5 Questions you should ask before starting a new IELTS course

Do you need to prepare for the IELTS exam but are unsure about which course to choose? Or, perhaps you have finished a course but have been disappointed with your progress? 

In 2018, 3.5 million candidates took the IELTS exam worldwide, marking its increased acceptance at universities and colleges across the English-speaking world. In the same year, there were 911 registered IELTS providers here in Vietnam, up from just 92 in 2014. This makes choosing a course very difficult, so what are the most important questions to ask?

1. Will I receive feedback on all four skills, and how will it help me?

An effective IELTS course shows you the exact weaknesses that will cost you marks in the exam, since examiners mark you down for specific reasons related to your own mistakes. The guidelines used by the examiners are called “Band Score Descriptors” and are publicly available – however, they are not user-friendly. We make sure that students understand what they need to do to achieve their target band score, and provide individual feedback specific to your work so you can learn how to improve.

A final exam is often used by language schools to assess whether a student can move to the next level. However, this does not help students to understand their weaknesses, measure their progress or know their band score throughout a course. Effective feedback will involve continuous assessment using actual exam questions, and students keep a detailed record of their progress in all four skills. If you don’t know exactly where you’re going wrong, you won’t be able to improve.

2. Will I follow an Official Cambridge IELTS course?

Cambridge is the organisation that produces the IELTS test and the guidelines for examiners to assess students and award band scores. However, very few language schools use authentic, up-to-date materials because they are too expensive and cannot be copied. Since most schools are using older materials from many different sources, the quality of the coursebooks given to students is often very poor.

It is very important that students prepare and practice at their current level using course books which are graded according to their band score. A good course book will contain topic-based units which cover each of the four skills in turn, and each level should include learning strategies, skills practice and exam practice designed to help students achieve their target band score.

3. Is my teacher qualified and experienced at teaching IELTS?

If you are paying for tuition, you need to make sure your teacher can effectively help you with strategies to improve your skills. This standard of teaching requires years of experience of both teaching IELTS and helping students to achieve the scores they need. You should ask to see testimonials and examples of high achievers.

4. Do you have online skills practice?

You can now take the IELTS exam on a computer in 20 different countries, including Vietnam. In addition, most students use online resources to prepare, even though many of these resources are unreliable and inaccurate. Despite this, only two language schools in Vietnam have online modules to support students with their classroom studies. Each of our (four skills) courses include 40 hours of online study for Reading and Writing, Listening and Speaking, Language Building plus Grammar and Vocabulary – this is set for homework by our teachers.

5. What is the average class size?

The class size makes a difference in terms of how much feedback and individual attention your teacher can give you. In a class size of 20, for example, it is impossible to spend much time with each student and give anything other than “general” rather than “specific” feedback. Our class size is limited to 10.

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