Make yourself stand out. Be Interesting!

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During my time examining in the People’s Republic of China I have often zoned out, and on some days the candidates seem to all be merged into one. I honestly reckon if they’d kept bringing the same candidate in again and again, I may not have noticed as they all said exactly the same thing, had the same spiritless opinions, the same monotonous voice, and of course, give or take half a band, all got a similar score. On occasion, however, a candidate would achieve a higher than average score, say, a 6.5 or above. These candidates who did manage it had one thing in common: They were more interesting.

Being interesting does not of course guarantee a higher score in and of itself without the language. That being said, for candidates to score in the higher bands on IELTS, 7’s, 8’s, and 9’s, they really need to be interesting and have opinions. Regurgitating the same drab, wishy-washy, clichéd, stock (and memorised) answers and opinions as everyone else will most likely result in you getting the same underwhelming score as everyone else.

Formulating your own opinion and thinking for yourself allows you to speak with more passion which is likely to improve your pronunciation. This means intoning well, stopping to take a dramatic pause if you need to. To avoid coming across as boring you can read the online newspaper, read books of interest, find out what is going on in the world, have a multitude of hobbies. You could find out some good stories. Think to yourself “what does everyone else say?” and then avoid that. While the dumplings of your hometown may well be delicious try to consider the fact that you may be boring someone to death talking about them.

Of course don’t try to be too different. Using coarse language is rather (though not completely) inappropriate in a language proficiency test, as are tales of recent sexual exploits. Points are not earned through insulting examiners personally on the basis of their nationality or appearance (it does occasionally happen, you’d be surprised). Operate within the confines of social conventions and don’t expect to win freak points. That means avoid talking about how you faked your own death for the sake of “art”, and your fascination with Jeffrey Dahmer. Interesting people are usually healthy-minded, well-rounded people.