Regional grand prize winner’s video

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Last year, IELTS Prize was awarded to more than 30 test takers from the East Asia* region to pursue their study dreams in their chosen destination. Read their stories below to learn about their path to becoming an IELTS Prize winners and get inspired to make your mark!

* Participating countries/territories include: Hong Kong & Macau, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

IELTS Prize winners 2018/19

Explore past winners’ stories.

Regional First Prize Winner

Dillon Chew Wei Xuan

M.Phil in Biotechnology, University of Cambridge

With the original intention to simply do my best, it was a great surprise when I was informed to attend the regional interview, and then ultimately chosen as a regional winner from the East Asia region. I am deeply honoured and grateful to the British Council for recognising my potential and providing such an opportunity for me to develop myself further. Through the graduate program at the University of Cambridge, I hope to deepen my perspectives and contribute to biotechnological research in the areas of fuels, chemicals and drug production to develop technologies which would help in creating a sustainable future. Being able to study abroad is a privilege, and thus I truly appreciate the financial support from the IELTS Prize provided by the British Council which enable me to fulfil my aspirations.

Upon completion of the IELTS test, I received an email from the British Council regarding applications for the IELTS Prize. Compared to other scholarships available in my home country, the IELTS prize is an award that would allow me to keep my options open, explore my interests freely and stay flexible for whatever I want to pursue in my future career. The selection process consisted of a personal statement essay, followed by two rounds of interviews for the local round and regional round respectively. Although the interview questions might have been a little tough, the interviewers were professional and friendly and often encouraged me to share more about my experiences and aspirations with them. In all, I have no regrets in applying for the IELTS prize.

With top universities requiring applicants to demonstrate a high level of competence in the English language, I ultimately chose to apply for the IELTS because it is a globally recognised English Proficiency test which is not only convenient to the test taker but also an accurate assessment of your language ability. The registration process is designed to bring convenience; I signed up online for the computer-delivered IELTS which offered me flexibility in test dates and venues. For the younger generation, typing on a keyboard might be a lot faster than writing on paper, and thus I believe that the computer-delivered test was an advantage which I could put to good use. Nonetheless, the speaking component was still carried out face to face with an examiner, and I believe that this form of assessment is a much fairer one. To sum up, I received the results within a week through SMS, and the hardcopy was mailed to my home address. By and large, the overall experience is a really pleasant one, and I was delighted with every aspect of the test.

Taking IELTS has allowed me to realise the importance of having a strong command of the English language, especially in our globalised world today. With the English language being the lingua franca of the academic and business world, it is increasingly crucial that we master this language such that we can be well understood in nearly every corner of the world. On a personal note, I found that preparing for the IELTS also changed the way I speak for the better, as I now constantly remind myself to speak clearly and confidently on all occasions, be it formal or casual. 

For students who are planning to take IELTS, I hope that the following advice will be of help. First, I believe that being familiar with the test format is extremely important as it will help with time management and more importantly, limit the number of surprises you may encounter, thus helping to reduce any test-taking anxiety. For instance, get to know the type of questions, which reading passages to expect and also the topic areas that you may encounter during the writing section. Secondly, make full use of the resources available in print and on the Internet. During my preparation, I found a large number of practice materials on the web that have been made available for free by the British Council. These include free practice tests, eBooks, tutorial videos and even mobile apps for you to practice on the go. Using these resources will not only help you understand your weak areas but also give you a better idea of what to expect for each component of the test. Feedback is also provided which would allow you to tackle each component with confidence. Lastly, practice makes perfect – practising is especially important for the speaking component as you may not have the luxury of time to think as compared to the other sections. I would suggest practising with a friend, parent or even a teacher as you will be having a conversation with an actual person during the test. For the test day, stay calm, believe in yourself and do your best. With adequate preparation, I believe that you will definitely reap what you sow!

For those of you who are reading this, I hope that you feel inspired to take up the IELTS as your choice for an English Proficiency Test and also apply for the IELTS Prize if you can do so. IELTS is not just any ordinary exam; it thoroughly prepares you and opens the door to help you study, live or work almost anywhere around the world.

Regional Second Prize Winner

Praveena Mahadevan

MSc Public Health, University of London, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Finding out that I had won the IELTS prize was a little overwhelming and felt somewhat unreal at first. Mainly because pursuing a Masters in Public Health is something I have wanted to do ever since I was in medical school, and now with the IELTS Prize, I can make it a reality. It’s also humbling to know that the British Council felt my interests and goals were worthy of their support, and this has given me a boost of confidence in myself and my capabilities.

After completing the IELTS test I received an email about the IELTS Prize. I felt that it was different from other scholarships that were available because the focus of the prize seemed a lot more personal. Interviews are always nerve-wracking, and despite attending my fair share over the years, I went in for my IELTS Prize interview nervous and a bit unsure of what to expect. I was put at ease immediately as the vibe from the get-go was friendly and welcoming. Throughout the entire process, I felt like I was having a conversation with people who genuinely wanted to get to know me. I thought that I did not have to worry too much about whether I provided the “right” answers - I just needed to be myself. This has definitely been one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had so far for an interview. 

I chose to take IELTS with the British Council because it was convenient and straightforward. Not only did they have more dates available for a computer-based test, but I could do everything online from registration to preparing for the test with ease. On the days of my test, I found the staff to be friendly, organised and efficient, ensuring that the test went on smoothly.


It was the second time I had sat for the IELTS test, the first being when I applied for my undergraduate medical degree. Aside from being familiar with the test format, I chose IELTS because it is widely accepted around the world by many universities. It is recognised for professional exams and also for memberships and registration with professional regulatory bodies. I also believe that the IELTS test, with its individual components, assesses my language abilities across a range of skills. This was especially important for me as I was a bit insecure about my writing skills. I have been away from academic writing for some years, and it is a skill I will need not only for the academic tasks associated with my Masters but is a requirement for a career in any field.

So, even though I do consider myself to be a native speaker of English, I definitely still needed to prepare for the test. I predominantly utilised the Road to IELTS online course which provides access to videos, sample tests and answers. I found the sample answers with their respective grades, useful in understanding how the exam was scored and how to approach the test. It also made me aware of some bad habits I have picked up over the years and served as an excellent refresher of the basics and highlighted how to construct my essays better. I also found it particularly helpful to utilise the sample exams as a timed mock prior to the actual test. I did this specifically for the writing components, as I have not had to write a non-medical essay in over a decade, so part of the difficulty for me was coming up with ideas and planning my essays in a short period of time. For those preparing for the IELTS test, I recommend using the online preparation course and the materials provided. I also believe that practice is crucial. Do attempt as many tests within the time limit as possible, so you get a real feel for the test and know how to manage your time. 

Regional Third Prize Winner

Phyo Thura Htay

MSc Chemical Engineering, National University of Singapore

I am genuinely delighted and grateful for being awarded the IELTS Prize. I have long dreamed of studying abroad at a prestigious university, and winning the Prize has enabled me to pursue a Master’s degree at the National University of Singapore. There are many applicants across East Asia who have great passion and enthusiasm towards their academic endeavours, and so I feel humbled to be selected by the British Council to be counted amongst those bright young minds and truly proud to represent Myanmar.

I will be studying Chemical Engineering, which is an urgently needed discipline in an emerging economy. Often hailed as universal engineers, chemical engineering lies at the core of the industrial processes, and for me in particular, I will be focusing on food processing, manufacturing and safety parameters. ‘Food diplomacy’ has propelled our regional peers to be export economies on the global food shelves. Upon my return, I am determined to drive Myanmar on a similar path and beyond.

Each step of the IELTS Prize selection process was a thrilling yet rewarding experience. It allowed me to reflect on my motivations and lifelong aspirations regarding academia, professionalism and nation-building. The interviewers, both at the local and regional stages, were incredibly kind, understanding and supportive. I managed to reach out to previous years’ winners and took sufficient time in preparation, which allowed me to articulate my responses thoroughly. Compared to other scholarships, the British Council IELTS Prize aims to empower and elevate the winners rather than pose certain restrictions on the awardees. It also grants me the opportunity to serve as an IELTS Ambassador, which is a big boost in confidence for my English proficiency.

It was my first attempt taking the IELTS. I heard that some people struggled with the test, and to be honest, I was not entirely sure if I would do well. However, the process went really smoothly, from registration and pre-test arrangements to post-test follow up. I was clearly informed about the registration procedures, appointments for the speaking test, and also the instructions for the listening, reading and writing components were concise. I had a chance to practise with Word Power and IELTS Prep, both of which are mobile apps developed by the British Council to help the test takers efficiently practise IELTS anytime, anywhere.

I am pleased that IELTS is recognized by a wide range of academic institutions as proof of English proficiency. Universities have a specific set of requirements on an individual’s skills, and the IELTS scores are a simple quantification of such requirements. The test results are also a validation of one’s capacity in English within the workplace and other socio-cultural encounters. While preparing for the test, IELTS practice tests are a great source for improving English proficiency; and at the same time, a great platform to be introduced to various occasions that students might face in an English-speaking society, ranging from telephone reservations to academic lectures. 

For future test takers, I would highly encourage them to be calm and focused. This is especially useful for the speaking test where the examiner may seem strict and direct. That doesn’t mean that you should be similarly formal; while still keeping the academic tone, you can try to have a casual, light, natural conversation with them. Smile often and let your personality shine. For the listening and speaking tests, I would advise not to overthink and keep the answers straightforward. Lastly, for the writing test, you must be familiar with the common formats for Task 1, and you must be able to pick up the nuances in the statement to give an accurate response.

Hong Kong

Tracy Lok Yiu Tang

Bachelor of Veterinary Science (Honours), University of Queensland

I feel incredibly grateful to be chosen as an IELTS Prize winner and IELTS ambassador. Not only will the prize be a great help for my studies as a veterinary science student, contributing to both my tuition fees, travelling costs and living expenses for external placements. It is also a great honour to take on the role as an IELTS ambassador, knowing that I will have the opportunity to share my IELTS journey and study experience, hopefully inspiring and helping others who are unsure of their abilities or uncertain about their options and opportunities.

