IELTS Preparation Overview

The Benefits of Effective IELTS Preparation

The IELTS is taken by many different types of students. Some speak English quite well as a second language, but they may be required to undergo an English assessment due to their circumstances. Others need to dramatically improve their language skills in order to approach the scores required by their degree programs. All test-takers benefit from high-quality IELTS preparation. Those who speak English with confidence can use IELTS study to become familiar with the types of exercises that appear on the exam, and they can also practice solving those exercises within the test's time frame. Test-takers with lesser English abilities will derive greater communication and testing skills from IELTS instruction. High IELTS scores will facilitate acceptance to undergraduate or graduate degree programs with strict requirements. At schools that offer provisional admission, meeting institutional IELTS benchmarks will save students the time and cost of remedial English. Effective IELTS preparation is the best option for prospective university students whose native language is not English.

Methods of Preparing for the IELTS

The most proven way to prepare for the IELTS is to study with a professional IELTS educator. Private test prep companies usually offer a number of different learning options, from group courses to individual tutoring plans, and many offer instruction both on-site and online. Test prep firms that have been in business for years tend to have good track records and instructors with appropriate credentials. Unaffiliated tutors may or may not be qualified, and students are advised to ask detailed questions about the experience and training of any teacher they are considering. Professional IELTS teachers provide structured programs for IELTS skill development, informed guidance on strategies for study outside of the classroom, and constructive feedback and accountability. Self-study methods with books or videos generally have none of these advantages, and the results are therefore usually far less than optimal.

Setting Target Scores for the IELTS

Although IELTS has classified each score level, universities make their own decisions about IELTS requirements. The majority of undergraduate or graduate degree programs specify minimum IELTS scores between 5.0 and 7.5 (IELTS characterizes overall band scores of 5, 6, and 7 as "modest," "competent," and "good" respectively). Students must set target scores that are at least as high as the minimum score for each paper and for the total band score. It is advisable, however, for students to aim for scores of 6.0 or higher on each IELTS section, even if a given school's benchmark is lower. Modest language skills will seriously undermine student academic performance and make all aspects of university life considerably more challenging. A student does himself or herself no favors by devoting minimal effort to language study.

How to Choose the Best IELTS Preparation

With all of the options available in test preparation, students face a dizzying array of possibilities. Individual learning needs and preferences are the most important considerations in choosing the right IELTS preparation. Students whose English skills are still developing may receive the greatest benefit from an on-site IELTS group course, which provides regular opportunities to interact in English with the instructor and with other students. A test-taker who struggles with a particular area of the English language, such as speaking, may prefer the customized teaching available in one-on-one tutoring sessions. Some students may thrive on the accountability of regularly scheduled on-site classes, while others enjoy the flexibility of online learning.

Research on IELTS Preparation

The idea that specialized test preparation is helpful to scores has been supported by educational researchers. A 2013 study compared the IELTS and TOEFL scores across two groups of students who had taken both exams but received instruction in only one. In both groups, scores were higher on the test that had been studied. Because both exams ostensibly assess the same general language skills, this is a significant finding. Some evidence suggests that student perceptions of educational benefits favor IELTS courses over generic language teaching. A 2017 research paper demonstrated an expansion of IELTS course offerings in a single Asian country at the expense of standard English classes. The authors postulated that IELTS prep is increasingly seen as an easier route to English proficiency for students who begin the learning process with limited skills. Many prospective university students seem to view IELTS prep as a substitute for traditional language instruction rather than a supplement to comprehensive English study. This trend is worthy of further research, especially if it can be conducted using larger sample sizes.