Correcting Yourself in the IELTS Speaking Test

IELTS Speaking Test Tips Correcting Yourself

IELTS Speaking Test Tips:
Correcting Yourself 

Nobody is perfect – in fact you’ve probably heard from our own recordings that we make mistakes and correct ourselves when we talk all the time – so don’t worry, we can help you sound more natural while correcting yourself in your IELTS Speaking Test, even when you make a mistake.


Making a mistake and correcting yourself once or twice won’t lose you any points – in fact, if you can confidently correct yourself mid-sentence, you’ll actually give yourself a chance to demonstrate even more of your skills. We’re not saying that making a mistake could improve your score, just remember that mistakes are natural and expected.

IELTS Speaking Test Tips


Confidence is incredibly important. Don’t get distracted or frustrated by little mistakes. Stopping and starting and changing your answers can negatively affect your overall fluency (25% of your score). Using natural phrases to correct yourself will help you keep your focus on your answer and remain confident, instead of repeating the entire sentence over again, which isn’t fun. 

Tell the Truth – or Not

That said, the IELTS is only a language test, not a knowledge test. You can create, invent and imagine any extra additional details you like (as long as they relate to the question). If you can’t remember some vocabulary in a story, change it to the words that you do know! You will be scored on your spoken English not the facts (or lies!) in your answers.

2 Phrases for Correcting Yourself

I mean…

For correcting little grammar errors, try “I mean…
This is a very easy way to change single words in the middle of the sentence without changing the rest of your sentence. Great for intermediate answers.

  • Kat: We went up to – I mean, down to Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam.
  • Kat: It takes about 3 days – I mean, hours to get to Rio by plane.
  • Mark: I go there – I mean, I went there a couple of years ago with my family.
  • Mark: I never go – I mean, I’ve never been abroad.


For changing information or mistakes in your answer, try “actually

These examples are much more advanced. They can be used to both change the information and add more info for a more complex answer.

  • Kat: We had a picnic on the beach – actually we tried to have a picnic, but it was too windy.
  • Mark: I didn’t go to any museums in Paris – actually we went to one. I just can’t remember it very well though.

You don’t have to repeat the sentence all over again. Just correct yourself with ‘I mean’ or ‘actually’ and continue your answer, easy!


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How would you correct these sentences using… I mean…
Say them out loud to feel the natural rhythm of the sentence:

  • I love eating… coffee at my favourite cafe. (drinking)
  • In the morning I usually have breakfast at 9pm… (9am)
  • For my last birthday, my husband took… me a beautiful new purse. (bought)
  • Last year we go… to Shanghai for a week. (went)
  • In the park there is a little sea…where we like to go swimming. (lake)
  • My brother and I look very similar to my dad, so I can definitely say we take after her… (him)

If you want to change some information, or you suddenly remember something new, you can quickly change a number, a date, name, or a length of time, and more by using Actually…

For example:

We visited Egypt 2 or 3 years ago…actually it’s been 5 years now, wow I can’t believe it’s been that long.

Note: There was nothing wrong with the first sentence, but in order to change the information and more, we connected the ideas with actually.

Try changing these little pieces of info yourself:

  • When I was at school we only played football in P.E class… actually we played…
  • In Singapore there is only one place to go hiking… actually…
  • In the cities, it seems that everyone has an iPhone 5 or 6… actually now it’s…
  • Public transportation in my city stops at 1 in the morning…actually nowadays…
  • There aren’t any internet cafes in my hometown anymore…actually…

Important note:

This technique will not increase your score, but under pressure, we all make mistakes. Native speakers use these phrases all the time in naturally spoken English when we need to correct ourselves. Ideally, you won’t have to use these techniques at all in your answer, and it’ll sound great. However, if you do make a mistake, these are a couple of phrases that will help you stay confident and sound more fluent than stopping and repeating the sentence.

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