How long does it take to prepare for the IELTS?

IELTS
How long does it take to prepare for the IELTS
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How long does it take to prepare for the IELTS?

One of the first questions a student will ask when preparing for IELTS is ‘if I do this course will I get a band 6?’.  This is because many students think that an IELTS training course will give them the skills to achieve the band score they need.  What they don’t realize is that without language skills at the relevant level, no amount of exam training is going to take them to a band 6.  First and foremost, a student needs to have the language required for IELTS and then they can train for the exam.  In addition, it is impossible to respond to this question without first knowing the student’s level and second, knowing how much time they are able to devote to studying.  Once we have the following information,

  • Language proficiency
  • IELTS score required
  • Time available for studying

For example, if a student has a level of band 4.5 (pre-intermediate) research indicates that to increase his or her score by 1 band level, s/he will need to study for a minimum of 12 weeks.  So if a student needs a 6.5 or higher, we’re talking about at least 6 months’ study.


However, this duration is for the most dedicated students and most people cannot devote entire days or weeks to studying English, especially if they work, have children and other time-consuming responsibilities.  


According the the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, the average student will need about 120 hours of study to go from pre-intermediate to intermediate and then a further 120 hours to advance to upper-intermediate.  And when we say 120 hours of study, this is not exposure to English, it is focused attention on grammar, vocabulary, reading and writing skills, not to mention speaking and comprehension.  In this scenario, we're talking about a year or more and it is essential that English teachers are honest with students.  Students can achieve advanced language skills but it takes time and to tell prospective students otherwise is misleading and just gives language institutes a bad name.  ‍


Clearly, no student can attend classes every day but regular and serious study is required to improve a person’s language skills, whatever the language.   There are literally thousands of resources on the internet to help students improve their English language skills or to prepare for IELTS.  Students just need to search on Google and YouTube has a wealth of materials as well.  Or you can join one of our virtual classroom IELTS courses with a qualified and experienced IELTS instructor to fast track your training.  Check out our IELTS courses here: https://www.spokenenglish.courses/


Many students need IELTS for emigration purposes. Their dream is to emigrate to a country where they believe their children will have a more satisfying and secure future.  This is a wonderful thing to do for your children but the governments of the countries that accept immigrants all require an advanced level in English.  The main reason for this is to ensure that people emigrating to the country integrate and contribute to society, both financially and morally.

 

Consequently, Canadian immigration services advise applicants to obtain their required score in IELTS BEFORE starting the immigration process.  Once you have started the immigration process, you need to submit your documents within a specific timeframe and if you have not obtained the IELTS score required your application will be closed.


Studying in an English-speaking country is a dream come true for many but universities are obliged to ensure applicants can express themselves sufficiently well to meet their academic requirements, which are generally highly challenging.  Generally, if you are going to do a Bachelor’s degree a band 5.5 is sufficient.  However, for post graduate study you will need at least a 6 or possibly a 6.5 so, if you can afford it, try and start early by doing your Bachelor’s degree overseas.  Students that do this improve their English while studying so going on to achieve a band 6.5 for a Masters’ degree is not so challenging afterwards.


Whatever your reason for studying IELTS, you are investing in your future and it is sensible and realistic to see this as a long-term project and not something that can be done in a couple of months.  So plan your studies well, study English every day and once you are confident in all four skills you can do an IELTS training course and sit the exam.  


If you don’t get the score you want the first time you sit the exam, don’t worry, you can take it as many times as you like but do remember that if you got a band 6 and you need a band 6.5 you will need to study some more before sitting the exam a second time.   Many students think that they just need to go for the exam one more time and they will get the results they want.  Fortunately, there is no element of luck in an IELTS exam as each test is designed to ensure candidates receive the band they deserve.  So without further intensive studying, if you decide to go sit the exam you will just end up with the same band and that’s a real waste of money!


Some students believe that there are certain strategies and tricks that can help them achieve the band they need and the right teacher will be able to provide this.   So let’s discuss this…


Teachers can guide, advise, teach vocabulary, grammar and other language skills that students need but they cannot learn for them.  Students need to take the knowledge, guidance and advice they receive in class and process it in such a way that their English language skills improve and they understand the IELTS exam.  


Whilst teachers can train a student to address the questions, complete the tasks, read the instructions and complete the exam to the requirements of IELTS examiners and markers, if a student has a level of band 4 or 5, they will not be able to achieve a band 6 or a 7 through test-taking strategies alone.  If these strategies did allow a student with a pre-intermediate level to achieve a band 7, the exam would be useless and governments, universities, and other organizations would stop using IELTS.‍  Just have a look at the IELTS website, www.ielts.org and see how much work is done to produce a reliable, valid and trustworthy exam.  


All parts of the exam are double-marked using a well-researched and objective rubric.  See the example below:

IELTS Speaking band descriptors - how long does it take to prepare for the ielts
IELTS Speaking Band Descriptors



Why is it so important for students to understand the format and requirements of the IELTS exam?

The IELTS exam is designed to assess a student’s language in all four skills, reading, writing, speaking and listening and the tasks are designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their language skills in these areas.  

Therefore, if a student fully understands the format and requirements of the exam and has done sufficient practice they will be able to complete the tasks without worrying about these practical issues and focus on demonstrating that they have the language skills required to study at university or emigrate and integrate into their new country.‍


Different learners need different approaches

Imagine a student who is at band 4.5 but s/he needs a 6.5 in IELTS.  Realistically, it is going to take such a student about a year to increase their language skills to obtain a 6.5; this student needs to study General English and then, once their English level has improved, an IELTS preparation course would be required.  

It is pointless doing IELTS training over and over again as most IELTS courses focus on exam strategies. It is far more beneficial to study General English and achieve a deep understanding of the grammar, increase your vocabulary and get lots of speaking and comprehension practice.

Now imagine a student who has never studied for IELTS, has a 6.5 and needs a 7.5.  This student may well be able to obtain a 7.5 in 6 months since she or he already is an advanced learner and has less to learn than a student at level 4.5.  It is very simple really, the better your English, the higher the score you will get.


So how can we help students achieve the IELTS band they need?

The first step is to find out why students need IELTS.  The following information is also very useful.

1. What band score do they need?

2. What is their current band score?

3. Do they need support in some skills more than others

Once we have this information we can support students and help them to progress by explaining how the exam works, how it is scored, what they would score and explaining the most effective strategies for test-taking.   IELTS Preparation courses do just that, they prepare learners for the exam by explaining what is required of them on the day.   So join an online IELTS class with spokenenglish.courses  and see for yourself!

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25+ years in education with a Phd in Education
Pauline Keith
25+ years in education with a Phd in Education
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