Commercially produced IELTS preparation materials are becoming increasingly available for use by students in self-study programs and by teachers as classroom resources in IELTS preparation courses. This study investigated the appropriateness of the content, organisation, learning approaches and presentation of the listening and reading components of six of the most widely used of these publications.
A numerical analysis was conducted of item-types and a criterion based evaluation of passages/texts and items. The latter used a purpose-designed set of criteria to facilitate comparisons across texts and tests. Results of analyses were tabulated, and these tables form the basis of discussion in the body of the report.
Further analysis considered more subjective perspectives gained from users through student surveys and structured teacher interviews in three Australian language centres. The publications were found to provide a wide range of resources suitable both for self-study and in the classroom. A number of recommendations referring particularly to the reading texts are made, but there are also some observations made concerning the practice tests in general and the need to eliminate elements which may lead to confusion and frustration on the part of students.
The study also considered the broader issue of the role of the publications in preparing students for the IELTS and in the development of language skills in general, with particular reference to preparation for further study. The study finds that
IELTS preparation materials should include more texts and tasks that would contribute to the social and academic acculturation of students. As the IELTS was found to have increasingly significant impact on teaching programs and student self-study programs, then publications purporting to prepare students for the IELTS have a responsibility to not only simulate practice tests but to also contribute positively to the development of overall language, and learning skills.