Developing your English after IELTS Academic
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Developing your English for university after IELTS Academic

I've spent many years as a language teacher preparing students for the IELTS exam, and during that time, I've become quite passionate about making this as positive and useful as possible and helping students get their required IELTS score. Now I'm a university lecturer, I've gained a whole new perspective as I work with some students who have achieved the required score, but who are still finding it difficult to cope with their university studies.  One of the key problems is that students can be so focussed on the skills they need to get through the exam, that they neglect to improve their English language skills and to look ahead to what they’ll need once they enter university.  Think of the IELTS exam as an airport to your real destination. While it’s important to make sure you have your ticket, passport, vaccinations, visa, and anything else you need to get through the controls, you’ll also want to know what to do at the other end of your journey.  So here are my top tips for looking beyond IELTS: Start reading texts from your future field of studies in English. This will help you build the vocabulary you’ll need on your degree programme. Remember to start with fairly simple texts on websites and build to more advanced sources such as textbooks and journal articles. You may also want to find a subject-specific dictionary to help you understand key ideas in your field. If you’re worried about your listening skills, watch documentaries about topics from your subject area (with subtitles if you find it useful). Read about your future subject in your own language. The more you already know about the subject, the easier it will be to understand concepts in another language and to absorb new vocabulary.  Work on your general language skills. You should spend at least as much time on improving your grammar, vocabulary, spelling etc., as you do on IELTS exam skills. Remember that IELTS is not a different language! It’s still English, so the better you are at English the higher your IELTS score will be. However, if you want to study the language with examples that are directly relevant to the exam, you could use some of these sources: Cambridge Grammar for IELTS Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced Research the academic skills required at university. IELTS is essentially a language exam. Once you arrive at university, you will have to acquire a whole new set of academic skills, which go beyond the level tested in IELTS. This includes ideas such as structuring an essay, referencing and hedging. Many universities allow open access to their academic skills sites, so a quick internet search should provide you with lots of useful sources. There are also numerous subject-specific academic skills handbooks available which should help you research and write/present within your discipline.    Research your preferred universities and cities in as much detail as you can. This will help you choose the best option for you and to orientate yourself. Many universities offer similar academic options, so think about what matters to you as a person. Do you prefer clean air or a bustling nightlife? Do you want to continue practising a particular sport? Thorough research will also help you go through the process of settling in and making friends more smoothly as you’ll know where to go and what to do.  Remember that spending time on the activities above, doesn’t take time away from your IELTS preparation. On the contrary, looking beyond IELTS can form an important part of achieving your required score while giving you a head-start in your university studies. For example, reading texts from your field of study counts as reading practice and will improve your fluency and vocabulary.  Good luck on your journey! Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

24 June, 2020

Developing your English for university after IELTS Academic

Developing your English after IELTS Academic

I've spent many years as a language teacher preparing students for the IELTS exam, and during that time, I've become quite passionate about making this as positive and useful as possible and helping students get their required IELTS score. Now I'm a university lecturer, I've gained a whole new perspective as I work with some students who have achieved the required score, but who are still finding it difficult to cope with their university studies. 

One of the key problems is that students can be so focussed on the skills they need to get through the exam, that they neglect to improve their English language skills and to look ahead to what they’ll need once they enter university. 

Think of the IELTS exam as an airport to your real destination. While it’s important to make sure you have your ticket, passport, vaccinations, visa, and anything else you need to get through the controls, you’ll also want to know what to do at the other end of your journey. 

So here are my top tips for looking beyond IELTS:

Start reading texts from your future field of studies in English. This will help you build the vocabulary you’ll need on your degree programme. Remember to start with fairly simple texts on websites and build to more advanced sources such as textbooks and journal articles. You may also want to find a subject-specific dictionary to help you understand key ideas in your field. If you’re worried about your listening skills, watch documentaries about topics from your subject area (with subtitles if you find it useful).

Read about your future subject in your own language. The more you already know about the subject, the easier it will be to understand concepts in another language and to absorb new vocabulary. 

Work on your general language skills. You should spend at least as much time on improving your grammar, vocabulary, spelling etc., as you do on IELTS exam skills. Remember that IELTS is not a different language! It’s still English, so the better you are at English the higher your IELTS score will be. However, if you want to study the language with examples that are directly relevant to the exam, you could use some of these sources:

Research the academic skills required at university. IELTS is essentially a language exam. Once you arrive at university, you will have to acquire a whole new set of academic skills, which go beyond the level tested in IELTS. This includes ideas such as structuring an essay, referencing and hedging. Many universities allow open access to their academic skills sites, so a quick internet search should provide you with lots of useful sources. There are also numerous subject-specific academic skills handbooks available which should help you research and write/present within your discipline. 

English Beyond IELTS Tip

 

Research your preferred universities and cities in as much detail as you can. This will help you choose the best option for you and to orientate yourself. Many universities offer similar academic options, so think about what matters to you as a person. Do you prefer clean air or a bustling nightlife? Do you want to continue practising a particular sport? Thorough research will also help you go through the process of settling in and making friends more smoothly as you’ll know where to go and what to do. 

Remember that spending time on the activities above, doesn’t take time away from your IELTS preparation. On the contrary, looking beyond IELTS can form an important part of achieving your required score while giving you a head-start in your university studies. For example, reading texts from your field of study counts as reading practice and will improve your fluency and vocabulary. 

Good luck on your journey!
Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

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