Speaking is always a major component in English proficiency evaluations. In the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Speaking comprises 25% of the overall score. Test administrators assess an examinee’s abilities based on their fluency, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation through a one-on-one conversation. Aside from self-studying, enrolling in an IELTS review center is one of the most effective ways to improve oral communication skills for the exam.
The Speaking exam in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), on the other hand, is facilitated in its Internet-based test (iBT). TOEFL examiners use similar criteria to evaluate their test takers. Preparing with the help of a TOEFL review center can help examinees to hone their verbal fluency.
However, bear in mind that these touchstones are not the only things that you have to consider. As an English proficiency assessment examinee, you must also be aware of how you deliver and how you act when you take the Speaking exam. Being aware of which communication habits can affect your overall score is the first step to eliminating these practices.
Here are five speaking habits that you need to avoid before taking a speaking exam:
1. Distracting Mannerisms
Almost everyone is guilty of this communication habit. Some do this unconsciously with little acts that range from fiddling with whatever object is at hand to scratching some nonexistent itch. Others deliberately incorporate distracting actions to punctuate their speech. While the former is discreet and the latter is intentional, these mannerisms can project nervousness to the examiner and distract him/her from your arguments respectively.
2. Eye Darting
Maintaining eye contact with the examiner for the majority of the Speaking test is crucial in showing your confidence in your answers. It shows politeness and attentiveness when you look at the speaker while it exhibits your confidence and sincerity when you look at the test facilitator when you speak.
3. Rapid-Fire Replies
Talking too fast often occurs when you are nervous or when you have too much information you wish to impart. Even though the latter means that you are confident with your knowledge on the given topic, giving your insights in rapid-fire speech can make you sound nervous. Moreover, the absence of pauses—which, when effectively utilized, can certainly elevate your discourse—can cause confusion and miscommunication.
4. Verbal Hedges
Verbal hedges are soft words that are used to present a less restricting opinion. Examples include “sort of,” “I think” and “kind of.” While these terms are commonly used during daily discourse, applying it in a serious discussion can lessen the impact of your viewpoint. Be aware of the context of the question when taking the Speaking test. If the situation presented occurs in an everyday setup, using verbal hedges is acceptable. However, if the topic discussed is academic in nature, it is best to refrain from using verbal hedges.
5. Filler Words and Phrases
Using filler words and phrases is a sign of nervousness and lack of knowledge. Its most common forms include the drawn out “um” and the pause fillers “you know” and “like.” As the name implies, people often use these terms to cover up unnecessary pauses. Test takers often turn to these words when they experience sudden mental blocks to fill up the awkward silence.
You can only beat these annoying verbal habits by being aware of them when you practice oral communication. Attending a language training facility, which specifically caters to your chosen English proficiency exam, can help you improve your speaking skills. The instructors in an IELTS review center and in a TOEFL review center can efficiently monitor your skills progress. They can also help you overcome your nettlesome verbal tics.
All in all, it is best to break these habits before taking a Speaking test. Whether unconscious or intentional, the usage of distracting mannerisms, verbal hedges and filler words can affect the quality of your oral communication. Speaking too fast and the failure to maintain eye contact can also affect your Speaking grade.
Constant and conscious practice discourse can help you overcome these speaking habits. After all, the total elimination of these unnecessary mannerisms not only boosts your Speaking scores but also elevates your overall speech quality.
- Smith, Jacquelyn. “10 Public Speaking Habits To Avoid At All Costs.” Business Insider. June 9, 2014. Accessed December 19, 2016. http://www.businessinsider.com/10-public-speaking-habits-to-avoid-2014-6
- James, Geoffrey. “8 Bad Habits That Ruin Good Presentations.” Inc. Accessed December 19, 2016. http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/8-bad-habits-that-ruin-good-presentations.html
- Abrahams, Matt. “3 Speaking Habits That Are Damaging Your Credibility.” Inc. Accessed December 19, 2016. http://www.inc.com/matt-abraham/3-speaking-habits-that-are-damaging-your-credibility.html
- “10 Mannerisms That Can Kill an Effective Presentation.” 997WaystoBeaGreatSpeaker.com. Accessed December 19, 2016. http://997waystobeagreatspeaker.com/2010/05/10-mannerisms-that-can-kill-an-effective-presentation/
- Genard, Gary. “7 Bad Public Speaking Habits: Are You Guilty?” The Genard Method. September 21, 2014. Accessed December 19, 2016. http://www.genardmethod.com/blog/7-bad-public-speaking-habits-are-you-guilty
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- "IELTS Scoring in detail." IELTS™. Accessed December 19, 2016. https://www.ielts.org/ielts-for-organisations/ielts-scoring-in-detail
- "TOEFL iBT Test Content." ETS®. Accessed December 19, 2016. https://www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/about/content/