When IELTS teachers ask me about the ‘best’ ways to teach academic vocab for IELTS, I like to ask back with my usual refrain, ‘WHAT FOR?’

Before planning a lesson (or even just a stage or an activity), it is worth thinking about what SKILL work we want to ’embed’ this new language into.

For example, do you want to teach them linking phrases TO help them sound more cohesive in Part 2 of the speaking test? 

Or revise the passive TO help them better describe a process for the academic writing task 1 (…in case they get a process to describe)? 

IELTS is all about IMPLICITLY checking a learner’s (=candidate’s) language systems (i.e. grammar, vocabulary, etc.) knowledge ‘IN ACTION’. 

That means getting them to successfully ‘DO STUFF WITH’ the grammar, vocab, or collocations, etc. that they know. 

If we don’t approach their preparation by starting with the UTILITY of any new language, their (vocab/grammar) knowledge might be ‘patchy’, not cover all bases, or be unnecessarily abundant at other places. 

And worse still, they may even get PENALIZED for using too much ‘pre-fab’ language in the (speaking or writing tests of the) exam, for example, if the expressions they use don’t contribute to achieving the COMMUNICATIVE purpose of the task… 

So in those cases with the best of intention WE might be setting them up for failure if we only focus on teaching them language, but not with the concrete IELTS SKILLS in mind.

Have YOU ever worked with a student who you had to teach how to better USE their grammar or vocab knowledge for IELTS? What KNOWLEDGE, and for which (SUB-)SKILL?

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Hi. I’m Fatime. I’m an IELTS Teacher Trainer, helping CELTA-qualified English language teachers become better at teaching SKILLS, as opposed to just testing them. 

Check out my courses here:

How to Teach IELTS Listening:

How to Teach IELTS Reading:

How to Teach IELTS Writing:

How to Teach IELTS Speaking: