Whether they’re sitting for the academic or the general format of the IELTS test, your candidates will have to write a 250-word essay on an everyday topic (i.e. task 2). One key to performing well in task 2 is devoting five to ten minutes brainstorming ideas and mapping out how they will be discussed before starting the essay. Even for upper-band candidates, jumping into their essay without planning beforehand risks them getting lost along the way, resulting in writing in which the main ideas and supporting details may be confused and difficult to follow. During the actual test, with time ticking away, it can be frustrating and stressful when the candidate realizes what has happened but doesn’t know how to right the ship in the time remaining. For this reason, IELTS instructors should train their candidates how to plan before starting their essay. Here are some strategies to consider.
Like the other tests of the IELTS exam, academic task 1 of the IELTS writing test requires knowledge and skills that are generally developed in secondary school, which is why the exam is not recommended for candidates below the age of 16. Firstly, candidates need to have basic visual literacy skills in order to correctly identify and understand the key features of a range of charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, maps, etc. Additionally, they need a reasonable capacity to analyze and evaluate the relationships between these key features and then synthesize this thinking into a summary supported by the details provided. Lastly, they need the language skills with which to articulate their understanding. Depending on where and whom you’re teaching, you may find it necessary to develop your candidates’ visual literacy and critical thinking skills in addition to their language proficiency. This is what I discovered when I began teaching the IELTS exam with secondary students in the UAE. Here are some strategies I’ve used to help my candidates.
Just as there are many reasons to use authentic texts when teaching IELTS, there are an equal number of considerations when choosing which texts to use. The most important consideration is whether the text is suitable for your candidates’ proficiency level. Reading requires a lot of energy, especially when dealing with unfamiliar vocabulary and structures. The greater the gap between your candidates’ level and the level required means the greater the chance they will lose motivation and focus, which is why sourcing authentic texts can be so challenging—maybe you find the perfect article but the text’s language is too sophisticated. The time it takes to source a text that ticks all the boxes might ultimately put you off using authentic texts altogether. Before giving up, consider modifying a text to achieve your target level, which may ultimately take less time than finding that perfect text. In this TESOL article I will share the process I have used for vetting and developing the texts for candidates targeting an IELTS band 5.0.
There are many reasons to develop your own listening resources, whether for assessment or instructional purposes, to teach the IELTS listening test. Last year I worked as an assessment developer for a secondary technical school in the UAE. The goal of the EFL curriculum was for each student to achieve at least an IELTS band 5.0 upon completion of the program, which would satisfy the requirement for university admissions or direct employment in many local industries. Our grade 12 EFL course was based on an IELTS curriculum, so course content centered on mastering the skills for achieving the target band score. For this reason, the various tests the assessment team created were modeled on the official IELTS exam. There are ample free resources online; however, to ensure the integrity of our assessments we could not use existing resources in case our students had already been exposed to them. For this reason, our materials had to be developed in house, including our listening tests, which we scripted and wrote the questions for as well as recorded and edited ourselves using GarageBand. In this article you will learn how to teach the IELTS listening test using your own resources.
In the UAE, colleges and universities generally require an IELTS band score of 5.0 or 5.5 for admission, and a large majority of IELTS candidates in the country are taking the test for this purpose. There are many resources online that can help your candidates achieve their target band scores. One such resource is the public version of the IELTS speaking rubric, which gives an idea of some of the criteria and descriptors used to establish band scores. With this awareness you can develop lessons and activities closely calibrated to your candidates’ target band.