Preparing for your IELTS exam

Lots of people ask us about IELTS - an English qualification recognised by workplaces and academic institutions around the world. Here's a quick overview:

The IELTS exam is divided into FOUR parts:

Listening – a 30 minute test of 4 different recordings of increasing difficulty

Speaking – lasts between 11-14 minutes and has 3 sections which include short questions, a 1-2 minute prepared speech from a topic on a card, and some more general and hypothetical questions

Reading – 60 minutes and 3 sections and uses a variety of skills such as paragraph matching, general comprehension and true/false/not given statements

Writing – 60 minutes and 2 sections. The first task is writing at least 150 words describing a chart, graph, process or map. The second task is writing at least 250 words and is a "pros and cons" argument.

Learning English outside of the classroom

Our teachers are often asked by students for tips on how to learn English outside the classroom to help speed up their learning and practise their new skills in a natural environment.

So our very experienced and talented Director of Studies, Christian Tiplady, has put together a few helpful hints to help you hone your new skills and immerse yourself into learning English wherever you go.

Christian recommends:
Use apps such as memrise and quizlet to test your vocabulary and learn new words every day.

Develop your pronunciation by listening to audiobooks and repeat aloud whilst recording yourself- you can use your phone for this exercise.

Listen to language learning podcasts such as BBC 6 minute English or discussions on the radio to improve your listening skills.

Which exam is right for me?

Earning an exam qualification is a great way to increase your career prospects so it's important to choose the right one for you. At Castle School, we understand this decision can be daunting so here is some information about the exam classes we offer to help you decide:

At Castle School we offer exam preparation classes in FCE, CAE and IELTS. In these classes you will learn ways to read long texts, write in different styles and listen to longer audio pieces. You will learn about the exam and practise the best way to answer exam questions. Due to the advanced level, it is important that your English skills are suitable before you start your exam course.

What level do I need to be?

The FCE (First Certificate in English) is for students who have an upper-intermediate (B2) level of English.

Should I study English in a UK language school?

English lessons

There are lots of excellent English language schools in the UK. There are at least 20 in Brighton, a city on the south coast of England. It can cost you time and money to study English on an English language course for international learners. Therefore, you might ask the question “Is it possible to learn English without going to English lessons?”

Learn English naturally

Yes of course it is. No doubt thousands of people every year arrive in England with a very low English level and learn English “naturally”.  They speak to English people, work with English people, and eventually, they master English. You could too.

How to find the best language school in the UK

Excellent English schools

There are a lot of excellent English language schools in the UK. It is fantastic to have choices in life. However, this can also be quite confusing. So the question is: How do you choose choose the best English language school for you to study English at?

There are some very large organisations that own chains of language schools around the world. In most cases, they provide a good standard of teaching and other services such as accommodation and social activities.

However, there is one problem, they are often very expensive. If you have a lot of money and do not have much time to research other schools, then perhaps these schools would be ideal for you.

Do you need a "perfect" English Accent?

Perfect English in England

Students who want to learn English in England often want a "perfect" English accent. They don't want an accent from their first language. They believe their English learning journey will not be finished until they sound like a native speaker.

It is understandable that a lot of people have this attitude, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to perfect a skill. As a matter of fact, I am impressed when I meet someone whose English is at such a high level that I mistook them for being English at the start of our conversation. I always reflect on what an incredible achievement this is.

Learning English reading skills: Common mistakes.

Reading improves your writing, listening and speaking skills

The best way to improve your reading skills is to practise. You can do this on your own, and it would probably be helpful to join an English language school. English Language schools understand that reading is a very important part of learning English more generally. Improving your reading skills will actually help you improve your writing, your listening and even your speaking skills. It will also help you learn new vocabulary and develop a better feel for how sentences are constructed and the different ways English can be used.

Learn English in the UK – what to expect

There are different approaches to teaching English around the world. In some countries, especially for younger pupils in school, English lessons are a relatively quiet experience. There is a teacher at the front of the class explaining what words mean, and how they are used in sentences, and grammatical rules. The learners quietly take notes. There will be a test soon to check they were listening and have “learnt” the new English.

In the UK this teacher centred approach would be generally regarded as an old fashioned way of teaching English. If you book an English language course, including Cambridge examination courses such as The First Certificate Examination or Cambridge IELTS, at a language school in the UK, DO NOT expect to be taught in the way described above.

Is socialising and practising English important?

Is socialising and practising English important?

Yes, in fact socialising and practising English is necessary! Learning a language is not the same as learning something more factual like for example, history. When you learn history, you add information to your knowledge. To be very good at history, you simply need to know a lot about history.

So what is the difference between history and English (or any language)? To be good at a language, you have to know a lot about it and use it well! If you want to be good at English, you need to learn how to use it. Learning English is a develpmental process. What is the best way to learn how to use it? Practise! Practise! Practise!

Is learning English a good idea?

Yes of course it is!

It is good for your brain!

It improves your memory because it exercises the memory part of your brain when you learn new vocabulary and new grammar rules. It also enables you to think in a different way about the world because different languages express the world differently. Through learning a new language you can see the world through slightly different eyes.

Also, it is supposed to be very good for keeping your brain functioning like a young brain even if it is a bit old!