Dealing with Nervousness in the IELTS Oral Exam

If you are experiencing anxiety about the IELTS interview, it’s not going to be helpful for me to tell you not to be. We don’t choose anxiety or nervousness over confidence… or do we? Let’s talk about why you may be feeling anxious and some points that’ll help you deal with nervousness in the IELTS oral exam.

Fake it Until You Make It?

According to researchers investigating nervousness, the common English expression “fake it until you make it” rings true. They don’t suggest that you can fake perfect English (sorry), but that you can portray, or even manifest confidence during the interview even if you’re not feeling it.

Nervousness during an interview comes from your body’s biological responses to the situation—adrenaline, increased heart rate, changes in blood flow, etc. Interestingly, these experiences are similar to the biological sensations associated with excitement. In other words, nervousness feels surprisingly like excitement.

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But why am I telling you this? Well, research has proven that we can take mentally turn nervous energy into excitement by reframing our perception of the situation. So let’s get excited about the IELTS interview!

6 Reasons to Get Excited (not nervous) About Your IELTS Interview

  1. Get real-world English conversational experience
    For some of us who have spent years studying our new language, finding opportunities to practice isn’t easy where we live. Conversational practice is literally the only way to develop conversational skill. This interview may be short, but it’s invaluable real-world practice that will strengthen the unconscious developing linguistic system accessed when you speak English. Sweet!
  2. Meet interesting people who work for IELTS
    Maybe you haven’t thought of it this way, but the IELTS examiners are diverse in cultural and national backgrounds and have met countless others from all over the world. They are trained English teachers who do what they do because they enjoy working with language learners. It’s true that you’re taking a test, but in this portion, you get to meet someone new and share some of your personal experiences and opinions. Cool!
  3. Check off a to-do or bucket list item.
    You’re taking the IELTS exam because you have to (to-do list) or because it’s something you simply want to do on your English-learning journey (bucket list). As soon as you finish this interview, you can check off that item! Woo-hoo! Check!
  4. One Step Closer to Completing the IELTS Exam
    The IELTS exam is made up of four sections. Get this one done and you’re 25% done. Yes!
  5. One Step Closer to Your Goal
    If you’re taking this exam because you have to, you’re one step closer to your end goal! Whether it’s university admissions, a job application, or immigration requirements, at the end of your interview, you’re that much closer! Hooray!
  6. Learn How Your English Measures Up!
    If you’re a self-starter and driven to success, you’ll love seeing how your English progress measures up. Where do you stand so far? Maybe you’re sure you’ll be a band 6, but who knows? You might surprise yourself and approach a band 7! In any case, it’s good to know. Knowing where you stand tells you a lot about the progress you’ve made and what you’ve got left to work on. Awesome!
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Still Worried about Nervousness in the IELTS Oral Exam?

Here are some helpful things to remember:

You’re not a robot! It’s normal to be nervous during an exam or an interview. Check out this real IELTS interview. That guy has awesome English, but his nervousness struck me right away. As a language teacher (and a language student), I have seen this in students and I have felt it myself. And guess what–so has your interviewer.

Want to know what I do? I tell them, “Ahhh, I’m a little nervous!” As humans who understand this experience, they will probably comfort you and assure you that you don’t need to be.

You cannot fail the interview. The IELTS speaking test marking system is a scale of conversational skill. Where do you fall on it? Your conversation will tell the interviewer where place you on that scale. It’s that simple, so don’t be afraid to fail—you can’t!

It’s less than 15 minutes! The IELTS folks say you can expect the interview to last 11-14 minutes. You’ve probably spent half that reading this article. It will fly by, so don’t let the idea of it become mammoth-sized in your mind! Instead, prepare yourself by learning about the nature of the exam using these helpful links:

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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  • Trisha Alcisto

    Trisha is an IELTS blogger at Magoosh. She has a B.A. in Foreign Language and Literature and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics at UMASS Boston. Before blogging for Magoosh, Trisha taught Spanish and English to students of all ages, helping them master their foreign language or writing and reading comprehension skills. She writes and works as an academic editor from Bali, Indonesia where she enjoys yoga, slogging (slow jogging), and practicing her Indonesian with stray dogs.

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