Review ~ Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced

Full title: Common mistakes at IELTS Advanced…and how to avoid them Author: Julie Moore Publisher: Cambridge University Press Review by: Saul Pope Summary: An important component of any advanced IELTS course Review IELTS can be a notoriously tricky course to teach, especially for the more inexperienced teacher. You’re almost guaranteed to have a mixed ability […]
Reviewed for Teflnet by Saul Pope

Full title: Common mistakes at IELTS Advanced…and how to avoid them
Author:
Julie Moore
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Review by:
Saul Pope
Summary:
An important component of any advanced IELTS course

Review
IELTS can be a notoriously tricky course to teach, especially for the more inexperienced teacher. You’re almost guaranteed to have a mixed ability group, students may want to take the exam at different times to one another, and some will simply not be capable of reaching the lofty targets their future place of learning has set them in the time you have. On top of this, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to concentrate upon as spiky profiles are often the order of the day, and, unless you’re an IELTS examiner, it can be tricky to know where students tend to go wrong in these exams. Common mistakes at IELTS Advanced cannot solve all of these problems, but it is very useful in providing a focus on typical mistakes that students make.

The book is split into thirty page-long units, each focusing on a different common mistake made by students in the IELTS exam. This would be good if it were based on the experiences of IELTS speaking and writing examiners, but what makes this text really impressive is that it is based on ‘analysis of thousands of exam scripts at IELTS bands 7 and above’ stored in the Cambridge Learner Corpus. When using the book for the first time in class, I pointed out to my students how the book used this unique source of materials. They were impressed, and immediately motivated to gauge themselves against these typical errors. In a later class, when everyone got all of the ‘common spelling mistakes’ of unit 7 right, there was a real sense of achievement, and a feeling of confidence amongst the students that they were closer to achieving that elusive band 7.5 than they had thought.

A wide variety of mistakes is covered in the text, from the perennial problem of when to use the definite and indefinite article to the differences in usage between when, if and whenever. There are also units covering aspects of the language that can also confuse native speakers, like apostrophes or the use of commas with discourse markers, and there are also three units on common errors with describing statistics, which comes up in the first part of the writing exam. Each unit follows the same format, with two similar sentences being compared (one correct and one incorrect) followed by well-explained rules and two exercises to practice these. Each third unit is followed by a revision test, which attempts to mimic the type of questions set in the IELTS reading exam.

The only real weakness of the book is the slightly formulaic approach taken in each unit. The first part works well, with the two similar sentences clearly highlighting the common mistake, but after this the rules are simply listed rather than elicited. The exercises are functional but short; a little more practice would be desirable. Still, these are minor glitches given the overall quality of the text, and easily remedied by the creative practitioner.

On the whole, this is a very useful addition to any higher-level IELTS course. The quantity of data used makes this a reliable and impressive resource, and the simplicity of its design and the fact that it contains an answer key makes it as equally suited to home as to class study.

Reviewed for Teflnet by Saul Pope
March 2009 | Filed under Exam Materials

One Comment on “Review ~ Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced”

  1. Eric Roth Says:

    This concise, clear, and practical book deserves a much wider audience. Like the classic Grammar in Use and Vocabulary in Use series from Cambridge, this thin book allows English teachers to tailor classroom instruction to the actual needs of students. The clarity of examples, and the brevity of explanations makes this a powerful, flexible teaching tool.

    Saul Pope’s fair, balanced, and nuanced review captures the book’s appeal. I would, however, note that almost any English language teacher working with high intermediate or advanced students can easily benefit from this book – whether teaching in Korea, France, or the United States.

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