It is a sad state of affairs when I see keen, bright-eyed, and clearly motivated English students spending the better part of a day to match their English skills to the challenging set of skills tests that we refer to as the Cambridge International English Language Testing Service [or IELTS] Test. My concern is that many of my own students come to me as a last resort to gain the score that they seek. With plenty of "fight in their dog" most of my students DO achieve their score. My main concerns are for those that sit the test two, three or maybe even five times or more, and STILL, do not achieve their goal. These are the students that we lose, they become disillusioned and they probably give up.
Another scenario that concerns me as I see the lines of students pass through the IELTS Exam rooms are those students from countries where they find themselves in a Catch Twenty Two situation. They compete with the masses to score a scholarship from their governments that will fund their studies to a number of International Universities only to find that they cannot use it as the university of their choice sets an IELTS score that is simply outside their reach.
To these students, I offer a simple solution. Money is always an issue, seek a tutor that will take you and three friends in group sessions. It is simple Math that if there are four of you most tutors will offer you a fair rate that may not be exactly a quarter of their normal hourly rate, but this approach will reduce your costs to get you to your goals of the IELTS score that you seek. If you cannot find a tutor that will do that for you, keep looking and don't forget that the Internet opens you to English tutors from all over the world. Tutors that will offer group sessions are out there.
SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
To say there is a lot of IELTS material available on the Internet is correct. Much of the material is professionally presented and extremely helpful to the struggling student but if the IELTS student wants REAL progress in a realistic time span then the student is going to need a TUTOR.
Without a Tutor, the IELTS student will more than likely suffer the horrible feeling of failing to meet their target score over and over. Remember, every time an IELTS candidate sits the test, the candidate pays. For many, the cost of the exam is difficult to meet, and this is why it is essential to make sure that you are ready to meet the challenge.
I would like to propose a few questions to assist potential IELTS students in the selection of a suitable tutor that will help them achieve their goals.
- Does the tutor you are speaking to or communicating with have a solid background in teaching English to ESL students? This has got to be a fundamental requirement.
- Does your prospective tutor have experience in preparing students for exams? As with any kind of exam, as an IELTS candidate, you need preparation that is specific to the IELTS exam. It is not simply a matter of knowing the correct Grammar, to apply to a situation. It is not simply a matter of being able to write a sentence that communicates certain specific details. It really is a matter of Exam Technique. HOW you are to approach the questions and HOW you plan your approach to improve your chance of success.
- Will your Tutor be working through the exams with you? This is important, some tutors apply the automatic pilot approach of setting the exercises, allowing the students to complete them and simply marking efforts of the student. This is not going to work for the serious IELTS student - the serious student needs FEED-BACK. You must have a tutor who is going to jump into the trenches with you and at times help you write the passages, and show you HOW to arrive at the correct answers.
- Will your tutor maintain records of your attempts to demonstrate that you ARE ACTUALLY IMPROVING. This too is vital.
- Does your tutor employ a structured approach to scanning your skill set and planning a path to address your weaknesses and extend your strengths? Remember that your final score is a composite of Reading & Writing, Speaking and Listening. Your scores combine to arrive at your final grade. The old idiom "A chain is as strong as its weakest link" applies in this scenario. All your skill sets need to be taken to the next level.
- Last, of all, you might ask your potential tutor if he or she has testimonials from students they have taught or perhaps some they are teaching at present.
No serious tutor will attempt a "give you the answers" approach to an IELTS Exam. If a tutor tries to offer you drills to respond to this kind of question and another to respond to some other kind of question, find another tutor. While a general approach to responding to specific kinds of questions like how to relate a process or some kind of procedural approach in an essay or spoken form is fine, trying to set you up with parroted answers is not going to work. The format and questions used in the tests are changed and updated regularly by Cambridge to maintain the credibility of the system. You the IELTS student needs to be more than a vehicle made for paved roads. You need to prepare your skills sets to travel any terrain. With the correct tutor - YOU CAN DO IT.
You may not have to have the background music from ROCKY or even swallow a dozen raw eggs to go into training for your IELTS exams, but you really do need to go into training with a tutor that can tell you that you really are ready to go for it. Throwing in the music from ROCKY might be a good motivator but personally, I would skip the dozen raw eggs - YUCK!!!!
Save the BIG BUCKS and find yourself a great tutor. Good luck with your studies and above all don't give up.
Regards, SteveJayKay the IELTS Guy.