Student and Graduate Publishing

IELTS Score and Academic English

Wednesday, 03 September 2014 09:55

I would like to make you a promise. By the end of this article you will have a very clear method of improving your IELTS score at no cost. However, before you thank me, please keep in mind that the purpose of the IELTS test is to measure and show your ability to do academic work, not just pass the test.

Truth be told, students are much more pragmatic than their teachers. So before passing on this secret, I would like to make the case for you to change your focus from passing the IELTS test to improving your academic English ability?

A little background. From bilingual education research in the K-12 school years, we know that there is an actual continum of English learning from BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) to CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency).  Under ideal conditions, BICS takes from one to three years to develop;  CALP may take from five to ten years, if you ever reach the elusive CEFR C1- C2 level (something that a high IELTS score is supposed to measure).

Forget books and classes. Online education now has fully integrated the lastest technologies and practices to extend communication and community in ways that were unthinkable only a few years ago. The application of both synchronous (real time) and asynchronous (on your own time) technologies have particularly impacted the learning of English.

But the greatest area of innovation in English language learning currently is the MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course. Seen through the lense of a new form of Content-Based Instruction, and particularly for use in English-Medium, MOOCs have (arguably) all of the essential qualities of being a simpler, cheaper and more convenient way of improving your academic English, not to mention more effective.

The most obvious example is the recent English Australia launch of MOOEC, or Massive Open Online English Course(s). Billed as ´a collection of free online English lessons provided by universities and colleges´,  learners can choose from three levels of difficulty and six areas of language function. There is no cost; it is simple to sign up; and all that is needed is an Internet connection.

At this point, you may also be surprised to know that way back in 2002, the American Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched its OpenCourseware or OCW project, now currently offering 2150 free university courses (in English) to more than 125 million visitors as ´open and available to the world and as a permanent MIT activity.´

And many others universities have since followed in MIT´s footsteps, particularly as part of the OCW Consortium worldwide.

Still, another major resource for English learning has been Apple´s  iTunes U. The UK Open University offers over 130 courses there at no cost. And for an even wider selection of free material and coursework at iTunes U and elsewhere, see the Open Culture website.

Finally, at the Australia Network website, you can access more than eight, free English courses:  I particular recommend the Study English course which offers nearly 80 IELTS learning episodes with full resources; everything you need to improve your IELTS score.

But remember, the map is not the territory. Work on improving your academic English ability as a goal, and not just your IELTS score.

Jon Felperin, MA TEFL ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is academic director of Align Degree Services, LLC which offers a Mini MOOC sampler project. He divides his time equally between San Salvador, El Salvador and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.)

For more information about studying for, applying to take and differentiating between various English Language Tests.