Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

Blog > Professional Development > A whole-school approach to IELTS training

A whole-school approach to IELTS training

How can subject teachers help students boost their IELTS band score?

As proof of English language proficiency, some higher education institutions will accept evidence that students have obtained academic qualifications through instruction in English. However, many do not, and students will often find themselves needing to demonstrate proficiency in the form of an IELTS certificate, typically showing band 6.5 or 7 score.

It seems particularly frustrating when a student manages to meet all the academic requirements through English-medium instruction, only to be let down by their IELTS score. And yet this happens with surprising regularity. Immersed in their academic studies, students seem to lack time and motivation for ongoing IELTS training, perceiving it as less relevant, urgent, or engaging. What can subject teachers do more to mitigate the problem?

First, much of the work we already do in academic classes helps improve IELTS performance, and could perhaps be emphasised more. Take, for example, visual literacy skills, critical in the IELTS information transfer task (part 1 writing) and required throughout the paper. Academic textbooks offer a treasure trove of visually-presented data, which students could be encouraged to practise describing and analysing. What’s more, the academic topics themselves often overlap with the kind of world knowledge expected of IELTS students. Science, geography, psychology often broach contemporary issues like the obesity, migration, or crime respectively, which IELTS candidates must understand to grasp questions and understand texts.

I also suspect opportunities for language development go begging in academic classes, mine included. In history lessons I’m forever telling students to use brief, bullet-pointed notes instead of sentences. I also accept accept one-word answers so as to focus on key information. By contrast, IELTS examiners always looks for extended, complex sentences. Are my efforts to maintain clarity of thought creating an environment inimical to English development? In the pursuit of academic learning, we mustn’t miss opportunities to highlight and encourage the production of language useful for IELTS.

And so, with both academic competencies and language skills in mind, here are seven suggestions for subject teachers who’d like to help students boost their band score.  
  • Share a marking code between departments that can be used to flag issues relevant to IELTS (e.g. P = Punctuation, SS = simple sentence, IL = imprecise language)
  • Use IELTS question styles when reviewing learning, like summary completion tasks and True, False, and Not Given tasks.
  • Flag any lesson keywords that could be useful in general academic English (factor, pattern, ally) and discuss their various uses.  
  • Write up lesson questions in skeleton form (What/happen/we/mix lead nitrate/sodium chloride?) and have students write it and respond in full.
  • Have students describe visuals from textbooks to a partner, who can try to draw them. Encourage students to identify key information from data themselves.  
  • Share any media stories relevant to learning topics when opening lessons and encourage students to take stances on any issues.
  • Inform IELTS specialist staff when you are covering topics related to IELTS topics so that they can relate IELTS training to them.

Crucial to supporting IELTS development across the school is promoting awareness among all staff of the demands of the IELTS exam and of what the band 7 English looks like. If subject teachers know what candidates have to do, they’ll likely find ways to support them.


About Nick Thorner
Nick Thorner is an English and humanities teacher at Kings Education, Oxford, where he helps train students for entry into the UK university system. Nick has also co-authored two IELTS coursebooks and is author of the professional development title Motivational Teaching.

For specific IELTS preparation and training, take a look at IELTS Expert and Focus on IELTS
And have you seen the latest resources for International A Levels?

Similar stories

Let's talk about Oracy this International Literacy Day

How do you encourage the development of students' oracy skills? Edward de Chazal shares 7 ideas to maximize oral communication in the classroom. More...

Towards employability
Skills that international students will need and that employers will love 

Knowledge is increasingly being seen as less valuable than skills. Anyone can use the internet to find facts. The real t… More...

International School Awards
Get recognition for your school’s outstanding initiatives and achievements

The British International School Award goes International – and we are proud to support it! More...

Is the grass really greener on the other side?
What is it really like to teach overseas?

Working abroad is rewarding – but it won’t be one long holiday. More...

Mindfulness: you asked, we answer

Mindfulness is definitely a thing in education. Over 1000 people registered for our mindfulness webinars - AND you asked… More...

Most read

Teaching learners with dyslexia: small changes which make a big difference

In this article we speak to dyslexia awareness specialist Martin Bloomfield who shares his advice for how to make your lessons more dyslexia-friendly. More...

Reducing the stigma of SEN and Mental Health

In multicultural environments with a wide range of beliefs, how can we reduce the stigma of mental health and SEN to hel… More...

The importance of English language skills in international teaching

English language skills are important for all subjects in international teaching. More...

IB DP Maths - Are we ready for the next 7 years?

Missed Ibrahim Wazir's session at the IB conference in Vienna? Here's the summary to help you to get ahead of the upcomi… More...

Reconsidering Maths as a Creative Discipline

Josh Lury, lead author for Power Maths, suggests how certain tactics deepen creativity when tackling maths problems. More...

This website is powered by