Girlie .E, Material Trainer and Online English Teacher at Acadsoc.
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Many teachers here may hear my name because I am a material trainer at Acadsoc for EP (Exam Preparation), including IELTS and TOEFL training. Though Acadsoc offers full-scale courses to Chinese students covering IELTS reading, speaking, writing and listening, most students would only prefer to take the speaking training online. Practising with native English speakers is always the quickest way to progressing their speaking performance and hit a higher score.
I am glad to turn more online English teachers into professional English advisors, requiring they can provide students with constructive, practical and easily-comprehensive suggestions for IELTS and TOEFL.
Let’s begin with IELTS speaking preparation, seemingly the easiest part in IELTS preparation. But indeed, it is the hardest part for ESL teachers to engage. Why? Isn’t it just the same as daily English exercise? I know many online ESL teachers treat IELTS speaking classes similarly to their daily oral classes. IELTS speaking preparation is developed from common vocal English practice, but more systematic, academic and exam-oriented.
Systematic: Draw a blueprint for your students
For example, if a student wants to increase his/her IELTS speaking score from 5.0 to 5.5, what should be a standard procedure of preparation? To make an accurate and practical plan for your student, you need to collect many kinds of information before creating your plan.
The first indicator is time allowance before student’s next test, fewer than 30 days, 1-3 months, 3-6 months or more than 6 months.
If the preparation has to finish within a month, the plan must be tight-no time to waste for general English practices. I only advise such kind of students to focus on ‘point booster’, where they may easiest gain the additional 0.5. 1-3 months’ duration is a bit longer, but still insufficient for full preparation. Besides ‘point booster’, they need to adjust themselves to the best, both mental and physical. 3-6 months’ allowance is usually the best option for IELTS preparation, neither too short-the student may not be ready yet for the test, nor too long-the student may forget what they have learned in the class. Teachers will have more time to further guarantee what a student has learned from your class by mock exams and be capable of finding more problems buried deeper.
In some cases students may not be in a hurry to take IELTS, indicating they still have plenty of time or not yet decide when to take the test. The principle for this occasion is ’50+50′, using first 50% of the time for general English practice, aiming at improving student’s English level, vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar and logic as much as possible. The second 50% of duration, or if only 3 months left ahead of student’s IELTS test, teachers should turn their class into an exam-oriented mode, like the plan for 3-6 months’ preparation, targeting on student’s weaknesses and solve them.
Student’s original English level matters a lot to your planning, too. It is hard to do a quantitive analysis for student’s English level, but don’t forget, IELTS is a perfect opportunity to examine what they have learned and captured. If your student tried IELTS/TOEFL before, you can ask him/her about the score last time. Previous performance in official language tests is doubtlessly a key reference for professional IELTS advisors. If the student’s speaking scores wandered around 5.0-5.5 in the past few times, it implies he/she is very close to the goal. Tiny fluctuation in scores mostly reveals the student was not yet at the high-point, could be nervous, anxious, forgot some words or failed to manage time correctly in former tests. Hereby, ESL teachers should help them stabilised by a massive amount of practices and mock exams to send out a message in their mind-the real IELTS exam is just the same or even less strict as what we have tried in the class, you can make it!
Some teachers may face a dilemma if the student never hit 5.5 in the past tries, probably illustrating their English level has not reached such requirement. Clam down and carefully analyses your student’s case. If from your observation, the student already reaches the English level of 5.5 in speaking, his/her situation could be the same–fail to adjust themselves to the test. Then the solution is the same–practice, practice and practice. What if they are really below such English level? Find the ‘point booster’ as discussed above, there must be somewhere, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, reasoning, logic or anything significantly dragging them back. The gap of 0.5 is smaller than you can imagine, particularly if you had been an IELTS speaking test examiner before. IELTS doesn’t officially tell the difference between 5.0 and 5.5 because they all belong to Band 5 of Band Descriptors.
Making a weakness-target study plan for your students seem to be an over-requirement on online English teachers. But as I persist, try it for once and your student will find the difference in the efficiency of IELTS preparation. With a scientific and systematic planning, one’s learning efficiency can increase by at least 50%. And being able to prepare learning plan for your student will lead you one step closer to a qualified ESL teacher.