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How to Teach IELTS

How to Teach IELTS
I’ve been teaching the IELTS since 2010, as a tutor, classroom teacher, and blogger. Today, I’ll share my secrets on how to teach IELTS effectively.

Use Official Materials as Much as Possible

For most standardised tests, official materials are good, but also hard to come by… and usually a bit expensive. Not so with IELTS! Cambridge, one of the exam’s official sponsors, makes tons of IELTS material. Cambridge IELTS books are plentiful and reasonably priced, with multiple collections of practice tests and skill-building books.

Not only that, but Cambridge offers mobile apps for IELTS study. They have a free mobile app for their IELTS Official Guide, and they have a very affordable app that allows students to take authentic Cambridge practice IELTS tests on their mobile devices. (Just $2.99 per exam!)

The British Council, another official IELTS sponsor, also offers IELTS apps. And you can find practice materials for your students on four different official IELTS websites.

Take advantage of all of this. When it comes to helping your students learn this exam, you just can’t beat the real thing.

Treat Unofficial IELTS Materials as a Supplement to Official Ones

Unofficial IELTS materials can be good, and are a great support for the “real” IELTS materials. When you look at IELTS prep from third party publishers and websites, look for supplemental content that you can’t find in the official prep. This includes content such as study plans, in-depth tutorials on essay writing, general English practice activities, and so on. Such content is scant in the official materials, but readily available from third party sources–including this very blog.

Be Aware of the Many Question Types and Formats

The IELTS really does have a very wide variety of question types. Other exams are dominated by standard-format multiple choice questions. The IELTS has such questions too, of course. But it also has quite a few questions related to matching, filling in blanks, completing diagrams, and so much more.

Know these different question types well. Your students will inevitably be stronger with some question formats, but weaker in others. If you understand the many shapes that IELTS questions have, you’ll be able to help your students identify and address their weaknesses quickly. (You can see examples of each question type for each section by going to the practice page.)

Keep an Eye on Charts, Graphs, Tables, and other Inforgraphics

The IETLS emphasises a relatively new concept in learning: visual literacy. In IELTS Reading, Listening and Writing, test-takers need to answer questions based on infographics. This includes charts, tables, graphs, diagrams, and more. Many students aren’t that used to dealing with these kinds of visuals in their second language. And older students may not be used to reading visual information at all. You’ll encounter students who need extra support and advice for the “visual info” tasks on the test. Make sure your own visual literacy skills are sharp and ready to go.

Prepare Your Students for Paper-Based Test Taking (probably)

A very select and small number of test-takers will sit their IELTS at a computer. The vast majority of people who take the IELTS take it as a paper-based examination. Make sure, then, that your students practice completing IELTS questions and sections with good old-fashioned pencil an paper.

This can be harder than it sounds. In this day and age, so many of your teaching materials will be on a screen, not in printed “hard copy.” (To drive my point home, you’re looking at a completely paperless IELTS prep website right now.) So you may need to make a conscious effort to provide at least some print materials to your students.

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