One question every candidate must ask is: should I find an IELTS teacher, or can I prepare for the test on my own? As an IELTS teacher myself, you’d expect me to have a biased view on this! But seriously, there are many benefits of studying with a teacher. Here are five:
1. A teacher can help you recognise your strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes we aren’t good at identifying the areas in which we need to improve. IELTS test-takers will often say they feel nervous about speaking or dislike the pressure of the writing section. In fact, they may be overestimating the difficulty of these sections and might benefit more from acquiring simple strategies for listening and reading. That’s the advantage of preparing with an IELTS teacher: he or she can give you an objective analysis of where you need to concentrate your efforts most.
2. Only an experienced IELTS teacher can score your writing and speaking answers.
While textbooks may provide guidance in the form of sample student answers, you can only really guess the band score your essays and spoken answers would receive. The knowledge of how IELTS answers are really scored belongs to a select group of people: IELTS examiners and experienced IELTS teachers. Not only can teachers give you an accurate band score in all sections of the test, they can also provide more detailed scores than the test certificate, including individual scores for the various criteria in IELTS Writing and Speaking, and suggestions for improvement.
3. A good teacher will train you in a range of language skills while preparing you for IELTS.
Preparing for IELTS should not be the objective of your English study! A test is only one temporary factor spurring the development of a skill that you will use for the rest of your life. While ensuring that you get the IELTS test practice you need, a good teacher will also do so much more. This includes pointing out your most frequent grammatical errors, correcting your pronunciation and spelling, and letting you know if what you said is understandable or not. On top of that, your teacher provides an all-round good model of how to use English in everyday communication. Ask yourself if you could get all this from books, the internet or friends, and the answer will almost certainly be No.
4. An organised programme of study helps to prevent procrastination.
What is ‘procrastination’? We’re all guilty of it, even if we don’t know the word. Procrastination means putting off or postponing those things we know we must do. It affects us at school, at work, and of course when preparing for a test like IELTS. Studying in a classroom with classmates and a teacher and following a syllabus provide what psychologists call ‘extrinsic motivation’, in other words, an external source of motivation – essential if your own levels of motivation aren’t always high.
5. In IELTS, practice makes perfect.
In all areas of life, our confidence in our own ability increases with practice. This in turn leads to better performance in pressure situations such as exams. While textbooks will allow you to practice the listening, reading and writing modules of IELTS, the only way to gain authentic practice of the IELTS speaking module is with a teacher. An experienced IELTS teacher knows how to play the examiner’s role, including the kind of help that can be given and when to prompt you to speak more. Try gaining practice with a variety of teachers – different ages, accents, and personalities – to reduce the likelihood of nerves when you meet your first IELTS examiner.