Taking the IELTS Speaking Test can be Grueling (part 1) – by John Riley

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Taking the IELTS Speaking Test can be Grueling (part 1) – by John Riley

Taking the IELTS Speaking Test can be grueling (part1) – by John Riley


Taking the IELTS Speaking Test can be grueling for anybody. Depending on a good IELTS score to gain access to University, an English-speaking country or even getting that much deserved promotion can make the test day a tough one. It is those on-the-day pressures that I want to look at in this article. I was lucky enough to be an IELTS Examiner in China, which is currently (at time of writing) the only country in the world which has full-time examiners. This is due to the sheer volume of candidates here and means that whereas other Examiners test speaking and mark written papers just at the weekend, Chinese IELTS Examiners work six days a week doing this. Sometimes seven if it’s a peak period in the calendar. Here in China , the competition for everything is fierce. Promotions at work depend on being able to speak English and the sheer amount of people going for those promotions and jobs is incredible. All this boils down to an unbelievable amount of pressure for Chinese students of all ages and a concentrated experience for examiners. In doing this job over a long period of time I have come to realise some of the common issues that Chinese students have when taking the IELTS test and thought it would be something useful to share with everyone here.



  • DON’T RUSH INTO THE TEST If you are not at least a lower advanced level then I would seriously advise not taking the test. This is a sure fire way to failure, misery and depression. 15 minutes seems like a lifetime if you don’t have the ability to use the language to a high level, and being able to tell somebody your name and favourite colour isn’t going to help you here. For me it was genuinely heart breaking to see a candidate who just could not communicate in the language. This was made even worse because the Examiner can’t ask the student if they would like to stop. It is the candidate, and only the candidate, that can do this. Simply put, it is sole destroying for the candidates. Their confidence is blown to pieces and the embarrassment of not being able to produce anything can prevent them from retaking the test. I believe that if you are not at least an intermediate level student capable of holding a conversation in English, then you shouldn’t be taking the test in the first place.

John Riley
John Riley
John Riley is an Australian native English speaker who has worked in education for the past 8 years. He has recent experience with screenplay writing and script analysis, and has a BA Hons degree, TEFL and CELTA qualifications. John is an expert in linguistics for the British Council in Beijing, where he has tested and marked English written and spoken work for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

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