The selection process of the IELTS Prize has inspired me to reflect a lot on my journey. Especially how continuously improving my English proficiency has opened doors and led to some wonderful opportunities and memories. Compared to other scholarships that I have applied for, the IELTS prize emphasis is more about my views and experiences, especially on how I can make use of this opportunity as a prize winner and ambassador rather than focusing solely on academic merit. I have thoroughly enjoyed my interviews and cannot wait to meet and work with the interviewers again.

My experience of taking the IELTS test with the British Council was smooth and straight forward; from registering, preparing for the tests, arrangements made during the tests, and to accessing my test results. Everything was arranged quickly and efficiently. The well-organised in-test arrangement certainly played a big role in ensuring that every candidate would be able to do their best and for me personally this was an important factor contributing to my great overall experience, especially as I am usually quite nervous during tests. Getting the results were quick and easy, which is essential for candidates who need to submit their results to universities as soon as possible.

I have taken the IELTS test twice. I chose IELTS over other English proficiency tests the first time after completing Grade 10 because I didn’t know where I would be applying for university. IELTS is recognised by universities all over the world, including the most popular ones in the US, UK and Australia. Taking the IELTS meant that I would be able to keep my options open regardless of the language courses, universities and majors I chose afterwards. When I was taking my second IELTS test, I chose IELTS again as I had learnt from my previous experience that the test would be able to help me immensely in both daily and professional contexts. As a veterinary student, IELTS has strengthened my English ability and given me the confidence to interact with my colleagues. I have been able to fully enjoy my experience on campus in Australia, to communicate with clients and mentors during placements, and to read scientific research articles efficiently for assignments.

In terms of improving my English proficiency, I have learnt from my own experience that you always improve the most when you fully immerse yourself into an English-speaking environment for a long period of time. Especially when you can communicate and interact with other people in English outside the classroom environment. In terms of preparing for the test, apart from doing practice tests, there are other ways I found useful. Especially when the test was approaching, listening to podcasts, watching news reports or documentaries, reading short stories or articles from authors with distinctly different styles, and in the end writing my reviews or analysis of what I had listened to, watched or read, helped my preparation in acing the test. I also find reading what I have written out loud helpful when it comes to improving my speaking and writing ability.

Hong Kong

Johnny Chun Lai Pun

Guildhall Artist Masters in Performance, Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Winning the IELTS Prize was an incredible surprise for me, and without a doubt, it is one of my greatest achievements. Due to the intensely competitive nature of music as a subject, it has been challenging to acquire funding to sponsor my musical endeavours. Apart from the obvious aid it gives to the financial side of things, the Prize will also serve as an encouraging acknowledgement of my hard work and passion for both English and Music. With the proper knowledge and qualifications, I want to help promote music learning and appreciation in Hong Kong through community outreach programs.

I first found out about the IELTS Prize through the promotional leaflet that came with my test results. I discovered one of the biggest and best differences between the IELTS Prize and other prestigious scholarships is that the British Council considers people from all walks of life for the Prize, as opposed to some other scholarships that choose only to focus on applicants from a particular discipline. The requirements for the prize application are reasonably easy to meet, a decision which I believe the British Council has cleverly made in order to benefit as many people as possible.

IELTS is one of the most widely recognised English language proficiency tests and is accepted by many reputable universities and companies in English-speaking countries, which is why a lot of people want to do well in the test. Although there are numerous organisations that provide support and services for IELTS, choosing to take the test with the British Council was ultimately a natural choice for me to make. It was a hassle-free experience to register and check the test results online, not to mention the complimentary “Road To IELTS” online exercise which was perfect for someone like me who wanted to prepare for the test but did not want to break the bank to buy various guides and mock papers. On the day of the test, I remember being amazed by how professional and efficient the staff members were. Their friendly attitude also helped calm my nerves, and before long, I found myself leaving the test venue satisfied!

As a newly appointed IELTS Ambassador, I do have a few tips that I would like to share to help others do better in their IELTS test. A lot of people in Hong Kong are probably worried about the speaking section of the test, thinking they could never get a good score because they don’t have perfect English or can’t speak with a good English accent. To these people, I would say that their concerns have been misplaced. While these factors are accounted for, they carry less weight than you would believe. The most important thing is to be calm during the test and speak as naturally as possible. In the end, it is more of a friendly chat than an interrogation - the examiners don’t need you to be a search engine for them, they just want to assess how you would fare in a daily casual conversation, so just head into the room with a smile on your face and enjoy the test!

Hong Kong

Cindy Qiaolin Sun

BA Illustration and Visual Media, University of the Arts London

I am thankful to the British Council for selecting me as an IELTS Prize winner. Not only does this prize support me financially, but it has also given me a huge confidence boost in my English abilities and encouraged me to reach my goal of becoming a successful graphic designer and illustrator based in London. The IELTS Prize is also a reminder of the passion, dedication and perseverance I had at the beginning of my journey. As an IELTS ambassador in collaboration with the British Council, I hope my experience and advice can inspire future candidates to follow their passion and achieve their goals in an English environment.

I first heard about the IELTS Prize through the leaflet that came in the envelope with my test results. Since the cost of living and tuition are relatively expensive in London, I was excited to take this opportunity as a way of relieving the financial burden on my parents. To me, the most impressive part of the selection process was being interviewed, in-person, by the IELTS panel. At first, I was nervous and unsure what to present about my university and course choice, but I quickly realised it was an excellent way for the panellists to understand my passion as well as me as an individual. In the end, I specifically drew a series of illustrations to depict each step of my journey as an illustrator for the live interview as it conclusively demonstrated both my dedication to the arts and my determination to earn the prize.

I chose to take the IELTS test because IELTS is internationally recognised and accepted by many universities. Every part of it, from pre-test to post-test, was smooth and straightforward. The preparatory materials on the IELTS website, such as mock questions and mock tests were especially helpful in getting me ready for the actual test. The design of the test venue and facilities were highly professional and considerate as these gave me sufficient personal space to fully concentrate on the test questions. Overall, I had a great experience with the British Council and was delighted by their service.

I studied first in China and then in Hong Kong for secondary school, so IELTS gave me the perfect opportunity to confirm my English ability to study abroad for an undergraduate degree. Most of the test questions also mimic real-life situations such as navigating through maps and answering phone calls, so the test prepares you for life in an English environment.

The Illustration and Visual Media course I applied to specifically asked for an IELTS result and the high score I achieved made my application stand out amongst the other applicants. Therefore, I would highly recommend anyone thinking of studying abroad to take the IELTS test to improve their English while meeting their university requirement.

Even though the idea of a timed English test may seem overwhelming at first, with sufficient practice and training beforehand, you will be absolutely fine. The mock tests, practice resources, and free online training provided by the British Council helped me immensely in preparing for the test. I also started reading news and journal articles about a range of subjects a month or two before the test to train my reading comprehension skills. Practising is a must, but most importantly, it is vital to make sure you feel relaxed and confident on your test day. Good luck!

Indonesia

Andrea Feraldho

MSc Clinical and Public Health Nutrition, University College London

To have other people believe in your dreams is not to be taken for granted. I am both humbled and grateful to the British Council Foundation Indonesia for believing in me. I was not expecting to get shortlisted, let alone to win a prize because there were so many applicants whom I believe also did well. Nonetheless, by winning the IELTS Prize I feel even more motivated and focused on turning my goal into reality. I have always been interested in studying Clinical and Public Health Nutrition, and I hope I can influence people to make better nutrition choices and also help them to be aware of how nutrition affects our long-term health and its role in maximizing the physical and mental growth of children. I cannot wait to come home after my studies with knowledge that will benefit the development of my country.

I heard about IELTS Prize through an email sent by the British Council in December. It was very interesting because the British Council is providing a full scholarship to the winner. So, I thought I would give it a try by submitting my IELTS Test Report Form and my personal statement. The most exciting part about this process is how much the examiners wanted to get to know me in person and understand my goals. They asked personal questions about what I would enjoy doing in the UK other than studying, and how I could present myself as an ambassador. This showed that the British Council was not only concerned with my studies and any future contribution to my country, but also my personal growth, and how I could use this opportunity to inspire people to study abroad and see the world.

The test experience with the British Council went smoothly. To begin with, the British Council provides many test dates and accessible venues all over Jakarta and elsewhere in Indonesia. As the test was quite challenging, being able to do it near home eliminated any unnecessary stress like travel issues. The registration was easy, everything was online, and it took less than 10 minutes to complete. The test was also well-coordinated and took place on time. The audio was very clear with no technical issues and we were provided with more than enough stationery during the exam. The British Council made sure that we did not need to worry about anything else other than the test.

IELTS evaluates the 4 basic language skills very thoroughly. These basic skills are very much needed not only in academic life but also in daily life. It is no wonder that many universities acknowledge IELTS as their language qualification upon admission. The listening and speaking components introduce many different English accents, therefore helping us get used to communicating with people from different places. The academic reading component was also very educational, providing articles we might be given as a university student. It introduced us to how complex the reading material might be when pursuing a masters degree. It also enhanced our skimming and scanning skills that would be very useful during our study. The writing component evaluated our ability to work on assignments and to think fast and elaborate ideas for a final degree thesis.  

The key to succeeding in the IELTS test is to practice as much as possible. Become familiar with the IELTS questions and understand what IELTS requires. Work on as many practices exams as possible - the more you practice, the more you are familiarised with the IELTS test, and therefore you can wisely manage your time as you work through the exam. Know your weaknesses and practice daily.

