Pronunciation in the IELTS – the Myths Vs Reality Guide

Pronunciation is a crucial part of the International English Language Testing System test. Pronunciation in IELTS carries a high weightage as far as marking is concerned. Pronunciation matters in both the Modules – IELTS Listening and Speaking. So, it is vital for every applicant to give it time and prepare well.

If you are also preparing for the IELTS exam, then this informative guide will raise your awareness about pronunciation features. Read it carefully to be able to take an informed decision and obtain a higher score in IELTS Listening and Speaking module too.

Pronunciation in IELTS Module – Overview

IELTS Speaking exam is conducted to evaluate candidates based on four factors Lexical resource (25%), Grammar (25%), Fluency and Coherence (25%), and Pronunciation (25%).

Pronunciation in the IELTS module is important as it counts for 25% of the weightage. But pronunciation is often the area that causes the majority of the problems. Many test takers mistakenly assume that it is ‘difficult’ to learn. Similar to any other skill, it takes much practice to improve pronunciation.

Pronunciation Band Scores

Achieving the required Band in the IELTS test is not easy. You can do it if you follow the right preparation strategy. Under the preparation strategy comes – your focus or firm determination to excel, time management, disciplined studies, awareness or knowledge about the test format, modules, sections, and type of questions, marking, practices, and IELTS coaching in Delhi or the city near to you.

Do not forget that your overall score in the test is the inclusion of marks obtained in all four modules which include scores in IELTS Task 1, 2, Pronunciation Band Scores, essay writing, and other sections. So having a good understanding of Pronunciation Band Scores will ease your preparation journey.

Mentioned below is the outline of the Pronunciation IELTS Band Scores as described by the official IELTS Speaking Band Descriptors:

Band in IELTS Description
6 The candidate uses a variety of pronunciation features with mixed control during the test. Many students mispronounce individual words or sound which lowers clarity at times but generally, the meaning of what they want to say is clear.
7 This band means that candidates show all the positive features of Band 6 and a few, but not all, of the positive features of Band 8.
8 The candidates use a different range of pronunciation features and use them with a few lapses. The words used by them are quite easy to understand and the L1 accent doesn’t affect clarity.
9 The candidate uses a complete range of pronunciation featuring precision and subtlety. The candidate used effortless words which are easy to understand.

About the Marking Criteria & Pronunciation Features

To get a Band 8 for pronunciation, it is important to completely understand and use a wide range of pronunciation features.

Pronunciation in IELTS Module: Features

To get a good score in the IELTS Speaking exam, you must consider the following features:

  •   Accuracy
  •   Word stress
  •   Sentence stress
  •   Weak sounds
  •   Linking words
  •   Intonation

Phonemic Spelling

It is crucial to look at the options to find out the spellings of the words used. Majority of the online dictionaries help understand the spellings, but among all, Cambridge Dictionaries are the most reliable.

Exercise

Some of the techniques one can use while studying at home include:

  •   Look at how the way words are spelt using the phonemic chart.
  •   Look out for what each of these sounds like by considering the phonemic chart.
  •   Carefully listen to how the words sound.
  •   Use sounds of speech to look out how to make each sound.

Try to do the exercise using the following:

  •   Manage
  •   Wednesday
  •   Talent
  •   Weather
  •   Selfish
  •   Identical
  •   thought
  •   Colleague

Pronunciation in IELTS Module: Features Explained

The test takers will be able to use various features of pronunciation to make their IELTS Speaking more successful.

Some of the main features are discussed below:

  • Individual sounds

Use the pronunciation chart mentioned below containing vowel and consonant sounds of English. They are arranged as per how you shape your mouth (left to right, lips wide/round – top to bottom, jaw closed / open).

Each of the words in English is made up of these sounds. It is important to learn how to pronounce individual sounds in the right way. It is important as it helps you identify the sounds that otherwise are difficult to pronounce or have some problems. It is important to pay detailed attention to similar sounds (/p/ and /b/, /t/ and /d/, /r/ and /l/, among others), consonant clusters (cht, sht, among many others), short & long vowels (book, food, look, boot, among others), and silent letters (lamb, knight, comb, to name a few). 

  • Word /syllable stress

Each word consists of syllables. Normally a few words are much stronger as compared to others. If you don’t do this correctly, it is often difficult for a native speaker to understand what is being said, which can lose you marks on the IELTS test.

Think about the words like Photograph, Photographer, Photographic, etc. Very often the word stress changes together while speaking.

  • Sentence stress

Like there are more focused syllables in words, there are words in sentences that carry the majority of the stress, thus the most meaning. But you must know which words to stress. English is a stress-timed language, meaning that the stress happens in sentences at fixed intervals, a few of the words are focused while many others are pronounced easily and silently.

These words are content and function words. Content words are crucial as they have significant meanings like nouns, adverbs, verbs, and adjectives. Function words are used for grammar usage and don’t have any significant meaning: articles, pronouns, or prepositions. The candidates can record for themselves as it will reduce the pressure they might feel when asked to speak spontaneously. Also this way, they will get the best version of the speech during pronunciation in IELTS Module every time.

