The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test is one of the most popular English tests, with an estimated 5 million people in 140 countries taking the 3 hour exam each year.
In this first part of a two part blog, Louisa Walsh looks at the essential features of the IELTS test, and then in part two she drills down into the specific elements and how you can help your English language learners prepare for it.
What are the essential features of the IELTS test?
The test covers reading, speaking, listening and writing and learners can opt to take either an academic version of the test (ideal for university entry) or the general version, which is best for immigration/work purposes. Whichever your students take, the speaking and listening aspects are exactly the same.
Learners are scored on each section and obtain an overall test score, which ranges from band 1 (low) to band 9 (expert). As a guide, many English speaking universities ask for band 6.5 or higher. Therefore, a good IELTS score is often a gateway to further education or work opportunities and so there lot of demand for teachers to help learners improve their scores.
Why focus on the speaking part of the test as a teacher?
The speaking test often presents the hardest aspect for learners. Perhaps this is because it values natural English, rather than formal English or large chunks of memorised and rehearsed phrases. Learners don’t need to use very sophisticated language. Instead, they need to show natural English, good pronunciation, intonation, fluency and appropriate language and grammar for the task.
How can I help prepare my students for IELTS speaking?
Firstly, it is essential to familiarise yourself with the IELTS test format. Then, for the speaking element, it really helps with if you can expose your student to natural English. You can do this by getting them to listen to dialogues, podcasts etc. and discuss the issues with them afterwards. A website such as BreakingNewsEnglish can help with this, as it offers material that is graded to level and listenings at different speeds.
Good IELTS teachers are in demand and sometimes can charge more for their services. Specialising in IELTS can be a great way to differentiate yourself in the TESOL marketplace and so becoming familiar with the exam and specific ways to help your students excel on the test can be a very valuable exercise.
* Check out the Global English TESOL courses which cover teaching exam English
* Discover IELTS sample material on the net
* Have a look at an IELTS speaking test in the video below
* Check out part two of our article where we analyse the different parts of the speaking test
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