Indonesia

Michael Wijaya

Global Business Management, Humber College

First of all, I am honoured to win the IELTS Prize. When I received the official announcement from the British Council about this achievement, I could not stop smiling and feeling grateful. Winning the IELTS Prize means a lot because it gives me the confidence and confirmation that I have sufficient English skills to pursue higher education abroad. The IELTS Prize also provides financial support so I can focus on my studies. Choosing a different field for my post-graduate study was not a natural choice for me, but I believe that I can combine my previous Biotechnology background and my future business management abilities to become a specialist in the field. So, I will be sure to give my best to this post-graduate study and will not take this accomplishment for granted.

The multicultural diversity, combined with an excellent reputation makes Canada a top destination to pursue higher education. However, the availability of scholarships for international students is very limited, so when I received an email from the British Council about the IELTS Prize, I did not have to think twice before applying. The IELTS Prize is different from other scholarships because it is not limited to a specific country or Education Institution. I was delighted by the professionalism of the British Council Committee and the overall selection process. I was also impressed with the British Council Staff and their assistance in providing information and following up on the progress of my application.

Taking the IELTS test with the British Council was convenient because it meant I could choose the test date and location of my preference online, which was simple and user-friendly. Another benefit of taking the IELTS test with the British Council was that we were provided with a free IELTS online course to help us to prepare and practice before the actual IELTS test. Also, I received a free IELTS writing workshop to help me improve my ability in writing an academic essay. Overall, I was impressed by the clear instructions during the IELTS test, the guidance provided by the British Council staff, the quality of the sound system during the listening section, and also by the informative schedule for the speaking section.

The two most common English proficiency tests are the International English Language Test System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). I chose IELTS over TOEFL because it takes approximately 3 hours to complete and I prefer to have a conversation with a native speaker during my speaking test rather than to make a recording of my answers using a computer microphone. I believe that by taking the IELTS test and reviewing my scores, I could determine my ability to live and study abroad. The variety of topics and questions discussed during the IELTS test will help me to face and overcome any upcoming challenges during my future study in Canada.

There is no doubt that the only way to get a high score is by daily practice. In the IELTS test, there are different types of questions. I always recorded the time required to complete every part of the IELTS test as a simulation and projection of my time management skills because these skills are a crucial part of the IELTS test. I also read various magazines and newspapers to have a better understanding of current issues and topics. Also, I spent time practising my writing and speaking because I felt I lacked those skills. I believe that practice and the evaluation of mistakes is the key to a successful IELTS test performance.

Indonesia

Elmer Wahyu Bramantyo

MSc Management, University of Edinburgh

I am incredibly grateful to have been chosen as one of the winners of the British Council IELTS Prize. It has given me the confidence not only to continue my master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh but also to practice my English skills as a student. I am aware that practising English, reading, writing and speaking, will play an essential role as I study my postgraduate degree in the UK. Therefore, to be selected as an IELTS ambassador considering how vital our English skills are as an international student is a responsibility that I am honoured to have.

Financially, winning the IELTS Prize will help me to survive in Scotland. It is known that the living cost in the UK is higher compared to other countries, so this is added motivation to make sure I complete my studies on time.

When I applied to the University of Edinburgh, I knew that IELTS was one of the requirements of the admission process, and so I applied to take the IELTS test. Overall, taking the IELTS test with the British Council was an enjoyable experience. The test was available in several convenient locations, it was well-organized, and a good audio system was provided for the listening section. It was conducted professionally, thereby maintaining the international standard that this test has.

I believe that preparing for the IELTS test enhanced my English capabilities considerably. During the preparation, I rehearsed the questions and learnt from my mistakes. As I worked my way towards the IELTS test, I learnt how to skim-read, gained new vocabulary and learnt how to write correctly which all improved my skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I believe that these skills will help me to get through my postgraduate degree in the UK.

I don’t believe in overnight magic. Preparing for the IELTS test was a long-term process; the more you practice, the more you will gain the confidence to face the test and achieve a better test result. Indulge and familiarize yourself with the IELTS test and learn from your mistakes, because that is what will enable you to achieve your target score.

Korea

Serin Lee

PhD in Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

When I first heard that I had won the IELTS Prize, I was thrilled and incredibly happy. I am honoured for the British Council to recognise my potential and capabilities, and I will work hard to ensure the British Council that I am worthy of their support. There were many competitive applicants with impressive backgrounds, so being chosen has given me the confidence to start my journey at graduate school and pursue my career as a material scientist and engineer. I will work diligently to reach my goal of bringing positive changes to the world using the power of technology and will always remember the moment of winning the IELTS Prize whenever I encounter hardship during my degree course.

I applied for the IELTS Prize because I wanted to be recognised by an organisation of international renown such as the British Council. The selection process for the Prize was well-organised, and overall I found the local interview particularly interesting. All of the applicants for the Prize were required to prepare a presentation about their life story and aspirations. Preparing for this was a great experience because I was able to look back over the past and write down my own story including the valuable lessons that I had learned. I enjoyed the Q&A session because the interviewers asked detailed questions about my aspirations and goals. By answering their questions, I once again consolidated my motivation to study and earn a PhD by studying abroad.

The best part about preparing for IELTS with the British Council was that the whole process could be done online. There were no difficulties during registration, payment or getting my scores. I used the service provided by the British Council to send my Test Report Form to MIT DMSE (Department of Materials Science and Engineering) graduate admissions office via the electronic reporting system. I did not have to spare time checking the shipping status of the report form, which greatly alleviated any anxiety or concern during the application process. Also, test-related information was clearly organised on the website, which saved my time searching for tips about the test.

While studying and researching for the test, I became interested in studying abroad and working with talented people from various backgrounds. To network with people around the globe, I had to greatly improve my English skills so I could become fluent enough to communicate in English. All of the sections of IELTS were deeply relevant to my future goal, of being a global researcher. The Reading and Writing sections helped to develop my academic use of English. As a researcher, reading skills are indispensable because you must be aware of fellow scholars’ ideas and research results. The Reading section improved my skills of choosing important information from a given article in a limited amount of time. As I prepared for the writing section, I learnt how to analyse data and organise my thoughts, which is required when I write a paper for publication in a scientific journal. The listening and speaking sections improved my practical use of English, as they are perfect simulations of real-life situations; so by preparing for these two sections, I gained more confidence in my spoken English.

For other English proficiency tests, the improvement in your English skill is often not directly related to earning a satisfying score in the test. However, for IELTS, perfecting your English is the only tactic to get a high score. My best advice for any test takers is to expose yourself to English constantly in an enjoyable way. For example, you can try to watch television or entertainment shows without the subtitles of your mother tongue. These will greatly improve your listening skills and help you to capture useful vocabulary. Achieving good writing skills is a time-consuming process. When I prepared for the IELTS writing section, I wrote six essays a day; this helped me to brainstorm and logically organise my thoughts in a given amount of time. Always remember the quote “Practice makes perfect”, and never lose faith in yourself or your potential.

Korea

Jayoon Choi

MSc in Education (Child Development and Education), University of Oxford

I feel very privileged to have won the IELTS Prize. Winning this prize reassures me that I am on the right path, and it has given me the confidence to pursue my goals and aspirations. With the support of the British Council, I have lifted some of the financial burdens of studying abroad and will be able to focus on academia fully. The programme I will pursue will empower me with the expertise I need to become a child policy advisor devoted to creating inclusive policies. With a rapid increase in the number of foreign populations in Korea, creating an inclusive environment that embraces diversity will be sorely needed. I am confident that studying in the UK will give me insights into policy development so I can contribute to related issues in Korea.

Applying for the IELTS Prize was extremely efficient. The application process was clear and minimal documents were required, which saved me a lot of stress. I was, therefore, able to focus on my personal statement and thoughtfully organise my goals and motivation for studying abroad. Winning the prize has made me even more motivated to keep pursuing my goals, and it also served as recognition of my passion and capability.

I chose to take the IELTS with the British Council as it provides credible online materials on exam preparation and supports students through scholarships. Applying for the test through the British Council was simple and hassle-free, and I was amazed by how fast the test result was delivered. The test was carried out in a comfortable yet professional environment with clear guidelines. The free online preparatory course, Road to IELTS, was extremely helpful as it provided a precise idea of what the actual test would be like. I also gained valuable insight from sample answers and advice given by the IELTS experts. Although I had a relatively short time to prepare for the test, these resources were truly beneficial and enabled me to achieve my desired score.

The academic module of IELTS is helpful for students that are planning to study abroad. Although I started studying for IELTS only to meet the conditions of my graduate school, studying for the test also prepared me for the academic use of English. Not only was the content based on real-life scenarios, but the test required logical and critical thinking, enabling students to prepare for the academic tasks they will soon encounter in their course. Studying for the writing session was especially useful because it trained my summarising and data analysis skills which are going to be essential during my study. Overall, preparing for the IELTS test meant more to me than just being a required test to take. By studying for the test, my academic English skills are greatly improved, and  I feel more confident in the academic tasks in my study.  

One piece of advice I would give is to use the IELTS resources. Regardless of your English proficiency, you should carefully review the instructional videos and tutorials for IELTS. I made a mistake when I first took the exam; I was not familiar with the exam format and so was not aware of what the examiners were looking for. The instructional videos provided on the British Council website and Road to IELTS, give clear directions on how to prepare for the exam most effectively. In addition, I would suggest you take the mock tests several times before you take the actual test; and most importantly, review any wrong answers and compare with the model answers.

Myanmar

Toe Kyaw Htet

Bachelor of Computer Science, University of Adelaide

I am extremely honoured and elated to have been chosen as an IELTS Prize winner. Getting a high band score is an achievement in itself already but receiving the prize takes this achievement to the next level. Studying abroad is expensive. Tuition fees are not the only cost to consider when studying abroad. Also living costs and other miscellaneous expenses can be high depending on the country, but this prize has lessened the financial burden on my family. In the future, I wish to bring about a change to the internet regulations in my own country. Internet usage has escalated exorbitantly in my country, but many are yet to realise the dire consequences of improper use. Online crimes like cyberbullying, hate speech, kidnapping and scams are also growing rapidly; therefore, I would like to contribute in ending these dreadful incidents.

