Why Study IELTS? | 5 Reasons It’s an Amazing Idea!

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Why study IELTS?

It’s a common question from students.

There are a tons of reasons why people take the IELTS test and in this article we are going to explore 5 of them.

The acronym IELTS is feared globally. 

If your first language isn’t English, IELTS will send a shiver down your spine and makes your palms greasy in an instant.

How many of you have woke up in the dead of night screaming ‘No IELTS! No IELTS!’

If you have, then you’re not alone.

Scary as the IELTS test is there are a multitude of reasons to study for the test.

1. IELTS is recognized around the world

According to our IELTS partners, The British Council, the IELTS test is accepted by over 10,000 institutions globally.

This includes universities, employers, governments, immigration and other professional bodies.

You can check out more detailed demographic data here.

As I type, no other English language proficiency test is as widely respected as the IELTS test.

In fact more than three million people a year are now choosing IELTS.

These are impressive figures, I’m sure you’ll agree, and with this momentum it’s difficult seeing any other English language test catching IELTS in the near future.

Step into a time machine and go back a decade or so and USA universities and colleges only accepted TOEFL as part of their entrance requirements for international students.

Those days are long gone.

Over 3000 USA institutions now take IELTS and the number is growing.

Which is harder IELTS or TOEFL.

There’s no easy answer to this.

Both the TOEFL and the Academic IELTS test are harder than the General IELTS test. 

You will have to take the TOEFL or the Academic IELTS test if you want to study in university. The grades accepted vary from institution to institution so be sure to know what you need in advance of preparing for the test. 

Also be aware that your scores for both tests are valid for two years, so make sure you don’t take the tests too early.

Structurally, both tests have 4 sections each testing a skill (reading, writing, speaking or listening)

Overall, many say the IELTS test feels more real as because of the human contact in the speaking and the lack of computer contact. 

But others prefer TOEFL’s computer based approach. It just depends on the individual really.

The TOEFL has listening in the integrated skills sections while the IELTS test only has one section with integrated skills. 

This is writing task 1 where you have to summarize in writing data from a graph, table or some other diagram.

Both the IELTS and the TOEFL tests have a traditional essay (opinion/discursive) as their second writing task.

Aside from the method of delivery (computer vs paper based) and the fact that TOEFL has more integrated skills questions, the biggest difference is between the speaking sections.

TOEFL speaking is recorded by the student into a microphone.

Students have to give opinions, interpret/summarize information from other sources.

The IELTS speaking test, on the other hand, requires students to talk in person to an examiner. 

This is daunting to say the least as the room will often have cameras and a real human to content with.

Over the years many students I’ve taught have gone to pieces shortly after walking into the IELTS speaking testing room.

Although the IELTS speaking puts more pressure students, often this forces them to work harder in preparation for their face to face examination.

Another difference between the tests is accent and dialect.

TOEFL is 100% American English, so if you have grown up watching American movies and series, you’ll be familiar with the accent, rhythm, intonation and stress patterns.

However, IELTS uses a range of different standard accents including the following:

  •  British

Expect a London or other SE of English accent with received pronunciation

Click here to watch a great lesson about received pronunciation

  • Australian

Expect a standard urban Aussie accent. Thing of famous Aussie’s in the media or music.

Click here to watch an Australian and an English person talking about the differences between their accents.

  • North American

Expect standard Californian or mid-west accents.

Check out a Californian accent here

This site also focus on American accents is is useful for intensive listening practice.

Overall, it is fair to say that British English and accents are the most common on the IELTS listening test, so make sure a large part of your preparation takes this into consideration.

For students of intermediate level listening skills I recommend the following resources to sharpen your listening skills:

6 minute English BBC

English at University (drama from BBC Learning English)

Check out these other dramas from BBC Learning English

I also recommend Luke’s English podcast

For student with more advanced level listening skills the following are  great:

Check out any of the BBC podcasts

Try the long running BBC Radio 4 comedy show ‘Sorry I haven’t a clue’.

Thus, taking the IELTS listening test exposes students to a wider range of accents than the TOEFL listening test.

This gives students more linguistic experience that could be useful in a future career or academic setting.

IELTS

2. IELTS gives you an objective idea of your English level

IELTS is a formal assessment that will give you an accurate indicator of how much your English language skills have progressed.

Maybe you’ve been studying independently or have just taken an IELTS course and want to gauge your linguistic development.

After all, who doesn’t want to know if all their hard work and hard earned money are paying off? 

Taking an internationally recognized test like IELTS and impressing your friends in the coffee shop are two different games.

This is exactly why so many people tstudy for and take the IELTS test.

It gives students piece of mind when they get an objective IELTS grade (Band 0-9) which they can then compare with the Common European Framework for Languages

So, if you really want to know where your English language level rates on a global scale, IELTS enables you to do so.

Check out the video below to find out more about how the IELTS test is marked

3. IELTS training will massively boost your English language skills

IELTS examiners want students to use the English language as naturally as possible.

This preparation is great training for the future whether you’ll be going to university, starting a new job or beginning a new life overseas.

Too many tests focus on remembering obscure vocabulary which students simply learn and repeat.

