The IELTS Test and Accents What You Should Know
As an IELTS examiner I am sometimes asked about accents on the IELTS Speaking and Listening test. Specifically, some wonder what kinds of accents they will hear on the Listening test, and how they should handle their own accent during the speaking test. Below are some Dos and Don’ts to help you deal with accents on the IELTS test.
DO Know the Test Format
I suspect you have heard it before: know the format for all sections of the IELTS test before taking the test. I suggest you follow this advice and make sure you have a good sense of the overall format, timing, kinds of questions, etc.
For the Listening test, some key pieces of information you should be aware of include:
- The test is 30 minutes, with 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.
- You will hear each of the 4 recordings, which is all pre-recorded, once.
- For both the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Training Listening tests, there are four parts including:
- Two different conversations; one with two people in an everyday social situation, and one between 2-4 people in an educational or training situation.
- Two different monologues; one in an everyday social situation, and one about an academic topic.
- There will be a variety of English accents on the test such as Australian, New Zealand, British, or North American accents.
- You will hear different voices on the Listening test.
DO Practice Listening to a Variety of Accents
The accents you hear on the Listening section of the IELTS test are “standard” accents – those you may hear in larger urban centres, such as London or Sydney. You will not hear rural or region-specific accents.
Before you take your IELTS test, I suggest you get some practice listening to different English accents. One way to do this is to check online for videos and listening exercises with speakers with different accents. I also suggest listening to radio programs, especially from Australia, England, Canada, and the United States, as well as television shows such as sit-coms and dramas. Also useful are news programs and movies.
DO Practice Using English – A Lot
You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating that improving your speaking and listening skills (not to mention the other skills) takes a lot of work and practice. One way to practice is to try to speak and listen to English every day, and in as many different situations as possible.
Remember that it also takes time to get used to hearing different accents and to understand them. With some practice using the language and hearing various English accents, you should see some improvement in your language and your ability to understand these accents.
DON’T Try to Change Your Accent
Some test takers worry about their accents and wonder if they should try to alter their accent or way of speaking during the IELTS test in hopes of improving their speaking score. I strongly suggest that rather than trying to change your accent – which is very hard to do - focus on improving your vocabulary, organizing your thoughts and ideas, and speaking clearly and at a natural pace. Also be aware of your pronunciation, stress, and intonation. If you aren’t sure how to pronounce something, look it up. By doing these things, you are more likely to effectively communicate what you want to say, and your IELTS speaking examiner is more likely to better understand you.
There are a few final words I would like to share with you. As mentioned above, before taking the IELTS test, make sure you know the format for all sections of the test. This is very important information to help you prepare for and perform well on your test. Also, take advantage of the numerous online practice tests and face-to-face IELTS prep courses that are available to test takers. In an effort to familiarize yourself with different English accents, spend some time online and in your daily life listening to different English accents. Also try to use English as much as possible in your day-to-day life. Finally, don’t spend time trying to alter your accent for the test. Rather, focus on preparing for your test and practice speaking clearly and naturally.