By Emma Walker

06 February 2024 - 11:38

Three students chat outside their school

In this article, you will discover how to overcome shyness in IELTS Speaking with practical tips and advice.

Do you feel shy and nervous about speaking in English? Don’t worry - you’re not alone. Most people feel nervous when they need to speak in a second language - especially during IELTS Speaking. The good news is that you can easily overcome these feelings with a few tried and tested techniques. 

Learn more about IELTS and download the Quick Guide to IELTS Success

Here are five different ways on how to overcome shyness when speaking English and feel calmer when you’re preparing for the IELTS Speaking test. 

How to overcome shyness in IELTS Speaking? 

1. Watch and carefully observe other speakers

One of the best ways to improve your speaking skills and boost your confidence is to observe public speakers. 

Pay attention to how professionals enunciate their words and listen carefully to how quickly (or slowly!) they speak. Many speakers use pausing techniques to give the audience time to process what has been said before continuing to their next point. 

Communication isn’t just about what you say - it’s also about body language and gesture. So, pay attention to how the presenters move their body and make use of the space on stage. 

A great place to watch speakers in action is on the TED website. You can also check if there are any live TED or TEDx talks near you for a more immersive experience.

2. Practise by yourself

Practise alone and implement some of the tricks that you’ve learnt from observing other speakers. You can experiment with different ways to incorporate the techniques and see which one works best for you and your IELTS presentation. 

Focus on the speed that you are speaking at. It can be tempting to rush through what you have to say, but speaking too fast will have a big impact on your intelligibility - that is, how easy it is for the Examiner to understand you. 

Don’t forget to pause a few times!  It will take time to get comfortable with pauses, but with enough practice, you’ll notice that pausing will also reduce your use of filler words like ‘umm’ and ‘like’. So, your speech will sound more polished and confident, and easier for your IELTS Examiner to understand.  

You can also record yourself and watch it back to see how you look and if the techniques are having the desired effect. It’s a good idea to record yourself multiple times, so you can see how you are improving and monitor your progress. 

3. Practise with family and friends, and incorporate their feedback

Does the thought of speaking in English still fill you with dread? Practising with your English-speaking family and friends is a great way to build up your confidence. Ask them to make notes while you’re talking so they can give you constructive feedback and advice on areas you can improve.

If you feel you need more regular, ongoing feedback, then why not consider joining a speakers club like Toastmasters International. Giving speeches regularly will help you to overcome shyness when you’re speaking in English. You would be surrounded by like-minded and ambitious people who have the same desire to become confident speakers. This will help drive you towards your goal much faster.

What’s more, you’ll be able to learn from more experienced club members, who’ll be able to give you their personal tips on how to avoid shyness when speaking in English.

4. Visualise it going well

Before sitting a language test - especially a high-stakes test like IELTS - your mind can start racing about everything that could possibly go wrong. So, instead, start to fill your mind with everything that could go right!

A way to overcome negative self-talk is positive visualisation. Close your eyes and imagine yourself speaking to the Examiner fluently. Imagine yourself feeling confident and the Examiner smiling while you chat.

Alongside visualisations, writing down or saying positive affirmations to yourself can help combat negative thoughts. Here are a few affirmations you can use:

  • “I am a powerful, fearless, and confident speaker.”
  • “Speaking in English makes me feel energised.”
  • “My words have a positive effect on people.”
  • “I am calm and relaxed.”

While you’re speaking, adopt a confident posture. Sit up straight, with your shoulders back and your head held high. Maintaining good posture makes you appear (as well as feel) more confident. To see an example of how posture and body language can affect a speech, take a look at Vinh’s comparison video.

Don’t forget, the Examiner wants to hear what you have to say. Reminding yourself of this will help you to overcome feelings of shyness. 

5. Improve your language skills with IELTS preparation

If you already feel nervous about public speaking, then it will be even more difficult if you don’t feel confident in your language skills.

In IELTS Speaking, you’ll be assessed on how well you communicate ideas and information, and your ability to express and justify your opinions. To prepare for the Speaking section of the test, you’ll need to build these skills, deepen your knowledge of English, broaden your vocabulary and improve your grammar. Thorough preparation with targeted resources will help you to express yourself and communicate what you want to say. 

Get more IELTS preparation resources With IELTS Ready. 

How you can build confidence in your language skills with IELTS

These five tips will help you to overcome shyness in your IELTS Speaking test, and boost your confidence in everyday conversations, too. You’ll notice that your interactions with other people will be more straightforward once you’re able to communicate clearly and confidently. And, once you’ve achieved a high band score in IELTS, you’ll feel much more confident when it comes to presentations and public speaking in English. 

Learn more about IELTS and download the Quick Guide to IELTS Success