How to prepare on the day of your English speaking test

An older man coaching a younger man
Good coaching takes mental skill

Speaking tests are a performance

You have to show your skills. To score well, you need high-level English skills and the mental ability to perform effectively under pressure. This post will help you win the mental game before and during your test.

Take, for example, New Zealand’s rugby team, the All Blacks. Everyone knew that they were the best team in the world, but they always lost the World Cup final. They were labeled “chokers”; they had the skills, but when the pressure was on, they failed to win. Why? Because of their lack of mental skills.

To tackle this, they hired a mental skills coach to make sure they didn’t get too nervous.

It worked, and as of 2017 they currently hold the record for the most consecutive wins by a national team in rugby. Clearly, performing successfully takes both skills and mental preparation.

You have spent months or even years practicing and improving your English skills. But have you prepared mentally?

Here is a list of  things you should and should not do for before your test so you can be an English speaking champion.

The Dos and Don'ts of preparation

Do take a lesson before your test to warm up. It is essential to get you into “English mode” the day of your test. I do this with my students, and it helps them enormously. If you can’t book your regular teacher, any teacher on The English Farm can help you warm up. Make sure you tell your teacher, “Today I am taking my test, so I want to warm up.”

Don’t go into your test over-excited and unprepared. If you do, months of practice will be wasted. Great performers try to balance their nervous energy with relaxation techniques. Try not to go into your test overstimulated (hyped) or understimulated (too relaxed). You should aim to be somewhere in the middle. Elevated, enthusiastic, but controlled.

Do look at your previous score sheet, and remind yourself of your previous strengths! This will give you more confidence, which is important for test situations.

Don’t try to use new words, new sentences or language you are unfamiliar with. Practice new things in class.

Do say what you can, not what you want to. If you have to, lie about it. They are not going to fact-check you.

Don’t memorise answers. Unless you are a Hollywood actor, it will be obvious you have memorised your answer. Your delivery, rhythm and intonation will be unnatural. It’s hard to pay attention. Besides, the GBC test penalizes memorization. Read here for more information on this topic.

Do use English as much as possible before the test. Listen to English. Read English. Write English. Speak English. You want your mind in “English mode”.

Don’t speak quickly. Go slowly and stay relaxed. This will benefit your concentration and will especially benefit your pronunciation, fluency and grammar.

Do say tongue twisters. Below is a range that covers the sounds Japanese speakers find difficult. Try using a couple where you know your pronunciation is weak.

  • /TH/ I think this that and the other thing.
  • /SH/ She sells sea shells by the seashore.
  • /SI/ I see, she is sitting GBC.
  • /R and L/ Rory's lawn rake rarely rake’s really right.
  • /W and V/ For once, weary Wanda's woolgathering lost its vim and vigour.
  • And this one just for fun! Unique in New York

Do greet your Interviewer and keep eye contact. Smile. Be polite and talk to them like you would speak to a customer or your boss. Make a great first impression and be sure to thank them after the test.

Do: Your best.  The test exists because they want to show you where your level of ability is. It is there to help you measure your ability. This is where all your hard work will show results. Being nervous is normal, but can also be counterproductive; great performers use this technique if they are nervous: They “shake it off” and literally shake their bodies to release nervous tension. It may seem a bit silly but it does work!

See you in your warm-up class before your next test, so we can get you into English mode!