You’re probably already aware that to succeed in IELTS you need to prepare beforehand, but you might be unsure of the value of online versus in-person IELTS preparation. This decision should take account of many factors, such as the time frame you’re working with and the availability of reputable agencies where you live. In this blog we will consider online and in-person learning as they pertain to IELTS. We will also outline a solution that captures the advantages of both. In addition, we’ll give you some pointers on how to know if the service you are getting is giving you value for money. We’ve touched on that before, but when you’ve been in this industry for as long as we have, there’s always more to say. We really have seen it all.
Online Learning and IELTS Preparation
The internet has effected a revolution in the way that people learn things. It’s hard for those of us in the millennial generation (and younger) to appreciate how different things were before easy access to the internet became widespread. These days you can pull up a page to help you learn almost anything from DIY to maintaining your relationships. And it’s not just search engines and video platforms capitalizing on this new reality of eLearning. Many of the world’s foremost universities offer online versions of their courses in a bid to capture a market that continues to grow at a rapid rate. It confers powerful advantages to the provider and consumer alike.
When it comes to IELTS Preparation, the effect has been similar. You can access almost everything you need to know about the structure, procedure and marking of the IELTS exam online. You don’t need to consult examiners (something that is illegal and attracts penalties, by the way) to find all of this out. Practice tests, how-to guides, test strategies and overviews are all available, in multiple languages and on multiple platforms. However, with this huge dissemination of information come some serious dangers.
Online IELTS Preparation: Risks
Firstly, any service that is offered free of charge should give you pause. It is unlikely that you give your knowledge, skills and expertise out on the internet for free. If you do, you probably have an alternative means of making money from the free service you’re offering. Perhaps you sell user information to advertisers, or you mediate on behalf of other organizations. Whatever the case, your time and energy in this scenario is not devoted entirely (or even largely) to the quality and integrity of your service per se. Instead, you are managing a complex web of commercial relationships that lie behind it.
There is a lot of this in the world of language training and related services. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of this, of course. It’s a legitimate business model, as long as everything is legal and transparent. However, a free service of this kind is unlikely to provide you with the in-depth, personalized guidance that you are likely to need as you approach the IELTS exam.
Secondly, if you are a first-time test taker, or even if you have taken it many times, you are not in a strong position to distinguish truth from falsehood. This is even more true if you are dealing with a faceless, automated service online. At Highway IELTS we often encounter people who have discovered us only after spending a long time wandering around online. They are often laboring under misapprehensions or falsehoods that they have learned. These things hold people back from addressing the weaknesses that keep sending them back through the IELTS exam process.
In-Person IELTS Preparation
IELTS centers exist in many countries and cities around the world. It is likely that you live near one. It’s equally likely that there are people with knowledge of IELTS offering preparation assistance in your area. The advantages of learning face-to-face are obvious. You can ask questions and receive prompt answers. If you’re dealing with a competent teacher, he or she will probably tailor lessons to address your particular needs. Being a good teacher, however, is not enough. In order for your IELTS scores to improve, the person coaching you must have extensive knowledge and ideally, experience, of the IELTS exam.
In-Person IELTS Preparation: a Word of Warning
People who work within IELTS, either as examiners and invigilators, may not coach test takers. This is obviously a conflict of interest. It’s also a violation of a contract and attracts penalties. IELTS is a high-stakes test and if you are taking IELTS, you are probably in the process making major life plans. The last thing you need is to be anywhere near a legal dispute of this kind. While it’s essential that you choose a coach who understands the test, an active examiner is a bad idea.
Depending on where you live, the local examiners might not even have the training to understand the writing test. Many centers send their writing scripts to the central hub for marking, and therefore don’t use local writing examiners. An examiner who has not examined for at least two years may coach test takers without breaching any contract. Even then, there are many aspects of the administrative structure of IELTS and the British Council that former employees may never share. All in all, there is simply no advantage to dealing with active examiners, but there are huge risks.
Online vs In-Person IELTS Preparation: so Who’s the Winner?
