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Can Pre-Intermediate English learners do IELTS?

Can language learners at pre-intermediate level begin preparation for IELTS (International Language Testing System)?

It may be challenging preparing language learners at lower levels for IELTS but any problems can be managed effectively with good preparation and staging of classroom sessions.

Appropriate Language

Possibly the biggest problem is the fact that learners simply don’t possess the depth of grammar and vocabulary required to obtain a high score in IELTS. This deficiency obviously has a direct affect on all sections of the exam. It is common that grammar and vocabulary knowledge students do have has been learned in a general English environment, and although this is useful, it has somewhat limited effectiveness when it comes to the IELTS exam. In addition, language learners might have problems with accuracy which may well become aggravated when attempting to extend their language skills to more demanding academic English as required by IELTS.

Targeted language practice

However, such issues may be overcome simply through providing ample targeted language practice during IELTS preparation sessions in the classroom. The IELTS exam focuses on specific areas of grammar and vocabulary, but these can be instructed explicitly during IELTS classes, alongside exam item practice tasks which exploit those very language points. One of the best methods is by making use of a grammar and vocabulary resource book designed specifically for lower level IELTS candidates as a way of helping learners develop the necessary language and exam skills.

Knowledge of the IELTS test

Language learners frequently don’t understand why they are doing certain tasks or the language skills that are being tested. This is not only specific to lower level learners, however, it does tend to affect them more. IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 is an excellent example of the problem. Many learners have difficulty understanding the real purpose of this task. The result is that they end up describing everything as opposed to simply summarizing the main points and important information given.

IELTS teachers need to attempt to give these tasks more meaning for their learners. Being able to explain the connection between academic English and IELTS can help their learners to grasp the why and how of the IELTS exam.

One way of achieving this is to put them into real-life contexts. Get learners to imagine that they work in a company and their boss is a very busy person. Explain to them that they have only a few minutes to explain the main and most important facts about some data to their boss so that he/she understands. Role-playing may be a useful tool to aid learners in separating description from summary and developing their skills in this area.

Constant Motivation and manageable level increments

Language learners at lower levels frequently begin their IELTS preparation course with very good motivation, especially when being successful in the test may contribute to achieving their future career or academic goals such as studying at a foreign university. The reality, however, is that many learners are not realistic or conscious of their real level of competency in English and the degree of improvement required to score well in the IELTS test. Sometimes, when they eventually realize how much time and effort is really involved to achieve the necessary score, it can result in demotivation.

What is important is that learners understand the level of improvement required and how this can be achieved. IELTS diagnostic testing is a very useful tool to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of individual learners. Based on the results, learners can work towards achievable learning goals which help maintain their motivation. This method also helps learners understand the skills required for the IELTS test and allows them to see tangible improvement in these areas by measuring their progress regularly.

Using authentic IELTS practice tests

More advanced learner preparing for IELTS usually spend a lot of time doing IELTS practice tests. This allows them to become familiar with the format, practice their time management skills and also develop their specific test taking and language skills. Using authentic IELTS practice tests is essential as part of good preparation for the IELTS exam, but for lower level learners there is a greater need to improve langue levels before being able to get the most from repeatedly doing IELTS practice tests.

Increasing grammar and vocabulary knowledge should be one of the top priorities for lower level English learners preparing for IELTS. Regular testing of new grammar structures and topical vocabulary learned can help reinforce this new knowledge so that it can be applied practically in the test.

It is a good idea to build learners up gradually by allowing them to practice their new language skills on specific IELTS questions or sections of the test before allowing them to tackle an entire IELTS practice test.

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