Get 20% off IELTS Writing, Reading and Speaking Coaching. Buy now

Close

In the IELTS Speaking and IELTS Writing tests, one strategy that some people take is to use memorised answers. But how can this approach be unhelpful in your test? Let’s have a look at some of the issues this can cause for you.

Should I memorise IELTS Speaking answers?

One way that your speaking is affected with memorisation is that it is harder to have authentic pronunciation compared to having natural reactions to questions. Let’s compare the following responses to the question:

‘Do people in (your country) prefer to use public transport or private transport?’

Response A (memorised)

“Australia is a diverse country and due to hectic schedules, people use a variety of transport options. Just like in my hometown, it has all the facilities such as buses, taxis and trains. So, people prefer to use public transport instead of private transport.”

Response B (impromptu)

“Hmmm. It’s really hard to say I guess, because it really depends on whether you are based in a large city or a small town. I suppose in the countryside, people have to rely on their own cars, coz I have to admit, there are barely any services put on for them at all. In the big cities, like Melbourne, there are so many options for public transport and the roads are so jammed with cars, that catching a bus or a train would be less problematic. Not sure about trams though, as they move along at a snail’s pace, I would say.”

When comparing the two answers, you can see that some of the memorised content in Response A doesn’t quite fit the question neatly, unlike the person in Response B. What is the relationship between being a diverse country and using public transport? It isn’t clear. Why are hectic schedules associated with public transport? Can’t we say the same about using private transport? This is not clear. Also, the question is about people in your country, so there is no need to talk about ‘all the facilities’ in your hometown.

So, here is one of the dangers of using memorised language – it doesn’t always fit the question properly.

Secondly, you will see that the speaker in Response B uses emphasis on particular words to show feeling and emotion (see the words in italics). When speaking in an impromptu manner, you are more likely to show this emotion, which then affects your pronunciation in a positive way as you would use more emphasis, rhythm and intonation. If you are using memorised speech, it is harder to portray this feeling, and so, your pronunciation suffers. Remember that pronunciation is worth 25% of your total score.

Therefore, it can be said that using memorised answers is a harder way to have a better score in your IELTS Speaking test.

Should I memorise IELTS Writing answers?

Some people like to use memorised phrases in their IELTS Writing test. They like to use the same phrases in any Writing test question, but there are dangers of following this approach. Let’s have a look at a sample writing task and contrast a memorised versus an non-memorised approach. We will look at just the introduction only.

Task:

Some people think it is a good thing for primary school children to have a mobile phone to take to school every day.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Response A (memorised)

With the development of society, mobile phones are becoming more and more important in our daily lives. Some people claim it is useful for primary school children to bring one with them daily, while others oppose this view and challenge this notion. I am a supporter of the former view and the following paragraphs will expand on the above-mentioned arguments and provide a plausible conclusion.

Response B (impromptu)

Ownership of mobile phones has become so common these days, and so some people have suggested that primary school learners should also possess one, taking it with them to school each day. This essay will explain why this view is justified for both safety and family coordination reasons.


Let’s have a look at the memorised answer to begin with. You will see that the amount of language that is actually related to the question is quite minimal.

With the development of society, mobile phones are becoming more and more important in our daily lives. Some people claim it is useful for primary school children to bring one with them daily, while others oppose this view and challenge this notion. I am a supporter of the former view and the following paragraphs will expand on the above-mentioned arguments and provide a plausible conclusion.

When you look at the amount of template language, it dominates the introduction:

With the development of society, mobile phones are becoming more and more important in our daily lives. Some people claim it is useful for primary school children to bring one with them daily, while others oppose this view and challenge this notion. I am a supporter of the former view and the following paragraphs will expand on the above-mentioned arguments and provide a plausible conclusion.

Some formulaic language is needed in an essay (e.g. ‘some people claim’), but it shouldn’t dominate your introduction. It is better to tailor your introduction so it is relevant to the question.

There is some language in this introduction that is not directly relevant to the question:

‘With the development of society’

(There is no mention of this in the task.)

‘are becoming more and more important in our daily lives’

(This is not mentioned in the task.)

‘while others oppose this view and challenge this notion’

(There is no mention of two sides to the argument in the task – only one opinion is actually mentioned. This person has invented their own question!)

Now, when you look at the impromptu introduction, you can see that a lot more of the content is related to the actual task:

Ownership of mobile phones has become so common these days, and so some people have suggested that primary school learners should also possess one, taking it with them to school each day. This essay will explain why this view is justified for both safety and family coordination reasons.

The writer has also briefly previewed the theme of the body paragraphs:

safety’ for body paragraph 1

family coordination’ for body paragraph 2

Therefore, on balance, we can see that using memorised language does not necessarily help you in your writing as the amount of language that is relevant decreases, and there is less vocabulary related to the topic that the examiner can assess. Impromptu writing on the other hand, tends to be better focussed on the question.

In conclusion, it is never advisable to memorise answers in preparation for your IELTS test. The responses aren't your original thoughts and examiners are well trained to spot them.