How to prepare for IELTS
Teaching for IELTS - for teachers; getting ready for IELTS - for students; Personal Experience - Maria Konopleva.
TEACHING FOR IELTS
Preparing students for exams can be really hard - there is so much to keep in mind, study and discover, it is a very high responsibility, and it requires a lot of preparation. We have already looked at different types of exams, but today let us focus on IELTS.
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is designed to help people work, study or migrate to a country where English is the native language. It is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English, and was established in 1989. Students’ ability to listen, read, write and speak in English will be assessed during the test. IELTS is graded on a scale of 1-9, where 9 is the highest score.
What sets it aside from other Cambridge exams is that you do not have to be of any specific level to take it, your score will depend on your skills and the target score will depend on the reasons for taking IELTS. For this reason, it is extremely important to determine what your students’ end goal is, before you start preparing them. The target band will differ from country to country, when it comes to immigration, and educational institutions will also have their own minimum score requirements. The general minimum you should strive for is 6.5, which means that it will make sense to start preparing for the exam when your students have at least an intermediate level. The exam itself also has two types - General and Academic, and the latter is believed to be more difficult. (We are talking about the graphs, yes!)
Secondly, as a teacher it is best if you have taken IELTS yourself and scored higher than 7.5, and that you have done a “Teaching for IELTS” course, which is available online and in many local institutions. A simple Google search will help you find one suitable. But does it mean that without those you can’t help your students pass the exam? We believe, that with enough self-study and determination any teacher may do it.
If this is the case - go to the official IELTS website and familiarise yourself with the structure, requirements and useful preparation materials. Among the best ones are Objective IELTS series, Complete IELTS, Collin’s IELTS and Barron’s IELTS practice tests. The next step is to download the teachers’ handbook and thoroughly look through the assessment criteria, types of tasks and what is tested at every stage. Write a few tests yourself and see where you stumble upon the unfamiliar or spend too much time doing the tasks. IELTS testbuilder also gives extensive explanations to all types of tasks found in the exam, how to understand the assessment criteria and what the examiners will look for when checking the test.
When you feel you are ready to start preparing, spend a few lessons going through the exam format with your students, and then write a mock exam, which will enable you to see their weakest spots. These are the ones you will focus on more in the nearest future. Create a table with scores for each part of the test to see your students’ progress, and keep giving them sample tests every few months to see how they are developing.
Setting clear deadlines and reminding your students of them will help you keep them motivated and goal-oriented. Take notes of all the tricks that will help your students do all tasks in the most efficient and fast way, those can be found all over the internet from personal blogs to youtube tutorials.
Don’t forget, that even though you are preparing your students for an exam, all lessons shouldn’t be strictly about the format and tasks. Occasionally breaking the routine, having fun discussions and role-plays, watching videos and talking on unrelated topics will keep your students from getting bored and tired of the same routine.
Would you like us to share our own IELTS tricks and secrets? Do you have any to share? Leave a comment to let us know!
GETTING READY FOR IELTS
Preparing for your test can be daunting and leave you feeling incredibly overwhelmed about where to begin, which is why we have put together a series of useful steps to get you started.
Take a practice test
Guide your preparation, by taking a practice test to begin with and identify your weaknesses. This is a critical part in your initial preparation that will help establish where your strengths and weaknesses are. Not only is it necessary to improve on your weaknesses, but it is equally essential to build up on your strengths to create a solid foundation for the examination.
However, if you struggle to refrain from these mistakes or are unable to clearly identify them, you definitely need an expert by your side. Most test-takers consider taking an IELTS preparation course, one of the easiest ways to approach the test, as it focuses solely on getting you exam-ready for IELTS.
Understand the test format
Before your begin practising, it’s extremely important that you know what to expect of the test format. Familiarise yourself with it by reviewing the content of the test, as well as the question and task types for each section.
Remember the key to success in any examination and not just IELTS is a sound familiarity with the test pattern and format.
Be aware of the exam time constraints
The clearer understanding you develop regarding the test structure, the higher your chances are of completing it successfully within the allocated time frame.
Conduct your preparation under timed conditions, so you become accustomed to the pace of the test.
Remember the IELTS test has a time limit and you will only have the time given for each module. If you are unable to complete the modules within the allocated time or if you cannot concentrate accordingly due to the timing pressure.
All preparation done in classes of a preparation course is conducted under the same timed conditions as the exam, so you’re ready for the pace of the IELTS test.
Develop your English capabilities and IELTS strategies
One of the biggest mistakes students make is to focus only on IELTS. They do lots of IELTS practice tests but they forget to improve their English.
