4 Questions to Ask When Choosing an IELTS Preparation Course in Toronto

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by Britt Anderson

ESL Teacher

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Whether you want to gain acceptance to a Canadian university, get a work visa or get your permanent residency or Canadian citizenship, there are many reasons why being successful at the IELTS test can help you reach your goal. Although there are many ways to prepare for the test, taking an IELTS preparation course can help, regardless of your current skill level or whether you’ve taken the test before.

Read on to find out more about IELTS preparation classes in Toronto, and if they’re right for you!

Question 1: What are your needs, wants and goals?

Before you choose an IELTS preparation course, ask yourself what your goals are and why you are taking the test, as well as consider constraints like your time and budget.

What are your goals and constraints?

If tests make you nervous and stressed out, perhaps you need a course that focuses on strategies for successful test-taking. If you feel that you need to improve your English to attain a high band level, you might want to consider a general English refresher class before focusing on IELTS. Of course, you can also find a course that combines both skills! 

Once you have decided on your goal and reasons for taking an IELTS prep course, you should focus on the logistics. Try to consider the following: 

  • Is there a time constraint for you? If so, how long do you have to prepare?  
  • Taking a preparation course as well as writing the IELTS test can be costly. What is your budget? 
  • Do you need to achieve a certain band score? 
  • How much time can you devote to preparation? 
  • How many skills do you need to work on? Do you need to practice and improve just one skill (Listening, Reading, Writing or Speaking), or all 4?

It is a good idea to have a goal in mind when you are taking the IELTS.

What scores do you need?

Study: Keep in mind that most universities in Canada require at least a minimum of band 6, however, some universities may require a higher score. 

Immigration: To obtain Permanent Residence in Canada, you will need to achieve a minimum band score. These minimum scores range between 4 to 7 or more, depending on the stream you are applying to

Work: If you plan to work in Canada, some professions will require a higher band score. Regulated professions (for example, nurses, real estate agents, electricians…) may require proof of English language proficiency, such as an IELTS test. In other cases, employers may ask for this proof and set their own minimum scores, if an applicant did not complete any formal education in the English language.

It’s worth knowing how much a preparation class can improve your score. If you need at least a band 6, but you currently sit at a 4, a preparation course for IELTS may help improve that. However, it may also be worth considering general English lessons first, before moving to an IELTS preparation course to prepare for the test. At ILAC Toronto, this is a pathway many students choose.

Once you have considered your needs and work, study or immigration goals, you should have a better idea of what you are looking for in an IELTS preparation course in Toronto.

Question 2: What is your current English level?

Now that you have identified your needs and wants, you should consider your current level of English. Perhaps you have already taken the IELTS test once, or you have taken a similar test and have a general idea of your English level.

IELTS Preparation or General English?

If you are sitting at a band 3 and need to reach a band 7, for example, a preparation course may not be helpful to achieve such a high improvement in a short time. (Also remember that each IELTS test can cost up to CAD $400! If you need to sit the test a few times to achieve that band, the cost adds up quickly.)

Therefore, you should make sure you have set an achievable and realistic goal when considering a course. An IELTS preparation course can help you improve your score, but if there is a large gap between your current level and your goal level, improvement will take longer. Rushing prep is not helpful in this case. In this situation, it would be more beneficial and cost-effective to take a General English class, then later switch to IELTS Preparation.

Finally, consider the overall band score that you need, as well as section band scores. If you are already achieving a good score in Writing and Speaking, you may want to look at preparation courses that focus on the Reading and Listening skills of IELTS. 

Speaking to an advisor

Although you can do your own research on different IELTS preparation courses, it’s a good idea to speak to an expert who can tell you about your options, and answer any questions you have.

Here are some questions to ask an advisor: 

  • What does the preparation course cover? Do you learn about test-taking skills and how to answer IELTS questions? 
  • Which IELTS skills does the course focus on? Does the course cover all 4 skill sections or focus on just one skill?
  • What course will fit your needs best? 
  • Does the course offer regular practice tests to check your progress?
  • What qualifications do the teachers have? How much IELTS experience do they have?

