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Speaking Test Tips

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ImageThe speaking test is probably the most difficult for Thai students because there they have to speak to someone. Actually, you might not need to worry as much as you do. A number of studies have suggested that candidates feel their speaking skills are weakest when this is not the case. If you can speak confidently, clearly and make your ideas understood, there is no reason why you shouldn't get a reasonable speaking test score.

These tips will help:

1. Unless your pronunciation is particularly poor, don't waste time on pronunciation lessons. It is much more beneficial to spend the time acquiring a good range of vocabulary and structure.

2. This is easy to say, but don't be nervous. Think of is like this: if you are really nervous and can't speak then your score will be poor. If you are confident and speak freely, you will have no idea what your score will be - it could be great!

3. Remember your job is to give the assessor something to assess - if you only say 'Yes' or 'No' during the interview, the assessor won't be able to give you a good score. Your job is to give the assessor as much as possible to consider. This means speaking as much as you can. Don't go off topic and don't talk about anything that comes into your head, but speak as much as you can. The assessor will stop you when he is ready.

4. Remember the assessor won't prompt you to speak. If you don't say enough he/she will go onto the next question. If you continue not to say enough, the interview could be very short!

5. Don't ask the assessor what questions mean. All he/she can do if you don't understand is repeat the question. You can though ask the examiner to repeat a question if you are not sure you understood it.

6. As with the writing test, don't show off. Some candidates the interview as a way of showing the assessor what you know. They use sophisticated vocabulary and difficult grammar without really knowing how to use both. The result will be a decline in how well you speak and your score will go down.

7. Extend your answers by giving reasons:
a. "I don't really like going to the cinema."
b. "I don't really like going to the cinema because it's expensive and I don't like crowds very much."

Phase 1 Tips 

8. In the first phase of the speaking test, the assessor will ask you questions about yourself. Research the topic! The assessor might say "Tell me about your parents' jobs." If you don't know anything about them, you will be stuck. It can be surprising how little people know about their own situation.

9. Consider this phase of the test meeting someone for the first time and telling them about yourself. Try to be relaxed and keep the conversation going.

10. Don't worry about lying - this is not a test of if you are a good person. If the assessor says "Tell me about your hobbies and interests" and you reply "I don't have any" then you aren't saying enough to allow the assessor to assess you. In situations like this, lie. Make up the wildest story you can imagine.

Phase 2 Tips 

11. In Phase 2 of the speaking test. You are asked to make a presentation on a topic. It will always be something person, like talking about a holiday you went on. After the test, many candidates suggest they didn't know about the topic which is why they couldn't answer the question. Clearly, this can't be the case. What they mean is they couldn't answer the question because they couldn't think of what to say. If this is the case for you, during the one minute you have to prepare, brainstorm your answer. For example, the assessor my ask you to talk about a holiday you really enjoyed. On you piece of paper, write down questions words:

Who with?

When you have asked the questions, answer them:

Where? Chiang Mai
When? last year
Why? celebrate end exams
What? climbed mountains / saw hill tribes
Who with? uni friends
How? bus from Morchit Etc.

If you then 'expand' (say as much as you can about) your answers you should fill up your two minutes easily. 

12. One of the things you must do in both phases of the speaking test is show a range of grammar structures. In phase two you might be asked to talk about a holiday you had.

This is the answer:

'We went to Thailand for our holiday last year. First we went to Bangkok and saw the Grand Palace. Then we went to Ayuthya and saw the ancient city. After that we went to Chiang Mai and met the hill tribes. Finally, we went to Chiang Rai and saw the hill tribes, too."

Although grammatically perfect, there are only a few sentence structures used. We could change this by changing the order of things:

"Before going to Chiang Rai and seeing the hill tribes we visited Ayuthya and went to the ancient city."

This adds another structure to the answer 'Before + Verb + ing' - this will improve your score. Take some time now to look at the answer above and consider as many ways possible including more sentence structures.  

13. You can't ask the assessor direct questions about a presentation topic, but it is permissible to 'scope' what you can talk about in a presentation. For example you can as I talk about the hill tribes in Chiang Mai?" The assessor will answer 'Yes' or 'No'. 

Phase 3 Tips 

14. Phase 3 is where the final score is given to a candidate. This is the part of the test where you must excel. Do the best that you can here without trying to hard or getting yourself into problems. Although a number of sources suggest that scores are averaged between the three phases of the speaking test, this stage is where the 'ceiling' is established - you can't get a higher score than your performance in phase 3.

15. Phase 3 is much more like a conversation between you and the assessor. Here he/she doesn't have a script and can ask you anything he/she wants. If you go off topic, the assessor will make attempts to make sure you stay on topic - there's no point in rehearsing a speech!

16. Amongst other things, in Phase 3 you will be asked to speculate about the future, give and opinion, suggest a solution to a problem, or describe a process or procedure. Try to come up with a complete answer. If you are asked how you would solve traffic problems world wide, don't just talk about buying more buses; consider where the money for the buses would come from, explain how you would raise the money for the buses and persuade people who to use them. This will certainly impress the assessor. 

17. Make eye contact with the assessor. Although theoretically you could speak great English with your head down, the fact is you may not come across as confident. Although there is no mark for confidence, you need to present yourself in as positive way as possible.