How Can I Start Teaching IELTS Exam Prep?

By Krzl Light Nunes
August 24, 2020

You want to stand out as an English teacher, you say? A good way to expand your career prospects is by adding an area of expertise to your general TEFL/TESOL skills. One such area of specialization is preparing students for English proficiency tests, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the world’s most popular English language test. Getting started as an IELTS instructor isn’t difficult! Here are the basics of teaching IELTS test preparation (and to dive deeper into this topic, you can check out Bridge’s new, tuition-free Micro-credential course in teaching IELTS prep).

What is teaching IELTS exam prep?

When non-native English speakers (and even native speakers, in some cases) plan to migrate or pursue work or a university degree in an English-speaking country such as the US, Canada, or the UK, they usually have to achieve a certain score on the IELTS exam to demonstrate their English proficiency level. Teaching IELTS exam prep is simply tutoring students specifically to achieve their desired score on this test. This preparation can include familiarizing students with the various test components, offering test-taking strategies, and providing feedback on practice tests.

Who takes the IELTS exam?

IELTS test takers tend to be young adults or working professionals, though their English level can vary from beginners to near-native speakers. Regardless, they all aim to achieve the highest IELTS “band score” (composite score on all four exam components) or at least surpass the minimum required by the country or institution they’re applying for. And because IELTS students will take this test with a specific goal in mind, you can expect their level of motivation and class participation to be high!

A test prep tutor, teaching online from home


Why should I specialize in teaching IELTS exam prep?

Making yourself visible in a sea of English teachers comes down to having an ESL teaching niche, a particular area of instruction in which you specialize. With the knowledge and skillset you possess in teaching a specific subject, your value and possibilities as an English teacher increase.

Make more money

As a freelance English teacher, expertise in IELTS exam prep can make it possible to charge a higher hourly rate, boosting your earning potential. IELTS exam prep tutors can earn anywhere from $25 to as high as $65 per hour, so specialization can definitely pay off.

Target specific students

Another advantage of teaching IELTS exam prep, especially as a freelance English teacher, is that you’re not casting a wide, general net in your search for new students. Instead, you’re able to zero-in on a specific type of student – one who wants to succeed at the IELTS. Therefore, you can narrow the places you advertise your tutoring services and you can send a targeted marketing message to your audience. Getting more students via word-of-mouth is also easier when you’re working with a very specific student demographic.

To learn how to launch and run a successful online tutoring business, check out Bridge’s Specialized Certificate: Teaching English Online as a Freelancer.

Broaden your job prospects

Because the IELTS exam is in high demand – over 2.5 million people around the world take this test every year – being a teacher who is certified and prepared to deliver preparation courses to students is a niche that can open many doors for you at language institutes worldwide. Be sure to highlight training/certification in teaching IELTS exam prep on your TEFL/TESOL resume, to really set yourself apart.

Teaching IELTS to a small group of students

An instructor teaching IELTS exam prep to a group of students


What qualifications are needed to teach IELTS exam prep?

Although there are no official prerequisites or license requirements to teach IELTS exam prep, most instructors have general TEFL/TESOL certification of 120 hours as well as previous English teaching experience.

Additional certification specific to teaching IELTS exam prep is not a requirement, but helps your online tutoring profile or teaching application stand out. TEFL/TESOL-certified or experienced teachers can add the free Bridge Micro-credential Course in Teaching IELTS Exam Prep to their resume, for example, to learn the skills needed for this niche and to get a competitive edge.

Acquire even more skills as a TEFL/TESOL teacher through the variety of tuition-free Micro-credential courses Bridge offers. 

Where can I teach IELTS exam prep?

If you want to be a globe-trotting ESL/EFL teacher with plenty of job opportunities worldwide, teaching IELTS exam prep is the way to go.

Global demand

You can find IELTS test centers in 140 countries, including places where demand for IELTS instructors is particularly high, such as Asian countries like China, South Korea, Thailand, and Japan. Another great option is working in the most popular destinations for international students, like the US, Canada, and Australia, during the academic year.

A variety of settings

While most IELTS instructor posts are offered in language schools, you can also teach for a short stint in colleges and universities. For instance, Iranian ESL teacher, Nasim, found an opportunity to teach IELTS prep in a college in Azerbaijan.

Options for freelancers

Alternatively, you can work as an independent tutor or, better yet, start your own business as a specialist in preparation for the IELTS and other certification exams like TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and CAE (Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English). You can offer in-person private classes or teach online.

IELTS teacher Nasim, from Iran, with her students

IELTS teacher Nasim, from Iran, with her students in Azerbaijan.


How are IELTS prep courses taught?

Depending on the school or the instructor, IELTS preparation courses can be taught in small groups, as a workshop for a greater number of test-takers, or in one-on-one tutoring sessions. While an IELTS prep course normally lasts for weeks, its length could also differ based on how it’s organized as well as the student’s English level and target test scores.

What would I teach in IELTS exam prep classes?

When you prepare students to take the IELTS exam, your first task is to familiarize yourself and your students on the exam and how it works.

  • As IELTS measures a student’s proficiency in various English skills, the test is divided into listening, reading, writing, and speaking sections.
  • Each section of the exam has different types of tasks.
  • The exam can be taken on paper or computer.
  • The exam duration is three hours, except for the speaking test, which is always conducted as a short face-to-face interview with a certified IELTS examiner.

IELTS exam preparation requires teaching your students strategies to ace each section, administering practice tests, and helping students manage their time effectively, especially in sections or tasks that may overwhelm test-takers easily.

Aside from equipping students with skills to master the test, you will also take on a dual role as an English teacher as you help them improve their English skills along throughout the process. For instance, you may need to review some grammar concepts that students struggle with or suggest resources to improve their vocabulary or writing style.

How can I get started teaching IELTS exam prep?

Teaching IELTS exam prep is a TEFL/TESOL specialization, meaning you first need a strong foundation in the methodology of teaching English as a foreign language. If you’re new to teaching, TEFL/TESOL certification of 120 hours, such as the Bridge Master Certificate, is highly recommended.

  • If you’re already a TEFL/TESOL-certified or experienced English teacher, take the first step in your specialized training by enrolling in the free Bridge Micro-credential Course: Teaching IELTS Exam course.
  • Get to know the test. Aside from getting acquainted with the exam format and scoring system, make sure that you also know the ins and outs of the test, which includes information about exam centers, registration dates, and costs.
  • Spread the word about your IELTS prep courses! You can do this by promoting yourself through online ads, social media, or word-of-mouth. Don’t forget to connect with ESL learners so you can build a network and get more recommendations for potential IELTS prep students.

Learn ways to use social media to get more English students as a freelancer.

You may choose to build a career as an IELTS exam prep instructor or simply tutor within this niche as a side gig to your regular job. Either way, having the training and skills to prepare students for success on the IELTS exam puts you head and shoulders above the crowd in this sought-after field.

Expand your professional possibilities with specialized skills in Bridge’s free, 20-hour Micro-credential course, Teaching IELTS Exam Prep.