 A reputable advisor and school will be able to answer all of these questions and any others you may think of.

Question 3: What learning style fits you best?

Not all students or test-takers are the same. Some people prefer to learn by actively “doing”, while others may prefer to learn by reading. In the same way, some people prefer online learning, while others may prefer an in-class experience. Some people also find that studying on their own is best, while others prefer to study with others. 

Therefore, consider your learning style when looking for an IELTS preparation course in Toronto.

Learning StylesPros (+)Cons (-)
Self Study
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Focus on what you want
  • Study when and where you want
  • Can be more cost-effective
  • No instructors to ask questions to, if you need clarification
  • May be difficult to improve Speaking and Listening scores because of limited people to practice with and/or receive feedback from
Guided study
  • Qualified instructors
  • Continuous feedback
  • Structured, well-planned lessons ensure you don’t miss something important
  • Proven results
  • Access to materials
  • Initial cost is higher
  • Less flexible study time and deadlines
In-Person
  • Continuous feedback
  • Can receive feedback on the Speaking section/skill
  • Can practice IELTS Listening skills
  • Travel time to and from class
  • Rigid class schedule
  • Accessibility issues (speak to your school advisor to confirm you will have everything you need)
Online
  • Comfort of your home or chosen workspace
  • Might be more accessible
  • No travel time to and from class
  • Technical difficulties may arise
  • Requires basic technical skills
  • No in-person interaction or in-person practice with Speaking skills
  • Less engaging/requires more self-motivation
Individual
  • Tutoring or one-on-one style can be tailored exactly to your needs and wants
  • No other students to serve as a distraction
  • Less interactive class
  • No chance to learn from other students
  • Less cost-effective
Group
  • More chances for authentic interaction
  • Can practice IELTS Speaking skills with classmates
  • Exposure to other learning styles that might work for you
  • Group style means classes are less tailored for your specific needs
  • Less attention from the teacher, especially in large classes

The table above shows both benefits and potential problems with different learning styles. Note that some cons may actually be pros for you! When choosing a course, you should consider your priorities and what will be the most beneficial to your learning style.

Question 4: Is this class right for me?

Once you’ve considered your needs, assessed your level and goals, spoken to an advisor and chosen your IELTS preparation course in Toronto, make sure it’s a good fit.

If you attend the first class and feel a bit discouraged, don’t give up right away. Give yourself and your teacher a few classes to get used to each other. Your teacher should be able to adapt lessons so they benefit all students. Give it a few days to see the different styles and activities involved to see if it’s a good fit for both your level and learning style.  

After a few days, if the class is still not the right fit, talk to the instructor or the student team to solve your problem. Perhaps the instructor can develop a different lesson plan, or recommend a better level for you if the class is too easy or difficult.  The school should be willing to work with you to find the best solution. In a good preparation course, you should have access to continuous, quality feedback. In addition, you should be doing regular practice tests as they are a good measure of your progress. We want you to succeed just as much as you! 

Book Your Test

Near the end of your preparation course, you will be ready to book your test. All your hard work will pay off soon!

Here are some things to keep in mind when booking your IELTS test:

  • Your school might recommend a test centre or have their own. If you study with us, both ILAC campuses in Vancouver and Toronto have convenient on-site IELTS testing centres for students taking a preparation course.
  • Once you find a test centre, you will need to decide whether you are more comfortable doing a computer or paper test. Both tests are equally accepted by organizations.
  • Book your test online at least 3 days in advance. This is the minimum requirement, although note that during peak times or in high-population cities, you might need to book a test further in advance. (You can’t just walk into a test centre and expect to take the test the same day!)

We hope to see you in an IELTS preparation course in Toronto soon! 

Find out about IELTS Preparation at ILAC

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