Be Careful Buying IELTS Materials

This is a public service announcement of sorts. Today I was looking at IELTS books on Amazon, and saw one that was so incredibly bad, I had to share. It cost more than $10, and yet even if it were free, it wouldn’t be worth looking at. 🤦

The book is called Teaching IETLS Manual. Yes, that’s right, IETLS. They misspelled IELTS!

Of course, anyone can make a typo (even if some are more embarrassing than others), so I looked inside to see if the book was worthwhile, in spite of having a misspelled title.

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When there’s a typo in the title, it’s a bad sign.

Inside, it was even worse. It has clearly been written by people with a poor grasp of the English language. It isn’t just a few mistakes… The book is written in horrible English!

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Bad English in IELTS Books

The English in those sections above is atrocious. I want to warn all IELTS students to be careful when buying materials online because this is common. You should not attempt to learn from people who are not expert users. The level of writing in this book is probably no more than band 5!

They say that all practice is good practice, but if you are following a misguided teacher, you may not advance very far. Please rely upon trustworthy books. The ones by companies such as Cambridge are more likely to have been professionally written and edited.

I wrote a list of good books for studying IELTS here and another for teaching IELTS here.

The Trouble with Amazon

I believe that small publishers and self-publishing are great but there is always the risk of some unqualified person writing a book, or not hiring a competent editor. Many ebooks are published every day by people who think they have written a masterpiece, but which is in fact riddled with mistakes.

Be especially wary of:

  • anyone offering you guaranteed results
  • ridiculous promises
  • words like “secret”
  • clickbait titles

Watch out for reviews. If a book has bad reviews, read them carefully. Sometimes people get angry because they didn’t do well in their exam, and they may unfairly review a book as 1-star. Other times, the publisher pays for good reviews. If a book has many 5-star reviews shortly after its release date, they might be fake.

On the other hand, you can look out for some signs that a book might be reliable. First off, look for the publisher. Do you know the company? (Generally speaking, a university press should be reliable.) Is the author highly respected? Are there any endorsements by other authors or publications?

Let’s look at IELTS Success Formula General for an example. It is written by Simone Braverman, who runs www.IELTS-Blog.com. This is a pretty well-known site. You can look at her work on the website and decide if you trust it enough to pay for her actual book.

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Here, we can see some endorsements. This doesn’t mean that the book is 100% reliable, but it is a good sign. A review from an industry publication would be nice to see, or a major journal or newspaper. However, the fact that you can visit her website and check out what else she has written is important.

Looking down to the review section, we can see there are many positive reviews:

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Always check the reviews.

You should read the reviews carefully before making a purchase. Sometimes the negative reviews will tell you more than the positive ones. In this case, the reviews seem overwhelmingly positive. Be aware that not all positive reviews are truthful, but with so many I think this should be a reliable book.

Sometimes, though, a book is quite new and has no reviews. Does that mean it’s good or bad? Neither. It means you have to do more research. Look at the sample Amazon gives out for free. (You can see that by clicking the book cover.) You can find out what else the author has written.

A Final Word on Buying IELTS Books on Amazon

If you type “IELTS” into Amazon, you will be given a list of more than 4,000 books! On Kindle, it’s almost 800. You have so many to choose from, but honestly, most of them are terrible. Even a quick look at the title and cover can tell you that little thought has gone into writing them.

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IELTS Kindle books.

IELTS has become a big business, and a lot of people are cynically trying to make money from students. Do your research and only buy IELTS materials from trustworthy sources.

I personally give my ebook away for free because I know that many of the people who come to my website cannot afford to pay for it. I also make it available on Amazon so that if people can afford it, they can buy a copy. If even a few people per month buy the book, it can cover the cost of running this website – which is also free to use.

It’s Not Just Books…

A few months ago I made this video:

As you can see from the thumbnail, it was inspired by a clickbait video from another YouTuber. (I will not link her video because I don’t want her to get more traffic.) She posted a terrible, terrible, terrible video that promised users a high score in IELTS by using 5 magical words. What a ridiculous claim! Moreover, she mispronounces the words, and so not only is she giving a false claim, but she is teaching bad English!

It is now one of the most frequently watched videos on YouTube for IELTS, with 1.7 million views!!! It makes me so sad and angry that people watch this nonsense.😠

Even though it is free to view YouTube videos, please don’t waste your time with stupid advice from unqualified people. You will slow down your learning process and perhaps even adopt bad habits that will reduce your IELTS score.

Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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