The British Council IELTS Prize selection process is very straightforward and efficient. Applicants are required to write an essay. I was comfortable with writing the essay as it gave me more than enough time to revise and correct my work. Moreover, the instructions and timeline were clearly stated on the website, so I did not need to worry about missing the deadline. The application had to be completed online which is unlike the other scholarships that I had applied for before where I had to fill out long and tedious forms and submit them in person.

My experience of taking exams with the British Council has always been good. I took my IGCSE exam with the British Council and so the IELTS is the second exam I have taken with the British Council. I have also sat other exams abroad, so it is clear to me that the services for the IELTS, from the registration process to in-test regulations are on par with international standards. I was able to easily book the exam online as the instructions were stated clearly on the website; however, because I took the IELTS UKVI exam, I had to go to the bank to make the payment instead of paying directly at British Council. There are also free online resources for exam practice. In a nutshell, I had a pleasant experience taking the exam with the British Council.

The IELTS exam is internationally recognised and is an accurate way of testing the four key English skills. It is designed so that students master different essential abilities in each of the four skills. For instance, in the listening session, students need to listen and understand the conversation between 2 speakers. By the last session, students need to listen without pause and take notes of what they hear. These abilities are vital for students who are studying abroad as these are required in lectures and other life activities. I decided to take IELTS as it is structured to help students grow academically, and it is accepted worldwide.

This might be an obvious advice, but I would like to urge my fellow test takers to keep practising. I believe that you will be able to see your strengths and weaknesses after taking a few practice tests. Review the completed tests and pay extra attention to the questions which you got wrong. I strongly suggest you focus on getting answers correct first before trying to get answers correct within a set time frame. Indeed, you need to be fast and accurate in the actual exam but keep in mind that accuracy comes first before speed. Finally, take as much time as you would need to prepare yourself to get your target score.

Myanmar

Mi Mi Khaing

Master of Business Administration Degree, University of Manchester

I am grateful and honoured to have been awarded the IELTS Prize by the British Council. This award not only supports me financially but also has boosted my confidence ready for my postgraduate study in the UK. I completed my undergraduate programme in Myanmar and had no experience of studying abroad before. IELTS is the start of my international exposure. I am more than grateful and excited to start my life-changing experience in the UK. I hope my experience of applying for IELTS Prize will inspire other students in Myanmar to take action now and chase their dreams.

The process of applying for the IELTS Prize included essay writing and presentations. During this interview, the panellists asked me about my plans and what I had done in the past to try to reach my goal. I had to have a strong belief in what my goal was before being able to convince others to believe in me. I had not been sure about what I wanted to do before taking the IELTS, but this was definitely a life milestone.  I would encourage all IELTS test takers to apply for the British Council IELTS IELTS Prize because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

The experience of taking IELTS was seamless from booking the exam and taking the test, to receiving the exam result. As soon as I confirmed that my target school required IELTS as compulsory proof of English language proficiency, I booked the exam for the following month. The British Council website showed the available test dates and locations, so I could easily book online. It took a few minutes to book the test and then I only had to go to the British Council twice; to pay the exam fee and then to get my official IELTS certificate. I was able to check my result on the website with my ID number 10 days after the exam. So overall it was a convenient and pleasant test experience.

As I was applying for an MBA, I had a list of target schools in the UK, USA and Canada. IELTS is a compulsory proof of English language proficiency regardless of the school, which is why I decided to take IELTS as the first step of my MBA application journey. IELTS has not only helped me to get school offers and gain confidence in my English ability, but it has also improved my spoken skills. For example, I can communicate efficiently and get listeners to engage in conversation; this was achieved by practising hard for my speaking test.

As an IELTS ambassador, here are my tips for preparing for the IELTS:

  1. Get familiar with the test format and question types. The test guide information can be found on the British Council website.
  2. Take the mock tests provided to get the proper understanding of your English level, both strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your weakness as most schools ask for a minimum band score and each section contributes to your total overall score.
  3. Practice! Practice! Practice! There are plenty of resources on “the road to IELTS” website such as question papers and tips, please make good use of them as they are free. Also, don’t forget to incorporate English into your daily life - both reading and speaking.

Be over-prepared as a good IELTS score will make you stand out competitively among the other IELTS Prize applicants and could bring a

Myanmar

Saw Min Nyo

Bachelor of Business Management, Singapore Management University

Winning the IELTS Prize makes me feels incredible, especially knowing that the IELTS Prize is conducted in such a large scale across Myanmar. It is an affirmation of the hard work put in. The IELTS Prize will henceforth act as a nod at - not just my English proficiency - but also my conviction to contribute back to the community. Additionally, the prize money will lighten the financial burden of studying abroad. This award will help to cover any miscellaneous fees that come along with starting a new phase of education.

It is my belief that one has an obligation to give back to the community that has enabled him to succeed in various ways. Hence, I plan to return to Myanmar once my education is complete with all the useful skills I have learned during my experience in Singapore. I will then ensure to impart these “best practices” to Myanmar - especially among the SME’s where industry standards are in need of improvement.

As an international student in Singapore, scholarship opportunities are extremely limited. The few available are extremely competitive, and preference is still given to students with a background in specific subject combinations. Therefore, I had to seek scholarships that are specifically open to Myanmar nationals and are, to a large extent, “non-bonded” scholarships -which might limit what I could pursue post-studies.

The main attraction of the IELTS Prize was its largely “bond-free” nature, which means I am not stipulated by contract to expend a large portion of my time to fulfil tasks after I have completed my studies. This is crucial as I have plans to quickly engage in Myanmar industry after my studies and do not want to be tied down by obligations. Also, the award has an equitable aspect in the sense that it compares you among a similar pool of student applicants from within Myanmar. This is important as student applicants from other countries may not have similar socio-economic backgrounds as those in Myanmar, which might put certain students at a disadvantage.

The British Council was the most popular venue to take the IELTS test in Myanmar and is reputed for its efficiency and helpful staff. The whole process of taking the IELTS test was a breeze thanks to the ease of communication with the test centre and the clear instructions provided. During registration, the staff were friendly and helpful. Everything was done in an orderly manner, so there was minimal anxiety before the examination. During the examination, the invigilator was strict in enforcing the rules to ensure a conducive environment for everyone. After the exam, the results came promptly and I was glad they allowed the viewing of results online because I live far from the capital and so I would have had to travel far before I could receive my result slip.

The IELTS test is widely accepted across the world. It is accepted by almost all tertiary institutions in the UK as proof of English proficiency. In Singapore Management University, they explicitly stated on their admissions webpage that they allow IELTS as a supplement certification to the academic qualifications already submitted for admission (given the IELTS test is of sufficient score).

IELTS has prepared me to be mindful of the multi-cultural environment that exists in foreign universities and to respect each culture. This awareness came from the content of practice papers for the IELTS exams and during the actual test. I am convinced that it is part of the IELTS test to create this awareness so that people taking the tests are made aware of other cultures and encouraged to learn to treat one another with mutual respect.

During my preparation, I initially set out a plan to complete specific assignments for each of the 4 skills on a regular schedule. However, I soon realized how stressful it was to keep to such a plan and saw little progress doing the practice papers. I made the difficult decision to switch towards a flexible study plan. It was a mix of listening to English news podcasts (like the BBC), and reading English newspapers (The Straits Times, The Economist, etc,.). I also tried including English media sources into my Facebook feed, so I would not miss out on daily reading. After a few weeks, I saw significant improvement in my English and have stuck to this practice ever since.

Do not take IELTS as just another school subject to study for. Since it is a language, I would advise you to have English learning become part of your lifestyle. Do it because you enjoy it - not because you have to do it!

Malaysia

Joanne Loo Ying Jia

MA Illustration, University of the Arts London

I was humbled beyond words when I knew that I had won the IELTS Prize. I worked hard to win a prize, and it is fulfilling to be told that my efforts paid off! This has undoubtedly given me renewed confidence in my English language proficiency.

Pursuing MA in Illustration has been a personal dream. For many years I felt a deep desire to expand my horizons and to seek engaging experiences with international creatives; what held me back most was my financial capabilities. Furthering my studies in the arts often felt more like a wish and not a need; though as the years go by, it has become clear that visual arts have a growing importance in sparking positive change in Malaysia. Winning the IELTS Prize has given me the much-needed boost to strike forth with courage and develop my personal artistic narrative.

I have great faith in spreading positivity through creativity. To me, it is a way to forge strong bonds among people, bridging generation gaps and bringing nations together. I look forward to sharing my experiences in the UK with my fellows in Malaysia and encouraging them to develop their pursuits.

Many scholarships that I looked into were available to applicants pursuing a specific course or field––but arts was not one of them. I found it challenging to find suitable scholarships that were open to the visual arts in particular. The IELTS Prize is open to all fields of study, which was the main driving force for my application. I was pleasantly surprised at how organised and courteous everyone in the selection process was. They treated me with the utmost fairness and friendliness. I was very comfortable in sharing my thoughts, hopes and dreams with the interview panel during the selection process and I was never made to feel inferior or unwelcome in any way.

The IELTS test experience is very new to me, as I have not done an English language proficiency test before. The British Council made the IELTS test experience a very accessible one, beginning with the registration, right up to the collection of results. The examination dates were convenient for a working professional like myself, and I found ample material to prepare for my test on the IELTS and British Council websites. The test itself was well structured with clear indicators of how test-takers would be assessed. Combined with the guidance and revision materials provided, I had a clear indication of what was expected from each section. The writing test was the most challenging section for me by far; however I felt better prepared having practised with the sample questions and then reviewing with the model answers online.

