Introducing the IELTS Prepare by IDP : 10-part video podcast series.


Intonation is where the pitch of your voice changes, such as when it rises and falls.  It is an important part of your speaking as it can help indicate meaning, especially when you want to express emotions like being annoyed, surprised, doubtful, etc. 

This is an area that you should also consider in your IELTS preparation, as pronunciation is worth 25% of your Speaking score. 

In addition, being able to pick up intonation can help you with questions in your IELTS Listening test. This is especially the case in Section 3, where you often have to identify the mood of the speaker, such as whether they agree or disagree with an issue.  Let’s have a look at intonation in a little more detail by breaking it down into three parts:  rising, falling and fall-rise.

Examiner Approved Tips for the IELTS Speaking Test

Rising intonation↗

We use rising intonation in questions when we expect the answer to be either a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’. E.g.    

 Are you ↗French↗?      

Can you speak  ↗Thai↗?

It can also be used when clarifying what you have heard.  E.g.A: Would you recommend taking public transport?

B: In my ↗country↗?

A: Yes.

B: The large cities in my country have a good network of trains and buses. You can take a tram, but just in the city centre, and um … Sorry, what was the question ↗again↗?

We can also use rising intonation when making lists.  E.g.

The main type of pet that people like to keep in my country are typical domestic ↗cats↗, small to medium-sized ↗dogs↗, birds in ↗cages↗ and fish in tanks.

Get Coaching for the IELTS Speaking test

Falling Intonation↘

When using Wh- questions (e.g. Who, What, Where, When, Why, Whose, Which) or questions with ‘How’, the tone falls at the end of the question.  E.g.

What is the capital city of your ↘country↘?

Where is the best seafood restaurant in your ↘hometown↘?

Who do you respect the ↘most↘?

Fall-rise Intonation ↗↘

When using more complex sentences, you can have both rising and falling intonation at the end of a clause before connecting to the next clause.  This is useful to indicate a contrast.  E.g.

Although the weather can be quite ↗humid↘, it is still useful to do outdoor activities like hiking.

Public transport here is hardly used at all, despite the fact it is so ↗affordable↘.

We can also use this at the end of a sentence when there is some doubt or when more could potentially be added.  E.g.

I’m not going to change jobs for the ↗time being↘ (but maybe in the future).

I barely did any preparation for the ↗assessment↘ (but I passed anyway).

Join our free webinars and hear from experienced IELTS experts

Need more advice?

Improve your English skills with IELTS

Access our IELTS practice materials and get prepared with our wide range of practice tests.

Additionally, don't forget to download your free IELTS Preparation Guide and get tips from our IELTS Experts by registering for an IELTS Masterclass.

Want to practice and improve your English skills?

Download the IELTS by IDP App to get access to IELTS preparation materials, including an app-exclusive free trial to IELTS Preparation Course developed by the Macquarie University experts and an IELTS Short Course by E2 Language. The app also gives you access to the IELTS Prepare by IDP vodcast -- a 10-episode video podcast guiding you through the IELTS test structure, how to prepare, what to expect on test day and more.

You can also book your test, register for events, take quizzes, and check your results on the go, all in one app!

Ready to book your IELTS test?

Achieve your visa, work, and study goals with IELTS. Find your closest test centre and book your test now.