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Welcome back to English Voyage blog! My name is Elena Martynenko. Today let me introduce a special person to you — a professor of University of Bedfordshire, Great Britain, an ILTA (President of the International Language Testing Association (ILTA))
Vice-President — Anthony Green. Anthony knows everything about testing students. We met at ILTA seminar in Kiev last month and discussed a few useful things about international exams.
IELTS interview with the Vice President of ILTA. Script.
— What is the best way for students to prepare for the international test?
— If you think you’re about to take an international test, the best thing to do is to think about why you’re taking the test. And what kind of experience you are looking for after the test. If you’re taking a test, for example, to move to another country, if you think about what kind of language you need to use when you’re arriving in that country — the test is not the end of the process. The test is just the way to get new, to some places you want to be in the future. The best way to prepare for the test is to think about learning the language that you need, when you arrive in the country where you’re going to use the language. So studying in a general way and learning through your conversations, through watching movies, through participating in reading and writing, the language that you need when you arrive in that country is going to be the most effective way of learning. Of course, it is important to know what the test is like and
to understand the different kinds of tasks that are going to be used on the test. But just thinking about the test is not enough, it’s life after the test that is much more important.
— What are specific or particularly tricky moments in listening, reading, writing and speaking that you can speak about, probably judging by your experience or different examples?
— So I can think that many people when they want to learn how to just speak or to write for a test, they very often try to do the kinds of tasks that are on the test. And usually some of those tasks are quite easy, some of the tasks are very tricky and difficult. But the best way is to focus on the things you can do now to take small steps to improve. It’s not to try to work with the most difficult questions on the test all the time. Because those can make a very difficult for you to learn because they are simply too difficult. But if you slowly build up your ability then you’re likely to do better when you’re actually get to the test.
— But to be more specific, for example, when the student has been preparing for Listening part, how to develop the skills so that you can get 6.0 — 7.0?
— So again, if you think about the kinds of listening that happens on the test, that’s, too, another. Because if you develop broad listening, but you listen to the things you’re interested in, you try to find opportunity to listen but also test your own understanding of what you’re listening to. Think about what is the information that, if I’m living in another country, what is the information that I need from the thing that I’m listening to. So if you’re listening to some information about what’s happening in the city, then can you get the key details of what it is that is going to be happening in the city? Or if you’re reading an article about some recent event in the news in the country, then can you see of what are the key points of the information that you would need to understand in that new story. And then if you can test your own understanding, build up what you’re going to get from that text and increase your knowledge of vocabulary, increase your knowledge of how news articles, how articles in newspapers and magazines meant for people living in the country. If you understand how those work, then take that knowledge back to the test, you’ll get 6.5. If you just focus on always trying to read an IELTS exam type questions, then it’s more difficult to get 6.5 because you’re always limited to what is on the test. And your life after the test will be more difficult.
— Don’t you think that focusing and drilling especially in IELTS format will do you good?
— Actually, I did research on this. I looked at students who were preparing to come and study in universities in Britain. And some of them took just an IELTS preparation course. So it was just what you described: they did constantly drilling and how to do test tasks. So they did essay every day, they did reading tasks every day. And we saw how much their scores improved over a period of time — at the end of the course they did another test and we saw how much their score improved. We looked at another group of people who went on and just studied on a more language general course given by university. And then they were not learning on how to do the IELTS. But they were learning how to do projects, they were learnig how to do the context things they’re going to have at university, which is listening to lectures, reading journal papers, putting those ideas together and making some kind of assignment. And actually those people did just as well or even better on the IELTS test at the end of the course than the people who just focused on IELTS. But they have much richer understanding of what life is like in university than the people who just did the test.
— Thank you! My last question is about teachers and the preparation process. What mistakes should teachers avoid so that their students could get the higher score?
— So with teachers I think one or two things happen when they start preparing students for tests. Very often they forget what good education is. And good education in language means letting the students use the language — so using language productively in speech and in writing. And I think very often when it comes to test preparation they think they can get more information into the students by teacher-centered approach, so the teacher tells people: «This is what the test is like», «You must do this, you must do that». And that’s not the most effective way to get people to learn.
Very commonly teachers will focus just on doing practice test tasks. And that’s often when it’s boring, because it’s not interesting to do a lot of test tasks. But it also means they are not focused on what the students can learn. So tests have a lot of questions at all different levels. There are some easy questions, which the students don’t need to do because they are already easy to the students. There are some difficult questions which really the students are not going to learn at this point. But they still do them in the practice tests. But if the teachers can focus more on what is realistic for their students to achieve, they can improve their score by looking at how to help them learn learnable things without worrying about very easy and very difficult things, that a lot of test practice will include.
— Thank you, Anthony, for your advice and recommendations, for sharing your experience. I wish all the students to get the score they need. Make use of the video and good luck with your exam! See you next time here, on English Voyage blog.
The video is compiled by Andre Kozachuk.
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