Six tips for speaking tests

Do you have to take an English interview test?

Maybe it’s part of an end-of-course English exam. Maybe it’s part of an official English test such as IELTS or EIKEN. Or, maybe it’s part of a job interview. Even if you don’t have a specific goal, preparing and doing interview tests are great way to improve your fluency.

But interview tests can be difficult, even for experienced speakers. You might not be used to the way the interviewer speaks. You might have more than one interviewer. You might not feel confident with unfamiliar topics. And, yes, you will probably be very nervous. Based on my experience doing a range of English interview tests with students, here are six tips that can help. Good luck with the interview!

Prepare and practice under pressure
Prepare for the test by finding out as much as you can in advance. How long will the interview be? Will there be different parts? Is it a discussion? Is there also a presentation? Try to predict what kind of questions you will be asked and prepare your answers. Then practice the interview by role-playing with an English-speaking friend. If you can’t find someone to role-play with, imagine the interviewer asking you the questions. The important thing is to try and practice under some kind of pressure. This will also help you feel less nervous on the day.

 



 

Always give details
Give as much detail as possible in your answers. Sure, you might be afraid of making mistakes, but the interviewer can’t test your ability if they don’t have any language to check. Also, unlike writing, you are being tested more on your spoken communication skills than your grammatical ability. Expand your answers by always giving reasons. To do this, use phrases like “this is because…” or “the reason is…” Also, try and give examples where possible. But remember, while speaking a lot is good, be careful to not keep repeating the same thing or go off topic.

Always have an opinion
Sometimes you will be expected to give your opinion, even if you don’t have one on the topic. You don’t have to have a strong opinion but it’s important you say something. If you don’t know much about the topic, start your answer by saying “I haven’t really thought about it before, but maybe…” Or perhaps you can give a weaker or neutral opinion, for example “I both agree and disagree with this because…” Remember, you are not being tested on your opinion but your ability to communicate it.

Know how to paraphrase
To paraphrase means to say the same thing using different words. This can help the interviewer understand you more clearly, especially with difficult topics. To paraphrase, use phrases like “I mean…”, “in other words…” or “what I’m trying to say is…” Once you feel more confident with paraphrasing, try using eye-contact to check if the interviewer is understanding. This will tell you if you need to paraphrase more.

 



 

Use hesitation devices
Sometimes you just need more time to think about what you want to say next. Fine, then use hesitation devices. Do you know what hesitation devices are? They’re short phrases you can use to give yourself more time to think. They also tell the listener that you’re interested in answering the question or talking more. Common hesitation devices are “that’s a good question…”, “let me see” or “well.”

Vary your language
Overusing words might tell the interviewer that you have limited vocabulary. They can also make your speech sound repetitive and boring . Think of words that you use too much when speaking and try and think of other words you can use instead. For example instead of “and” you can use “plus” or “as well as.” Instead of “but” you can use “while” or “although.” Instead of “very” you can use “so” or “incredibly.”

Related links:

How can I study for language tests?

Three tips for improving speech delivery