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Review ~ IELTS Foundation Study Skills

Full title: IELTS Foundation Study Skills: A self-study course for General Training Modules Authors: Amanda French, Rachael Roberts, Joanne Gakonga, Andrew Preshous Publisher: Macmillan Components: Textbook and Audio CD Summary: A basic self-study text for IELTS learners at around the IELTS 4.5-5 bands, including all four skills and aimed at General Training Exam Review When […]
Reviewed for Teflnet by Dave Allen

Full title: IELTS Foundation Study Skills: A self-study course for General Training Modules
Authors:
Amanda French, Rachael Roberts, Joanne Gakonga, Andrew Preshous
Publisher:
Macmillan
Components:
Textbook and Audio CD
Summary: A basic self-study text for IELTS learners at around the IELTS 4.5-5 bands, including all four skills and aimed at General Training Exam

Review
When I received this text and saw the word ‘foundation’ I was reminded of the conundrum facing many teachers in the UK and probably all around the world too: A prospective student comes into the teachers’ office and says something like ‘me… (points at own chest)…IELTS’. Now, as the teacher you have to fill in the blanks. Is this student doing a Tarzan impersonation or does he/she want to take the IELTS exam but can barely string a sentence together? (Answer: It is most often the latter.) After trying to dissuade them as best you can, you will probably end up agreeing to a general English language course with a bit of IELTS exam training thrown in. If there are enough of these students you have what some teachers lovingly refer to as a ‘baby-ielts class’.

So, that’s the type of class I assumed this book would be suitable for: A text aimed at really low-level learners. In fact the level is, surprisingly, quite a bit higher than that and is suitable for learners who are at the middle bands (around an IELTS 4 or 5). The book may be enough to help learners push their scores up a little within or slightly beyond that band, as long as they are working through considerable amounts of other material as well.

In brief, the book covers the four skills for the general training module of the IELTS exam. There is also a full practice exam, all answers are included for tasks and the exam, there is an accompanying CD, and audio-scripts are included for all recordings. In terms of the components there is everything here for students to use for self-study.

The writing section covers language areas such as formal/informal phrases for the letter-writing task 1, which are useful for improving appropriacy and register. There are lots of student examples which learners are supposed to consider, correct and comment on according to the four criteria for the test (task achievement, cohesion and coherence, grammar and vocabulary). The examples are fairly realistic and point out some common student errors, but I feel a model answer (i.e. one students could follow to improve their scores) would be appropriate in some cases. Although we don’t necessarily want to tell our students what to write (although they often want us to!), this is a self-study book and students should have access to answers which are good models and which they can work towards imitating. I tried to imagine a student using this on his/her own and critiquing a script then comparing it with the teacher’s (examiner’s) comments and I couldn’t help thinking maybe this is a bit much for some students at this level. The same types of activities are repeated for writing task two (the essay), but with a greater focus on skills such as brainstorming, organisation and developing arguments.

By working through the exercises the students can certainly familiarize themselves with the task types for each section. However, there is a definite imbalance in the amount of attention paid to each section. The reading section is 24 pages long, writing is 10, listening 9 and speaking a mere 5 pages. Although some of the sample answers on the CD which are related to the speaking exam may be useful, it is not clear how well students will utilize these on their own, without comments from other students or a teacher. The reading section naturally contains many texts which take up considerable space, but most of these are simple hints-task-reflect sequenced exercises, which are not fully developed into language work which students at this level are sure to need. Having said this, the purpose of the book is to give students ‘skills’ for the exam e.g. identifying purpose or opinion in the texts. The exercises contained are certainly useful, but are also short and may in many cases leave the learner searching for more follow-up exercises (or more realistically, just doing nothing and not fully acquiring the skills).

In sum, although I don’t know any other books which aim at providing self-study materials for lower level learners wishing to take the general training (rather than the Academic) IELTS exam, I still would hesitate to recommend this book to most self-study learners who have a lower level of English. Perhaps this is in fact a niche which hasn’t been fully tapped and as such there aren’t many options. However, a fuller, more colourful text may be a better buy for students wanting the most for their money. For teachers, there may be some useful bits and pieces in here to use as supporting material, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a central text for even most short courses for the reasons given above.

Reviewed by Dave Allen for TEFL.NET April 2009

One Comment

  • Evgeny says:

    Great Book!

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