Does Road to IELTS really make a difference?

by | 21 September 2021

The Road to IELTS project started in 2006. Over 40m study sessions later, how do we know the program really has helped IELTS test takers achieve the band score they need?

From December 2020 to March 2021, Clarity ran a detailed survey of users of the Last Minute and Full Versions of Road to IELTS to find out whether the program meets their expectations. The Last Minute Version is provided free of charge to all candidates who register for IELTS with the British Council. The Full Version, which has about four times more content, is a subscription service available at Here are the five outcomes of the survey which relate most closely to the key objectives of Road to IELTS.

1. Ease of use

We’ve all downloaded an app — perhaps a government health app, or a banking app — wrestled with it for a quarter of an hour and then given up and deleted it. Road to IELTS is for independent study, so it’s essential that it’s intuitive and easy-to-use. The survey told us that:
– 96% of respondents found the access instructions were simple and easy to follow.

2. Test familiarisation

The biggest challenge in IELTS is understanding the task types: IELTS tasks are unlike anything candidates have encountered in their school English exams. Test takers need to get their heads around the concept of Yes / No / Not given or Matching Headings to Paragraphs well before they try to tackle these task types in the test itself. So this was perhaps the most important finding:
– 96% of users agree that Road to IELTS helped them to understand the format and the requirements of IELTS.

3. Boosting confidence

It’s well established that anxiety has a negative impact on exam performance. (Read more about it in this post on stress management for IELTS test takers.) So a key question was whether Road to IELTS has a positive impact on confidence. The survey showed that:
– 89% of users feel more confident about the IELTS test after practising with Road to IELTS.

4. Coverage of all four skills

It is clearly easier to simulate the Reading and Listening papers than the Writing (there’s no human marking in Road to IELTS) and the Speaking (there’s no interlocutor). It is therefore important to know the extent to which users feel they have been helped in the productive skills — or do they feel they have been short-changed? In fact the level of satisfaction was remarkably similar across the whole program:
– 91% of users find the content of the Speaking section helps them to prepare for IELTS Speaking.
– 95% of users find the content of the Writing section helps them to prepare for IELTS Writing.
– 94% of users find the content of the Listening section helps them to prepare for the IELTS Listening.
– 93% of users find the content of the Reading section helps them to prepare for the IELTS Reading.

5. British Council customer care

For test takers, IELTS is a significant commitment both financially and in terms of the time required to prepare for the test and to sit it. Achieving the band score they need is often life-changing. That’s why as an organisation the British Council sees its role not just as providing the test, but also as supporting the test taker. As co-publisher, the British Council therefore needs to know that this is understood. We found that:
– A little over three quarters of respondents said Road to IELTS is one of the reasons why they are taking IELTS with the British Council.

Outcomes from users of the Last Minute Version and the Full Version were broadly the same across the entire survey.

It’s a little frustrating that data protection restrictions have prevented us from tracing Road to IELTS users through from their initial registration to their test result. That would have given us a wealth of data to mine and interpret. Imagine what we could have done with data from over 40m learning sessions! We do, however, have access to anonymised usage statistics, and we are able to conduct surveys like the one described here. This data consistently tells us that test takers find Road to IELTS to be an well-designed, practical and genuinely useful resource.

You can find out more about the institutional version of Road to IELTS here.

Andrew Stokes, Publisher, ClarityEnglish

Andrew Stokes, Publisher, ClarityEnglish