The overall experience on the day of the test was good too. I knew exactly what to do from the clear instructions provided by the British Council invigilators, assistants and personnel. Receiving my results was a simple, fuss-free affair as well. I was able to check my results online easily and then collected my certificate from the British Council centre with no issues whatsoever.

IELTS was the first and only English proficiency test that came to mind during my university application. I believe it is because the IELTS test is well-known for its fair assessments as well as its recognition across many universities around the globe. I found the listening test particularly helpful, as it used the different accents in English-speaking countries. Through my practice sessions I learnt to define better the subtle tone and inflexions of each accent, which I am sure will be indispensable during my time in the United Kingdom. I feel that I am now better equipped to interact with different native English speakers and will articulate myself better in their presence.

As a native English speaker, I stress on one important tip: do not take anything for granted. There will always be something new to learn; just because English is your first language does not mean that you are exempted from making the simplest of mistakes. Identify your weakest areas and allocate more time to improve them. For non-native speakers, I would advise them to practice reading, writing and speaking English at every opportunity and make opportunities for yourself whenever possible! We all have to start somewhere, and it can only get better with practice. If you find yourself short on time, I recommend starting at the British Council website and doing all the model questions available. I agree that it is essential to know the format that you will be assessed during the IELTS test; familiarising yourself with the test questions and requirements are integral to a good score. I wish every future IELTS test taker the very best!

Malaysia

Nicholas Tan Hao Yu

BSc Mathematics and Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science

It is my goal to involve like-minded parties to create a joint scholarship program which will provide the brightest minds of the future from every country in the world with an opportunity to further their studies in the best institutions. This collective venture will award scholarships to the future heads of industries based solely on merit and hone the skills required for leadership and governance. Throughout my tenure as Ambassador and beyond, I intend to meet and connect with a diverse community of peers and academia who share my vision, in the hope that the great minds of the current and subsequent generations can make our world better.

The IELTS Prize provides me with the potential opportunity to work with managing bodies which have a presence globally. In addition, a lucrative aspect of the Prize is the lack of requirement of national examination papers, income bracket of household, or one's ethnicity for its applicants, which almost all other scholarship and sponsorship-awarding bodies require. This alludes to the fact that the traits of the recipients of the Prize that matter most to the Prize committee are merit and personal character, both of which are within the control of the Prize recipients. It was indeed a very straightforward application and interviewing process. Surprisingly, I felt that I had learned more about myself and my goal direction after the interview and subsequent discussion with the panel of interviewers. I enjoyed the entire journey.

From my understanding, the British Council has close ties with many educational institutions, including the College where I studied as I took the IELTS test. Through arrangements with our IELTS teachers, we decided that sitting for the papers through the British Council would be the best choice. Given the pristine reputation of the British Council, I felt assured that the IELTS testing process would be managed well by this organisation. The application process for the tests was effortless, and I could focus solely on the test with ease of mind. The arrangements made for the test and the subsequent results were handled efficiently with no delays. All in all, the experience was a fuss-free one.

Browsing through the admission section of various university websites showed that proficiency in the English language was always a requirement. Looking in detail, the most common metric for assessing this linguistic skill was the IELTS band scores. Intending to be accepted into the top universities of the world, I wanted to take as little risk as possible and so chose the series of tests which were among the most widely accepted and the most convenient to sit for, based on the test dates available.

In the lecture hall, the English language is crucial for the subjects Mathematics and Economics, where complex jargon must be understood and then utilised in mathematical equations for economic modelling. With high English standards a pre-requisite, it is comforting to know that my university studies will not be hampered by any language barrier.

On a personal level, I feel relieved knowing that with such stringent language proficiency standards, I will be better in conversing with peers from all walks of life, which will in turns allow for a greater sharing of ideas and the heightened ability to brainstorm to create something new, together.

Two habits of mine which helped tremendously in the test are reading from a variety of sources and often conversing with others. The IELTS test will assess your ability to interpret and infer material, to think analytically, and to speak with confidence. The most challenging portion of the test for me was the writing component as I had little experience in analytical writing, but visualising the questions as verbal presentations allowed me to answer the questions to a satisfactory degree.

For some, the speaking component may be difficult due to a lack of experience in English conversation with peers. A practical method of improving this would be to talk to different people, even acquaintances, to get firsthand exposure. Most importantly, love the process! As difficult as it may be, understanding English to a high level is a skill which will pay dividends in your personal and professional life.

Malaysia

Nadia Izzati Binti Zamri

Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours), Monash University

I was beyond ecstatic to have won the IELTS Prize! I remember walking back from a workshop, having an unscheduled existential crisis and lo and behold, and an email came in that grounded me back to earth. Needless to say, I was skipping my entire way back to the car and admittedly at home, feeling much stronger.

I absolutely love studying! Unfortunately, nowadays, the choice to further your studies often involves innumerable massive decisions here and there due to various financial situations. This is especially true considering that my next plan involves a rather costly transfer to Australia. The financial feasibility of transferring to Australia was the only barrier left for me to solve and to which now I have an answer. The IELTS Prize has undoubtedly removed a significant financial load off my back and placed me one step closer to achieving my dream to be a skilful pharmacist and renowned researcher in the field of pharmacology.

As I intend to pursue my career in the research and education sectors, I plan to use my knowledge and expertise to develop drug types, therapy and delivery, as well as optimise drug use. As a current pharmacy student, the further I traverse through my course, the deeper my fascination with drugs becomes and thus I cannot quite pinpoint my interest to one specific area. However, I do see there is room for development in terms of drugs concerning coronary heart diseases, nervous system disorders and lung diseases, the top killers in Malaysia. In the education sector, I hope to be instrumental in the cultivation of new pharmacists who take pride in our field. We should not be constrained by the boundaries of our profession; we have our roles to play, and I intend to raise that awareness.

IELTS Prize is a prestigious scholarship that does not seek to bind or limit, but rather, it prides itself on being a bridge that offers aid. In comparison to many other scholarships, it attempts to not only unblock the road we have chosen, but it also endeavours to impress a certain sense of comprehension of our potential capacity to reach our end goal. This is evident from the extra mile the organisers went to as they had sent out emails and notifications to eligible candidates inviting them to apply for the scholarship. It is a scholarship that judges based on our ability to integrate ourselves as a person, and how we plan to use our skills to contribute back to society.

The selection process is one of the most transparent ones I have ever encountered. I was very much aware that there was a strict selection process whereby to win, candidates must truly outshine many others in various aspects. But I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying it every step of the way. Following the initial application, the shortlisted candidates were required to participate in an interview alongside a presentation according to the theme given. A week of panicking and brainstorming ensued rapidly, and when the day came, I was astonished by how uncharacteristically comfortable I was talking to the utterly friendly interviewers. It was entirely at odds to the radical cop-like interrogation scenario I had built up in my mind because they genuinely seek to help. I could see the interviewers trying their utmost to allow the candidates to showcase their best.

I had chosen to take IELTS because the structure of the exam covers the complete linguistic sphere and ensures proficiency in reading, speaking, listening and writing. It inculcates the necessary language skills that allow you to fluidly transition into life abroad while building a stable linguistic foundation. The results are accurate and denote the level of proficiency required for you to build yourself a comfortable experience while providing you with an asset to excel in the academics.

I have applied to many top-notch universities in numerous countries for my Pharmacy degree, including those in the UK, Ireland, US, Australia, New Zealand and within my own country, Malaysia. All of the universities I applied to specified IELTS as one of the requirements and as such, I was very much privy to how crucial my IELTS results were. I worked hard to obtain the grades I needed, and it was with these grades that I gained acceptance to the most highly regarded universities in the world for the Pharmacy course including Monash, Australia; UCL, England; Trinity College, Ireland and Otago, New Zealand.

The British Council is an established and trusted examination body. They possess an incredibly long experience in conducting these exams, which has led to very smooth flows of procedures and transitions for the candidates. They organise the exams as such that they can provide exceedingly convenient options for venue and time to suit the candidates’ hectic schedules. On the day itself, the staff did an excellent job of easing me into the atmosphere, kindly answering whatever queries I had. I have never been particularly good with tests, or pressure, or silence, or large crowds of people who were taking tests under pressure in silence. Yet, I walked out of the room feeling ridiculous that I had been terrified of such a delightful test.

I knew the only reason I had felt that way was due to the preparation I had done. The British Council had provided an incredible amount of support in terms of tutorial videos, online materials, books and various tips to ace the exams. I had met some of their staff before and their sincere support and genuine desire to help cemented my opinion that if I wished to take an exam that would determine whether I could enter the university of my dreams, I would like to take it with people who can instil faith in me.

A definite resource to use for IELTS is the abundance of fantastic materials provided by the British Council online! Even for those who are already exceptionally proficient in English, the online materials may serve perhaps as a reminder of grammatical rules not often used or direct you on how to get the best scores in the written exam. If you need something physical to hold, the British Council has provided some magnificent books on how to prepare for IELTS in an impressively compact and comprehensive manner. Up until the last minute possible, speak the language as much as you can! Go out and speak with a friend so that you become more comfortable in expressing yourself in the language. For those who do not have a reading habit, it would be a great time to grab a short book and sit down for a good read. I highly recommend reading some academic literature to those taking the Academic IELTS, to increase familiarity with the language and general reading speed. And lastly, keep going! Keep practising, keep speaking and keep writing because in the end it will be worth it.

Philippines

Jestine Jennica Cabiles

MSc in Strategic Marketing and Data Analytics, Paris School of Business

It is a great honour to be a recipient of the prestigious IELTS Prize. Being aware of how competitive it is, I am beyond grateful to the British Council for this life-changing opportunity that has brought me closer to my goal of gaining a global education which will result in me becoming an analyst for social impact. Winning the IELTS Prize is a solid affirmation of my communication skills; which I will use at the Paris School of Business where I am going to specialise in innovation, strategy, and data analytics.

