What must you look for when you scout for an IELTS trainer?
A good amount of my precious time gets wasted in engaging with people who are looking for the cheapest trainer around, and herein lies the paradox - if one is reaching out to me in the light of the testimonials and success stories of my students, if one is looking for personal attention, exclusivity, trainer commitment et al, or in brief, everything that an institute or a non-certified/inexperienced trainer fails to offer, then it will not be the cheapest course around. So, here I am listing out what I believe should be the relevant questions all prospective IELTS test takers should ask themselves and the trainer, instead of prioritising the fee.
* Are you serious about IELTS and your vision of your career and future?
Yes, that's the most vital question, and no, the answer is not apparent. Are you planning to take IELTS because your friend/colleague attempted it and got his/her intended score and has now successfully relocated to their country of choice? While this can, undoubtedly, be motivational, none of us can replicate others' achievements by merely wishing for it. Your current language proficiency levels may widely vary from your friend's, and while it may have been relatively easy for them, it can be an arduous task for you. Are you willing to work hard for it - consistently, and daily? Because getting your desired score is YOUR job, not the trainers.
If your answer to the above is yes, then the next aspect to reflect on would be the parameters to pick a trainer( I am not bothering to include institutes here because those are just commercial ventures designed for profit, feeding on aspirants' dreams, with no commitment to individuals).
* Is the trainer certified to teach for IELTS?
Although going to a Teachers' Training course does not guarantee the trainer's ability to design and deliver an IELTS course successfully, but those who have been guided by the British Council, certainly have an edge over the others who are merely providing this along with PTE and a bunch of English courses. IELTS has a particular format, assessment criteria etc. that those who are exclusively dedicated to, have a much better hold of.
* Does the trainer have a unique offering?
How has the trainer designed the course? Is the trainer looking to enhance your skills or divide hours among all four modules with no linkages? Listening and speaking skills are closely related, so are reading and writing skills; hence, there can be no clear boundary with lesson delivery as well. While our skills are tested separately in the exam, learning does not happen in isolation.
How much attention is paid to grammar and vocabulary enhancement? For those who are unaware, vocabulary and grammar contribute to 50% of the assessment in the speaking and writing sections; likewise, your comprehension ability in even the listening and reading sections can be limited by your grammar/vocabulary. So, here is why anyone who is offering you a crash course is bluffing you - improvement in grammar/vocabulary takes time. There is no shortcut to it.
Next, is the trainer capable of assessing your current language proficiency level and guide you accordingly to your desired score? The timeline for preparation depends entirely on this. Hardly can two people be ready at the same time. Therefore, even the preparatory materials may vary. What works for the intermediate level indeed is inadequate for the advanced level. It is the biggest challenge for a teacher/trainer - of juggling various levels in a class, and only a very few are adept at this. A good many students come to me needing help exclusively for writing, so if you are one of them, ask the trainer to explain why you could be stuck at band 6.5 and what is needed to cross the barrier. A trainer who can take you there will be able to tell it convincingly.
Finally, is the trainer committed to guiding you through your complete preparatory phase and not just the training hours? Because unless you are already proficient and do not require post-training assessments and feedback periodically, just the training hours will never be enough.
* How important is a demo class?
It is irrelevant if you have asked all the questions mentioned above and are satisfied with the answer. And this is why I don't offer one. A transparent discussion( face-to-face, if possible) is essential, not a random class with no context.
* Can a trainer guarantee specific scores?
No, the trainer can only guarantee their commitment towards you but has no control over your motivation(or lack, thereof) and dedication towards your plans. Their responsibility lies in patiently guiding you, not ensuring results.