Getting The Most From Your IELTS Preparation Course
I just googled “IELTS Preparation” and in 1.3 seconds turned up 840,000 results. Most IELTS test takers have very limited time to prepare, so who would have time to go through all these sites? Practice apps, tutorial videos, self-study books, two-year preparation courses… the list goes on. You can prepare for IELTS in 1000s of ways. How then is it best to prepare? One tried and true path to success is by taking a course. The following are eight questions to ask before you begin your journey to the test.
1. How much time do you have before the test?
By the time you have read this blog it might be too late to start looking for long term courses. One “cram course” option is to take a pre-test seminar or meet with a tutor to help with some last minute advice. They can give you important tips on how to do your best on test day.
On the other hand, if you have lots of time to prepare, a longer course of weeks, months, or years might be the option. This will allow you to truly improve each skill.
2. Is it self-study or is there a tutor?
Although we all like to be independent and save money by working alone, a good IELTS instructor can help a lot. While working alone, it is easy to get lost, distracted and de-motivated when preparing. However, a good instructor will make sure you stay on track and will give you the guidance you need.
3. Will you have any expert feedback in the course?
Although it is only recommended to get a score from a real IELTS test, having feedback on your language skills can be very useful. You can do self-scoring with practice listening and reading tests, but the speaking and writing tests are not so easy to assess. It is public knowledge on how IELTS gives you your score. If you have a good tutor, he/she should know this. Ask them to tell you your strengths and weaknesses after some practice tests, then go from there.
4. How about skill-specific courses?
Many of us know which of our language skills are stronger or weaker. If you don’t, you can check your previous test scores or do some practice tests. Once you know, you should focus on these areas for improvement. If you have a private tutor, ask them to make your weaker skills a priority. Also, sometimes IELTS preparation courses will be run according to skills. For example, my home centre occasionally runs IELTS writing courses.
5. Does your test centre offer any free sessions?
Many cities have multiple IELTS centres. As a value-added bonus and ‘thank you’ to test-takers for choosing theirs, centres will often offer free preparation materials and workshops. One very useful workshop that many IDP centres offer is the Masterclass. This is a 90-minute online class and comes along with an excellent preparation booklet. IDP can also provide you with lots of free preparation materials such as tests and blogs.
6. What kind of learner are you?
If you have ever learned about education theory, you will know that we all learn differently. Some of us learn best by using rules, others learn best in a social situation, while some of us do well learning alone in a very quiet place. When looking for a course, you should keep this in mind. If you learn well when chatting, chat about IELTS testing strategies. If you learn better with quizzes, take a course that has lots of quizzes. If you learn well in a lecture setting, enrol in a course with a lecture style teacher.
7. Are you able to track your progress?
One great way to motivate yourself is by seeing yourself progress. When choosing a course, try to find one which tracks your scores. Set goals for improving little-by-little as time goes on. A Band 7 Score in IELTS represents 1000s of hours of learning English, so don’t expect to improve by one point every week. Take a ‘long run’ approach and consider each small improvement a win.
8. Is it interesting?
It’s a fact that we learn better and faster when something is interesting. Your IELTS course should be interesting for you. Check online reviews, talk to students who have done the preparation class, arrange a ‘sample’ lesson, or request your teacher to include learning games in class. The question you should always try and answer is, Is it interesting?