When I first learned about the IELTS Prize through social media, I was amazed by the support the British Council offered to those aspiring to pursue higher education abroad. More than financial support, it was the organisation’s encouragement of individual ambition. Personally, the entire process of applying for the IELTS Prize paved the way towards the realisation of my academic aspiration to obtain a master’s degree. It has fuelled my drive to contribute meaningfully to the Philippine society.

The British Council’s long-standing reputation of excellence in creating opportunities through English language proficiency is unparalleled. Even among my family and circle of friends, the British Council is the recommended IELTS testing centre because of the professional service and resources offered. Choosing the British Council has proven to be one of the best decisions I have made. From the convenient online test registration to the well-organised exam. The staff were always accommodating to my enquiries whilst the post-exam support service was particularly outstanding.     

I had no second thoughts on which English proficiency exam I would take. As a matter of fact, I had already decided to take the IELTS even prior to choosing which graduate school I wanted to apply to; because the IELTS is recognised by many educational institutions worldwide. Compared to others, it is also very life-oriented, and I am certain that it will get me ready for real-life situations and conversations with its four practical components – listening, reading, writing, and speaking.      

As a piece of advice to other IELTS exam takers, pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses. Doing this during my preparations helped highlight which areas I needed to work on more. Despite being preoccupied with work at the time, I made sure to allow several hours each day to study and practice – be it through consulting the Road to IELTS course provided by the British Council, listening to English podcasts, or even conversing with my colleagues. As it is a combination of spoken and written skills, familiarity with the test structure and practice of time management will also help you ace the exam. Ultimately, stay focused, aim high, and let your confidence shine through!

Philippines

Rey Mejias

Education Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Winning the IELTS Prize will significantly change my life, especially the way I look at my capabilities in learning the English language. This experience is a validation that I can be proficient in English. Through the IELTS Prize, I will be accomplishing much of what I thought of as impossible. Studying abroad is not easy if one is struggling with the English language. Also, pursuing higher studies abroad is expensive. Considering the cost associated with studying abroad, the financial support provided by the IELTS Prize is vital to me.

Taking the IELTS and receiving the IELTS Prize has enabled me to pursue my dream of acquiring a graduate degree in educational leadership abroad. My main motivation is to expand my contribution to Philippine education through educational leadership. I feel privileged that I am given a chance to learn at a prominent university abroad and subsequently share my knowledge in the field. But besides knowledge, what makes this opportunity different is that it gives me hope and inspiration to do something for my own country.

After passing the IELTS exam, I received an invitation to apply for the scholarship. As I went through the application, I discovered that the British Council IELTS is not just about helping non-English speakers gain confidence or providing opportunities for them; the British Council also promotes inclusivity in the world through arts and education. I am personally drawn to this advocacy, and this reinforces my sense of purpose as an educator.

What impressed me the most about the selection process was the outstanding professionalism. I felt that the goal of IELTS Prize was not limited to finding ‘genius’ applicants, but rather listening to the story of each applicant and enabling an ordinary person to afford higher education abroad when it might, otherwise not have been possible.

I am truly filled with gratitude that I chose to take IELTS with the British Council. The learning experience included individual coaching with teachers who assist students with real practice on the questions and the essays before the actual test. I think this is important - to focus on the real structure of the test and ensure that students become familiar with how to take the test. I am genuinely grateful to the British Council for its contribution in making it possible for students who would have otherwise thought a graduate degree abroad was not an option.

Anyone can ace the IELTS test. The key is thorough preparation, constant practice, and lots of courage. Confidence is built when one is able to see his or her weaknesses and improve upon those.

Overcoming fear is not easy. Somehow, seeing a timer ticking the seconds away can make people nervous if they’re not used to it. So, try to find a friend and practise speaking continuously for a certain period of time using a timer. Also, practice writing out a complete essay within a set period of time. Most importantly, get plenty of rest and eat well before the test. During the exam, take deep breaths and enjoy the moment.

Philippines

Dazzle Cortel

International Development Graduate Certificate, Humber College

Being awarded the IELTS Prize has been a roller coaster of emotions for me. I never expected to win. The whole process has taught me a lot of things that have caused me reflect on my life. Personally, this award has further proved my capability to compete with others, not just in my country, but also as a proud Filipino here in Canada. Since I am currently taking International Development at Humber College, I believe that this award is a stepping stone towards me being able to work and interact well with people from other nations. Further, being a British Council IELTS ambassador has given me the confidence to inspire others to strive more and not underestimate their capacity to be open for global opportunities. This is not only an award for me, this is an opportunity that will surely change my perspective on life forever.

I was processing my Canadian student visa when I received an email from the British Council congratulating me on passing the IELTS examination and inviting me to apply for the IELTS Prize. Back then, I had nothing to lose, so I took the opportunity and applied for it. I never expected to be shortlisted, less so to win the prize. “Do you plan to come back?” was one of the questions that stuck with me the most during the interview. The encouragement and support of the IELTS Prize committee for their ambassadors to return and help their home country was one of the traits that I admired most and I was not able to see this from other scholarships. It is my goal to further my knowledge by studying abroad to get a better understanding on how to improve the current situation of the Philippines and it is comforting to know that the British Council is supportive of that.

IELTS was the first English proficiency examination that I ever took and I had no information about the test before I registered. Thankfully, the British Council website was very informative and helpful in terms of registration, reviewing materials, test expectations and post-test concerns. Since I was working full time, enrolling at a review center was not an option for me. It was great that the British Council provides review materials for all tests, such as audio files, sample articles, and essay questions for the examination. I was able to obtain all these materials which were readily available whenever I had free time to review. These also gave me an overview on what to expect during the examination.

As I was browsing for a possible course program to take in Canada, IELTS results were one of the requirements specified by almost all programs, especially for the top universities and colleges. This is proof that the IELTS is a globally recognised and highly reliable English proficiency test for these institutions. Also, the IELTS Test Report Form has a longer validity period which lasts up to two years. This means that it can be used not just for school admissions but for other purposes as well, such as credentials for job applications and even future academic plans.

One of the regrets I have is that I should have been more confident, especially during the speaking test. You can practice for the speaking test by trying to involve the people around you, asking them to communicate with you in English. This will boost your confidence and will help you in your actual speaking test. During the speaking test, feel free to converse with your test proctor. If you are feeling nervous, you can tell the proctor but make sure to try your best to convey it in English. I believe that this could also increase your points, even though it is not a part of their questioning,  you are still trying to converse with them. Immersing yourself in the language will help with your proficiency in listening, reading and writing whilst also giving a glimpse of what to expect during the actual examination. Last but not least, do not forget to register for IELTS with the British Council to get free review materials, which will definitely help with the examination.

Singapore

John George Varughese

BA in Law, Wolfson College Cambridge

I am delighted and humbled to have been awarded the British Council IELTS Prize. The thought of studying in a foreign land can be quite daunting, so it is reassuring to have the support of the British Council, both financially and through their confidence in me, as I embark on this journey. Receiving this award has reaffirmed my desire to pursue a legal education in the United Kingdom, and I will make good use of this opportunity to learn from some of the top academics in the world.

My experience applying for and throughout the selection process for this award has been outstanding. One noteworthy feature of the IELTS Prize is that there are no restrictions on the choice of course or university, unlike many other scholarships or awards. Students are given ample opportunity, both through their personal statement and the interview stage, to demonstrate that they have a genuine interest in their chosen field of study and that their university of choice is the best place for them to thrive. In particular, the interview component of the selection process makes you speak at length about how you intend to contribute to your society through your chosen career. 

Sitting for the IELTS test with the British Council was a seamless experience and one that I would recommend to anyone thinking about doing the IELTS. Firstly, there were many test dates available each month, making it incredibly convenient to plan for, even with a busy schedule. Secondly, the test was administered professionally, with attention paid to even the smallest of details such as the printing out of individualised cards with each candidate’s number and test times. More than this, the British Council clearly spared no effort in ensuring that things ran efficiently. As evidence of this, I was given the option of pushing my speaking test forward by an hour as another candidate was unable to make it for their slot. This was communicated promptly to me by a British Council staff member through a phone call, a truly commendable level of service.

Of the many reasons to take the IELTS test, the one that stands out to me most, is that institutions in over 140 countries accept the IELTS as proof of English Language proficiency. In particular, all British universities and colleges accept IELTS. Based on my experience, the test equips you to deal with a wide range of scenarios in which the English language is used, in both academic and conversational contexts. Preparing for the IELTS test will therefore invariably improve your command of the English language which will put you in good stead if you intend to pursue your studies in a native English-speaking country.

For those intending to sit for the IELTS test, I wholeheartedly recommend attempting the practice tests on the British Council Singapore website. Not only does it help with familiarising yourself with the format and time constraints of the test, it also allows you to gauge your readiness for the test. From there, I found it helpful to work specifically on areas of the test that I wasn’t as strong. One important piece of advice is not to underestimate the test even if you are a native English speaker. It is vital to be familiar with the format and question style before attempting the IELTS.

Singapore

Stephanie Yun Wen Wong

MSc in Gastronomy, Queen Margaret University

I am very happy, honoured and humbled to be one of the recipients of the IELTS Prize. This award will help lighten the financial burden of studying aboard and allow me to focus more on my research instead of worrying about educational expenses.

Finding a scholarship had been much more challenging than I had expected as there are very limited opportunities available in funding postgraduate studies in the field I have chosen. If not for the IELTS Prize, I might have reconsidered studying abroad. Therefore I am extremely grateful to the British Council for giving me the chance to pursue my passion.

The staff at the British Council were friendly and helpful, making the IELTS Prize application process a very positive experience. My interview had to be postponed, but the interviewers were very accommodating in working around my schedule and even offered ways to make the process more convenient for me. The coordinating manager was also very thoughtful in sharing event dates with me as soon as they were available so I that I had enough notice to apply for leave from work.

