IELTS Interview Day: Helpful Tips

It has been said that one of the biggest fears most people have is public speaking. Perhaps that is why many IELTS test-takers are so nervous when they are about to have their interview. Although it is a one-on-one conversation, many claim it is the scariest of the four IELTS modules, even if it is not necessarily the hardest.
If you feel the same, read on to pick up some helpful tips for your IELTS interview day.

1. Be on time

As in any important situation, it pays to be early. If you end up rushed, this will only add to any nerves. Being early will allow you to settle down and freshen up. And if you skipped a meal to beat the traffic, an early arrival means you may have time for a quick snack before you sit for the interview.

But importantly, you don't want to be late for the actual interview. The examiner may still see you if you are late for your IELTS speaking test, but there is no guarantee of this so you may end up unable to take the test altogether.  If you do miss your IELTS speaking test completely, you can't take the speaking component another time. You would have to pay for and take the whole test again!

2. Dress comfortably

While it is always nice to look good, dressing to the nines (i.e. wearing fashionable or formal clothes for a special occasion) is unnecessary as there are no plus points for appearance. The examiners are only judging you on your speaking ability, not your dress sense! Besides, many interviews nowadays are done virtually online, meaning your examiner will not be able to appreciate your effort. So you can leave your coat and tie or tailored dress at home.

Smart casual is a good choice since you can blend in anywhere before or after your interview. But if you prefer a different style - sporty, chic, grunge, artsy - that is fine too. Just make sure you are comfortable and confident in your attire. 

3. Bring a friend 

If it is your first time taking the test or you are naturally shy, it always helps to have moral support on your IELTS interview day. So if you can, it can be helpful to bring a friend, but not just any friend, mind you. Take someone who will converse with you in English so you are already warmed up before you start the test.

Now, the IELTS center will probably not allow your companion to join you in the waiting area nor let you converse with others once you have registered. But it can still be helpful to speak in English with your friend before going inside the testing center.

4. Use your normal voice 

A big mistake for some first-timers is to alter their voice: some try to fake an accent, while others use their best “news anchor voice.” Both of these are unadvisable.

Faking an accent may cause you to mispronounce certain words, affecting your pronunciation and possibly even your vocabulary score. On the other hand, speaking like a news anchor may make you sound monotonous, which hurts pronunciation. So it is generally best to sound like yourself.

5. Stop apologizing for being so nervous

Another thing some test takers do is apologize all the time for being nervous. This, however, is quite unnecessary since the examiner can already tell, so stop mentioning it. 

Besides, if you were hoping for some consideration, the best you will get is a smile but not a score adjustment. Remember, this is an international test, not a classroom recitation. If you have filed for the IELTS exam, it should mean you believe you are ready and capable of getting the score you need, not practicing for the first time.

So do try to overcome your nervousness before entering the interview room. Nearly everyone is nervous so try not to worry about it or mention it as the examiner will expect it from most candidates anyway. 

6. Smile

Smiling can help overcome your nervousness, as smiling can make you feel more positive about yourself. Smiling is also contagious, which is good since it is easier to speak to a smiling examiner than someone with a stern or detached look. Smiling though is of course not related to the actual score the examiner will give you!

However, take care not to base your progress on your examiner's smile or lack of a smile, or you might begin feeling nervous again, which will affect your performance. Similar to the everyday people we meet, not everyone smiles back or smiles all the time. But the lack of a smile on your examiner's face is not an indicator you are doing a poor job.

7. Imagine you are talking with a friend

The IELTS interview is not a job interview, business negotiation, or interrogation with your future in-laws. So while you should still be respectful, you do not have to be so stiff and formal with your IELTS examiner.
One thing that helps is thinking of the examiner as a friend, perhaps a close mentor or colleague you respect. This means you can laugh if you need to laugh or tell a relevant personal story if the need arises.

Though “confidence” is not one of the scoring criteria, if you are relaxed and confident as you speak, your fluency and pronunciation scores are almost guaranteed to be at the levels you desire.

8. Don't obsess over your grammar when speaking

Your grammatical range and accuracy is obviously a key component of your speaking ability and the grade you will get, but of most importance when we speak to someone is their fluency. If someone is having problems with their fluency or talking slowly, it is very noticeable. 

Some candidates make the mistake of focusing so much on their grammar that it affects their fluency or their coherence. Sometimes they speak more slowly than natural speed in order to try and get the grammar correct.  All this will do is ensure you get a lower score for your fluency and coherence and possibly your pronunciation too!

You obviously need to think about your grammar on your IELTS interview day (for example, did the examiner ask a question about the past? If they did, you need of course to use past tenses to answer), but if you focus on it too much you may end up making your score worse. It's too late to start trying to improve your grammar once you get to the test so relax and focus on chatting to the examiner in a natural way.  

Wrapping it up

Again, the IELTS interview is not necessarily the most difficult module, but it can be quite “scary” for first-time test takers or people who are naturally shy. So do consider the above-mentioned IELTS interview day tips to help you, and of course, practice, practice, PRACTICE. Good luck!  
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