IELTS Speaking: Everything You Need To Know About Discourse Markers - IELTS University (Singapore)

IELTS Speaking: Everything You Need To Know About Discourse Markers

During the speaking test, you will be assessed on 4 main criteria pronunciation, GRA, fluency, and coherence. While the first of those criteria are relatively familiar to most students the last one (namely fluency and coherence) is where students fail to score well.

In this article, we will take a look at one of the aspects of fluency and coherence that you can use to improve your speaking score. We will learn all about discourse markers, what they are and how you can use them.

What Are Discourse Markers?

Discourse markers are words or phrases that we use to manage what we say or write or to express attitude. They are also quite helpful in building a well-organised answer and orienting your listener as you speak. Some discourse markers are used to start and end conversations, while some are used to start new topics or to change topics.

Common discourse markers and their function:


Discourse Marker

To preface what you really think

Actually, I have to say

To confess something is true

I must admit

To give yourself time to think


To start, end or change the topic

Right so anyway,

To say something in another way

What I mean is, in other words

To talk about the knowledge we share with the listener

You know, you see

To introduce personal opinions

My point is, what I’m getting at is, I mean, I guess

Here are some examples of how to use discourse markers in a natural way during the speaking test:

Personal Opinions:

“…. well, besides that I would also say that city life is exciting and full of opportunities - not just in terms of jobs and education, but also in terms of entertainment. Personally, I would always choose to live in a big city.”

Talking About The Future:

Finally, I think that it is highly unlikely that we will use the same kind of fuel in our cars in the future. I am convinced that scientists will come up with a new way of fueling cars.

Talking About Trends:

“In my country, holiday habits have changed a lot over the last twenty years. In the past, only young people went to exotic locations or difficult destinations. However lately, far more people have started going to these kinds of places - families, older people, people with more money.

Why Are Discourse Markers Important?

The publicity available band descripts for speaking state that in order for a candidate to reach a score of band 7 in terms of fluency and coherence they must be able to use discourse markers.

‘Uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility.

Even a band 6 score requires candidates to “Uses a range of connectives and discourse markers but not always appropriately".

However, if you use these discourse markers incorrectly, or if you overuse them then your score can decrease to a band 5 as can be seen from what is stated in the official band descriptors. “May overuse certain connectives and discourse markers.”

Discourse markers signal to listeners about the type of information to follow. They also make your speech sound more fluent. Knowing how to discourse markers correctly shows the examiner that you have a high level of fluency and coherence.

If you need to know more about the IELTS speaking section then read more of our blogs on the topic. If you have any further questions about discourse markers then feel free to learn.