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What to do if you forget what to say during Speaking Test?

What to do if you forget what to say during Speaking Test?

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Remember that awkward moment where you can't think of what to say next and keep staring at the examiner? How can we avoid this?

Have you ever come across a scenario during the speaking test, where you didn't quite get what the IELTS examiner was asking, and have no idea how to begin your next sentence? What do you do then? What can we do in order to avoid getting ourselves into this awkward situation?

Instead of saying 'Pardon?', 'Hmmmm', or keep on repeating yourself, let's take a look at the following tips that can help you in the speaking test:

1. What should I do if I don't quite understand the question?

In this case, try to use these sentences and phrases:

  • If I understand right, …
  • I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand. Do you mean (that)…?
  • Sorry I don't quite catch you. When you say …, do you mean …?
  • I'm not exactly sure how to answer that question, but (perhaps)…
  • That's a rather difficult question, but (maybe)…
  • Could you please rephrase that question / topic?

2. What should I say if I get stuck?

Getting stuck during the conversion happens quite frequently, and we can try to use the following words and phrases to show that you are actively thinking (instead of having nothing to say):

  • Well, …
  • Actually, …
  • In fact, …
  • You see, …
  • How shall I put it, …
  • Let me think for a second, ...
  • Give me a few seconds, …

And instead of saying 'I think', use the following phrases instead:

  • As far as I’m concerned, …
  • It seems to me that...
  • From where I stand, it is …
  • What I reckon is …
  • I’d like to point out that…
  • If I may say so, this is…
  • I’m convinced that…
  • Personally, I consider….

3. What should I do if I forget how to pronounce certain words?

a. Use Vaguer Words

We all want to use complex vocabulary to impress the examiner, but sometimes we just can't remember how to say that word! In this case, try to use a vaguer word to replace it.

For example, you want to say the following sentence:

'Mike experienced a terrible hard time.'

But due to pressure you forgot to use the word 'experience'. Instead, you can say it like this:

'Mike had a terrible hard time.'

b. Use Synonyms

Another way to do it is to use synonyms. Use your imagination and use the words that can convey similar meaning.

For example, if you can't say:

'This woman is talkative.'

Then use a synonym:

'This woman is never quiet.'

c. Expand the Words

Many of the complex words can be 'expanded' or 'explained' using simpler phrases. If you are not comfortable in using some of the words, try to keep it simple, and you might score a higher mark due to being fluent and using correct grammar.

For example, if the following is a bit difficult:

'I've never seen such a stubborn person.'

Then we can say like this:

'I've never seen such a person who never listens to other's advice.'

4. How should I start my speech, and how should I end it?

Besides being comfortable during our speech, we should also focus on having a good start and a good ending. Nothing is worse than having nothing to say and mumble 'Yea, that's that...'.

Here are some good sentences that can get you started and can buy you some time to think of your answers:

  • It seems that you really know how to ask difficult questions
  • That's an interesting question.
  • Well, it's really hard to say.
  • Actually, I don't quite remember.

To finish our speech, we can try something like these:

  • In other words, I am …
  • And that means …
  • Let me put it another way, …
  • What I'm suggesting is …
  • All I'm trying to say is …
  • What I'm getting at is …
  • If I can rephrase that, …
  • Perhaps I should make that clearer by saying …
  • Perhaps it would be more accurate to say …


Wish you all the best for your speaking test, and hope that none of these awkward moments will happen!

If you wish to quickly boost your speaking skill, let our IELTS examiners help you:

IELTS Speaking Preparation Services

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