Teaching the IELTS exam: key info

ielts_word_power_630x354 IELTS ((International English Language Testing System) is a joint Cambridge, British Council and Australian English exam that is becoming increasingly popular.


In the UK, exams can be taken every few weeks at a range of centres. Students may have already taken the exam or taken IELTS preparation classes in their own country. Often they need to improve their grade eg from level 5 to level 6.5.

The time it takes to improve a grade will depend very much on the student but they will need to be serious about the exam and be prepared to put in extra work during their free time.

Exam make-up

Click on this link to go to the main IELTS website. http://www.ielts.org/default.aspx .Here you can find full information about test content.

  • Tests 4 skills. Listening (30 mins), Reading (60 mins), Writing (60 mins), Speaking (approx 14 mins and usually taken on a different day from the other components)
  • General Training or Academic versions. Almost all Homelingua students do the acdemic modules (reading and writing part is more academic)
  • Students get a score between 1 and 9. Most students achieve levels 4 to 7. Students wanting to go start a higher education course will usually need a score of 6 to 7.5 (depending on course and institution)

Example IELTS score (can be stated as whole or half-point score):

3. Extremely limited user (approx A1)
4. Limited user (A2)
5. Modest user (B1)
5.5 (B2)
6. Competent user (B2 at 5.5)
6.5 (C1)
7. Good user
7.5 (C2)
8. Very good user
9. Expert user

Teaching IELTS

The score a student gets is an average of their scores for the different components of the exam. This means that weak writing could bring down the average considerably.

For most students they need help with 4 keys areas:

  • help with the interview
  • improving their academic writing
  • dealing with vocabulary
  • familiarity with the exam question types

You need to discuss priorities with your student and plan a course accordingly. Do make sure you understand the type of questions in the exam. Lower level students may receive a period of General English before focussing too much on the exam. For students who are only a month or so away from their exam, the focus will nearly always be on the exam.

The academic writing test has 2 parts: The first part is about describing data from a graph or diagram. This should take about 20 mins. The second part is about presenting a point of view or argument or problem (approx 40 mins) eg ‘Some people think education should be about opening a person’s mind. Others think it should prepare people for the world of work. What is your opinion?’

Speaking (with an interviewer):
3 parts. Part 1 is where the candidate answers questions about himself, his family, interests, studies, hobbies, job etc. Part 2 is where the candidate is asked to talk about a particular subject (there is one min preparation time). Part 3 The examiner and candidate have a discussion of an abstract nature, linked the the theme in Part 2 eg ‘Some people think technology has saved time in the workplace. Do you agree?’

This entry was posted in Exam prep, Lesson ideas and examples, Private Posts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply