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Focus on IELTS Foundation Level

Sue O’Connell
Pearson Longman, 2006
ISBN: 0-582-82912-7

The International English Language Testing service (IELTS) test, for many students, remains the gateway to academic study in the UK and Australia. The test is skills based and requires a sound knowledge of language as used in either a general or academic context.

Focus on IELTS Foundation is an addition the to wide range of publications designed to help learners prepare for the academic version of the exam, which involves academic reading and writing modules, though many of the materials and tasks would also assist those aiming for the general version. The Foundation Level is designed as a preliminary to a full IELTS course, and provides a balance of skills development and graded language practice taking the learner to a mid to upper intermediate level.

The book begins with a useful overview of the test, providing an awareness of the exam, which is maintained throughout the book through ‘exam link boxes’. Subsequent units are based on themes ranging from careers and family values to communications and architecture Each unit includes a graded text, varied skills development tasks and ‘key structures’ and ‘ quick check’ boxes to highlight grammar points. The ‘key language practice bank’ provides extra support and practice in both grammar and vocabulary.

At first glance, this is a solid exam preparation course, however there are some features worthy of note. Vocabulary is particularly well dealt with, concentrating on lexis from the Academic Word List, which is then integrated into writing and speaking tasks. The reading and listening texts are well selected, being challenging but not daunting and introducing an appropriate amount of vocabulary. Writing, often the most difficult academic skill for learners to develop is sensibly presented through guided tasks and model answers. Each unit also contains a section on ‘DIY’ learning strategies, designed to encourage self-study. The book is attractively designed, well laid out and user friendly.

The Foundation Level Coursebook comes as part of a package that also includes a teacher’s book and audio CDs or cassettes. A separate ‘Focus on Skills’ book is also available at the same level.

Judging by the coursebook alone, a sensible choice for any learner beginning to prepare for an important international examination.