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

There are fantastic fillers that will get you the score you need on IELTS Speaking.

Today we answer a “challenging” question that was left in a review of our IELTS Energy podcast.

Listen in to learn how to use fillers for a 7 or higher.

  • How many fillers should you have?
  • What should they be?
  • When do they lower your score?

Today’s question

Hello guys. I found your podcast 2 months ago and I’ve been listening ever since. I couldn’t love it more!

But I don’t know if I can trust you after listening to one of your early episodes in which you advised against using fillers like um, er, like, you know, etc.

In Cambridge Mindset 3, it is clearly stated that the use of such fillers will make your speech more natural and even an example of fast speech without the use of such fillers is put in the book as an example of a low score. Please clarify this for me.

This is a great question!

We definitely want to clarify, as which fillers you use and when can have a big impact on your score.

What do fillers have to do with your score?

Your Fluency score depends on sounding natural.

  • not pausing too often
  • not having disconnected speech

A native speaker uses a filler like “um” if they are thinking of an idea.

A low level student says “um” because they don’t have the language.

Examiners know the difference between these.

Using “um” at the beginning of an answer signals you don’t know what to say.

If “um” is in the middle of speech, it goes with the natural, native flow of speech.

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Avoid repetition

Do not rely on one or two fillers as a crutch.

You don’t want to say the same one over and over.

Any vocabulary repetition on IELTS negatively affects your score.

You need to know several fillers so that you can show a range of vocabulary.

Informal filler phrases

Go back and listen to IELTS Energy episode 413: Avoid a Speaking 6 With These Informal Fillers.

This episode has good examples of filler phrases.

We’ll mention a few today and teach a new one.

  • I mean
  • What I mean is…
  • You know
  • I feel like…

If you feel like you’ve answered but not been clear, you can say, “I mean…” or “What I mean is…” and clarify.

For a question that you need a second to think about, you can say, “I feel like…” to begin your answer.

A new one we want to share is, “OK, anyway, moving on…”

This is a great phrase to use if ever you feel like you’ve rambled.

In addition, use this to move on to the next question or another topic.

Why do you need informal fillers?

You can speak perfectly and still receive a low score on IELTS Speaking.

This is because you can’t sound like a student the entire time.

You must show a range.

Informal fillers and slang boost your Vocabulary score.

This can also relax you when you speak more informally during Part 1.

Think of the Examiner as a friend!

Answer like you would if you were speaking to a good friend.

Tania’s success story

3 Keys IELTS student Tania was stuck at a Speaking 5.5.

She was frustrated because she felt like she was doing everything right!

In a Personal Coach class with Jessica, it became clear that she was not showing a range of Vocabulary.

Instead, she sounded like a student throughout the exam.

After using the 3 Keys strategies and adjusting her tone and Vocabulary, she scored a 7.5 on her Speaking exam!


You definitely need informal fillers on Speaking Part 1 and Part 2.

However, you can’t use “um” and “you know” over and over!

It is a necessity that you know several fillers to avoid vocabulary repetition.

This is the only way to score a 7 or higher on IELTS.

Practice these out loud every time you answer Speaking questions.

You need to know them well enough that you can use them without thinking.

This way, you can say them perfectly while thinking of what you are going to say next.

For more strategies, join 3 Keys IELTS today!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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