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Using STRESS effectively in the IELTS speaking test

In the IELTS speaking test, the pronunciation category that examiners use to assess your level includes stress, intonation and pausing. The one that examiners pay close attention to with higher students aiming for band 7 and above is stress.

There are two types of stress that are being examined: word stress and sentence stress. Lower level candidates are expected to use the correct stress in words (eg comPUter, not compuTER) but to gain a high score in IELTS,  candidates are required to add strong stress to give extra meaning in a sentence. This is an advanced skill.

So how do they do it? Well, take a look at the sentence below then read it aloud. If you can, record yourself on your phone then listen back.

“As far as I’m concerned, electric cars are the future of travel.”

If you said it correctly, you would have stressed the longer words like this: concerned, electric, future and travel. This is band 4-5. Below are variations on a simple sentence using stress to create extra meanings:

1. As far as I’m concerned, electric cars are the future of travel = emphasises it is your opinion, not someone else’s
2. As far as I’m concerned, electric cars are the future of travel = suggests you disagree with someone who said they are not
3. As far as I’m concerned, electric cars are the future of travel = emphasises ‘electric cars’ as opposed to other types of cars
4. As far as I’m concerned, electric cars are the future of travel = emphasises ‘cars’ as opposed to other forms of transport
5. As far as I’m concerned, electric cars are the future of travel = emphasises ‘the future’ as opposed to the present
6. As far as I’m concerned, electric cars are the future of travel = emphasises ‘travel’ as opposed to other uses

Listen to the sentences being spoken here:

If you can stress words like these enough throughout the test and add emotion to enhance the meaning further, your pronunciation score will definitely increase.

Once you master this, work on your speed by slowing down and pausing in the right places. If you speak too fast, it is hard to add stress effectively and even if you do, it is quite hard for the examiner to hear it.

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Sign up for an iPass IELTS speaking course or an IELTS top-up test and you can practice this technique in a full mock interview on skype with an iPass tutor!

By Jenny Bedwell on 2016 06 22

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