IELTS Study Material
Speaking
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Pronunciation

Most dictionary definitions describe pronunciation as saying a word, letter, or name correctly. In IELTS Speaking, however, it involves much more than that!

Here, it refers to the accurate and consistent use of correct English language sound patterns, used to convey meaningful messages, technically referred to as phonological features. All languages have their own unique sound patterns, which if not followed, result in the listener experiencing difficulty understanding what is being said.

In particular, this refers to the ability to divide speech into meaningful utterances and blocks or chunks, in the creation of a sentence. Spoken English has a particular rhythm; syllables within words and words within sentences have emphasis or stress, placed on them by the speaker. Stress and intonation can also be placed on words, to deliver additional emphasis and meaning.

Speech, where the examiner has difficulty understanding sounds at the phonological and phoneme level and has to put in extra effort to try and grasp the speaker's meaning, will be given a lower band score for pronunciation.

Note: Pronunciation and accent are not the same things! The examiner will not judge accent unless it impacts on their ability to understand the candidate. For higher level bands, any accent has to have limited or no effect on understanding for the examiner.

Below are listed the features that are part of the IELTS Speaking Pronunciation assessment, with links to useful websites to provide further information.

1) Clarity

Clear speech is a speaking method where the speaker tries to express each word and sentence in a precise, accurate and fully articulated way.

Useful Websites

Effective Speaking

Improve Your Clarity of Speech

​2) Speech Rate

Rapid speech, or speech which frequently changes from fast to slow, will have a negative influence on pronunciation. The examiner is looking at this and assessing the level at which it interferes with connected speech or the production of individual sounds.

A rapid speech rate will normally have a negative influence on rhythm.

Useful Websites

Speech Rate

The Problem of Pace

​3) Word Stress

To pronounce a word in what is considered its acceptable form, the emphasis is placed on certain syllables. For longer words with more than one syllable, different levels of emphasis will be placed on each. The greatest stress is placed on the key syllable – primary stress!

At higher band levels, only occasional problems with stress occur.

Useful Websites

Word Stress Rule

Word Stress

4) Stress Timing

English is a language where the stressed syllables are said at approximately regular intervals, and unstressed syllables shorten to fit this rhythm.

Rhythm will be influenced, where stress timing is used inappropriately.

​5) Sentence Stress

The emphasis is given to certain words in a phrase or sentence. Stress is typically signalled by such properties as increased loudness and vowel length, full articulation of the vowel, and changes in pitch.

Useful Websites

Sentence Stress

English Sentence Stress

6) Intonation

The way the voice rises and falls (pitch) to support meaning, convey the speaker's attitude/emotion or indicate new information.

At higher band levels, only occasional problems with intonation occur.

Useful Websites

Intonation

Introduction to Intonation

​7) Phonemes

The smallest structural unit of language that distinguishes meaning, as the ‘c’ in cat and the ‘r’ in rat. The smallest unit of sound.

At lower levels, these are often mispronounced. Such mistakes are less common at mid-levels, and where they do occur, clarity is not normally damaged.

​8) Rhythm

The sense of movement in speech indicated by the stress timing, and quantity of syllables. This combined with the correct linking of words results in a correct flow of speech, which delivers meaning to the listener.

For higher band scores, rhythm has to be both consistent and appropriate. Inconsistent rhythm is found in lower level scores.

Useful Websites

Rhythm

Rhythm Rule

​9) Elisions

The omission of sounds, syllables or words in speech. 

​For example:

'I don't know' = ‘I duno’

‘camera’ = kamra

‘fish and chips’ = 'fish 'n' chips'

Useful Websites

Elisions

Further Elisions

​10) Vowels and Consonants

According to the Cambridge Dictionary -

A vowel is:

‘a speech sound produced by humans when the breath flows out through the mouth without being blocked by the teeth, tongue, or lips …. a letter that represents a sound produced in this way.'

In British and American English, the letters are ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘I’, ‘o’, and ‘u’.

American English sometimes includes ‘y’!

A consonant is:

‘one of the speech sounds or letters of the alphabet that is not a vowel. Consonants are pronounced by stopping the air from flowing easily through the mouth, especially by closing the lips or touching the teeth with the tongue.’

Useful Website

Vowels & Consonants

11) ​Chunking

Speakers divide speech into 'chunks', which may be single words or groups of words to communicate a thought or idea or to focus on information the speaker thinks is important. Effective chunking requires the suitable use of pausing.

Useful Website

Pausing & Chunking

​12) Connected Speech

The production of features above the level of individual sounds! The appropriate use of rhythm and stress timing and the linking of sounds, using features such as elision to produce connected speech.

Useful Websites

Connected Speech

​Connected Speech 2

​13) Accent

A particular distinctive type of language (word) pronunciation that is directly connected to the country, location, or social class from which they come. NOTE: With the IELTS speaking test, accent mainly relates to the interference of the first language of a non-native English speaker. It is taken that everyone has some form of accent.

​14) Speech Delivery

The effect some features of speech can have on the individual’s ability to produce connected speech. These include things such as going back over words and phrases - backtracking. It also includes hesitation and false starts.

Good pronunciation is normally the result of constant listening and copying.

Despite the complex appearance of pronunciation assessment, the examiner is generally not listening for specific occurrences of the above features. Instead, they are focusing on how easy it is to understand what the candidate is saying, or attempting to say. Where there is a breakdown in understanding, they will try to identify the cause of it.

 

 

 

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Study Materials List
  • Pronunciation
    IELTS Speaking
  • Fluency
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  • Vocabulary
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  • Grammatical Range
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  • Grammatical Accuracy
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  • Task 1 Question Types
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  • Key Features
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  • Idioms
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  • Collocation
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  • Format
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  • Introduction to the IELTS Speaking Test
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  • Key Features / Bullet Points
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  • Tone
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  • Chunking
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  • Format & Data
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  • Overview
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  • Sentence Forms
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  • Coherence
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  • Cohesion
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  • Answer Script Overview
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  • Factually Correct
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  • IELTS Essay Introduction
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  • Introductory Markers
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  • Task Purpose / Requirements
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  • Question Response
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  • Sequencers
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  • Errors
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  • Linking Words and Phrases
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  • Task 1 Requirements
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  • Idiom
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  • 5 Paragraph Essay
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  • Coherence
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  • Paragraphing
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  • Transition Sentences
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  • Collocation
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  • Chunking
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  • Introductory Frame
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  • Demo Study Material
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