Finding a good English language school to improve your language skills for studying abroad might be tricky especially because of the large preparation course offer and the high competitions. There are many very good schools with well-educated staff and language teachers that take their mission - to upgrade your English very seriously.
However, you want to make sure that the school or institute you choose offers high quality English language courses and meets your individual needs. This is essential if you want to get a good score on your IELTS English exam, pass the TOEFL and be well on your way to studying abroad at your dream university.
To make your search for the perfect language course easier, here are a few questions you should ask the institutes:
1. Does the English language school have the right accreditation?
The best English language schools worldwide are inspected by national or international accredited bodies that verify the quality and standard of teaching and all services and facilities. If you check the language school website, you will see if the school has any accreditation and you can also have a wider search, check out what the accrediting body stands for and what their accreditation means.
International accreditation bodies include:
- EQUALS (Evaluation and Accreditation of Quality in Language Services)
- IALC (International Association of Language Centres).
National accreditation bodies will be found for most languages of Europe. Some of the major ones include:
- The British Council in association with English UK (Accreditation UK)
- ABLS (Accreditation Body for Language Services)
- BALEAP (accreditation for English for Academic Purposes courses)
2. Do English teachers hold a teaching qualification?
Teachers and instructors play a key role in helping students acquire or improve foreign language skills. For this reason, their experience and qualifications are an important factor when you have to decide for the best language course.
However, sometimes this information may be a little difficult to find out. You can either contact the language centre and ask or check out reviews from students who attended the same school you intend to apply for.
Teachers’ qualifications are especially worth questioning if you plan to enrol in a summer language course, as schools sometimes hire temporary teachers that may have less experience than full-time members of staff.
3. What is the maximum group size for language classes?
Usually, language students prefer small class sizes, as they are likely to get more attention and thus, acquire language skills faster. Check the average and the maximum number of students the school accepts for your chosen English course. Between six and maximum ten students per class would be ideal, but you should also consider the fact that for small class sizes, language lessons tend to have a higher price.
Some universities have language centres that are also dedicated to language learners, including international students; courses are often cheaper than private language schools, but they always organize big size classes.
4. What kind of facilities are available to students?
For some language learners, facilities provided by the language school are more or less a relevant factor. You can have a look on the school website to see if they provide learning materials, offer the opportunity to use computers or have access to a library. Some language schools even have TV rooms, cafés, or relaxation areas where you can enjoy a break during or after language classes.
5. How will your progress be assessed?
A useful detail would be if you could find out if you will be given homework, have to pass a test at the end of your language learning course, or if you will be given any kind of certificate after you successfully complete your language programme.
In some language schools, you will first be assessed through a test that will check your proficiency level (placement test). Based on the results of this test, you will be matched with the proper language course, according to your level.
6. Is the school a recognized language testing centre?
Language schools that are also recognized or accredited language testing centres are only a few. If you want to attend language exam preparation courses (for IELTS, TOEFL, etc.) and take the exam at the same language centre, you will have to check if this thing is possible by contacting the English language school or see if the school provides this information on their official website.
7. Does the school offer any social and cultural activities to further improve your language skills?
Depending on each language school and specifically on the type of language programme you choose, some will also include various additional social or cultural activities, meant to help you immerse in the language you learn. Examples of activities include visits to local museums and other sites, dance classes, cooking lessons, scuba diving, etc., depending on the location of the language school.
Social and cultural activities are not only fun and entertaining, but they will also enhance your social language skills and if you attend an English language school in a foreign country, you will also learn a few things about the local culture.
If you prepare for admission at a British university and want to advance your English skills, ideally, you should choose an English language school located in the UK. You will get accustomed and achieve the British accent way faster and also get acquainted with British customs and traditions.
Choose the best English preparation course wisely
Much of this information will be provided on the individual school or course website, if not, don't hesitate to contact the school directly and ask for more information - ideally in written form. You may also ask the language school for the contact details of former students to get some informal advice about the English course. Always double check and do a thorough research in finding all the important details about the English language schools and the preparation course you wish to apply for.