I know that YouTube is a popular source of material for IELTS students and I truly believe that ANYTHING you do in English is all very helpful and there are some amazing teachers on YouTube who give very freely of their time and knowledge and all of this is really worth watching and taking on board.

Indeed, I also have a channel on You Tube and plan to add more videos very soon. I just think that using YouTube as the sole source of IELTS practice needs a bit of a ‘health warning’.

Let’s look at what is required to get good English (or in fact any language) skills and remember that first and foremost IELTS is a test of English language ability.

  • Good communication skills both spoken and written
  • Good understanding both aural (listening) and written (reading)

That is it really and IELTS tests a specific aspect of applying these skills to particular tasks be those academic or more general (in GT) but overall the skills you require for a good IELTS band are communication and understanding.

Both of these skills are very active – you need to speak and listen and read and write. You need to perform.

Performing in speaking requires you to interact with others. Unless you do it, is rather difficult to improve. Writing also needs an audience (unless you are writing a diaryJ) and the audience for IELTS is ultimately the examiner – think about it, do you really want the examiner to be the very first person to see your writing? If you create a CV for a job don’t you get someone to check it over before it goes? If you write a letter for a job don’t you get a friend or colleague to look at it before it is sent? So why have the ONLY person checking your writing be the examiner who will be your judge and jury? Doesn’t it make sense to get someone else to look at it first, to show you if you are making fundamental errors and to help you create a task which will make the examiner give you the band that you want?

OK, so what I am trying to say is that YouTube will not help you with these practical skills. It may give you tips and advice it may show you how and provide you with models BUT the only way that you can re-create these for yourselves is with actual practice – so you must find another way to do this.

Let’s also think about the actual IELTS exam – it involves ‘hard labour’. You have to put pen to paper and write things down. It’s great to have interactive exercises where you press the correct answer it’s quick, easy and often you get the results fast. I see no problem doing this – in fact I have such content on my own IELTS training website. However, at the moment (it may change I guess) the IELTS exam is a physical test and that physicality requires you to write – I personally think that interactive exercises are not exactly the same as the pen and paper ones and so it’s important to spend some time at least doing some pen and paper practice – it’s also far easier to do the reading this way – and writing just online will give you access to spelling and grammar tools (they are not always correct and I know that you can turn them off – do you?). Don’t get me wrong used in the right place these are good and they can show you your spelling and grammar weaknesses. What I’m trying to say is don’t limit yourself.

Be realistic about what the actual exam entails and make sure that you move away from YouTube and even the internet sometimes to really practise speaking and writing with other people to help you.  Use an IELTS book or print off the tests so that you can practice the actual exam process – it will help you to time better, to underline, circle and highlight words and phrases that will help you find the right answers – these are not easily done online.

‘Instant’ and ‘Now’ are bywords for today’s society. We want instant gratification, we are less inclined to wait and we are a little impatient at times – this is the way of the world. However language learning is a ‘slow burn’, it takes time, it takes practice, it takes lots of repetition, and it needs a lot of attention. Given all of this it will grow and improve easily – everyone can get the high skills for band 7 and 8. Some will take longer than others – it all depends on your start point. However, like many wonderful things in life it will be worth the effort and the patience.

YouTube is fantastic for getting close to teachers who have a lot of knowledge to share with you about IELTS but language is not like history you cannot ‘study’ it you have to practise it in real life situations offline and put the teaching that you have watched into practice. Like much in life it is an 80/20 process. To ignore the practical part of the learning process is to miss out on the 80% and 20% is unlikely to get you your band.

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