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Top IELTS Teaching Tips

Whether you are new to teaching IELTS or are a seasoned professional, there is always something new to learn and ways to improve. Teaching an IELTS class can be challenging as students usually have clear and specific goals set within tight time frames and they expect you to help them achieve those goals. Read some top IELTS teaching tips on how to best prepare your students for IELTS success.

  1. Get teaching support

    As every teacher knows, valuable resources can be a life saver.  Luckily, the British Council has a variety of teaching support, such as teacher webinars, practice activities, regular newsletters and a Facebook teachers’ group.  Find out more by visiting the British Council IELTS page for teachers and take advantage of all the free material that is on offer!

  2. Understand the marking criteria

    Your students may be unaware of how their work is marked.  For example, in the Writing section, some may feel quantity is more important than quality.  Others may think that as long as they write legible, grammatically clear sentences, they will get the mark they want (even if they haven’t really answered the task properly).  Make sure you inform your students of the marking criteria and that each has equal weight when determining the final band score.  These criteria are:

    • Task response – Have you fully completed the requirements of the task?
    • Coherence and cohesion – Are your ideas easy and clear to understand?
    • Lexical resource – Are you using a variety of vocabulary? Are you using this vocabulary appropriately?
    • Grammatical range and accuracy – Are you using a range of grammatical structures? Are you using them correctly?

    Just as important is for your students to know what they need to produce to get a specific band in each of the above criteria. These are highlighted in the Speaking and Writing band descriptors. Study these band descriptors and explain them to your students. You can also use these descriptors when assessing and grading student work. Find out more about how IELTS is assessed.

  3. Be honest with your students

    Probably the most common question you may encounter will be “How long will it take me to get my desired score?”.  No doubt this is a tricky question to answer as we all learn at different speeds.  In this situation, it is important to know where your students are at present (through practice tests) and then what level they need to get to. Identify their weaknesses then prepare activities to work on these.  Students need to know that there are no shortcuts to success on the test, getting the required band requires time and hard work. The message is “The harder you work, the quicker you will get to your desired score!”

  4. Tell your students to show off

    Your students may have a knowledge of wide grammatical structures or vocabulary but if they don’t produce this on test day, then the examiners won’t be able to score them accordingly. For example, in the Speaking section, students should attempt a range of vocabulary to maximize scores. To illustrate:

    Examiner: What is your hometown like?

    Candidate A: It is fun and friendly. I really like it.

    Candidate B: It’s an extremely fun city because there are many festivals, especially in the summer.

    Even though candidate B’s answer is not that much longer, it scores higher as it includes a complex sentence and more advanced vocabulary (ex: adverbs).

    In short, test takers need to “earn” their band by producing language which will get them the band they desire.

  5. Be natural

    Test takers sometimes try too hard! They want to impress the examiner by using long academic and complicated vocabulary which is not appropriate for the context of the conversation.  They think that if their answers are “smart” that this will earn them a higher band.  The reality is that test takers should keep things simple.  Use easy to understand vocabulary and simple ideas which can be expressed in a clear way. This will make it much easier for the examiner to understand and will help with coherence and cohesion scores.

  6. Make sure your students develop their ideas

    One issue for test takers is that they run out of ideas when they are writing or speaking.  One way to help with this is to make sure test takers develop their ideas by using “ARE”.  Essentially, that is short for:

    • Answer
    • Reason
    • Example

    This means: Making sure you answer clearly, following up with a reason then giving an example:
    What do you like to do in your free time?

    • Answer – I love to read
    • Reason – because it helps me to relax after a stressful day
    • Example – I especially like novels as they allow me to be imaginative
  7. Variety is important

    Like many language classes, your IELTS prep class will likely have a variety of students with different needs.  It’s important to personalize your activities for each student as well as giving individual feedback based on the IELTS marking criteria. This is especially important for the Writing and Speaking sections.

  8. Guide your students to quality preparation resources

    There is a plethora of IELTS material available online and this can be daunting for a test taker.  Make sure you are guiding your students to quality resources. British Council have been testing through IELTS for 30 years and we have built up a range of preparation resources designed to get test takers ready for test day. Visit the British Council IELTS test preparation page to get the following:

    • A prep app with practice activities and resources which allow students to learn on the go.
    • An IELTS study pack. Test takers can sign up to receive regular IELTS updates and free preparation resources.
    • Weekly IELTS webinars. Delivered by our IELTS experts, these webinars focus on different sections of IELTS to help candidates build their skills and get ready for test day.  There are also opportunities to ask questions.
    • Road to IELTS. British Council’s comprehensive e-learning package with a variety of test preparation materials and practice.

    With these IELTS teaching tips, you’ll be able to create a successful environment where your students can flourish and hopefully get the band that they need for their future paths!
    Are your students ready to take the test? Visit our registration page to book your test.