IELTS - Time Out for English
Aug 28, 2008 TOEFL/TOEIC/IELTS 2926 Views
A prominent newspaper columnist who writes about the IELTS Examination and answers readers' questions about it recently responded to a query from a Thai student who asked how he could boost his IELTS band score in a hurry. The columnist replied that, while taking a good IELTS Preparation course would be necessary, even essential, what was most important was taking substantial time out to gain a sound foundation in English basics.
It was not the reply the IELTS candidate wished to hear.
Like many others in his position, he was a highly qualified professional who was being given the opportunity to study abroad by his employer, with the promise of a better, more responsible, higher-paying job upon his return to Thailand with an advanced degree from a foreign university. But the employer was not willing to give the employee any time off to prepare for the examination, and the employee stated – reasonably – that it was hard for him to do his demanding job and prepare for IELTS, which would involve a long commute to an IELTS Preparation class, at the same time. What was he to do?
The columnist, sticking to his original position, suggested taking a leave of at least two months, to be spent exclusively on improving the candidates’ English skills in all the areas IELTS tests: listening, reading, writing and speaking. In context, it was far from an unreasonable suggestion. Some IELTS officials have been cited as noting that it takes at least six months of concentrated study of English basics to bring up a candidate’s band score one-half a point from its current position.
This all comes as a strong reminder that IELTS is more than just a one-day hurdle, albeit a difficult one, on a candidate’s path to an advanced degree programme. Despite its so-called 'tricky' ways of asking the questions in each of the four tasks, IELTS is still considered a reasonable test of English-language skills. More, it is considered a good gauge of a candidate’s grasp of the actual English skills he or she would need in a study-abroad situation. That it, it is not only fair, it is realistic.
In short, there are no shortcuts to success in IELTS, although help with preparing for the exam is readily available. The best thing a candidate can do is take time for concentrated study of English fundamentals.
Barring that, the best thing candidates can do is to expose themselves to as much English as possible, particularly by listening to it on the radio, television or in movies. This can be done during times that might otherwise be 'wasted,' at least as far as English study goes. But educators agree that, while what a candidate actually knows about English vocabulary and grammar are important, what counts more is having a sense of what sounds right to them. More often than not, what sounds right to an experienced listener is likely to be right.