As the image above suggests, the Internet is now a medium where one source can affect many others, doing both much good, and much damage. Anyone but anyone can now posture as an ‘IELTS expert’; anyone but anyone can now post whatever they like, for better or worse.
So, when I correct students’ essays at the beginning of my writing courses, and see how they have tried to use my approach, but have fallen back to the bad approaches from other sources (now mostly online), I ask that student, ‘Who is this person whose advice you are following?’ The students usually shrug their shoulders. When I ask, ‘So, why do you trust their advice?’, they say, ‘Everyone says he’s good.’ Hmmmmm.
Before beginning, here are three quick tips.
If the source claims they are an IELTS Examiner, or ex-IELTS Examiner, BE CAREFUL.
The first point is that being an IELTS examiner does not necessarily mean the person is a good writer. Examiner status does not mean as much as you might think [Are you surprised by this?]. As with all professions, there are varying degrees of (1) intelligence, (2) experience, (3) competence, and (4) ethics/honesty. So, do not be particularly ‘impressed’ if the source is an IELTS examiner.
The second point is that a person who claims examiner status, or ex-status, is using this title arrogantly to pretend they are someone they are not. It is a danger sign. It could mean they are low on the (1) – (4) aspects previously mentioned.
The final point is that Cambridge have strict rules stating that examiners must never use their examiner status, or ex-status, for marketing purposes. Thus, the author who claims this status is either (1) lying about it, or (2) acting unprofessionally. Either way, is this a person you should trust?
If the source gives ‘model’ answers, claiming an IELTS mark: for example, ‘This is an IELTS 8’, BE CAREFUL.
Many times, students have come to me with printed answers, saying, ‘The author says it’s an IELTS 8’. I look at the pieces of strangely-written text, and I rub my chin in confusion. Remember, only IELTS Examiners give ‘real’ band scores, and examiners are not allowed to give marks outside of a real IELTS situation, and any judgement is subjective. Always keep in mind that (1) anyone can write anything and claim an IELTS band score – but it is arrogant and misleading to do so, and (2) such an approach encourages memorisation – the ‘copy that answer, and you will receive the same mark’ approach.
This approach could only be possible if there is justification, explanation, and explicit references to the public version of the IELTS band descriptors to try to prove why such a judgement has been made – that is, if the claim is part of a longer and more detailed explanatory piece – and it usually isn’t.
‘But everyone says he’s really good’.
Remember, if 100 people follow the advice of some online IELTS ‘name’, and 99 receive bad IELTS marks, while 1/100 receive a good mark (simply because he or she is good at English), the 99 people say nothing, while that one person gives feedback, saying, ‘[Online IELTS ‘name’] is really good. Thank you for helping me get an IELTS [band score]‘.
If that online IELTS ‘name’ becomes popular enough, the number of ‘Thank you for helping me get an IELTS [band score]‘ comments build up, while the hundreds who were not helped, or badly hurt, say nothing. So, remember, ‘But everyone says he’s really good’ does not mean ‘everyone’; it can mean 1/100.
The old rules (once again) apply: be skeptical, be critical, demand proof! Be aware of all the danger signs. Check the credentials of any source (if they are given), and don’t believe words alone without some solid proof, as I have given in this website [Click here to see my credentials, and proof of them, once again].