Pronunciation in IELTS Myths

Myths related to different things have proved to be a big problem for many.                                There are many examples in history where people have suffered a lot because of their belief in myths. Similarly, in the International English Language Testing System – the English proficiency test there are a few myths related to pronunciation in IELTS. Let us discuss a few of them and chose not to get carried away because of the different myths.

Below are a few Myths related to Pronunciations in the IELTS:

Myth 1- A native accent is important to ace the speaking test

Leave your ‘Mother Tongue Influence’ rather than focus on your pronunciation. Focus on the right syllables and improve your speech accordingly. You are just a few steps away from acing your Speaking test score. If you try skipping these steps and try to mimic a foreign accent, and then trust us it will eventually harm you more. The above myth that ‘a native accent is important to ace the speaking test’ is incorrect. You just need to use a neutral accent and pronounce words in the correct manner. There is no need to use a country-specific accent.

Myth 2 – The right and wrong answers

Similar to the way there is no pass or fail, there is neither a right nor wrong answer. Every question and every module is included to test your grammar, pronunciation, and English language fluency.

Myth 3 – Being courteous helps score better

Smiling face, well dressed, soft skills, and being courteous are good manners. It helps you engage with an examiner in a better way. But it doesn’t mean that it can help you in increasing or decreasing your score in the test.

Remember, it is not at all part of the evaluation. It is necessary to stay confident, focus on the topic, and perform well.

Myth 4 – One cannot request the examiner to repeat a question

This is a very common fear arising out of ignorance in many students. There is nothing wrong in asking for clarification or repeating a question instead of misinterpreting the meaning.

Always make it your point to seek clarification when you are unsure about a particular thing. An examiner will try to explain the same question in an easy-to-understand manner.

Improving Pronunciation in IELTS

The pronunciation of most of the words is not done in your head but it is in your mouth. It is your mouth muscle that plays a vital role. An individual has been using his/her mouth in a specific way to speak the mother tongue. Now to speak words in a neutral way, there is a need for you to first control your mouth. You are required to practice your pronunciation by controlled use of your tongue, lips, jaw, and sounds. Regular practice will help you improve and you will be able to nice the improvement by yourself sometime later.

The Ways to improve your Pronunciation in the IELTS Module

Though pronunciation IELTS can’t be changed all of the sudden, by following some of the tips, candidates can improve their score.

The below-discussed tips can help you improve your pronunciation:

  1. Use contractions

At the time of learning English grammar, it is important to learn the complete, written forms e.g. ‘I would like a cup of tea. But this might sound quite unnatural at the time of speaking. Try to practice your first line in the Speaking Test Part 2.

Don’t feel worried while saying ‘I’m gonna tell him or ‘I wanna tell him’ in case you are much more confident to use this fast in a natural way.

  1. Use weak forms

Words having 2 or more syllables have a minimum of one stressed syllable like ADvert and advertisement.  This way, it makes the other syllables weak/unstressed. While listening to the sentences, many times we don’t hear AD-VERT, rather hear ‘ADvuh’.

A few students have developed a habit of pronouncing the ‘r’ strongly, but actually, it’s silent, more. For instance, words like ‘DOCtuh‘(ˈdɒktə)

  1. Focus on SENTENCE stress

One of the ways to do this is to hear good speakers on TV and try to copy them. Not all words used in a sentence are crucial.

I’d prefer to TELL you about an ADVERT I SAW last MONTH.

If you focus on the keywords in bold, the other words become ‘weak’ and you can say them very quickly.

  1. Take the help of a trainer

There are voice and accent trainers who are proficient in their profession. They help you read aloud words, practice voice modulation and learn about sounds. They can help you practice, share feedback, and notice improvement. A coach or a trainer can help you get faster results.

  1. Using a pronunciation App

Today, you can find some applications that can help you improve your pronunciation. You can take help from such pronunciation Apps. It aids you to work on your sound problem and thus notice improvement shortly. You can check apps like ELSA Pronunciation App, and others.

  1. Listening to audio and watching videos

Listening to audio can be a good way to hear sounds. You can listen to words and repeat them. You may also record your words and listen to see the improvement.  Watching videos are a better way in comparison to audio. In the videos, you can notice the way a speaker uses his/her mouth to read or speak out a word that seems difficult for you. Regular practice can definitely give you the desired results in no time.

  1. Read aloud

Reading loud newspapers, books and other study materials can be a good source too to improve your reading and pronunciation skills. It has proved useful to many and is a good way to work on your weakness without seeking the help of a coach.

I am sure the above-discussed ways to improve your pronunciation in IELTS module can definitely help students experiencing problems with pronunciation. It can thus help you score better in the test.

Final Thought

The Pronunciation in IELTS score holds 25% in the entire Speaking marking. But some students don’t spend even 1/4th of their preparation time on pronunciation. So we have to pay more attention to the pronunciation features, avoid valuing myths, and consider ways to improve it for the enhancement in the overall Speaking Module score. We hope this informative guide on pronunciation in IELTS Module helps improve your pronunciation.

For more info on pronunciation in IELTS and coaching by certified trainers, get in touch with our admission counselors at Study Smart Overseas Education institute today.

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