Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

In order to avoid a 6 on your IELTS Speaking Exam, learning native, natural fillers is a must!

Native speakers cannot speak fluidly without any pauses or filler phrases, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to, either.

Relying on filler phrases, such as “like” or “you know” is natural. However, you cannot use the same filler phrase over and over as a crutch, as this will lower your Fluency score.

You could use the following words and phrases in Speaking Parts 1 and 2, but try to use more formal fillers in Speaking Part 3.

So, how do native speakers avoid using uh and um, and gain time to think while speaking?


Use this at the beginning of an answer.

Pay attention to how we say this in the episode- the slow pronunciation is very natural.

I mean… / What I mean is…

This is useful for clarifying ideas, and leading into more specific support for our answer.

Our intonation here is higher. Often, our intonation rises when we are searching our mind for words or ideas.

Listen to how we use these phrases today and practice the exaggerated pronunciation!

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Ya know…

This is great to add at any point in your speaking.

And / Yeah so…

This is perfect for adding ideas or additional support.

I would say… / I’d say…

This could be formal or informal.

I feel like…

This is great for informal/formal opinions or observations.

Notice that you can mix and match any and all of the phrases together for additional time to think, such as, “So, you know, what I mean is…”.

This is another way in which IELTS Speaking is different than daily conversation– on the exam, you can’t pause like in real life.

However, there is a way to strategically use small pauses for more natural pronunciation.

How would you use these phrases?

Share an example in the comments section below!

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