This best example of this was the old SAT vocabulary test.

Students used to spend months learning hundreds of unusual and often archaic words simply to pass the multiple choice test.

Thankfully, the vocabulary section has been removed from the new SAT test but still the legacy of word list learning continues with SAT students convinced it will boost their reading and writing scores.

Check out the 300 most difficult SAT words

The IELTS test cuts through such pretentiousness rewarding students for a more natural understanding of the English language.

IELTS examiners reward students for effective use of lexical chunks and other natural phrasing.

For an academic read on what lexical chucks are read here. 

Some even advocate the learning of language in chunks. Read the New York Times article.

Learning common collocations used naturally in English is definitely a good way to increase your score in the IELTS speaking test.

But remember to practice in context with a native speaker, if possible, for meaning is use.

Here is a test with 109 common collocations in English.

How many do you know?

The IELTS listening test, too, tests students ability to understand natural English from native speakers.

This can take the form of conversations between two people and individual lectures.

In order to prepare for the rigors of the IELTS listening exam, students must expose themselves to the English language in movies, on TV, on the radio, in podcasts and, of course, in person.

This high level of exposure to natural, free flowing language forces learners to ‘up their game’ and listen with close precision.

This intensive practice in the lead up to and during the IELTS test itself, increases students language skills considerably. 

See the links earlier in this post for links to help with IELTS listening practice.

The IELTS writing test just like the listening and speaking components forces students to write academic English under the pressure of time.

As anyone who has taken an IELTS writing test will tell you, 60 minutes isn’t a lot of time to complete Task 1 (summary of data in the form of a graph, table of info. or process) and task 2 (opinion/discussion essay)

In task 1 the challenge is summarizing graph data and making comparisons in approximately 20 minutes.

Students often struggle making comparisons and using language of change to describe changes in data over the time frame.

Learning how to summarize technical data and statistics not only boosts learner ability to write succinctly, but also arms them with a new range of lexical weapons they can  use in further education and the working world.

Also, task 2 of the IELTS writing requires students to produce an essay (either opinion or discussion) on a wide range of topics.

This has to be completed in 40 minutes.

Considering students only get one choice of essay for task 2, means they have to be well prepared for the big day.

Students should read news articles from website such as the BBC and The Guardian to prepare not only their academic vocabulary and sentence structure, but also to get ideas to support their argument in IELTS essay task 2.

Students who seriously commit to IELTS preparation make huge improvements to their English language skills as a result of this.

The same can be said for IELTS reading preparation. 

With students preparing themselves in a similar way to the aforementioned with daily reading of news articles from quality sources.

Newsela is another power tool to help people read the news and learn, and many of our students use it in preparation for the IELTS examination.

Check out the video below to see how Newsela works.

Check out the following posts and improve your IELTS Reading score:

How to improve your IELTS reading score

Improve your IELTS reading focus

How to get a 9 in IELTS reading

Number 1 IELTS reading test error

How to improve your IELTS reading speed

4. IELTS offers you two tests to choose from

Over the years many student have come to me and asked the following question:

‘Which IELTS should I take?’

Maybe you thought there is only one type of IELTS test.

In fact, there are two IELTS tests, IELTS Academic and IELTS General.

Which one should you take?

This depends on your goals and reasons for going overseas.

If you want to study in further education abroad, then you will most probably need to take the IELTS Academic test, which ‘measures English language proficiency needed for an academic, higher learning environment. The tasks and tests are accessible to all test takers, irrespective of their subject focus.’ (British Council IELTS Website)

Alternatively, if you are taking IELTS to prove to an employer your level of English, often IELTS General is required.

As an example, I’ve seen overseas banks and airlines ask prospective students for IELTS General while universities ask for IELTS Academic.

The above is great news if you don’t want to study in third level education. 

IELTS General is easier then IELTS Academic and provides a more level playing field for those who want to work rather than study in an English speaking country.

When compared the listening and speaking sections of the two tests are identical.

It’s only when students take the writing and reading section does the level of difficulty change.

For an overview of the differences between IELTS Academic and IELTS General, click here

5.You can take IELTS in 140 countries around the world!

IELTS is now a global phenomena. 

Go back in time to 1989 when the first IELTS test was administered and you can see just how far IELTS has come on the international stage.

Comparing IELTS with its predecessor, ELTS, gives us an idea of the former’s meteoric rise to success with only 4,000 and 10,000 students taking ELTS in 1981 and 1985 respectively.

Contrast this with the IELTS which from its humble 1989 beginnings had 210 test centers globally by 1995 with almost 45,000 students taking the test.

Today, the number of students taking the IELTS test stands at about 3,000,000 per year

Seeing this type of growth, the IELTS test has proven itself as being one of the most accurate, fair and convenient tests to take for English language learners.

Presently, it’s difficult to see any other test challenging IELTS hegemony. 

This, of course, could lead to a separate set of problems in the future, but what those would be remains to be seen.

For more information about IELTS courses both in house and online please contact us through our Facebook page or via email: info@phuketpals-ged.com

Also, check our our YouTube channel and Instagram page for free lesson and great info.

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