Hello everyone, it’s Miss Elysia! I hope you found the previous posts on commonly mispronounced words helpful for your Oral practice. Today, we’re going to explore how to buy yourself time to think! What do I mean? Well… I’m sure most of you have used “uhm…” and “like…” to fill in the awkward pauses as you frantically think of how to answer the question. Needless to say, that is not the best way to buy yourself time, as it can come across as too informal and fail to impress your examiner. Instead, what should you do? Read on to find out!
1. Use Connectors
When you need to think on your feet, it is always helpful to have a framework to organise your thoughts. In writing, it is easy to organise our thoughts into paragraphs. If we make a mistake, we can go back and edit a line or cancel entire sentences.
However, it is impossible to do that in conversation! Instead, we use connectors to signal naturally to our listener what we are speaking about now, and where the conversation is heading. This makes it easier for our listener to follow the conversation.
Every good response for SBC will need connectors to signal when you are elaborating on examples, listing similar or dissimilar points, and ending your response. Let’s look at a sample question and response below!
In this response, “However” is used right in the beginning to indicate that this answer would tackle the question from two different points of view. “Firstly” and “Secondly” are used to indicate that the student is delving into two points to explain his response. “Additionally” is used to indicate elaboration on similar points, which is then followed by “Therefore” to refer to the result of the point he has mentioned earlier.
In the next part of his answer, the student starts with “Unfortunately”, which signals to the examiner that he is about to take a contrasting point of view. Towards the end of the response, the student uses a concluding phrase, “In conclusion”, to indicate that he is closing his response, and uses “However” again to re-emphasise that he is sharing two alternating viewpoints.
Using connectors like those used above organises a student’s response better and makes it much easier to follow and understand. Students will also avoid losing their train of thought or jumping from idea to idea, and needing to use “uhm” and “like” to fill in those abrupt gaps!
Below is a list of connectors you might find helpful to practise with!
2. Use Filler Phrases
Sometimes, when faced with having to share your own opinion, you might take some time to go through varying perspectives before settling on one. Of course, during the oral examinations, this should only take a few seconds. Even so, it is important to not fill those few seconds with “uhm” and “like”, no matter how tempting it may be!
Instead, try using these phrases to preface your opinion:
In fact, using these phrases will buy you even more time than the monosyllabic “uhm” and “like”! Since every student will have their own preferred set of phrases, it is a good idea for you to begin compiling a list of phrases you are personally comfortable with using, to fill those gaps when you are pondering your response.
3. Don’t Speak Too Fast
Finally, when your thoughts are flying about in your head, it can be tempting to speak as fast as possible to ensure that you are able to get these thoughts out before they flit away from you again. However, fast does not mean good, and many thoughts do not necessarily mean an adequate response!
Instead, try making sure that you speak at a normal, if not slightly slower, pace. This not only gives you time to think and organise your thoughts using the connectors shared above, but also makes pauses seem like a more natural part of the conversation! Instead of saying “uhm” and “like”, you can simply take a breath before continuing the conversation, and use that time to organise your response.
That’s all I have for you today! Remember that it is natural to need time to think and process your own opinion, and your examiners understand that! There is no need to panic if you find yourself grasping at straws as you try to process the question. The trick is learning to navigate these pauses with strategic phrases and well-timed pauses – just as you would in a regular conversation. In summary, try to:
use a framework to structure your answer as it will help you to organise your thoughts faster,
use filler phrases to buy yourself time to express your opinions more clearly and use more precise language, and
speak more slowly as it will make pauses seem less jarring.
If your oral examinations are coming up and you still feel like you need additional resources and help, do refer to our plethora of oral tips on our website! You can also refer to our Lil’ Chatterbox course for even more targeted practice. Until next time, have fun learning everyone!
1. Video Lessons
2. Workbook (Contains 12 SBC Practices covering a range of topics and question types with full model answers using our RASE strategy)