In the three posts, I introduced the issue of memorising answers as a strategy for the IELTS Speaking Test, and gave the very obvious (isn’t it?) opinion that it is a bad approach. So, let’s continue examining the …

‘Just memorise this’ syndrome.

Now I will get anecdotal again, talking about Student Y. Again, it’s not a good story, and doesn’t have a happy ending. It is the second of my ‘memorisation disaster’ stories – but fortunately, I only have two of them.

Anyhow, Student Y came to me with the same issue as Student Z. He wanted to improve his IELTS score, and had been trying for a long time. Again, Student Z was clearly the product of the memorisation approach. He admitted he had memorised 20 different IELTS Part II Speaking responses in preparation for the IELTS test, and had been able to use one of them in the real test. It sounded a very suspect strategy, but he credited this approach with giving him an IELTS 6 for speaking. My immediate thoughts were:

‘IELTS 6 is not particularly high, and I’d judge from your present speaking that you could do better, so that memorisation may have possibly taken you down from a higher score.’

But I didn’t say this, as it was just the first lesson. But an interesting thing happened in just the second lesson. I tried some ‘topic talks’, using my PowerPoint Programs. Topic Talks just present a topic, then give various ‘IELTSy’ questions relating to them,allowing the student to practise by answering them.

When Student Z got the first question, he regularly hesitated, and broke down (= was unable to speak). And it happened again and again. Yes, I had taken this student out of his ‘memorisation zone’. The result was struggle, silence, and defeat. This was a real reality check to Student Z. The memorisation he had used had made him think he was so good, but the fact is that he wasn’t. Question after question produced the same result. Defeat. His ‘good’ speaking skills were all just an illusion.

I had to gently inform Student Z that his ‘memorisation’ was not a good strategy. Sadly, this student did not want to hear this. After that lesson, I received the message that Student Z had changed his mind, and wanted to develop his basic speaking skills more before coming to me. End of story.

Perhaps Student Z went back to a ‘memorisation teacher’ – perhaps the ones who had made him feel so good about his speaking in the first place. Who knows, but the moral of this story is the point I made in the first of these ‘memorisation’ posts – that memorisation isn’t a strategy at all. It’s just a short-term ‘fix’, a pretend solution which hides the reality.

Think about that if your teacher asks you to memorise sentences.


Find the meaning of the underlined words, also repeated below.

  • anecdotal (adj)
  • suspect (adj)
  • to credit (v)
  • to hesitate (v)
  • a reality check (n)
  • an illusion (n)
  • moral (n)




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