The speaking portion of the level test is often the one found most intimidating by many students.
For starters, the setting itself is very unnatural. Speaking tests are most often 1 on 1, with the student and teacher. Also, the interview-style format is stressful. Many students who feel they have made substantial improvements in their real speaking aptitude may feel frustrated that their scores in the speaking portion of the level test refuse to budge. So how do you improve your speaking test scores?
Luckily, there are techniques for improving your scores on a speaking test. It’s important to remember that the interview-style format is designed to allow the examiner to fully assess your verbal skills with the language. Follow these 5 techniques to improve your oral English test scores!
1. Know the Target Language
In a formal speaking test, the examiner is looking for you to exhibit proficiency with certain grammatical structures. These structures should be made clear to you throughout your course, but if you’re still not clear about what your examiner is expecting you to do before the test, ask. S/he should be able to provide you with the grammatical structures whose use s/he will will be assessing.
2. Mind the Gap
Probably among the worst things you can do in a speaking test is lapse into long silence. There is no silence that is deeper than the silence during a timed oral exam. There are many reasons why students freeze up in a test, but the most common is that they are searching for a word that they can’t remember. When this happens, SKIP IT! Wave it off and move on to the next subject. An instructor will more likely recall your overall fluency than your specific word recall.
3. Tell a Story
Take a second at the beginning of your response to mentally prepare a beginning, a middle and an end for your response to every question. This will help you structure your response in a way that is coherent. Don’t be afraid to change course, to follow an interesting idea or to insert additional observations as they arise, but be sure at the end to restate your principal idea and concluding point.
4. Know Your Examiner
If at all possible, you will have an enormous advantage if you know the instructor who will be administering your test. These individuals are human. They will likely give you higher marks for repeating their own words back to them. And don’t worry; this is not dishonest, sycophantic or manipulative. On the contrary, it demonstrates that you have been paying attention in your courses, and value the information you are receiving. Always write down the vocab your teacher puts on the board during your course, and use it in the test! This technique is guaranteed to improve your speaking score.
At the end of the day, you have to understand that this is just a test, and like all tests, your score reflects only your relative improvement in testable skills. A low score on your speaking test does not mean that you aren’t improving! You may well be improving in areas that are not testable in an oral examination.
So use these techniques to guide your efforts as you prepare for your next speaking test, and don’t let anyone stop your from achieving fluency!