- Pausing too often
Pausing can be a good thing. It can give the speaker time to consider their next words. It can give the listener time to consider what the speaker is saying. However, many candidates are guilty of pausing too often.
Often, this is because they are nervous or because they need to recall simple vocabulary. Particularly even in the middle of words. This even happens when the candidates are discussing very familiar topics, such as their families, hobbies and jobs. Your speech should be fairly fluent (smooth) and pauses should usually be between sentences or clauses.
Candidates often appear to stumble through sentences, saying a few words then repeating those same words with an additional few words tagged on the end.
The next sentence is sometimes simply a rewording of the first. An example would be, “My family … family … my family has three persons … people … three people. There are … are … three people … persons … there are three people in my … family.” In addition to sounding poor, the student is wasting an enormous amount of valuable examination time where they could be developing answers.
Many candidates are more worried about their accuracy than their fluency.
This is understandable, but IELTS candidates should be informed that, whilst both accuracy and fluency are obviously important, a certain lack of accuracy is tolerable, even at the higher band levels. However, a lack of fluency is not tolerable to the same extent. Self-correction does show the examiner that you are aware of having made a mistake, and may be a good idea when the mistake is very obvious or intrusive, i.e. makes the candidate difficult to understand or changes the meaning of what the candidate says. However, if you continually correct yourself, it breaks up fluency.
In extreme cases the examiner might forget the beginning of the sentence before you get to the end of it! And so might you!
- Speaking too quickly
Some candidates confuse fluency and speed. They think they are the same thing. The result is that they speak too fast (possibly faster than most native English speakers!).
This can cause two problems. First, the examiner may not have time to understand what the candidate is saying – particularly when the candidate makes grammatical errors, uses inappropriate vocabulary, and/or has problems with pronunciation.
The second problem is that the examiner may ask why the candidate is speaking so quickly. Candidates often do this to impress people, even though their actual ability is quite poor.
- Short answers
In the IELTS speaking module, an examiner can only give candidates good scores for fluency if those candidates demonstrate that they can speak fluently for a reasonable length of time.
In other words, saying one or two very short sentences fluently is not enough. The examiner wants to assess a candidate whilst he/she is talking for a longer period of time.
Hence, many examiners are trained to pay special attention to fluency in Part 2, when candidates are assessed on their ability to produce a longer stretch of English.