How to Ask for Clarification in the Speaking Test

In the speaking test if you’re not sure what the examiner has said then ask them to repeat the question – you will not lose marks for this as it’s what we do in normal, everyday communication.

Here are some expressions you can use to clarify ideas:

“I’m sorry, I don’t quite get you. Could you repeat that please?"
“I'm not quite sure I follow you. Can you repeat the question please?”
“I’m sorry, but I didn't get your point. Could you clarify that for me please?”

Here are some expressions you can use if there is a word or phrase you do not understand:

“Could you explain what you mean by...?”
“I’m sorry, what do you mean by…?”
“I’m sorry but could you paraphrase … for me?”

Remember to listen carefully to the examiner – a common mistake is to pick up on one of the examiner’s key words, for example they may mention ‘technology’ but you must listen for the specific aspect of technology that they want to know about.

If you’re not sure what the examiner is asking you, then It’s better to ask them to clarify something than to just answer what you think you have heard.

Look at this example of a part 3 follow-up question:

Most teenagers have a mobile or a tablet; do you think that young people have become too dependent on technology nowadays?

To answer this question, you should focus on whether you think young people are over-reliant on technology or not – are they too dependent on their devices and gadgets?

 A common mistake for lower level candidates, in the 5.5 band and below, is to start talking in general about technology without focusing on the specific aspect that the examiner has asked about, in this case dependence on technology by young people.

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