Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

For many of us, the goal is to sound natural in a second language.

This is especially difficult when speaking in an exam situation.

During an exam, you’re thinking about using high-scoring vocabulary, grammar and strategies.

It’s difficult to do that and also sound natural!

Today we answer a listener question about how to sound natural on IELTS.

Today’s question

One of my biggest problems regarding IELTS speaking is sounding natural since I have learned a lot about grammar. Do you have any suggestion about that?


This is an excellent question!

If your focus is too much on grammar, it’s hard to think about everything else!

Don’t focus on grammar

Of course, you need to improve your grammar.

However, if you’re thinking about using impressive grammar during the Speaking exam, it’s difficult to show fluency.

You might be worrying about using the correct grammar which can cause you to hesitate.

One correct grammar tense

Focusing on grammar can also lead to mistakes like trying to force the use of more difficult verb tenses.

You can’t choose which verb tense to use!

There is one that is accurate for each sentence.

If you’re using past perfect when simple past is needed, you’re making a grammar error.

Ums and uhs

It’s acceptable to have a few ‘um’ and ‘uh’ fillers.

Natives use these as well.

However, these can’t be indicating a lack of fluency.

In order to avoid too many of these, read out loud every day.

Do some mimicking of native speakers.

Listen to a YouTube video or podcast for ten seconds.

Stop the audio and repeat back what was said.

Strategies Created By a Former Examiner

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When you use our Insider Method you avoid the BIGGEST MISTAKES that most students make on IELTS.

Speaking rhythm

On the IELTS exam, you are tested on word stress and speaking rhythm.

In order to improve this, you must be speaking out loud a lot.

You must also be listening to native speakers.

This will help you practice smooth speaking rhythm.

Slow down

Many students make the mistake of speaking too fast on IELTS.

Speaking quickly does not improve your score.

In fact, it’s likely to lower it.

It is more difficult to enunciate and speak clearly when speaking very quickly.

It’s also difficult to emphasize words and vary your intonation.

Use informal fillers

To sound more natural, use informal fillers.

Your fluency score is lowered if you have pauses or hesitation before or during answers.

Practice many different filler phrases so you’re ready for any question you need to think about.

Native speakers do this as well.

We fill our speech with natural filler phrases while we think about what we want to say.

Use personal examples

Personal examples give context to your answer.

They also make it easier to add details and interesting vocabulary.

Even in Part 3 and Task 2, don’t hesitate to back up your answers and opinions with personal examples.

It’s difficult to have enough to say if you don’t share about yourself.

Be ready to draw from your own life experience on both IELTS Speaking and Writing.

Don’t use pre-prepared answers

Examiners can tell if you’re sharing a memorized answer.

It doesn’t sound natural.

For example, you might be asked about your hometown on Speaking Part 1.

If you recite the population or memorized facts about history, it will sound rehearsed.

Instead, share how you feel about it.

Provide personal examples and details about the place and people.

You will end up using more variety of intonation and more interesting vocabulary.

Introducing Speaking Part 2

Many students start their Speaking Part 2 answer with, “I’m going to talk about…”

They may also read the task card out loud.

This is not a natural way to speak.

No one starts a story this way in day-to-day life.

Instead, introduce your answer in an interesting way.

“I can’t WAIT to tell you about…”

“When I saw this question I was super stoked because…”

“I was kind of shocked to get this question because…”


It’s vital that you sound natural on IELTS speaking.

This includes word stress, speaking rhythm and intonation.

This is difficult to do if you’re too focused on grammar and not making mistakes.

Instead, show your fluency with today’s tips.

For all the strategies you need on IELTS, sign up for our online IELTS course!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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