Why ‘English speaking’ classes are perhaps NOT the best way to crack IELTS/TOEFL/PTE
English-speaking or spoken English classes are quite popular among the countries where the native language is not English. These courses, often, using bizarre advertisements promise greater confidence and jobs at MNCs. Let us not dwell on those issues now, but are these classes any good when it comes to cracking English language proficiency tests like IELTS, TOEFL or PTE? The answer is: Not really.
The simplest explanation for this is that all these tests go beyond speaking. They test the candidate’s overall skill in English language and is majorly focused on their understanding, writing, reading and speaking skills. So quite clearly, speaking is only one aspect of the tests and can in no means be the best way to crack IELTS, TOEFL or PTE.
IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, TOEFL is Test of English as a Foreign Language and PTE is Pearson Test of English.
For those who are not aware about IELTS, TOEFL or PTE, these are the three international standardised tests of English proficiency. IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, TOEFL is Test of English as a Foreign Language and PTE is Pearson Test of English.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) was established in 1989. While it is mostly accepted by all Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand academic institutions and over 3,000 academic institutions in the US, it is the only Secure English Language Test approved by UK Visas and Immigration.
The British Council website states that IELTS assesses all the English skills of the applicant, i.e. ‘reading, writing, listening and speaking, and is designed to reflect how you will use English at study, at work, and at play,’ in their new life abroad. This clearly proves the point that just learning how to converse in English can fall short of being able to crack it.
The questions are generic in nature and divided into four papers. The examination duration is 2 hours and 45 minutes, 30 minutes for listening, 60 minutes for reading, writing for 60 minutes and 11–14 minutes for speaking. The candidates score between 1 and 9 for each section. Universities generally demand an IELTS score of 6 or 7. Sometimes they also provide the minimum score for each section.
Significant digression: The IELTS score is valid for two years only.
Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a similar test and is a trademark of the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The test is accepted by many English-speaking academic and professional institutions. The questions in TOEFL are slightly academic and similar to IELTS, it also has four papers.
The first paper is reading, which is of duration 60–80 minutes and consists of 36–56 questions. The second is listening of duration 60–90 minutes and consisting of 34–51 questions. The third part is speaking in which candidates are given 6 tasks to be completed in 20 minutes and the final part is writing which is a 50 minute test with two tasks. Here, the score ranges from 10–120.
Significant digression: The scores of TOEFL are valid for two years after the test date and there is no limit to the number of times one takes the test. However, a candidate cannot take it more than once in a 12-day period.
Pearson Test of English (PTE) assesses academic English, exposing the candidates to type of accents one encounters in everyday life. It is approved for all Australian and New Zealand student visa and migration applications and accepted for study applications by thousands of academic programs around the world.
It is a three-hour test with three parts- Speaking -Writing, Listening and Reading. The questions are in varied formats including multiple choice ones, essay writing and interpreting information. The score ranges from 0–90 in case of PTE.
Significant Digression: The scores of PTE are valid for two years.
Done with the information, now comes the part everybody wants to know i.e. if not ‘Spoken-English’ classes, how to crack these tests!
The formula is to understand what the tests demand. Firstly, understanding, reading, writing and speaking forms the core of all of these tests. So, one cannot and should not just concentrate on one of them. It is always advised that while communicating, may be through speaking or writing, one should use words they themselves understands.
Significant Digression: One must understand that these tests do not assess one’s word bank, which means one need not use jargons and keep things simple.
Coherence between the provided topic and what one writes is a must. This will need thorough understanding of what is being asked or communicated and analysing the data provided.
‘…write-ups must have an explanation and an argument to support the opinion’
In essays which seeks candidates’ opinion, simply agreeing or disagreeing is not enough. All such write-ups must have an explanation and an argument to support the opinion, which will in turn leave a better impression and can be helpful in scoring higher in these tests.
Many students who have taken these tests suggest preparing for them at least a couple of months before appearing for them.
Candidates can always consult with their counsellors and inquire about IELTS, TOEFL and PTE coaching centres, which are specialised in preparing candidates for these tests.
While practicing for the Speaking part, one can always refer to speaking modules which are available for practice. This can boost one’s confidence which will be pivotal during the test.
Practicing basic essays and trying to put one’s own opinion in the essays can help in the writing part.
Similarly, reading newspaper and interacting in English can help in the listening and reading part.
So, while ‘Spoken English’ classes will focus on the speaking part, it is better to take up specialised coaching for IELTS, TOEFL and PTE, if required, to understand and increase the chances of cracking them.