Settle down, this will be a little bit of a learning process so you can become an expert at flying with an active approach controller.
This is taken from section 10.1.1 of the public IFATC manual:
Although the radar position and its responsibilities are vast, fundamentally, there are three
main objectives. These are:
- Providing aircraft & terrain separation
- Reducing tower controller workload
- Getting aircraft to their destination as expeditiously as possible
There are currently 3 types of services that a radar controller can provide you that involve you being vectored to the airport. ILS approach, visual approach, and Radar Vectors.
When you request an ILS approach, the controller will give you vectors to the runway. Once you are nearing the runway, the controller will clear you for the approach. This includes an intercept heading and altitude. You will follow these instructions until you intercept the ILS Localizer and glideslope.
For an in-depth tutorial, check out this video.
A visual approach is different than an ILS approach when it comes to the final stages of clearance and execution. Similar to an ILS approach, the controller will vector you towards the airport and put you in a leg of the pattern. When you are relatively close to the airport, the controller will tell you to “report airport in sight”. Once you see the airport, simply report to the controller that you can see it and you will be cleared for a visual approach. At that point, you proceed to the airport using visual air rather than a localizer or glideslope.
This is slightly different than other approaches. The controller will vector you into the VFR leg of a pattern. Once you are on this leg, the controller will hand you over to the tower controller/UNICOM.
Also check out this video:
I hope this helps you understand what approach can do in terms of services! Approach can also do much more, such as VFR flight following and flight following to a destination. For your purposes though, I believe I covered the main 3 needed to understand what approach does.
Enjoy, and good luck! Please ask any questions you may have.