What is fluency and coherence in IELTS test? How to understand this and use it while speaking?

IELTS test

One of the most sought after tests of the English language is the IELTS test. It is the International English Language Testing System, which is very popular among the test takers. There are over 3 million tests taken each year, and the numbers are surging steadily with each passing year.

The main reasons why people take the test are for migrating to an English speaking country for settling there or for working and establishing a livelihood there. Yet another cause for taking the test is to pursue one’s higher education abroad.

Having understood the significance of the IELTS test, we shall understand about the speaking band descriptors, specifically about something called Fluency and coherence, and why this band marking criterion is important for grading the IELTS speaking test. The speaking test is specifically designed so as to meet the language proficiency requirements that are required to speak with the people in the country that you like to migrate to.

First and foremost, the IELTS test consists of four parts or test divisions. These are

1. The IELTS listening test.

2. The IELTS writing test.

3. The IELTS reading test and

4. The IELTS speaking test.

There is a special feature of the speaking test. It differs from the other divisions as it is the test which completes in just 11 to 14 minutes of time on an average.  Yes! In addition to this, the test is conducted separately, on a date that is different from the rest of the sections.

Many of you may be wondering why this is the case. Let us learn about this. Basically,  the speaking test and the listening tests are common for both the academic and the general training versions of the IELTS test.There is no difference between the tests whether you are taking the IELTS academic test or the IELTS general training test. For this reason, the organizations that conducts the IELTS test, which are the Cambridge University,  the British Council and the idp education have decided to conduct the speaking on a separate day. This day might be before or after the other three components of the test.

Now,  talking about the format of the IELTS speaking test.  The test comprises of three parts – part 1, part 2 and part 3 respectively.

Part 1 – This is named as the introduction and interview.  In this first part,  you will be asked to talk about yourself,  describing the main points such as the city where you were born and your educational qualifications ,etc. After that,  the examiner will ask you 6 to 12 questions taken from one or two general topics and you should answer them fully.

Part 2 – After the first test, you will start the second part of the test.  In this part,  a topic is given to you and you should note down your ideas briefly on a piece of paper using a pencil, both of which will be provided by the examiner. You will be given two minutes to speak without interruption on this topic.

Part 3 – This is the final segment in the test.  In this part,  the examiner will ask you nearly 6 – 8 questions (can be more or less, depending on the topic and how you express your opinion). The topic of discussion will be the extension of the same topic that has been given to talk about in the second part. The topics would be related to the same one as discussed previously.

Hence, the time division for the speaking test will be 4 to 5 minutes for the first part, 3 minutes for the second part, and approximately 4 to 5 minutes for the final part of the test.

Now,  how is the IELTS speaking test evaluated?

For giving your speaking score, there are several factors. These are known as band descriptors. This is more of a practically evaluated part of the IELTS test. Hence, the IELTS examiners have to be very precise in the way your performance is valuated.

The IELTS speaking band descriptors are

1. Fluency and coherence

2. Pronunciation

3. Lexical resource

4. Grammatical range and accuracy.

All these factors together constitute equally for the IELTS test score. Each of these band descriptors calculate twenty five percent of the score.

What is fluency and coherence?

These are two separate elements that have to be understood clearly.  Fluency, by definition,  means that you should speak clearly and meaningfully without hesitation. Fluency can be interpreted in the following way.

1. The candidates have to speak in such a way that it attracts no attention from the other person.

2. When you speak,  it has to be understood clearly and in the process, you must answer with clarity about any topic.

3. The levels of hesitation should be kept to a minimum. Here, some students have a misconception that if you hesitate, you will lose the score. However, if you look at the table of band descriptors, you will realise that even though hesitation is observed, if it has a minimal effect on the speech,  then there is a high chance of getting a high score.

4. There is something called ‘topic related hesitation’. This is a key factor to score well in the speaking test for fluency and coherence. What is this? It means that if a candidate tries to speak about some topic in a detailed way,  then it must be clear to the examiner that you are trying to collect the words and phrases which are related to the topic without any noticeable effort. However, if you make an effort to speak on the topic and in this process, if you try to make an effort to speak using better vocabulary,  then,  even if you hesitate a little,  it is known as topic related hesitation.  This is perfectly fine on the test.

Finally,  coherence is another factor which means that you are grouping all the ideas together as per the topic.  Coherence and fluency together account for 25 percent of the speaking score. Hence, practice well so as to gain a very high score for this band descriptor.


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