A recent report claimed that IELTS coaching is among the top-3 most searched education services in India. There seems to be a sudden surge in interest among Indians aspiring to seek academic and professional opportunities abroad.
The report by Just Dial claims that IELTS coaching searches grew by 83% across the country’s 1000 towns and cities, preceded by searches for Computer Training Institutes and Spoken English Classes.
The maximum demand for IELTS coaching and tutorials is being generated from Punjab wherein the searches in the four Punjab cities – Amritsar, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, and Ludhiana – were 30% higher than what was generated by Delhi, which topped the demand list followed by Ahmedabad and Hyderabad among the tier-I cities, it states.
The spike in demand for IELTS coaching is also in line with government data which suggests that after a huge 45% drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, the number of Indian students aiming for admission to foreign universities in 2021 was almost back to the pre-COVID data.
Piyush Kumar, regional director (South Asia), IDP Education, corroborates the trend, as he says, “With the receding number of Covid cases, IELTS queries have increased, and we see the demand for IELTS return to usual in the post-pandemic scenario. Our total IELTS volumes for India have grown by 10-15% as compared to data from the pre-Covid-19 days.”
Additionally, the demand for the test’s coaching has gone up by 56% in tier-II cities as compared to tier-I cities. Kumar attributes it to an increase in the number of overseas counselling services in small towns and cities.
“Though this depends entirely on the population spread among villages, students’ interest in studying abroad is rising in smaller cities and towns. We recently opened 23 omnichannel offices (study abroad counselling services) in tier-2 and tier 3 cities to cater to the rising demand. Today, the test is conducted in 74 locations in India, and with the increasing demand, we are planning to expand our presence with more test centres,” he adds.
Coaching on the rise
While earlier students planned their overseas education after PG, the trend has changed drastically with aspirants beginning the process right after school. “Since in tier 1 cities, the elementary and high school education is mostly in pure English and most of the students are from ICSE, CBSE, and International Boards, they may want to prepare on their own most of the time while students from tier 2 cities may need more specific guidance,” says Bharath Arvind, head, Overseas Education Counselling Services at Yocket.
“Increase in the test takers can also be attributed to the fact that the students are choosing countries other than the USA, such as Canada, the UK and Europe that have a better acceptance rate of IELTS than TOEFL or any other tests,” says Arvind, pointing to the fact that the number of people applying for PR (permanent resident visa) and express entry to countries like Canada has increased which also requires IELTS General Test.
“Since the Computer-based format of IELTS has been introduced, the results are delivered much faster as compared to TOEFL which has led to students making a beeline for the former,” he adds.
Despite the successive pandemic waves, the question pattern for the most part continues to be the same. At the height of the pandemic though, an IELTS indicator was introduced that allowed students to take the test from the safety of their homes, keeping in mind their inability to access the tests centres due to Covid prevention protocols. But the online test is no longer available.
Presently, there is no change in the question pattern and the testing mode. The exam is available in both paper-based and computer-delivered formats. There are four parts to the test – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking, which remain the same across both, Kumar adds.
“I have attempted both the paper-based format (in Hyderabad) and the computer-based test (in Bangalore) and found the latter easier as it takes less time to correct mistakes on the screen. The scores will help me apply for MBA programmes in the US and Canada,” said Praneetha Mayani, a working professional in Tirupati.
“While applying for MSc in International Business in the UK, I took IELTS and found the listening section tough. However, with practice, my scores went up. I took an online course and watched YouTube to brush up on my preparation skills,” said Shreya Varudkar, third-year BBA student, Nirma University Ahmedabad.
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