Prep Books for the IELTS
Unofficial IELTS Preparation Books Overview
Unofficial IELTS prep books can be defined as those not written by IELTS or any of its constituent organizations. Most of the available unofficial titles have been authored by test prep firms or publishers, and individual books may or may not be credible. Unofficial materials can either enhance the preparation process or provide misleading and inaccurate information, depending largely on the educational credentials of these texts' authors. Books written by test prep firms or academic publishers are often reliable, because these organizations have a vested interest in producing materials that improve test scores. No education company or academic press wants to ruin its reputation or undermine its credibility by releasing volumes of poor quality. IELTS prep books created by commercial publishers should generally be viewed with a more skeptical eye. It is common industry practice to release titles written by staff authors with little understanding of test preparation, and sales volume based on publisher popularity can sometimes give these books a seeming legitimacy that they don't deserve. They key word for all unofficial IELTS prep books is caution.
Types of IELTS Books
Unofficial IELTS prep books may be intended as comprehensive guides to the exam, or they may focus on more narrow testing issues. Some companies publish individual volumes that cover specific sections of the IELTS (such as speaking) or discreet testing skills (such as vocabulary). There are also volumes that aim to prepare students at certain levels of English-language knowledge, such as a title for test-takers who have never before studied English. Finally, volumes of IELTS unofficial practice tests are widely available. Some students may need to supplement their official practice tests with unofficial practice resources. Again, test-takers should consider quality and credibility with respect to all of these materials. Careful research on text authors will reveal either backgrounds of test prep authority or the lack thereof.
Additional Unofficial IELTS Practice Materials
Some universities have compiled their own IELTS online video courses, either in conjunction with test prep firms or independently. Though these videos generally feature qualified instructors and coherent course plans, they are less effective than interactive teaching. Video courses are, in effect, self-study plans. Such learning strategies are difficult to customize to the student's individual needs, and the test-taker receives neither detailed advice for study plans nor feedback that is specific to their performance.
General Readings for IELTS Study
Students preparing for the IELTS can vastly improve their language abilities through publications intended for the general public, such as newspapers, magazines, and websites. These writings cover a broad array of topics and expand the student's base of knowledge. General reading also helps students build their verbal skills in context, especially if the readings are done with typical IELTS questions in mind.
About IELTS Self-Study
Self-study is not recommended for most students, and there is no concrete evidence that it is an effective method of test preparation. Even if the student speaks English relatively well, he or she will need to become familiar with the test itself and its exercises, which is best accomplished through informed instruction. We are not aware of any published research on standardized test prep that demonstrates the soundness of self-study plans, and claims to the contrary are anecdotal. Self-study forces the student to act as his or her own teacher, which is not the ideal way to acquire any large body of knowledge and skills. If the student is to use unofficial practice materials, it should be in conjunction with a comprehensive course of professional IELTS instruction. IELTS teachers can help students select unofficial books and videos that are well-suited to their needs.
How to Use Unofficial IELTS Books
Unofficial materials that are considered reliable can serve as aids to the learning process in conjunction with the Official Cambridge Guide and prep course syllabi. There is an advantage in seeking out the perspectives of multiple authors, who will explain IELTS concepts in a variety of ways. The additional practice materials and answer explanations contained in these unofficial titles will help the test-taker acquire a broad understanding of the language skills necessary for high IELTS scores and success at the undergraduate or graduate university levels. Once again, unofficial materials are best thought of as a part of the preparation process rather than the essence of effective IELTS study.