So far we’ve considered the advantages and disadvantages of online vs in-person IELTS preparation. Online learning has the advantage of flexibility, convenience and almost limitless variety. The drawbacks include a lack of accountability and the challenge of verification. Another serious problem for the prospective IELTS test taker is that generic one-size-fits-all solutions don’t work. Learning in-person generally means more tailor-made solutions and quicker turnaround times. There’s also the human factor that is truly indispensable to learning.
The fact is, this isn’t an either-or. In life, there are times when you can have it all, so to speak. If you’re preparing to take IELTS, this is one of those times. “Blended learning” refers to any training program that incorporates an online and an in-person component. Another term for the same phenomenon is “hybrid learning”. Ideally, the online and in-person components should integrate seamlessly. There should be harmony and continuity between the two. Crucially, this should not just be an online tutor guiding a student through someone else’s textbook. Rather, the student in this model should experience a single journey with an overarching theme. What the student learns, and how he or she learns it, should follow from the student’s own needs and goals.
This is all the more important if you’re an IELTS test taker. The reason for this is that if you have already taken IELTS and fallen short in one or two of the four sub-tests, you need a very specific study plan. Some institutions allow people to “bank” scores from one IELTS report (see here if you’re a nurse), but most don’t. If you are making a second attempt at IELTS, you can’t afford to waste your time on a generic program. You also need expert guidance to help you discern exactly where you went wrong the first time round, and how to address that. If it’s your first time taking IELTS, a blended learning model is more likely to get results.
Highway IELTS Blended Learning
Highway IELTS combines state-of-the-art learning content with world-class expertise in linguistics, training and multimedia. Through our in-person workshops and blended development courses we have helped over 4000 people achieve their IELTS goals. Through thorough and ongoing research, our academic team is able to continually update and expand this high quality content. Behind the scenes, a dedicated support team ensures prompt and effortless delivery of this content to all our students, no matter how long they travel with us. To choose which of our services is best for you, request a consultation. Alternatively, read on for a discussion of some key issues. Your needs and goals will determine which program is best for you, and what kind of blended program is the right fit.
If you need support in tackling the IELTS speaking test, start here. Generally, second language speakers, or first language speakers who fall short of the IELTS speaking band score that they need, will require practice. Naturally, IELTS-related training should skew towards in-person tutoring in these cases. However, the IELTS speaking test involves a wide range of non-verbal skills that are essential to success.
One of these is planning. In part 2 of IELTS speaking, the “long turn”, you will have a brief period in which to plan a monologue. Getting this right can make a meaningful difference to your performance in the test. Another skill that buttresses effective speech is listening. People who listen well make good conversationalists and can even do a better job of guiding their own speech through a kind of internal feedback loop. So, a comprehensive plan to develop speaking skills for IELTS should include text, audiovisual and practical components. The Highway IELTS Speaking Development Course does all three. You can check it out here.
IELTS Reading and Writing
These are both challenging tests. Getting guidance on both of them is essential to success for most people. For the majority of people who fall short in either of these tests, it’s a question of improving a particular set of sub-skills. For example, many people who don’t get a high band score in the writing test need help in making their writing more varied. They may over-rely on a limited set of safe, predictable grammatical structures. Or, they might have difficulty rephrasing an idea with different words. Weak readers often have difficulty seeing nuance in a written text.
However, there is a substantial minority of people who fail these test because of entirely avoidable mistakes. For the reading and listening tests, a major pitfall is a failure to properly notice context when entering answers. In the writing test, some people fail to adopt an appropriate tone, or pay insufficient attention to the question and veer off course. Concepts like this are best explored in dialogue with a knowledgeable expert, which is why the in-person aspect of our development courses is so crucial.
Wherever you are in your IELTS journey, Highway IELTS is ready and able to help you achieve your goals. We understand how high the stakes are, and the pressure you are probably feeling as you approach the IELTS exam. As educators we also understand that information without relationship can only get students so far. On the other hand, we’re well aware that the language proficiency industry demands consistent research, professionalism and above all, results. We are proud of the multiple blended-learning opportunities that we offer to test-takers the world over and the track record that goes along with them. Wherever you are on your IELTS journey, you too can get on the Highway to IELTS success today.