The main question when preparing for your IELTS exam is whether to self-study or seek help of a teacher. Both self-preparation and studying with tutors are viable ways to get ready for your test. In this entry I will summarise the main points of both approaches, share my experience and give you some tips on IELTS preparation.
Advantages and disadvantages of self-study
There are numerous pros and cons of IELTS self preparation. Lets go over the advantages first:
- Convenience. IELTS self-study can be without a doubt a very lucrative option because you can do it practically anywhere and at any time. You don’t have to go to a specialised school at a certain time, and the time you save can be used to do more self-preparation. For some of the students self-studying is the only option as attending classes can conflict with their work hours.
- Price. An important advantage to consider when preparing for IELTS exam on your own is how much money you will save. Private classes tend to get costly, buying a practice test book is a much more financially-sound decision. Or is it?
Disadvantages of self-preparation:
- Lack of feedback. With no teacher at your side, you will never know whether your Writing or Speaking aspects are any good. For the majority of test-takers, IELTS Writing remains the most difficult part of the exam, students on average score one whole band lower than other aspects. With no direct interaction between the teacher and the students improving these can prove to be quite challenging.
- Teacher’s tips and insights. Both can prove invaluable at the exam. With a private tutor, they will approach each of your problems individually and offer a solution that may just work. Whether you have problems with articles, prepositions or something completely different, your tutor will most likely offer you a way to overcome said difficulties.
Factors to consider
- Motivation. Having a teacher indirectly makes you meet deadline on practice tests and writing tasks. As a student, you will want to deliver your assignments on time, provided you like your teacher. This shouldn’t be a deciding factor if your motivation to perform is always at its highest.
- Self-discipline. This and the previous factor one could be viewed as one. If you feel you like discipline, then forcing yourself to do things will prove very difficult. Eventually your IELTS preparation process will turn into a never-ending misery. However, a good teacher will track your progress and keep your pace at a level you can maintain.
- Teaching fees. This can be the deciding factor for most of us as you will probably have to have individual tutoring when it comes to exam preparation. The reason is simple — group classes is hard to come by as students have various levels of English and they seek to get different score. Needless to say, individual classes can be very costly.
All considered, I’d recommend preparing for your exam with a good teacher. First of all, the time and money you will have potentially saved by self-studying may not be worth the lower exam score you could get. On the other hand, a good tutor will almost inevitably mean higher IELTS band. Secondly, an experienced teacher will be able to share general tips on English and the exam itself, both of which may prove very valuable.
If you consistently score well above the desired band in Listening and Reading practice tests, it could indicate that your level of preparation is enough to make IELTS self-study a viable option. Nonetheless, your Speaking and Writing performance have to be assessed by an experienced teacher, who is familiar with IELTS requirements. See IELTS Speaking assessment criteria to get the general idea.
If money is an issue, consider looking for well-recommended private tutors that do not work for any particular language school. They can be just as good (if not better) and are likely to charge less. If you have any friends who took the exam in the past then it is only natural to ask them for advice on the matter! They are likely to give you a tip on a good teacher.