You may not realize that the Pronunciation score is the fastest and easiest to increase!

There is a lot that goes into this score.

You must use proper word stress and intonation.

There are a lot of tricky rules for word stress.

Today we teach you the rules for syllable stress in English.

This way you can score 7+ on Pronunciation on test day.

For all the strategies you need, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS.

What are the IELTS Speaking scores?

  • Pronunciation
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Fluency/Coherence

Pronunciation is the easiest to change your score in.

It’s must faster than learning to use tons of different words.

It’s also much faster and easier than improving your grammar a band point.

This can take up to a year!

Word stress can affect your vocabulary score

If you use the wrong word stress when saying an idiom, the Examiner may not understand.

If your meaning isn’t clear, they might not realize you’re using idiomatic language.

This can keep you from meeting the requirement for a variety of vocabulary.

For idioms, it’s essential that you use them word for word.

They must also be used with the appropriate word stress.

Otherwise, it’s unclear what you’re trying to say.

One word has one stress

Each word has only one stressed syllable.

  • beLIEVE
  • appREciate

Knowing this rule can help you on IELTS Speaking.

If you hear two different stressed syllables, you know you are hearing two words.

Additionally, this will help you know how to pronounce words.

You won’t give emphasis to more than one syllable in a word.

Stress vowels not consonants

We only stress vowels and never consonants.

Each syllable has a vowel sound.

It’s important to understand how words are divided in syllables.

As kids, we learn this by clapping out the syllables.

Every syllable has a vowel.

Only one of these will be emphasized.

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Rule #1: Two-syllable nouns and adjectives

For most two-syllable nouns and adjectives, the first syllable is emphasized.

The following are a few examples:

  • REsearch
  • PREsent
  • CHINa
  • TEACHer

Unfortunately, there are always exceptions!

Exceptions: JaPAN, aBOVE

Rule #2: Two-syllable verbs

For most two-syllable verbs, the second syllable is emphasized.

A few examples:

  • preSENT
  • reSEARCH
  • deMAND

Notice that for the words ‘present’ and ‘research,’ these words are both a noun and a verb.

The different syllable emphasis lets you know which one it is.

Of course, you can also tell from context!

Three-syllable words

Unfortunately, the rules for three-syllable words get extremely complicated!

In general, the penultimate syllable will be emphasized.

Rather than memorizing all the rules, there are better ways to learn them.

You will best learn how to pronounce 3-syllable words by hearing them spoken regularly.

You have to listen to a lot of English.

  • PHOtograph
  • phoTOGrapher
  • photoGRAPHic

Listen to podcasts, watch television and movies and pay attention to word stress.


As you have surely noticed, there are exceptions to every rule in English.

As listed above, there are two syllable words where the second syllable is emphasized.

Additionally, there are three-syllable words where the first syllable is emphasized.

  • INteresting
  • FAvorite 

Because of this, the best way to learn word stress is through taking in English.

Shadowing native speakers helps you imitate native word stress.

You’ve heard us emphasize many times how important it is to listen to a lot of English.

Find a podcast or television show you enjoy and get listening!


Knowing word stress rules can help you know how to pronounce new words.

It can also help with IELTS Listening.

The rules we shared today will give you that head start.

Beyond understanding these basic rules, word stress is best learned through taking in English.

The more you listen to spoken English, the better you will understand syllable stress.

For all the strategies you need for the IELTS exam, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS.

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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