Mining Writing Opportunities: Teaching IELTS Writing

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Developing IELTS Writing skills for Exams IELTS ELTCampus online self-paced course for teachers

Preparing Students for IELTS

Over 3.5 million students took the IELTS test last year alone. IELTS results, reported on a 9-band scale, have gained value around the world over the past three decades.

The IELTS exam is an accepted exam as part of the process for applying for visas for countries and giving people eligibility to work in professional areas in English-speaking countries. We've written an introductory course for teachers who want to start teaching IELTS and preparing their students for the exams.

In this article, we look at some tips for teaching IELTS writing.

Developing Writing Skills for IELTS

To become a better writer, like in all things, students need to develop a writing habit. Writing is a creative act and as all creatives know, ideas make up a small part of creating. The rest is sheer hard work.

Key tasks in any creative work (including writing):

  • Observing
  • Reflecting
  • Finding mistakes
  • Improving and refining our craft

IELTS is a test of a candidates’ ability to communicated facts and ideas clearly and accurately. Naturally, your students will want to take lots of practice tests. As part of any IELTS writing course that you teach or develop yourself, students will have lots of opportunities to practise their writing.

Completing IELTS practice tests and exercises is an essential part of achieving the results they need, but it is not the only way to improve. Encourage your students to take ownership of their writing and make it part of their everyday life. When we cast a wide net, we can collect all sorts of things that will become interesting to our specific aims, if we are observant and notice things. All writing opportunities in everyday life are mini-lessons in structure, language, lexis, and tone.

Emails, texts, social media comments, microblogs, these all help develop writing structural fluency. Linking, referencing and cohesion will become second nature. And, of course, a wide range of reading and conscious notation of writing tone and style, set phrases and lexis also helps.

Developing a ‘writing habit’ in English will help boost students’ confidence and fluency in writing. As with any skill or exercise, "a little and often" can really make a difference. It deepens and internalises the skill in long-term memory and makes clear pathways for retrieval in the brain.

Focusing on a little and often, rather than tackling an entire essay all the time, focus on specific skills and parts of the essay.

  • working on the structure and choosing the correct tone,
  • an exercise that focuses on referencing.
  • showing an image and giving them three minutes to note down their first thoughts about it. Training the mind to react and come up with ideas is a skill. We can help our students by coming up with some good leading questions to help them access an image
  • writing the opening or closing paragraphs only

IELTS Exam Criteria

Go over the exam criteria frequently with your students. Use a writing framework that references the exam criteria and apply it consistently for all writing assessments. Get students to mark each other’s work using it as well.

A way to get used to the criteria and understand what the examiners are looking for is to find examples of writing that students can mark and compare with the criteria.