I have been preparing others for Academic IELTS for more than five years now, and I can see its growing popularity – especially among young people who want to study abroad. To be honest, I do encourage my students to choose a nice university abroad – most Polish universities are not famous for their friendly and creative atmosphere.
Yup, I may be extrapolating my own experiences, I’d be happy to be wrong but somehow I don’t think I am…
The only problem with IELTS is that people usually wake up a bit too late – the most typical opening is: “I want to study abroad and I need to pass Academic IELTS with band 7 in five months, but I can only meet once a week”. At first I considered the idea of smashing a head (either mine or the student’s) against a table, but after some time I got used to it and I decided I simply need to adjust my approach and rise up to the challenge. Because if there is one thing certain about Academic IELTS it’s this: if you are a typical young adult who wants to pass IELTS with band 7, you won’t make it with self-study only.
The idea I came up with regarding IELTS preparatory course was designing a curriculum for a new one, focusing solely on the exam techniques and being supplemented by general English classes depending on student’s proficiency level and needs. Being a DoS in a private language school gave me the opportunity to offer our students two independent ways of IELTS preparation – a typical general English course to develop language skills and a specialised intensive course preparing strictly for Academic IELTS.
The general English course is offered to students as a highly personalised way of developing linguistic abilities and improving communication skills. Some students need a full course to achieve the level required to pass IELTS at expected band, others want to polish some particular skills during individual classes. From the organisational point of view they may be allocated to various types of already existing courses (communication, grammar -oriented etc.) without the necessity of organising a typical level-oriented exam preparation course. Moreover, a second teacher is very helpful when it comes to giving feedback on student’s progress and implementing individual work.
The intensive IELTS preparatory course may be as short as 18 weeks (including two mock tests) giving the possibility of preparing to the test much quicker than during a traditional course (not to mention time required for a school to start a test-preparatory group on a particular level).
It worked pretty well with my students for the last few years, but it was mainly thanks to the coursebook I chose. The book that allows me to plan and conduct such an intensive course is “Direct to IELTS” by Sam McCarter (Macmillan). It’s a really great book, but it must be noted that even if techniques are the same for every test candidate, a teacher must personalise the course to a much higher extent than a traditional one. Depending on students’ goal I supply them with the vocabulary exercises from books like “Check Your Vocabulary for IELTS” by Rawdon Wyatt (Macmillan) and “Check Your Vocabulary for Academic English” by David Porter (Macmillan).
To make your life easier, I prepared a syllabus for my course – feel free to download and use it, as I share it under the Creative Commons license: IELTS syllabus
As you see, there’s a huge amount of exercises I marked as “suggested homework” – simply because there will be no time in-class to cover the whole book, however, it offers a great possibility for further self-study practice I find irreplaceable, especially when a student’s copy has its own key.
Are you surprised with the amount of work? So are my students – but when we run through the test tasks and try the speaking part (which they naively believe to be easy), they begin to comprehend the challenge. And the result? All of my students who worked hard and followed my instructions passed with the result they expected – some of them decided to study abroad, some preferred to stay home, but I’m really proud of them all.
If you want to try and follow my syllabus but you’re stuck somewhere or have a question – let me know in the comments, or on my Facebook page, I’ll be happy to help.