Published 30th October 2018

IELTS exam skills

IELTS students need to get to grips with a range of academic skills in order to pass the IELTS exam satisfactorily. Of course, passing the IELTS test is not the goal of taking an IELTS course. Students study IELTS in order to be accepted into a tertiary institution and to be able to survive in an academic environment. As such, the skills they learn in the IELTS classroom need to equip them to deal with the academic classroom of their future and not just the classroom of their present.

There are a few skills which are necessary for the IELTS exam but which are also essential for the real world. These should be dealt with in the IELTS classroom, so the students can become familiar with them and be comfortable utilising them when they need to later on. These skills include: paraphrasing and summarising, critical thinking, and logical writing.

IELTS exam skill 1: paraphrasing and summarising

Paraphrasing is the skill of rewriting an idea in your own words. Paraphrasing is important in an academic context so as to avoid plagiarism. Summarising is the skill of condensing information into its key ideas. At university, students are required to research topics by reading various sources and then summarise these findings into their own research papers. They need to paraphrase the authors they read so as not to seem to be taking credit for other people’s ideas.

In the classroom, activities that promote reformulation should be given. Attention should be paid to synonyms and nominalisation to help with this.

IELTS exam skill 2: critical thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to consider an idea critically – to have an opinion, essentially. Many students feel they cannot disagree with an author’s point of view, but this skill is a necessary one at university. The ability to question and take a standpoint is crucial to be able to construct an argument.

In the classroom, debate should be a regular part of the lessons. Students can be given a standpoint to argue or they can work in groups to construct solid arguments. This should give your students more confidence in presenting their own ideas.

IELTS exam skill 3: writing an argument

A lot of the work students will do at university is writing. Writing well depends not only on the writer’s language skills but also their ability to write logically and construct a good argument. This means including an introduction and a conclusion and structuring paragraphs properly – most popularly, topic sentence, example, and clarification or justification. Funnily enough, language learners are often able to make an argument adequately when spoken but fall down when it comes to doing the same in writing.

In the classroom, writing should not so much be done as be discussed. Writing assignments should be given as homework but time in the classroom should be spent analysing and dissecting model answers.

If you are teaching an IELTS class, bear in mind what the long-term goal of the class is as well as the short-term goal. You may find you need to supplement your course materials to this end.