Several years ago I embarked on a journey of discovery (or 'uncovery' to more precise) in my understanding and teaching of IELTS. (IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System and is the world's most popular English language test for higher education and global migration).
Having worked with IELTS candidates for a number of years and seeing how confused or frustrated students got when they didn't understand the assessment criteria, I started paraphrasing and illustrating the IELTS Speaking and Writing band score descriptors in my IELTS preparation classes in order to uncover what had previously been a mystery to students. I started to include clear definitions of the terminology used in the descriptors (e.g. collocation and idiomatic vocabulary) and to use examples from students' test practice to illustrate these definitions.
This journey to uncovery lasted a number of years, and over this time I saw students increasingly able to assess their own and each other's speaking/writing and who knew how to improve their band scores.
IELTS Speaking band score videos
The culmination of that work is my series of IELTS Speaking band score videos. The bite-sized videos are each between 6 and 9 minutes long and focused on a single part of the IELTS Speaking test and a single feature of the IELTS Speaking band score descriptors.
The videos use real, unscripted (unpracticed) answers from students speaking under test-like conditions who have recently taken an IELTS test. This unique feature provides a degree of authenticity to the series that other students find motivating and in many cases can relate to because of a shared nationality with the student in the video or a similar Speaking band score or test experience.
In the following example, an IELTS candidate from Russia (Efim) answers some IELTS Speaking Part 3 questions, and then I explain how Efim could improve his speaking.
I also write a blog post for each video in order to give students more help and advice,. You can find the blog post associated with the video above at http://www.freeieltscourse.com/ielts-speaking-tips/ielts-speaking-collocations/
I'm going to record and add further videos to the series that will include candidates from countries that I haven't yet included and with band scores that I haven't yet focused on.
And I'll hopefully receive more comments like this one:
“I recently just finished my IELTS test and I got 6.5 for my speaking test! Previously I only get 5.5. Thank you so much for all your videos! All your feedback are really helpful” (YouTube comment)
Issitt, S (2007). Improving scores on the IELTS Speaking test. ELT Journal Volume 62/2, Oxford University Press.
Rust, C., Price, M. and O’Donovan, B. (2003). Improving students learning by developing their understanding of assessment criteria and processes. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education Volume 28/2, Carfax Publishing.