techniques I’ve learnt over 10 years of teaching IELTS Speaking.

1. Learn the criteria
Yes, you probably have already read public speaking criteria, maybe even once or twice. But, do you really understand each point well? Luckily, I’ve got you covered with a more detailed breakdown of IELTS speaking band descriptors. This is extremely important: a candidate cannot advance up the score for a criterion unless he/she meets ALL the points of a band descriptor.

2. Focus on your student’s weak points early
It’s simple – learning a skill takes time. And the earlier you begin, the more time you’ve got.
Say, your students’ grammar is weak. Instead of just ignoring it (just like most quick courses do), devote a part of each lesson to a grammar topic early on. This will let your students get extra practice in the long run.
If you’re really short on time, devote a smaller part of the lesson and provide extra homework or additional materials for speaking.

3. Give examples, not only model answers.
Internet and study books are full of different model answers with plenty of complex vocabulary and grammar. What’s the chance of somebody actually speaking like that in real life, let alone in a stressful environment? Almost none! Instead of focusing only on perfect model answers (these can be amazing tools, don’t get wrong), present an example to your students. It can be one of your previous IELTS takers, or you can make one yourself! Not only will it teach some language to your students, just like the model answers, but also show that answers don’t have to be flawless to receive a high score at IELTS.

4. Practice linking words as often as possible
Your students probably know all linking words, but are they actually using them in their speech? My students often don’t, especially at the beginning of IELTS preparation.
Using a lot of linkers and discourse markers is a skill which requires much time to develop. Therefore, it is highly advised to have at least 1 activity aimed at them directly or indirectly in every class. As a bonus, it will help greatly when it comes to writing too!

5. Drill the most common questions regularly
Now, I don’t mean learning answers by heart and just repeating them! In general, I wouldn’t advise memorising the answers, but it’s great to be prepared and have a couple of ideas at hand, especially for the most popular IELTS speaking questions.
– How do you spend your free time?
I’d say that it depends on <any factor: weather, money, other people etc.> and then focus on one activity – cooking or watching series. Of course, your students may come up with their own ways to answer these questions, but make sure they know exactly what to talk about with these top 5 IELTS Speaking questions.
This greatly reduces the pause after receiving the question, because the ideas are already there, I just need to expand them with a few details (reasons, examples, comparisons etc.)

I usually take these questions 3-4 times within an average course: first time in the beginning, when dealing with Part 1 speaking; 2nd time – in the middle of the course; 3rd time – few days before the exam (usually during our last class). This will allow your students to nail part 1 flawlessly (I hope) and thus increase their overall speaking score.

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