English-language tuition specialists Susan Taylor and Rohan Feegrade can’t help but sigh each time a new client walks through the door requesting a ‘couple of tune-up sessions’ before their upcoming IELTS test.
It’s a common scenario for both tutors, who are struggling to educate migrants about the level of preparation that is required in order to successfully pass an English-language competency test.
“So many people we see think that because they’ve lived in Australia for a while, or that they’ve studied in Australia, that they will be able to pass the IELTS or OET easily,” says Rohan, the Managing Director and Principal Consultant of Feegrade Educational Consultancy.
“However the reality is that a test such as the IELTS assesses English-language competency at a much deeper level than what they would be used to displaying in their day-to-day life. It’s a test that many native-born Australians would struggle to achieve a high score in.”
Mr Feegrade says he sees countless university graduates surprised when they fail a test they haven’t prepared for, believing that their qualification must mean that their English is at an acceptable level already.
However as he later tells them, a tertiary qualification is no guarantee that they will be able to pass their IELTS.
“Having taught in the Masters of Accounting program and other MBA subjects at UniSA, I am constantly astounded at how many undergraduate and postgraduate degrees do not assess the proficiency of graduates English language skills,” he said.
“This leaves students with a qualification that effectively means very little in terms of gaining employment and working in Australia”.
Both the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Occupational Education Test (OET) assess all four components of English communication; reading, writing, speaking and listening.
According to Ms Taylor, it’s the writing and speaking components that tend to cause the most difficulty for her clients.
“The writing and speaking sections require candidates to ‘encode’ the language,” she says.
“To do this, a fairly solid understanding of grammatical structures to formulate a variety of sentences is needed; also an understanding of word stress and intonation is necessary to develop communicative competence in speaking.”
Both Susan and Rohan agree that early intervention is key when it comes to preparing for an English test.
They would like to see more clients taking a long-term view towards their English-language test preparation, rather than arranging last-minute consultations that are of limited benefit.
“Many candidates have acquired ‘fossilized errors’ that need to be addressed; to break an incorrect language habit requires time,” says Susan.
“Essentially, the IELTS tests a candidate’s understanding of English grammatical structures and the parts of speech within each sentence. Time is needed to further develop this level of understanding.”
The advice is something Migration Solutions Managing Director Mark Glazbrook can attest to, having watched a number of clients shell out thousands of dollars in trying to pass a test that they haven’t adequately prepared for.
“We’ve had clients that have taken the IELTS test up to 30 times without achieving the score they need to satisfy their visa eligibility requirements,” Mr Glazbrook said.
However Mr Glazbrook says it’s not only the direct cost of the test attempts that add up, as failure to achieve the necessary score often forces applicants to apply for a different type of visa, or take on further study simply to remain in Australia – both of which can be expensive options.
“The problem educational consultants like Rohan and Susan have are the same issues we face as migration agents. People can be quite short-sighted when it comes to spending money on professional assistance, even though there’s a good chance it will help save you thousands in the long-term,” he said.
“Many visa applicants are happy to come to Australia and spend up to hundreds of thousands of dollars investing in their education, professional development and living arrangements in order to become eligible for permanent residency. What many don’t realise is that English competency is one of the most important eligibility requirements they have to satisfy.”
“Regular English sessions like these are really quite a small commitment to make for what they receive in return – a greater chance of getting a visa, improved job prospects and an increased ability to integrate into Australian culture.”
Susan and Rohan are both accredited English-language tutours with years of experience in assisting migrants to pass their English competency tests.
To book your place in one of their new English proficiency workshops, or learn more about their private tuition services, visit their website today.