Since I’ve got a (2-semester, in theory anyway) IELTS course this year, I asked various publishers/booksellers for sample copies of IELTS books, so I could be racked with indecision, which I am, but can’t be for much longer. It’s co-taught, which complicates the decision a bit.
For what they’re worth (not much, I’m afraid) here are some brief notes on the books I’ve seen.
There are two basic approaches.
(a) Teach the Test or (b) Teach English FOR the test.
The former tend to be organised around the 4 Skills / Parts of the test, the latter around thematic units (each, or in blocks) covering the 4 skills.
Last year I used The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS which I didn’t like much because it was too big and pricy for a 1-semester course, and because its a “Teach the Test” book which apparently assumes a higher level of English than most of the students had.
This year its supposed to be a 2-semester course, so it’d be a better fit, but it still lacks enough English instruction
New Insight into IELTS (CUP 2008) (Hwa Tai)
This is a 4-Skills-Based course of about 50 hours, aimed at IELTS Level 6. Writing Task 2 (WT2) does develop, across 4 units, from paragraph to essay, but rather steeply. There is some vocabulary developent, but no grammar.
Conclusion : Better than The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS but with the same problems. Not much English instruction, and probably too advanced.
Complete IELTS (CUP 2012) (Hwa Tai)
8-thematic units, groups of 2 together cover 4-skills with vocabulary and grammar review after each two. (so a good fit to a 2-semester course with 4 “natural” exam-points)
Aimed at Band 5-6.5 (prob bit too advanced)
WT2 doesn’t show much development, with each unit requiring the production of a full essay.
Conclusion : Better than above two, but perhaps too advanced. Complete IELTS Band 4-5 (which apparently has 10 units, dunno why the difference) might be a good choice but I havn’t seen it.
IELTS Foundation 2nd Edition (Macmillan 2012) (Crane)
12-unit thematic aimed at band 4 - 5.5, so more appropriate in theory. Some vocab and grammar content, but a bit dependent on the “D” word (discuss)
WT2 does show some development, but again, its a bit steep, and here is also rather unclear, and wordy.
Conclusion : Probably best fit so far, but layout is generally off-puttingly WORDY.
Achieve IELTS 2 2nd Edition (Cengage Learning 2013) (Crane)
12-thematic Units, each covering 4-skills. Upper-Intermediate/advanced, Band 5.5 to 7 so a poor fit for the likely punters, though there is an intermediate/upper intermediate Achieve IELTS 1 (2nd Edition) that should be better.
This is more attractively laid out than IELTS Foundation 2nd Edition, though its also a bit dependent on the “D” word (discuss)
There is some explicit coverage of grammar (though they avoid calling it that) but apparently no explicit coverage of vocabulary.
WT2 curve is again rather steep, and of the 8 units covering WT2, 7 require a full 250 word essay to be written
Conclusion : Bit too advanced, but Achieve IELTS 1 (2nd Edition) would be worth a look, given time.
Objective IELTS Intermediate (CUP 2006) (Hwa Tai) Self study text with 20 thematic units. Clearly laid out with a test folder, which keeps linkage with the test, and a writing folder separate from the main units.
WT2 development is limited and doesn’t seem to emphasise structure much, (which is key) so would need supplemented.
Conclusion : This’d probably be OK, and best fit so far if the less advanced versions of Complete IELTS (CUP 2012) or Achieve IELTS aren’t available in time. The fact that its self-study means the teachers support may a bit limited, but there is apparently a class text version.
IELTS For Academic Purposes: A Short Intensive Course (McGraw-Hill 2009) (Caves - bought with OWN MONEY!)
8 Thematic units aimed at 5.5 to 6.5. Uniquely (?) comes with an initial Placement Test, which is odd, because there only seems to be one level.
This would be a pretty good short-course text. (said to be about 40 hours) . Its concise and fairly clear. WT2 development looks at component skills, but never integrates these into producing a complete answer.
I think this could be stretched to two semesters if supplemented, but it isn’t designed for that, and my co-teacher is quite concerned there isn’t enough material.
Conclusion: Not for two semester course.
Unlock 2/3/4 (Cambridge Discovery CUP 2014)(Hwa Tai)
10 Thematic units split into separate R/W and L/S skills, so a compromise, and could avoid duplication of effort when co-teaching.
This is a glossy, nicely presented series which apparently has a lot of online support and makes use of Discovery channel video support for the themes.
The snag is a lack of explicit linkage to the IELTS test. Writing development in 3 (probably the most appropriate level) is essay oriented (i.e. WT2) which is the most important element (in IELTS and generally) but there is no WT1 treatment until the last unit of book 4.
This seems to be a general textbook series that has considered IELTS in its design but isn’t explicitly linked to it. We could perhaps build some more explicit linkage in at the beginning and the end, BUT that may be a tough sell to punters who have signed up for an IELTS course.
Shortlist: Unlock3 (Hwa Tai) (but see caveats above), Complete IELTS Band 4-5 (Hwa Tai) (if available) Achieve IELTS 1 (2nd Edition)(Crane) (if available)