IELTS Speaking tips – Fluency and Coherence

One of the 4 criteria the IELTS Speaking module is assessed on is fluency and coherence.  What does this mean?

Fluency is the ability to maintain a flow of language without unnatural hesitation.

Coherence is the logical organization, development and connection of ideas.

  •  Do you express ideas and opinions clearly and coherently (logically ordered and easy to follow), without long pauses or hesitations?
  • Do you use discourse markers appropriately and naturally (i.e. you don’t overuse the same few ones) to link your ideas?
  • Do you stay on topic, develop your ideas but not “go in circles” (repeating yourself) or “go off on a tangent” (moving off the topic)?

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for this. Fluency comes from a lot of practice speaking, so the best way to improve is to speak/engage in conversation as often as you can! But you can really think about your strategy for coherence and practice. When answering a question remember to:

  • Expand on your answer. Think of logical details that the examiner would want to know about. If someone else were talking to you, you would naturally have questions to find out more. What are those questions? Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? How much? How often? How good? How did you feel? Expand on your answer by adding those details that make it interesting.
  • Where appropriate, explain how you feel about something – it gives emphasis to your reasons and details
  • Where appropriate, describe a person, thing or place
  • Think of a logical order or sequence. Don’t jump around from one part to another. The examiner doesn’t know what you’re thinking in your head, so you should try to make your answer easy to follow.
  • Use common conversational discourse markers to signal  how your sentences and ideas are linked together. Here are some examples:
well, – this has a lot of different uses, but mostly at the beginning of speaking in response to the other speaker
ex. “Well, I would say my favorite trip was the one I took with my family to the Philippines for the first time.”
actually – used to state a fact or reality, or for stating a correction, or sometimes to signal that what you’re going to say may be unexpected
ex. “Actually, I think it was the first time for my parents to go back to their home country in about 20 years.”
as for – used in the same sense as “regarding” or “in regard to” which can be more formal
ex. “As for the food, I found the it to be really fresh and  light.”
basically – when you want to simplify or summarize a complicated or lengthy story/idea
ex. “Basically, we were there to visit relatives my parents hadn’t seen since they were young and for me to get to know my parents’ home country.”
I mean – used to clarify what was just said or say it in different words
ex. “It wasn’t at all what I expected. I mean, I thought I knew a lot about the culture and the food, but it was so different being there.”
on the other hand – used to introduce a different view or alternative opinion
ex. “The big crowds on the streets made it really difficult to walk around. On the other hand, it made it exciting to be surrounded by so many people.”
anyway – to move on to another point or close the conversation
as I was saying – to bring the topic back to the original point
the thing is – to raise an important point
ex. ” The thing is, I think the trip was just as memorable for my parents as it was for me. They were so proud to show off their hometown.”
at the same time – used to contrast what was previously said
ex. “It was fun enjoying summer weather during Christmas. At the same time, it didn’t really feel like Christmas to me.”
For more examples, see this chart of transitional devices.



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2 comments on “IELTS Speaking tips – Fluency and Coherence
  1. Amit Kumar says:

    Please correctthe following commnet.
    ex. “As for the food, I found the it to be really fresh and light.”
    ex. “As for the food, I found it to be really fresh and light.”

    • Pearl says:

      Hi Amit,

      You would say: “As for the food, I found it to be really fresh and light.” There is no “the” before “it”.

      If you were talking about a specific food that was part of your meal, then you would say: “As for the food, I found the sauce to be really fresh and light.” Here, you keep “the” as it is specifying the sauce in your meal. Hope that helps.

      Thanks for your question. Good luck in your studies.

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