Will my accent be a problem in the IELTS speaking test?

Pronunciation matters and this poem can help

We’ve talked before about how you can prepare for different accents in the IELTS listening exam (you can read about it here) but today we’re going to think about your accent in the speaking exam.

Pronunciation is one of the four criteria you are marked on in the IELTS speaking exam. The others are Fluency & Coherence, Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy. This means your pronunciation is very important and will have an impact on your final score.

The good news is, you don’t have to sound exactly like a native speaker. It is expected you may have an accent and you can still score highly in pronunciation. The most important thing is that your speech is intelligible. This means that the listener can understand what you are saying without any trouble.

What you need to think about is making sure your speech is easy for the listener to follow. This involves thinking about individual word sounds but also how your speech is connected together, the rhythm and intonation. It’s also important to think about stress, both on the individual word level and on the sentence level (you can read more about how to use stress effectively here).

A good idea is to record yourself talking and then listen back to it. You will be able to hear what you sound like and hear where other people may have a problem understanding you. You should try speaking naturally and also try reading something out loud, particularly something that has a strong rhythm like a poem. The one below is a good one to try and you can listen to someone reciting it here.

English Pronunciation Poem

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through?
Well done! And now you wish perhaps
To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird;
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead —
For goodness sake don’t call it ‘deed’.
Watch out for meat and great and threat.
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt

A moth is not a moth in mother,
nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s dose and rose and lose —
Just look them up — and goose and choose.

And cord and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart —
Come come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive,
I’d mastered it when I was five!

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