In the last post, we were looking at the …

“We use original IELTS Tests; we’ve got old IELTS Test practice material” syndrome.

Sounds good, right? WRONG! In the previous post, I tried to prove how meaningless and bad this is with respect to IELTS Speaking test material. 'Tests' are not 'learning' material, and are not designed to develop your skills, and past IELTS Speaking Topics or questions on those topics have almost no value.

But, let’s continue this discussion with respect to IELTS Writing test material. So, if ‘original tests’ means ‘writing tests’, then it is probably the Task Two Essay Questions, but (as with Speaking Test material), how does knowing these topics help you? These questions are never re-used, and there are many sorts of questions. What you write for one question will almost certainly not be of any use for another. And as before, memorisation will never work since the writing will …

  1. be unrelated to the topic (Task Response IELTS 5 = there may be irrelevant details*),
  2. have vocabulary so general that it becomes meaningless [Vocabulary IELTS 5 = limited range of vocabulary*],
  3. (as before) merely signal to the examiner that you are a ‘memoriser’ – a person trying to copy their way to a higher mark.

* Source: the public version of the IELTS Band Descriptors

That 3rd point can be significant. Do you think that will be a good message to give to the IELTS examiner? We get the usual 'robot' problem [see the above picture], and I'll deal with that in the next post.

The next natural question is, what does ‘teach’ mean – as in ‘we teach using original tests’? Well, to repeat what I said at the beginning, 'test' material is for testing (obviously), not for learning or developing your skills. For example, the Cambridge IELTS Practice Tests are just a book of tests (obviously, again). Nothing in them is designed to improve you; it is designed to test you. Actually, I'll stop here, because the Cambridge IELTS Test Practice books, and their point, purpose, and role in the classroom, will be examined in detail in a later post.

The point is, how ever you interpret this ‘using original/old IELTS tests’ claim, it doesn’t make much sense, and whatever the case, using this material has very limited value. There is one final question, and it is the usual question: why do schools and teachers make the 'original IELTS test material' claim? The answer is obvious: because it sounds good, and tricks students.

Think carefully when you hear that claim, okay?




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