I was quite nervous about taking the test because I did not have a lot of time to prepare for it. I was working full-time and was late in applying to the university. Thankfully the online resources provided by the British Council were very helpful and insightful. Going through the materials helped me become familiar with the test format and gave me a great boost in confidence. I also really appreciated the British Council’s informative Road to IELTS online course, which I was able to study at my own time and pace.

The IELTS test is a widely recognised English language proficiency test that helps ensure test takers are well equipped to live, study, and work in the new linguistic environment and better assimilate into the culture. I have taken other language tests previously, and I find the IELTS test more rigorous and comprehensive because, in addition to syntax and lexicon, the test also includes practical applications, like exposure to different regional accents.

The most effective way to improve your proficiency in English, or any language for that matter, is to keep practising. I had an undergraduate foreign language professor whose tests would only include long open-ended questions and essays. He would say that it did not matter what you were writing as long as you wrote something – even if it was riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors. In fact, the only way you could receive a lower grade in his class was to give safe one-liner answers. It was an intimidating task, but also one that propelled my language skills. I would often surprise myself by how many words I was actually able to use correctly, and how I was able to form well-structured sentences under the pressure of a timed paper.

My advice to the people who are sitting for the IELTS test is to be brave in using the language, be consistent in doing practise papers, and be confident in the preparations you have made.

Singapore

Alvin Wong Siew Fei

Executive MSc in Social Business and Entrepreneurship, The London School of Economics and Political Science

The British Council and IETLS are both internationally well-known and reputable. I am therefore grateful and honoured to receive the IELTS Prize from the British Council, a recognition which firmly encourages me to embark on my overseas post-graduate programme in the UK.

Inspired by my previous start-up attempt, I will be studying a first-of-its-kind Executive Masters in Social Business and Entrepreneurship at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). It is a newly launched ground-breaking degree programme on social business which is only available in the UK. As my school recommends IELTS for the English proficiency test, it was only natural for me to take the exam at the British Council, the UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.

The financial support from the IELTS Prize has made it possible for me to pursue my dreams and study at the LSE. I look forward to meeting and collaborating with like-minded classmates and initiatives on social business in the UK and then spreading these initiatives in Southeast Asia with Singapore as the regional hub after my graduation.

The IELTS Prize has also given me unmatched benefits and experiences that a conventional scholarship award would not. First, I was doubly motivated preparing for the IELTS, because it was for both my post-graduate programme and the prize application. Next, the IELTS Prize selection process was fun as I was encouraged to present myself creatively. This process has also sparked my new interest in storytelling, motivating me to spread my ideas on social business via public speaking in my region. Moreover, sharing the good news of the award with my professional contacts around the globe needed no further introduction as both the British Council and IELTS are well-established worldwide; being a prize winner and an ambassador raises my profile.

As my chosen field of study is new and unique, the ability to proficiently communicate with others when I apply my learnings in the real world will be vital. Preparing for the IELTS has improved my English to a level higher than I ever imagined. The four components of IELTS (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking) has helped me to identify the specific areas that I needed improvement. Through the process, I learned about the inter-relationship of the four language skills. For example, during my second IELTS attempt, working mostly on my writing skill increased both my Writing and Reading band scores by two levels.

I registered for the IELTS exam twice within a relatively short period of time, and my entire experience with the British Council was seamless. I was genuinely impressed by the professionalism and efficiency of the British Council Exam team who assisted me with their first-rate services. The exams were well-coordinated by the friendly staff who provided clear instructions to all candidates. Also, how we received the exam results came in various convenient options, including mailing as well as accessing their digital platform.

To prepare for the test in a short period of time, I would suggest identifying your weakest areas and customising your strategy. I recommend taking the practice tests from the British Council, followed by spending time reviewing your mistakes in-depth. On the reading part, for better time management, start with the question you find easiest; this will allow you to understand the passage better before attempting those that are harder for you. For the essay questions in writing part of the test, having plenty of ideas makes writing more manageable; also, prepare ideas that could be used for a variety of subjects. Furthermore, attending British Council workshops conducted by official IELTS examiners will give you the greatest benefit as you will be able to get first-hand information about the test rather than referring to unofficial sources on the internet.

Thailand

Aiyakan Traichaisit

MSc in Psychology in Education, University of York

I am very grateful to the British Council for the pleasant surprise of being selected as one of the IELTS Prize winners. This is a huge privilege that has boosted my confidence and offers great support for my master's degree at the University of York in the field of Psychology in Education. The prize will substantially subsidise the cost of my tuition and living expenses in England. I also look forward to actively collaborating with the British Council in the future. The role of a British Council IELTS Ambassador will provide me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share my experiences and hopefully inspire others to pursue higher education abroad.

The IELTS prize is one of the few scholarships which aims to motivate students to fulfil their dreams of studying abroad. It is awarded to applicants to assist their study, of any program, from any educational institution that accepts IELTS score as parts of its admission requirements. The selection process was convenient, and I particularly liked that almost everything could be done online, while the interview session went well because of the generosity of the committee.

I’ve completed the IELTS Test twice, and each time I was welcomed by staff who ensured that every stage of the test went smoothly. The service of the IELTS test was very customer-oriented, from the registration to the post-test results. The British Council also greatly helped me prepare for the test using the pre-test online course that allowed me to familiarise myself with the format and gave me useful tips before I took the exam.

For me, the IELTS is an excellent indicator of an individual’s English proficiency, and it is widely recognised by universities around the world. The results of the IELTS test can imply how well adapted one will be under the new language environment of living and studying aboard in an English-speaking country. In preparing for, and taking the IELTS exam, I realised my potential and gained much more confidence in my ability to listen, read, write, and speak the language and hence I know that my English will not be an obstacle to my academic growth in the future.

As an IELTS ambassador, my best advice for taking IELTS is to practice as much as possible. This will help you to identify which parts of the test you should work on the most. It is also a great idea to incorporate the English language in every aspect of your everyday life, such as reading and listening to news on the internet in English or practising speaking English with your friends. These efforts will undoubtedly improve your language skills over time.

Thailand

Kulinthorn Kleephun

Master of Business Administration, University of Cambridge

I feel privileged to have been awarded the IELTS Prize, and I am very grateful that the British Council has this initiative to fund students who are pursuing higher education for the betterment of their countries. For my long-term career goal, I am looking to improve the quality of life for senior citizens in Thailand by providing them with post-retirement employment. I have seen this executed successfully in some organisations around the world. To be specific, I plan to open a restaurant that hires senior citizens as full-time staff, and I hope that this initiative will both attract the public’s attention and raise awareness of how serious the ageing population issue is in Thailand.

I apply for IELTS Prize solely because of the British Council’s open-mindedness to candidates’ fields of study. Funding programmes from other organisations usually specify what areas of business they will sponsor a candidate for. At the British Council, every area is of equal importance as long as the candidate has a clear goal of what they want to achieve post-graduation. I think this emphasises the fact that all sectors or industries are essential when contributing to the development of a country. This has demonstrated that the IELTS Prize, and the British Council as an organisation, values diversity and places equal importance on all ideas and good intentions. This open-mindedness drove me to apply for the IELTS Prize.

Taking IELTS with the British Council has been a smooth and fuss-free experience for me, from registration, sitting the exam, to score reporting. I liked the fact that each test taker was given an individual pair of headphones for the listening task. From someone who has taken the listening test with speakers broadcasting to the whole room, having an individual set of headphones was a game-changer. It made me feel more secure about the quality of the sound I heard and confirmed to me that I would not run into unfortunate technical problems, which could contribute to a lower than average performance.

I chose to take IELTS instead of other English proficiency tests because it is a standardised measurement of a students’ mastery of English and is widely recognised by all prestigious schools in the UK. That, in itself, signifies how well the test is designed to prepare you for your higher education in English. I think IELTS has played a crucial role in refining my communication skills, especially verbal ones. I am taking an MBA course at the University of Cambridge this September, and unlike other more academic-oriented courses, the MBA requires working in a lot of group projects. The ability to communicate with fellow classmates from different cultures and backgrounds is therefore essential to succeed, and IELTS has prepared me well.

For those who are planning to take IELTS soon, my advice would be to make the English language your everyday environment. Make sure you practice a lot with real questions, preferably with mock IELTS exam questions to get yourself accustomed to the overall feel of test-taking and the nature of the questions prior to the real thing. Doing that will boost your self-confidence and help you to ace the test effortlessly. On the test day, get plenty of sleep and get sufficient fuel from food. Above all, stay hopeful and optimistic. Give it your all, and I think you will be fine.

Taiwan

Ming-Hsin Hsu

MSc Medical Anthropology, University College London

I feel honoured and grateful to receive the IELTS Prize from the British Council. Winning this prize is extremely meaningful to me as it is recognition of both my past efforts and future potential. I am now more confident of my English proficiency and therefore my prospective study in the United Kingdom. The IELTS Prize will be a great financial support for my study in Medical Anthropology at University College London. I am looking forward to studying the sociocultural factors and the power differentials that influence people’s health, and I hope to apply what I learn in my clinical practices to provide better healthcare to patients in Taiwan.


I applied for IELTS Prize because of its friendly application timeline and eligibility criteria. I decided to study abroad at the end of 2018; unfortunately, most of the scholarship applications had already closed at that time. Other scholarships had eligibility criteria regarding work experience or nationalities and thus made me unqualified to apply. However, the application for IELTS Prize was open until late April with fewer qualification criteria. The IELTS Prize thus became the best opportunity to aid my studies abroad. The selection process was simple. Candidates were required to submit an essay about their reasons for wanting to study overseas and subsequent possible contribution to their communities. Through the application process, I reflected on my past experience and re-thought what I want to do in the future. I would say it was a valuable experience and encourage other students to apply for the IELTS Prize!


