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Here’s How to Improve Your IELTS Score

OK, so you’ve bought the books, watched the video tutorials, and read a million blogs. Getting that 6.5 or 7.0 in this weekend’s IELTS test shouldn’t be too hard, right?

But, like thousands of other people, you’ve discovered the awful truth that however much you ace the listening and reading sections, it can be VERY difficult indeed to raise your score by even 0.5 in the writing and speaking sections!

Why does this happen? Well, listening and reading scores depend greatly on knowledge in the form of vocabulary and grammar. This knowledge is usually built up over many years of study. Also, in the listening and reading sections of IELTS, an answer is either correct or incorrect, so it’s relatively easy to understand what went wrong.

However, writing and speaking are skills, which means they depend more on practice than knowledge. Evaluating how well you perform those skills is also more difficult if you’re not a native speaker, or if you don’t understand the more complex ways in which IELTS writing and speaking answers are scored.

Many people fail to improve their IELTS score because they repeat the classic ‘insanity’ symptom of attempting the same thing again and again while expecting different results. Sadly, the truth is that your many years of English study plus a few IELTS textbooks may never be enough to lift your IELTS scores in writing and speaking to the same level as your listening and reading scores.

What you really need is a teacher. Not just any teacher, but one who is qualified to advise on exactly where you’re going wrong. A good teacher will provide you with genuine IELTS speaking practice and the personally-tailored feedback you need to improve your IELTS writing score. In fact, there are many more reasons why it pays to study with a good teacher.

Five ways a good teacher can help you improve your IELTS score

  1. Correct use of grammar accounts for 25% of your score in both Writing and Speaking. A good IELTS teacher will point out your most common grammar mistakes and encourage you to self-correct.
  2. Some mistakes are inevitable, of course. The most important thing is to be understood, since writing or speaking coherent English is one of the basic requirements of a good IELTS score. A good teacher will let you know when you’ve written or said something incoherent and ask you to rephrase it.
  3. Dictionaries contain plenty of words, but it’s not always easy to know which are the most frequently used and which are appropriate in a situation like the IELTS test. A good teacher will suggest vocabulary that would have helped you to explain your ideas better in the writing or speaking sections of the test.
  4. A good IELTS teacher understands how IELTS scores are calculated and will focus their feedback on key skills like paragraphing and connecting ideas. These are the skills that take less time to acquire and can give the biggest boost to your IELTS score.
  5. Finally, a good IELTS teacher provides motivation, since they highlight things you do well and are professionally engaged in helping you improve your IELTS score. A good teacher is therefore also a good coach – and you can’t get that from a book or website!

How to find a good IELTS teacher

So now you’re ready to invest money in hiring a teacher, how do you know the person you’re about to hire is the right one to provide that big boost to your IELTS score?

One problem is that there is no licence to teach IELTS. Instead, you should look for someone with a solid teaching background who can demonstrate good knowledge of the IELTS scoring criteria. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions like How many IELTS students have you taught before? and What advice do you usually give your students to improve their IELTS score? You are the client and you should not hesitate to check a teacher’s professional credentials before spending your money.

Some common methods of finding a teacher are as follows:

1. Online noticeboards

This is most people’s first choice of where to look for a private teacher. There are general ‘classifieds’ sites like Craigslist and many countries and cities also have a local equivalent. Just be sure to ask the questions above!

2. Language Schools

Most major cities have at least one language school that offers an IELTS course. However, be warned that you may not experience all the benefits above if you study IELTS in a group. Before signing up for any course, ask if your writing tasks will be graded and corrected, and confirm if there will be individual speaking practice with the teacher.

3. IELTS Examiners

It’s important to know that IELTS examiners are not allowed to advertise their examiner status in their teaching careers. After you meet with an IELTS teacher, however, they will usually not mind telling you discretely if they are also working as an examiner. If they don’t mention it, just ask!

4. Online Teachers

One advantage of having an online teacher is that your choices are no longer restricted to the teachers in your local area and you can now pick from the very best the world has to offer! Some people worry that studying online isn’t the same, but if you’ve ever used Skype or Google Docs you’ll know that instant messaging and editing tools can actually help you get even more out of the experience.

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