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How can you prepare to teach IELTS classes?

Updated: Jan 18


How can you prepare to teach IELTS classes?
What makes an IELTS class different?

Students have many different reasons for learning English, but one of the most significant motivations is the doors that English can open. If an international student wants to go to university in an English-speaking country, or even to study in some European countries like the Netherlands or Finland, then they need to prove their level of English is high enough. The most common way to do this is by sitting the IELTS exam. Similarly, immigration authorities in countries like the UK, Australia and Canada can also require proof of English level. Again, IELTS is a very common way of proving English level for this purpose.


Because it is used so widely by universities, employers and migration authorities for the purposes of verifying a student's language level, IELTS is the most popular English language exam in the world and it is taken over 3 million times annually. This means that the exam is popular among students and you are very likely to find yourself teaching an IELTS preparation class at some stage in your teaching career. The exam is particularly popular in North Africa, the Middle East and East Asia, but there are students taking IELTS in every country around the world.


The IELTS exam is made up of four papers - one each testing reading, writing, listening and speaking. Of course, the same techniques and lesson frameworks we use to teach general English classes apply to teaching IELTS preparation classes too. However, there are some key differences:

  • Students are differently motivated in an IELTS class and may get more impatient with contextualisation, lead-in and generic speaking tasks unless the teacher is very clear on the purpose of these tasks.

  • Most students take the academic IELTS exam, which focuses on academic vocabulary and formal English, and so they need lessons that concentrate on this type of language.

  • The IELTS reading and writing papers are intensive, and both require students to read or write at speed. This means that students will need a lot of timed exam practice tasks.

  • While most teachers are used to focusing on some sub-skills, i.e. reading for gist or reading for specific information, students in IELTS need to practise a wider and more precise range of sub-skills than typical students, e.g. writing to summarise key facts, or listening for note-taking.

As you can imagine, a teacher starting to prepare students for IELTS needs to become very familiar with the IELTS exam and needs to adapt their teaching techniques and lesson frameworks to suit this type of teaching.


DC Teacher Training are very happy to present our post-CELTA online course in How to Teach IELTS, which is delivered by a very experienced CELTA tutor and IELTS examiner and trainer. You can find out more and register for the course here.


Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.


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