As an IELTS teacher, you will probably have a lot of students who want you to teach them so that they can get a high enough band score to emigrate from their home country and start a new life elsewhere. It is one of the reasons people around the world study English, and one of the big benefits of getting a high score in the IELTS exam.
As a teacher, you need to know your students’ motivations so that you can teach them as best you possibly can. Knowing why they are studying English – or, in this case, specifically IELTS – can allow you to tailor your lessons especially for them, and help them on their journey to success.
In today’s article, I will tell you how to teach IELTS lessons to students who wish to go abroad.
Step One – Where are they going?
The first thing that you should really do is find out where your student intends to go, and what they want to do there. The reason for this is pretty simple: not every country has the same requirements, and within those countries different organizations may also have different requirements.
IELTS is so popular because it is accepted all around the world. Having a band 7, for example, tells an employer in the USA or New Zealand that the student is able to converse quite well, though their English is not yet fluent.
You need to figure out what your student needs to achieve to get where he/she wants to go. For example, a few years ago I had a friend who wanted to work in the tech industry in Australia, so he needed L-7 R-7 W-7 S-7. This was a tough order, but we worked hard and got him to Australia.
Step Two – general or academic?
Once you know where the student is going, you also need to establish what they will do there because this will affect the kind of IELTS exam that they take. There are two kinds of IELTS exam – general or academic. The latter is quite obviously for educational purposes, and is required for students who wish to go study abroad. The general exam is more for people who wish to live and work abroad.
These two exams have some major cross-over, but parts of them will be different, so you should familiarize yourself with the differences. Once you know this, you can prepare your students better by creating lessons focused specifically on the exam that they will take.
Step Three – Create a viable target
Once you know their goals, you can decide whether or not it’s realistic for them, and then begin to plan how to achieve this. If your student needs to get – as per my previous example – L-7 R-7 W-7 S-7 but they are presently a few bands below it, then do you really think they can get there in the right timeframe?
I don’t mean to sound negative. You shouldn’t underestimate your students, and you certainly shouldn’t put them off trying to live their dreams. But you need to figure out a realistic set of goals, and create a course of action that can get them there within the required time.
As a teacher, it is your job to make a suitable plan of action. You need to find out what should be done to improve their weaknesses and help them come closer to their target score.
Step Four – Identify strengths and weaknesses
Once you have identified the target and established a timeframe for achieving it, you need to figure out how to get there. This means looking at the student’s strengths and weaknesses. This is easy enough to do. Simply set them a practice test during the first class.
Once you know the student’s weaknesses, you can put extra work into addressing these. For example, most students struggle with writing. Writing is difficult, and it’s also the slowest part at which we may see progress. It is clear, then, that you should spend more time working on correcting mistakes in their writing, instructing them on grammar and structure, and doing timed practice.
Of course, this is just one example. Every student is different, and once you figure out where their strengths and weaknesses lie, you can begin to design a curriculum that will suit their individual needs.
Step Five – Approaches and materials
This step is difficult to explain here because it will depend utterly on what you find out by following steps one to four. For example, a student at approximately band 4, who wishes to score a band 6 so that she can go live abroad with her husband will need a very different approach to someone who is at band 4 and requires a band 7 to go study law in England. And that’s not to mention the fact that they may have a band 6 for reading and a band 4 for writing…
Your approaches and materials will depend on these factors and more. You should work out what is best for your student, and what are the available resources. Check out this collection of books for studying IELTS.
As an example, to illustrate my point, I often tutor students who are more or less satisfied with their reading and listening scores, and just wish to practice writing and listening. I don’t argue with them because generally they have higher reading and listening scores than they do writing and speaking, and besides, these areas are easier to practice alone. So I set my students some lessons on grammar, structure, and so on for writing. We analyze questions together, and talk about writing errors. I will work on analyzing their mistakes, and create lesson plans around fixing them. My approach is pretty similar for speaking, too.
Step Six – Exam preparation
For this part, I try to make sure that my students are not just good enough to write a good IELTS essay or answer questions from a reading paper, but rather that they can do it all under exam conditions. This means adhering to time restraints and, importantly, handling pressure.
For this purpose, I will attempt to simulate certain parts of the exam as closely as possible, and coach the student in useful success strategies.
Remember that for this part, the pressure can be intense. Students who wish to sit the IELTS exam for immigration purposes usually feel a great deal of stress because of the ramifications of potential failure.
Optional – Preparation for immigration and non-IELTS English
In addition to the vital six steps above, you may also want to help your students prepare for life abroad after the IELTS exam is complete and they have achieved their target score. This would require more general English practice (or perhaps business English) as well as some practical or cultural training to help them deal with life in another country.
I have taught many students in the past who would go on to study in England, and it was always useful to give them a lesson on British culture, and in particular on British university life, which differs immensely compared with Chinese university life. Of course, you may want to consider teaching these lessons with a little bit of an IELTS twist, just so your students don’t complain that they are paying for IELTS lessons, and incorporate some reading, listening, speaking, or writing practice alongside the more practice information.