Speaking Test Strategies 23 Sophisticated intonation

Young boys singing in chorus with yellow flowers
Intonation is the melody of English

This lesson will show you ways to use intonation naturally and confidently.


What is intonation? There are three ways that words can be stressed. Can you think of them? 

Warm Up: 

Here is a test question. Answer it smoothly, and pay attention to your intonation. 

How did you meet your best friend?


Let's do three exercises to quickly improve your intonation. Your teacher will introduce each one. 

1. Intensifiers and strong adjectives

Stress the intensifier as much as you can.

  1. My best childhood memory is…
  2. The biggest problem facing the economy is…
  3. Surfing is fantastic
  4. The biggest threat to work-life balance is going to be A.I. If humans have to compete with machines, we'll have to work so hard. It's going to be really tough

2. Lists 

Use list intonation, rising at the end of each item in the list, then falling clearly at the end.

  1. Food in Paris is amazing, and there's a lot of variety. You can find good Chinese, Italian, Indian, and of course, French
  2. My vacation was good—I relaxed on the beach, had some cocktails, went swimming and didn't even think about work
  3. My hometown is in the countryside, so there's a lot of nature: rivers, mountains, and fields. In spring, there are daffodils, and in autumn, there are red leaves. It's gorgeous. 

3. Opposites

Stress the auxiliary verb in these patterns: 

  1. My hometown might not be cheap, but it is a fun city! 
  2. Fast food might not be good for you, but it is convenient.   
  3. Golf might not be the most exciting sport, but it is good exercise. 

Now use intensifiers, lists and opposites to give your real opinions about your city, your last vacation, and your hometown. 


Now practice answering some speaking test questions. Remember to aim for natural intonation.