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How to choose the right IELTS course for you

IELTS has been skyrocketing in popularity over the last few years. More than 2 million people take IELTS every year around the world, and millions more are signing up for IELTS preparation courses. To meet this demand, thousands of centers are opening IELTS classes. Some of these are better than others.

A good class can help you learn about the exam, build confidence, and improve your English—and ultimately get the IELTS band score that you want. A bad class can be a waste of your time and your money. A really bad class can even give you bad advice that makes you do worse on the exam.

So how can you avoid wasting time and money on an ineffective IELTS course? Here are the 5 questions I recommend you ask.

1) Does the teacher know the IELTS test?

Even if your teacher is an experienced English teacher, it’s also important that they know the IELTS test. Ask your teacher a few basic questions about the exam. They should know the different sections on the exam and the different question types. Most importantly, they should know what you need to do to get a good score in each section.

However: Be very wary of any teacher who advertises themselves as an IELTS examiner. Real IELTS examiners are not allowed to market themselves as examiners. If a language center tells you that your teacher is also an IELTS examiner, be very cautious.

2) Will you do more than just practice the exam?

I’ve seen some IELTS classes where students just sit in the lesson and do practice IELTS exercises. They do a reading passage, or a listening passage. Then the teacher checks the answers. Then they do another one. Then they go home. What are they learning? Not much.

If you just want to do practice tests, you can buy a book of them and do it at home. In a good IELTS lesson, the teachers should be helping you develop both your language (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation) and skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening). Look for a course that helps you learn—and practice—new words.

3) How big are the class sizes?

Obviously there’s a trade-off here. The smaller the class size, the more expensive the classes will be. However, if the class is too big (25+) it might be hard for you to get the help you need. The teacher won’t have much time to your answer your individual questions. Most importantly, they won’t have much time to give you feedback on your individual speaking and writing. It’s important that you get at least some comments from the teacher on your own performance.

4) Do they teach in English?

I’ve also seen IELTS classes that are taught entirely in the students’ own language. The teacher and the students spend the whole lesson talking about the test—in a language that they already know and speak fluently! Just learning information about the IELTS exam isn’t enough. You need to improve your English and practice your own skills.

5) Do you actually get to speak or write?

Finally, some centers hold special classes that are focused only on Speaking, or only on Writing. Again, it’s essential that you actually do speak and/or write in these classes. Just reading sample essays, or memorizing speaking answers, won’t help. In a writing class, your teacher should take you through the writing process, and help you brainstorm ideas and plan your essays. They should also give you feedback on your writing and show you how to improve. In a speaking class, you should have lots of chances to speak in pairs or groups with your classmates. The teacher should also spend time listening to you speak and helping you improve your speaking. Ask the teacher how many tasks you will write in the course, and/or how often you’ll get to practice speaking.

Online courses

If it’s difficult to find a good face-to-face course in your area, you might consider doing an online course. While you won’t get as many opportunities to speak, you will be able to work at your own pace, and you can get a lot of useful information about the exam.