Why IELTS test might be ideal for Vietnamese software developers
According to British Council, IELTS - International English Language Testing System is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration. “Yeah, it is popular, but what is it good for software developers?”, you may ask. My experience with it started from more than 8 years ago when I took an IELTS Academic course for that “higher education” purpose. While the education bit didn’t happen as I expected due to various reasons, the four listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills I learned from the course turned out to be very beneficial for my daily job as a software developer.
Listening is probably the skill that Vietnamese developers scare the most. Due to lack of practice, a fair amount of developers find it hard to hear any words from English-speaking foreigners, let alone understand them. In this regard, Let’s see what the IELTS listening test has to offer per British Council:
The IELTS Listening test is designed to assess a wide range of listening skills, including how well you
- Understand main ideas and specific factual information
- Recognise the opinions, attitudes and purpose of a speaker
- Follow the development of an argument
I hope you find those bullets relevant to your daily work instantly. The third bullet is interesting in the sense that I have seen many developers failed to argue with a client about a bad idea from them because they failed to follow the development of an argument.
In contrast to the listening skill, a majority of Vietnamese developers seem confident on their reading skills. Most of the CVs I have seen rate their listening skill at 2 out of 5 and their reading skill at 4 out of 5. It is true that reading is less challenging because readers have time to think, to read the words, and to look up for unknown words (plus the help of Google Translate!). So what is not true here? Let’s look at the skills that IELTS reading test requires:
The IELTS Reading test is designed to assess a wide range of reading skills, including how well you
- Read for the general sense of a passage
- Read for the main ideas
- Read for detail
- Understand inferences and implied meaning
- Recognise a writer’s opinions, attitudes and purpose
- Follow the development of an argument
In my opinion, most developers do fine with the first 3 bullets but not the last 3. In reality, any kind of documents from a client is not always crystal clear. Let’s look at an example: Hi team, After we fixed the application A to meet requirements from specification S, a customer is getting an error when connecting to our application which complains about invalid values of the A and B parameters. Please have a look. What does “please have a look” imply?
- Revert code.
- Change code to not validate A and B.
- Check specification and the error to find out what goes wrong and act accordingly?
Maybe the example is obvious, but I hope you get the point: more often than not you need to read between the lines to get what your customers imply.
Meanwhile, bullet #5 is very important for account managers who need to communicate with clients via emails or IRC. What do they really think about a situation? Are they happy or frustrated? What is the real purpose of the conversation?
The academic writing test is all about:
In Task 1 you will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram. You will be asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. This might involve describing and explaining data, describing the stages of a process or how something works, or describing an object or event. In Task 2 you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. You should find the issues interesting and easy to understand.
Needless to say, task 1 is useful when you need to write any kind of reports for your clients such as test status report, progress status report. In addition, making feature design or technical design definitely needs the skill from the “describing an object or event” part. Meanwhile, when you engage in a discussion with your clients, especially when you want to convince them about something, task 2 equips you with the \skills you need.
The examiner will want to see how well you can
- communicate opinions and information on everyday topics and common experiences; to do this you will need to answer a range of questions
- speak at length on a given topic using appropriate language
- organise your ideas coherently
- express and justify your opinions
- analyse, discuss and speculate about issues
The benefit for your daily job is obvious, no?
Not perfect, but do well
While IELTS, as any other English certificates, is never perfect, the skills that it trains test takers are pretty beneficial to software developers for their daily jobs. I would always recommend any developer to take an IELTS course if possible at all.