Teaching IELTS: Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

By Neil Root
Neil Root is a writer and London based English Language teacher with 10 years experience.

Wiki Tiffin University

Out of all of the EFL exam language suites, IELTS is the most academically rigorous and demanding, as it should be because it is a student’s passport to entry to an English speaking university, primarily in Britain, where students will learn alongside native speakers and be taught by natively fluent lecturers. For this reason, the skills covered are practical in an academic sense, although limited to that sphere. Teaching IELTS can be intellectually stimulating, but can also be difficult for teachers just starting out delivering preparation classes.

The Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening parts of the exam are intense and focused, and this should influence your teaching. A narrow skill set in each part is required, and students, whether they require a 5.5 grade or 8.5 or even 9, must master the techniques taught and that is the teacher’s responsibility to deliver. It’s an exam where technique is essential- on an IELTS preparation course, whether it is one month or six months, there just isn’t time to cover every academic possibility. Core skills of reading a text and identifying answers (some of the questions are challenging even for a well-educated native speaker!), academic writing skills in four different mediums, the ability to hold a personal opinion and contrasting viewpoints in English conversation and close listening skills, often when complex information is being discussed, plus being able to read processes in diagrams, charts and graphs are all required.

IELTS resources

The IELTS examining board offer very good teaching tips and materials in their core books, and they help teachers enormously. To understand the problems your students face better, there is no better book than Common Mistakes At IELTS by Julie Moore (Cambridge University Press). This is succinct, and points out the most common weaknesses, and I always recommend my students buy it or I supply them with photocopies. But the best advice is to prepare very well- there is nothing worse than losing your way, even if you have the answers in front of you. Some very bright students take IELTS (I’ve had one or two with PhD’s) and they often want more than the given answer. ‘Why?’ is a question that you should welcome, but you have to be prepared to explain why in a reasoned way, using your thinking process and verbal reasoning, and sometimes lateral thinking. This cannot always be done off the top of your head, and if you lose the confidence of your students to teach this demanding exam, you might be in trouble.

IELTS is technique, technique technique, and that is developed by preparation, preparation, preparation, followed by confident delivery.

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