An IELTS Coach – Wise Choices, Dangerous Choices

An IELTS Coach – Wise Choices, Dangerous Choices

Your IELTS* exam date is set. You have been studying hard. But there is one aspect that you are still worrying about. It could be your weak spelling or your limited vocabulary. Perhaps you know that pronunciation needs urgent attention. You need help – one-to-one help. You need help now.

You have native English-speaking friends and work-mates. One of them will probably be prepared to spend some time with you in the lead up to the IELTS exam. But what KIND of person should you approach to ask for help?

Here are five criteria to look for in your potential coach. And I will warn you about two types of people not to approach.

First, the five important traits to look for:

1. Someone cheerful. Your ideal coach is someone with a sense of humour and a cheerful outlook on life. Look for someone who will not take things too seriously or become irritated with your requests for help.

2. A native speaker of English or someone well-educated in English. Choose someone who is confident and competent in the language. The most cheerful, positive person in your workplace might in fact lack thebasic English education to be able to help you. If you ask someone to help you with your English spelling and if they tell you that their own spelling is hopeless, just have a laugh about it together and let that person withdraw. The best thing now is to move on to your next prospect.

3. Someone positive. Choose someone who has a positive attitude to his or her work, who enjoys taking on a project and seeing it through to completion.

4. Someone patient. Notice people who are patient with their customers and their subordinates. If they are thoughtful and courteous to other people in your workplace, this is the kind of person who may be prepared to make the effort to help with your IELTS preparation.

5. Someone busy. Does this sound strange? Often the busiest person is the one who is the most organized, and, strange as it might seem, the one who will be most generous with his or her help. So don’t eliminate someone from your list of prospects just because she seems “too busy”!

But there are two categories of potential IELTS coach that I would urge you to approach with extreme caution.

1. The first is a professional teacher of English. Don’t get me wrong. If you have the time to join an IELTS class, or if you are ready to pay for professional coaching, this is absolutely a valuable investment of your time and money. Do not hesitate. Get the help you need. My warning is this: do not, as a friend, approach a professional teacher and ask for this kind of one-to-one coaching, free of charge, as a personal favour.

Try to see it from your friend’s point of view. If your friend is an English language teacher, she is spending most of her day in front of a class. In her free time, probably the last thing she will want to do is provide more English language teaching. She might agree to your request, but she will, at some level, begin to resent your taking advantage of her good nature.

2. The second “proceed with extreme caution” category is this: I refer to your husband or wife, your boyfriend or girlfriend. The lead-up time to an important exam like IELTS can be a nerve-stretching time both for you and for the people you are living with. Asking your partner to act as your IELTS coach can add an additional level of stress to the relationship. It is a similar scenario to having your wife or husband teach you to drive a car or play golf – a situation full of pitfalls. I have sometimes seen it cause damage to a once-strong relationship. Avoid this scenario if you possibly can. Find your helper at work or in one of your other social circles.

So now, having taken on my two words of caution, you should have a clear psychological profile of the kind of person you’re looking for to help coach you through your IELTS exam preparation weeks. Someone

· cheerful

· educated

· positive

· patient

· and busy!

Happy hunting, and good luck with that IELTS exam!

*IELTS – International English Language Teaching System is the world’s leading test of English for higher education, immigration and employment.

There are hundreds of courses and professional resources available for people preparing for the IELTS exam. But what if you don’t have the time or the opportunity to attend a class? Barbara Takase has had more than 20 years working with IELTS teachers and candidates. For free practical ideas and sources of help to prepare for the exam, visit Barbara’s IELTS Help Today blog. Available on

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