This qualification, administered through University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and British Council, is an essential requirement for overseas pupils wishing to study at UK universities or in other countries where English is the first language. As such it is expected that all overseas pupils will take it. The IELTS course not only prepares pupils for the examination with tasks that require realistic skills useful for university; it also helps pupils improve their overall level of English which underpins their other A-level subjects.
IELTS is a public examination and is taken off site, at a local university, typically in the Summer term of the Lower Sixth. Entry for the exam is facilitated by the Head of EAL who will accompany pupils to the exam centre.
The exam consists of Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking papers, graded individually and combined to give an overall score. The scores are reported on a 9 band scale with 1 being the lowest and 9 the highest. Each UK or overseas university has its own minimum entry requirement. The exam’s validity expires after two years, meaning that it must be taken no more than two years before the pupil starts at university.
At Mill Hill, there is a two-track system for this exam.
The vast majority of Lower Sixth pupils will do a one year course with three lessons per week covering the main skills, as well as lessons focussed on grammar and vocabulary. The course uses a variety of material and course books. Pupils are expected to be pro-active, independent learners. Lower Sixth overseas pupils will take the IELTS Preparation course in addition to three A-level courses and should expect to do the same amount of prep and independent study outside of the classroom as they do for their other subjects. They will take the IELTS examination at the end of the academic year.
For those who have taken IELTS before or who already have an IGCSE/GCSE English (first lan-guage) grade B or above there is a possibility of attending the Fast Track Programme. This runs from September as part of the Activities programme and is every Saturday morning in the first half of term with a view to taking the exam in the second half. If it is felt that a pupil on the Fast Track Programme is unlikely to achieve the band they need for their university of choice they will be asked to return to the main course.
After completing the IELTS course in the pupils continue to be supported with their English in the Upper Sixth with one English lesson a week. This is to ensure the maintenance of their level of English, essential for their future university life and career, and to give them an opportunity to ask for help with English for their A-level subjects.