What is most important? A high IELTS score or the ability to cope with an academic workload?
Having taught IELTS to quite a lot of international students in recent years, one question continually arises. Are they taking (and sometimes retaking) IELTS in order to simply get the score they need for university entry or are they studying an IELTS course in order to also improve their ability to study academic subjects in English?
I try to encourage students to think of the course as an opportunity to improve their ability to study in English, whilst learning the format of the test and expectations of those marking it, together with strategies for dealing with different types of questions.
If students just focus on the score they need to get to achieve their university entry, I feel that there is a danger they are missing out on other aspects of the course – that of helping them to read, write and listen to academic English and deal with the demands of the Speaking test. After all, each part of the test is designed to test skills that are vital for academic study in the English language and the opportunity to practise and improve these skills is there on the course.
I cannot imagine the frustration, disappointment and distress that a student might feel on entering university by virtue of an acceptable IELTS score, but then discovering they cannot cope in lectures, they do not have the skills to deal with printed text in given timescales and cannot produce essays and dissertations of the required standard.
Please, international students, make the most of your IELTS course and concentrate on developing your skills to study in English – after all, this is what you will need to be doing for the next 3 years. The score is your gateway, but the next three years is three years of your life and I would suggest that you want to find that manageable, rewarding and academically successful.
English is tough, IELTS is tough, but both are an opportunity for you to overcome significant challenges. What a sense of achievement you will have when you've done that!
I wish you well on your journey and congratulate you on your efforts.