Speaking Part 3 Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

Discourse markers (also known as signpost words/phrases) are words and phrases that organise your speech. ‘In my opinion’ tells the listener that you are going to give your opinion. ‘However’ tells the listener that you are going to say something that contrasts or disagrees with what you previously said. A good speaker will use many different discourse markers in part 3 of the speaking test.

If you can use discourse markers well, your speaking will sound natural and fluent. In the IELTS test, appropriately using discourse markers will impress the examiner and improve your band score for fluency.

In this lesson we will look at the different functions of discourse markers.


​Exercise 1 | Different Functions

Let's start by looking at functions and their definitions. Match the functions with the definitions.

Match the Functions

1. Rephrasing
To present a different way of looking at an argument/idea.
To provide a supporting idea from your own experience or reading.
To explain in a different way something that you have already said.
2. Introducing a different perspective
To present a different way of looking at an argument/idea.
To explain in a different way something that you have already said.
To provide a supporting idea from your own experience or reading.
3. Giving an example
To present a different way of looking at an argument/idea.
To provide a supporting idea from your own experience or reading.
To explain in a different way something that you have already said.
4. Stalling for time
To find out the meaning of a question.
To give you a moment to think of ideas.
To present a different or contrasting argument/idea.
5. Asking for clarification
To find out the meaning of a question.
To give you a moment to think of ideas.
To present a different or contrasting argument/idea.




Exercise 2 | Different Discourse Markers

Below is an IELTS speaking test part 3 dialogue between an examiner and a candidate. Complete the table by selecting the discourse markers from the dialogue, then selecting the box they belong in.


Exercise 3 | More Discourse Markers

​Let's study some more discourse markers. What is the function of each of the discourse markers below?

Choose the Function

1. Look at... for instance.
rephrasing
providing an example
stalling for time
introducing a different perspective/opinion
2. Or to look at it another way,
rephrasing
providing an example
stalling for time
introducing a different perspective/opinion
3. What I’m trying to say is...
rephrasing
providing an example
stalling for time
introducing a different perspective/opinion
4. I don’t know much about this issue but...
rephrasing
providing an example
stalling for time
introducing a different perspective/opinion



Examples of these discourse markers
I believe education is very important if we want to bring communities out of poverty. Look at the education work done by charities in Southeast Asia for instance. They show that...

People like to listen those who have the same opinions as them. Or to put it another way, we all have a bias inside us that tells us who we should respect and who we shouldn't. 

People in power sometimes seem to stop caring about the little people. What I'm trying to say is that often power corrupts. 

Examiner: Do you think people will travel more or less in the future?
Candidate: I don't know much about this issue but, in my opinion, we may have to reduce travelling - especially flying - if we want to protect our environment


Exercise 4 | Over to you

As we say so often in our lessons, you must practice the new language that you learn until you are confident you can use it in the IELTS test. Record yourself answering the following questions IELTS speaking part 3 questions. You can use your phone recorder to do this.

Practice using the discourse markers you have learnt in this class to make your speaking sound more natural.
  1. Why it is important for people to have time free time?
  2. Why are some free time activities more popular than others?
  3. Are the types of free time activities that are popular today the same as those that were popular in the past?
  4. What types of leisure activities are likely to be popular in the future?
Listen to your recording. Is there any way you can improve your answers? If so, re-record yourself. Each time you do this, focus on a small part of your language that you can improve.  
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