A Guide to Practicing Fluent and Coherent Speech for the IELTS Speaking Test 

 April 2, 2024

By  Jonathan

Fluency and coherence are key elements of successful performance on the IELTS Speaking Test. Fluency refers to your ability to speak smoothly and naturally, without excessive hesitation or searching for words. Coherence means expressing your ideas in a logical, well-organized manner that’s easy for the listener to follow. This guide provides practical strategies to develop these skills for confident and effective communication across a range of topics in the IELTS speaking exam.

Understanding the Importance of Fluency and Coherence

  • Clear Communication: Fluent, coherent speech allows you to convey your thoughts and opinions with clarity and confidence.
  • Higher Scoring Potential: These skills are directly assessed in the IELTS Speaking rubric, influencing your overall band score.
  • Positive Impression: Smooth and well-structured speech creates a favorable impression on the examiner, indicating clear thinking and strong language skills.

Practice Strategies for Fluency

  1. Think Aloud (with Structure)
    • Choose a familiar topic (your hobby, daily routine). Set a timer (1-2 minutes) and speak about it non-stop.
    • Initially, focus more on maintaining a steady flow than perfect correctness.
    • Gradually add goals: Use complete sentences, include descriptive details.
  2. Paraphrasing Drills
    • Take a simple sentence (e.g., “I enjoy listening to music.”)
    • Practice restating the same idea in different ways, varying your vocabulary and sentence structure.
    • This develops flexibility and prevents relying on memorized phrases, contributing to a more natural style.
  3. Build Automaticity with Common Phrases
    • Common expressions (“In my opinion,” “On the other hand”) are helpful when you need a moment to think.
    • Practice using these fillers effortlessly, to buy time without sounding hesitant.
  4. Embrace “Ums” and “Ers” (Strategically)
    • While too much filler disrupts fluency, a few strategically placed “ums” can sound more natural than abrupt silences.
    • Use them before a new thought to smoothly transition rather than stalling completely.
  5. Shadowing Practice
    • Find native-speaker content (podcasts, TED talks) with a clear speaking style and moderate pace.
    • Pause after a short phrase, and repeat aloud, mirroring their pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation.

Practice Strategies for Coherence

  1. Outline Your Thoughts
    • Especially for Part 2, jot down 2-3 main points before speaking.
    • Provides a roadmap to guide your response, preventing rambling or disjointed ideas.
  2. Master Linking Words & Phrases
    • Terms like “however,” “therefore,” “for example,” create smooth connections between your ideas.
    • Create a reference list with these words categorized by function (contrast, cause/effect, elaboration).
  3. Become a Storyteller Utilize chronological sequencing when describing experiences or processes.
    • Words like “first,” “next,” “finally,” etc., provide a clear structure for your narrative.
  4. Practice Summarizing
    • Read a short news article or listen to a podcast. Practice summarizing the main point and key details in your own words.
    • This strengthens your ability to organize information concisely and logically.

Practice for Diverse Topics

  • IELTS Sample Questions: Utilize the wide range of practice questions available on the official IELTS website and other reliable resources.
  • Anticipate Themes: Become familiar with common IELTS topics (technology, education, globalization, etc.) and brainstorm related vocabulary.
  • Record & Analyze: Record yourself speaking about different topics to identify strengths and weaknesses in your fluency and coherence.

Additional Tips

  • Think in English: When alone, practice narrating simple daily actions to yourself in English.
  • Don’t Fear Errors: Prioritize smooth, logical delivery over perfect grammar, especially in the initial practice stages.
  • Find a Speaking Partner: Practicing with a supportive partner provides feedback and a conversational setting.
  • Relax and Breathe: Focus on clear communication; nervousness often disrupts fluency. Taking deep breaths can help.

Remember: Developing these skills takes consistent practice. Be patient with yourself. Set achievable practice goals, track your progress, and celebrate small improvements. By using these strategies, you’ll transform your IELTS Speaking confidence, making a significant stride towards reaching your target band score.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.