Effective IELTS Preparation Online – What Should You Expect?
The IELTS exam is a difficult test but not an impossible one. It tests the English-language skills that students actually need to succeed in graduate programmes, and its assessments are rigorous and thorough.
That said, IELTS also expects each of the four tasks – listening, reading, writing and speaking – to be done in a particular way. It doesn’t necessarily specify what that way is. Consequently, many ILTS candidates with high English language skills score more poorly than they might if they knew the “rules.”
The prime criterion of a good IELTS preparation course is that it trains candidates in the ways IELTS wants to see things done. Also, because IELTS often asks tricky questions, it is imperative that anyone who wishes to achieve a high score learn the tricks, how to spot them, and how to overcome them.
To decide whether a particular IELTS preparation course is fully adequate, look for specific guidance in the following aspects of each of the four tasks:
ListeningCheck to see that the different demands of each of the four sections of the Listening Test is explained.
Then make sure that there is a good explanation of the question types that are most often encountered in Listening. Although any of the question types used in the Reading Test can also be used in Listening, the Listening Test is more likely to focus on form-filling, summary gap-filling, short-answer, true-and-false and fact-and-opinion questions. You should find instruction not only on those question types and how they work,
but also on the indirect ways IELTS often asks questions, the way it relies on rewordings of things that are spoken – so that you have to understand the same idea expressed in two different ways – and words before and after key ideas that change the meaning of words supplied in questions.
There also should be tips on how to anticipate answers before you hear them.
Reading Make sure that there is thorough explanations of all the IELTS question types, how they work, how IELTS sometimes asks them, and how you should answer them.
Check that there are at least three readings of appropriate IELTS length and difficulty, so you can learn to time yourself to read a passage and answer 13 questions in 20 minutes.
Look to see if there are useful tips on how to read quickly and with the single purpose of answering questions correctly. Normal advice about “speed reading” is not enough, because the issue is not how fast you read or even how much of the passage you understand – just how many questions you answer correctly.
Writing Task 1 Look to see that there are complete explanations about how to comprehend information presented in graphic formats such as graphs, bar charts, pie charts and diagrams. You must know how to “read” all six types of graphic data correctly, or you will make inaccurate observations that are the fatal flaw of Writing Task 1.
Make sure there is a complete, sentence-by-sentence explanation of the report form. No matter what data you are
asked to describe, the report format is the same and must be understood completely and thoroughly.
Check to see that all the vocabulary you need to describe information precisely is provided. There should be appropriate vocabulary lists, indications of how to combine words, and clear explanations of the different kinds of vocabulary different features of graphic information require.
Writing Task 2 Make sure that the IELTS preparation materials teach you what kind of essay – opinion, explanation, or discussion – is required to answer the IELTS question properly. Writing the wrong kind of essay, no matter how well, could cost you as much as a whole band point.
Check that the formats for all three essay types are presented in full, with the names and functions of each of the sentence types precisely described. Following the expected format is key to writing a good essay.
Look to see that the preparation materials include ample exercises. Most students need practice to learn how to write the different kinds of sentences – from hooks to thesis statements to supporting sentences – that work together to make a successful essay. Make sure that the course you take includes plenty
of exercises so you can get the practice you need.
Speaking The Speaking task has three distinct parts. Make sure the nature and function of all three is clearly explained.
Check to see that there is clear explanation of the “Long Turn,” the central section in which you must speak by yourself without any help from the examiner. There should be clear directions about how to give your answer to that critically important question shape and form.
Look to see that the preparation material gives you concrete tips on how to turn question-answering into real communication and natural conversation.
Make sure that there are explanations of more than just proper verbal language. Good, appropriate body language
can be almost as important in this task, which is the only one that puts candidates face-to-face with the examiner.
Svend Nelson is a university lecturer and internet entrepreneur. He is director of UniRoute Limited, a Hong Kong based company with offices in Bangkok and London providing IELTS online preparation, a study abroad program and other web-based courses for online university preparation. Svend lived and worked in various countries across Latin America, Europe and Asia before settling in Thailand.