Most Indonesian IELTS learners are unaware of their current English level, which is often Intermediate or below, and do not consider or forget that IELTS is an English proficiency test. As such, your English is expected to be top-notch.
Keep in mind that learning IELTS is a process. On average it takes 12 weeks to move up a score band by one point.
Start preparing for your test at least 3 – 6 months prior. We highly recommend finding an institution that will help you with English development and IELTS strategies.
Develop a wide range of reading skills
The sole purpose of the reading module is to test a wide range of reading skills. Reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument, and recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.
Test takers have to provide short answers, match information, complete sentences, match headings, or complete diagram labels.
Ensure your practice includes a wide variety of questions so that you become accustomed to each type.
Timing is of the essence in the reading module and you simply will not have the time to go through the texts several times. There are strategies to help you to avoid this situation. For example, how to skim the text and what kind of information you need to focus on.
Use appropriate and assertive English terms when writing
The writing module is perhaps the one that most people struggle with. Both tasks in the academic training must be written in a formal style.
Task 1 requires that you describe and explain data, which you may be an expert at, this requires significant practice in English.
Task 2 presents a number of challenges. Often, the topic given can be hard to develop if you are not familiar with it. In addition, the essay must have a proper structure.
You need to be prepared to answer both tasks and understand the requirements of each.
You should use appropriate language to complete Task 1 questions and ensure your practice includes the different types of charts (line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, tables, multiple data sources, processes, diagrams) to ensure you are prepared for the test.
For Task 2 question preparation, familiarise yourself with the structure of an essay, how to develop it, how to write the introduction and the conclusion. You must be able to connect your ideas using appropriate English. Additionally, practice writing about topics that are common on the IELTS so you become familiar with them.
A preparation course will expose you to the different types of essays that commonly come up in IELTS such as: Agree or Disagree, Discuss two Opposing Opinions, Advantages and Disadvantages, Problems and Solutions, Causes and Solutions, Causes and Effects.
Speak with fluency or coherence in direct communication
This test is less than 15 minutes long and is split into three parts. The first 5 minutes are reserved for introduction and general topics between the test taker and the examiner. The second part assesses the test taker’s ability to speak about a random topic given on a task card. The last part merely adds complexity to the second. At this stage, the examiner will also pay attention to pronunciation, lexical resource and fluency.
Practicing each part under exam conditions is essential to your test preparation and will get used to the pressure you will have during the test. You need to be able to write down notes that will help you to talk for two minutes during the second part of the test.
You should also practice answering questions when you don’t really know the answer. Remember that your knowledge is not assessed but your English language proficiency is.
My name is Maria and I have graduated from HSE University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, so it means nothing stops me from developing myself more.
I have been teaching English to kids for 2 years, because children really inspire me with their kindness and open-mindness.
I decided to prepare for the international exam "IELTS" when I realized that I wanted a real certificate and not just an HSE grade in the test. Therefore, I decided to take a genuine exam.
Talking about preparation, here, in fact, the secret is simple: if you want a good score, fill your hand. We even had an IELTS preparation course at HSE, but certainly ignored it and regularly lowered it, due to the fact that it was optional and not mandatory.
About 1.5 months before the exam date, I decided that it was time to prepare! Without thinking for a long time, I realized that it was too late to hire a tutor, so you need to prepare yourself. It was the spring of 2018, I occupied an empty table in a Starbucks on Myasnitskaya (my permanent place of residence at that time). I started Googling sites where you can take tests online and found ieltsonlinetests.com . I decided to try to make reading&listening sections. The score I got was 6 or 6.5, I don't remember anymore, but at that moment I realized that you need to do 3 such tests a day to fill my hand. For 1.5 months, every night at Starbucks after couples, I was taking reading and listening. I won't dissemble that there were days when I missed, well, on weekends I didn't do anything, but, in general, the work was productive.
As for the Writing and Speaking parts, I decided to ask my groupmate Tim for help 2 weeks before the exam. I wrote essays, described diagrams, sent them to him and he checked, pointing out mistakes to me. I wrote more and more, corrected mistakes, and together we sorted out how best to correct what I write. Moreover, on his recommendation, I made myself an A4 sheet on both sides of those words that can help me in writing both written parts, it helped me super much in the future. We ran the speaking 5 times, Tim seemed to be my examiner, and I was answering. Somehow, I prepared myself! My IELTS score was 7.5, I was very happy and proud of myself that I had prepared for a fairly high score without tutors. I can say one thing: all that is required of you is hard work and perseverance to get as much as you need!
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