We are making admirable progress with IELTS. The reading score have increased in two to three weeks.
There have been two afternoons in the course of our stay in the village where both Mum and Grandma went out all afternoon. There were no small children or any other form of customer for a good 3 hours. There was no friend from government school coming around for lunch. There was nothing thankfully. Our trainee was able to work in silent concentration for all three reading passages closely followed by a task 1 writing.
The first thing to note is that the concentration period was dramatically increased when it was received in one whole block. Instead of having to stop the timer to fetch water or wash dishes or chop the next day’s betel nut for market, every ounce of will power and concentration could be fed directly into the task at hand. We managed a 2.5-hour slot of IELTS which we had not previously achieved. It is important in the preparation for any standardised test to replicate exam conditions faithfully which includes sitting the test in the same way and for the same timings. If you are used to having a break or your brain is programmed to need to walk to the lake between the listening and reading sections of the test, you will struggle on exam day when faced with a long block of tasks.
Secondly, and thankfully, the score improved dramatically for reading and the overall clarity of task 1 writing was a world away from previous attempts. After those two gloriously silent days, it allowed me as the faux examiner to really tell if the student was concentrating or not. He brought a task 1 graph analysis to me which was so jumbled and confused that I simply stated: “You didn’t pay full attention to this; in fact, I doubt that you paid half attention to it. There is no point in wasting time correcting this when it is a sloppy, sub-standard sample of your work and ability. Do it again.” Harsh perhaps, but truthful and fair. He knew it wasn’t anything like his best work and he knows that having me correct a bad piece of writing is pointless because he knows the corrections that I will make before I make them.
For me, this dichotomy is positive. We learnt that in exam conditions, this is a candidate who will probably do significantly better due to the favourable silence. That is not to say I I like the constant interruptions of the situation. However, this is reality for this candidate and we can’t do much to increase the similarities to the real exam conditions.
NEH Director of Studies and Teacher Trainer
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