5 Ways to Help IELTS Students

5 Ways to Help IELTS Students

The IELTS exam is very much in demand with students. It is split into four components: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

Students often find difficulties with at least one of these especially with the academic version which would be challenging enough for a native speaker. In this blog we will look at 5 ways in which to help the EFL student get the band score that they require.

We talked with some of our best IELTS teachers and asked them how we can make the path to achievement in IELTS possible.



1. Speaking: Improving fluency

Often one of the stumbling blocks for an IELTS student is fluency when speaking. Students are so focused on accuracy that fluency is sacrificed. Unfortunately, grammatical accuracy is only one part of the IELTS Speaking criteria alongside fluency, pronunciation and vocabulary.

A nice exercise to improve fluency is a game called Just a Minute. I know this is not a new idea, but perhaps you haven’t tried it yet. Here are the rules and some tips to avoid minutes of complete silence:

Students must speak for one minute without pausing for more than X seconds – I might try 5 seconds for somewhat higher level classes – or using fillers from the students’ own language like etoano etc. Students may, of course, use hesitation devices in English. Students can have a little preparation time if you feel they need it.

You will need to give your students typical IELTS speaking topics – obscure or awkward topics will just lead to a minute of silence:

  • Last weekend
  • My favourite place for sightseeing
  • My favourite place for a date
  • My family
  • My job
  • My company
  • My hometown
  • My hobbies and interests

2.All four skills: Memorising Vocabulary

Vocabulary is key to success in IELTS. Often the vocabulary is = complex and difficult for the students to retain. A fun way for them to do this is after the target vocabulary has been introduced, write the vocabulary on post-it-notes. Put the post-it-notes on each student’s forehead (don’t let them see it!). The other students then have to explain what the word is to the student without saying the actual word. If the student can correctly guess it they can keep the word and they score a point. It might be a good idea to set a time limit for each turn. (E.g. three minutes).

3.Reading: Matching titles with paragraphs

This part of the reading exam can be very challenging for students and can lead to a lot of confusion. It includes numbers, letters and roman numerals. Chaos!

An effective way of doing this is first, get the students to underline the key words in the titles, then starting with paragraph A, the student must read it carefully and then see which heading suits best (guided by the underlined key words). They should then repeat this process for each paragraph. Not only is this a nice methodical way to do the exercise but by the end of the task the student should have a clear idea of what the text contains and should find it easier to complete the other tasks associated with the paper.

4.Reading: True, False, Not Given

Another tricky part of the reading exam is the true, false, not given task. The good news is that these questions usually follow the order of the text. So, first, as with the matching titles with paragraphs task, it is essential that students underline the key words. Once this is done, students should scan the text for words or synonyms like the ones they have underlined in question 1 of the task. Once they have found them (and underlined them in the text) and they have ascertained that the answer is true, false or not given they can then repeat the method with the second question.

If they cannot find any for the second question they should move on to the third question, marking the words or synonyms in the text clearly as in the first. Having done this the student knows that the answer to question 2 has to be somewhere in between the marked words. If they still cannot find them then the answer is clearly not given. This should be repeated with all the questions. This should not take more than a minute a question for a well-trained student. Importantly, the student is able to complete the task without wasting time on reading the text word for word.

5.Writing Part 2: An effective introduction.

Writing an effective introduction is essential for part two of the writing task. Students can find themselves wasting a lot of time on this but in effect it is a straightforward task and if they follow a formula it can save them a lot of time and effort. A good introduction only needs about 50-70 words. All introductions should consist of the same four parts:

  • A general opening sentence
  • A supporting sentence or rhetorical question
  • Rephrase the question
  • Signpost

e.g.  For the question Prison is the best punishment for criminals. Discuss, an introduction would look like this:

(1) These days, every time you turn on the newspaper or flick through the pages of a newspaper, you learn about the victims of crime. (2) But what is the most effective method of dealing with the crime rate in our society? (3) Some people believe the best way to punish criminals is to sentence them to some time in prison. (4) I completely disagree with this idea and in this essay, I will support my opinion with examples.

Elena G Sabater
Elena G Sabater