I chose to take IELTS with the British Council because it offered many test locations and test dates to choose from. I was able to select a location and time that fits well into my schedule. Moreover, the British Council offered free resources that helped me prepare for IELTS. I received for free The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS because there was an event promoting it. I also gained free access to their online preparation resources ‘Road to IELTS’. The videos on the website gave me useful tips and advice about how to achieve a high score in IELTS. These two resources really helped me to get familiar with the test.


IELTS was my first choice among all the other English proficiency tests because I aimed to apply for a masters degree in the United Kingdom and IELTS was recognised by all the universities that I wished to apply to. The speaking and writing tests of IELTS prepared me for studying abroad. The speaking component is conducted face to face by the examiner. This makes all the practice and also the test itself, similar to daily conversation. The writing test requires the test takers to analyse different charts and express their opinion on specific topics, which are both essential skills in academic life. 


For those who are preparing for the IELTS test, I have some advice based on my personal experience. In the beginning, try to get familiar with the common question types and requirements in each section. This will help you avoid making simple mistakes and understand the structure of the test. Then, make sure you go through the scoring system and official examples of oral and writing tests. By doing this, you will have a clear idea about what to achieve in the test. Most importantly, take mock tests and practice as much as possible! Routine practices and exposures to English also help. It is even better if you can find some friends and practice oral and writing skills together. Good luck with your IELTS! 

Taiwan

Chun-Yu Cheng

M.Sc. in Clinical Speech & Language Studies, Trinity College Dublin

Studying abroad to pursue a higher degree has always been the biggest dream of mine. Now this dream is coming true, but along with my dream has come the financial pressure this pursuit will bring to myself and my family. Winning the IELTS Prize has alleviated my burden by covering almost all of the accommodation expenses. With the funding from the IELTS Prize, I will have less to worry about and more time to focus on my study which is an entirely new discipline for me. I am looking forward to learning more about machine-assisted speech therapy, and I hope the result of my study will benefit patients with speech impairment in Taiwan.

IELTS Prize application requires information only from the applicants themselves. As an applicant who graduated two years ago from college, I no longer had to worry about bothering my old professors to ask for a reference, especially when they have already helped a great deal in my graduate school application process. The committee was interested in the applicant himself/herself and wanted to listen to the applicant’s story, more than anything else. The interview process was familiar to candidates who have taken IELTS speaking tests before. The interviewers were pleasantly amiable, and from their questions, I felt that they cared not only about my study but also about how well I would fit into a different community as an international student.

The British Council has built a good website for IELTS candidates which provides Chinese as a language option. It made the preparation for taking IELTS part of the process of learning English. Road to IELTS programmes and loads of free mock tests all show the British Council’s determination to help candidates fully display their English proficiency in tests instead of being misjudged due to unfamiliarity with the test process.

IELTS manage to recreate scenarios in all aspects of life for students who are going to study abroad. The sources of the IELTS test content are not limited to academic essays. The listening tests are largely based on real-life events, like registering for membership, contacting a landlord or participating in a guided tour in a park or museum. The IELTS tests prepare the candidates in a comprehensive way. I trust that this is the reason that every university I applied for accepted IELTS test results as part of their requirements.

In regards to learning English, many will suggest making English learning part of your hobbies, but I understand that not everyone enjoys English TV shows or reading. However, making it a small task that needs to be done every day will make it more like a game challenge rather than an assignment. I believe everyone will agree that learning a language is like running a marathon. It is not about how fast and well you start but making small progress each day persistently. Nonetheless, taking tests requires other tactics. In the last two weeks before the test, I would do my best to familiarise myself with the test forms and learn how to keep my concentration for a longer period of time.

Taiwan

Chia-Yun Chang

MA in Computational Social Science, University of Chicago

It is a great honour to have been awarded the IELTS Prize. On 5 March, I received an exciting letter of acceptance from the University of Chicago, my dream school to pursue further study in combining data-oriented research method with subjects such as public policy and law. I remember quite vividly how that excitement began to fade away as I learned about the amount of tuition that I had to pay. The University of Chicago kindly offered me a scholarship which has helped lessen the burden, but still, the amount seemed insurmountable.

It was great that the British Council continually sent out emails after we took our tests, inviting and urging us to apply for the IELTS Prize.  After seeing the testimonial of past winners, I realised the winners all had meaningful causes, and the British Council had the vision to help advance those causes. With no agenda in mind, I applied for the prize, and I am beyond happy that I had the honour of receiving it. As I said in my interview, this prize is not about me as an individual, but the dedication I have pledged to make. Aiming to conduct further research in international environmental law, I hope to bring the legal community in Taiwan closer to the international stage and introduce new, interdisciplinary ways of understanding the important questions in law.

The IELTS Prize has shown a clear vision in selecting candidates that wish not only to advance his/her professional knowledge and skills but those who appeal to the broader aspects of the local and even global community. This vision is reflected quite substantially in the selection process. In addition to my research proposal, I was able to talk about some of the issues that I feel passionate about. For example, the gap that exists between a test-driven education system and how English as a tool should be utilised in this globalised world. In addition, I feel like the opportunity as a British Council IELTS ambassador is going to provide a well-institutionalised platform for me to contribute to those issues. This is why I chose to apply for the IELTS Prize.

I chose to take IELTS with British Council mainly because they have an easy-to-access website. Also, as I learned after registration, they provide beneficial information, covering a variety of topics, that help test-takers plan their future abroad. These topics range from test preparation to school application. This is quite rare for English proficiency test agencies. With the British Council, I felt that we were not just test-takers being assessed, but valid candidates taking a critical step towards our future goals.

I have applied to several schools in the United States. Many of them accept IELTS scores as proof of English proficiency; some only accept IELTS scores and no other test scores. IELTS is a test that will push test-takers to learn how English is actually put to use in different scenarios, ranging from day-to-day conversations to more professional settings. Preparing for IELTS is a process that grants test-takers the chance to become really adept at speaking English rather than just passing a test.

The key message I would like to convey is to try to not see IELTS as a technical test, but rather a chance for test-takers to examine their  English progress and achievements. Enjoy the process of, not so much preparing for a test, but building on English skills. An excellent way to do this is to try to think back on what the tasks in the test are preparing you for. In this way, you can see IELTS as a helpful friend that will guide you on your English learning process. IELTS is truly a well-designed test that English learners should take advantage of.

Vietnam

Nguyen Duc Thinh

Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism, University of Prince Edward Island

The IELTS Prize has genuinely put me one step closer to achieving my dream of studying abroad. Over the past five years, studying abroad has always been the number one priority on my list as I have always wanted to learn new things in a foreign country. In addition, as a content creator on YouTube, I want to study abroad to explore the world and learn about new things as a way to inspire my followers, who are mostly young people. However, coming from normal working-class family background, I know I have to work extra hard to fulfil that dream. That is why when I received the email from the British Council informing me that I had become an IELTS Prize winner, I could not believe my eyes. This prize is going to be of great help to me financially during my first year of study so I can focus on studying and prepare for the upcoming years.

I initially did not intend to apply for any scholarship for my study in Canada. I always thought of myself as an ordinary person with no particular outstanding academic achievement, and so a scholarship would be something out of my reach. I came to know about the IELTS Prize quite accidentally. On the day I registered for the IELTS test at the British Council, Hanoi office, I was told by one of the staff about the IELTS Prize, which intrigued me. After coming home, I immediately went to the official website of the IELTS Prize to read all about it. What I really love about this scholarship is that compared to other foreign government scholarships, the IELTS Prize does not have any complicated eligibility requirements, which is perfect for me. The selection process is straightforward, with clear instructions given in each email.

I took the IELTS test with the British Council the first time back in 2015, and honestly, I was really amazed at how professional the process was. After I had registered for the test, I was given thorough instruction regarding the test dates and location by the British Council staff, who are incredibly friendly and professional. But, what I enjoyed most when taking the IELTS test with the British Council was the free access to 'Road to IELTS' website. This site was immensely helpful for me to prepare for the test as there are many videos with useful advice and tutorials, as well as free IELTS practice tests. That is the reason why throughout the past four years, the British Council has always been my trusted organisation to take the IELTS test with.

The first time I took the IELTS test was because my university required all students in my faculty to have at least a band 6 to graduate. In fact, many top academic institutions in Vietnam now require their students to achieve a particular band score in IELTS as a graduation requirement. Recently I retook the IELTS because my university in Canada, the University of Prince Edward Island, requires a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 for admission. However, to me, IELTS is not merely a test to assess one's proficiency in English. It has also helped me so much in improving my knowledge of the world. Whilst preparing for the test, I did a multitude of writing and reading tests on countless different topics such as society, nature, or economy. I believe this will give me an advantage when I study in Canada.

As someone who has taken IELTS with the British Council, my only advice for other IELTS test takers is to plan your study well. Many people when first preparing for the test often try to learn too many things at the same time, which can easily demotivate, as over time they lose the momentum and the willingness to keep going. When I studied for my latest IELTS test, I divided my study schedule very clearly, so that I would know exactly what to do each day. For example, on Mondays I wanted to learn something light and pleasant, so I would focus on the reading test because, to me, reading is quite fun compared to other skills. Nevertheless, if you don't have much time to study for the test, I suggest you focus on what you're best at, your strengths. That will definitely boost your scores. When I first took the IELTS test, I didn't have a lot of time to prepare, so I focused on my reading and listening skills since they are my strengths. Higher band scores in reading and listening can be a saviour in case the scores of the other two skills do not meet your expectations.

Vietnam

Vo Tan Thuan

BSc in Earth and Environmental Science, The University of British Columbia

The result came as a complete surprise for me. It never crossed my mind that I would be selected among many other talented and high-achieving candidates. I feel grateful for the generous grant and very excited to be given the role of a British Council IELTS Ambassador. More importantly, the Prize will ease the financial burden on my family and allow me the opportunity to concentrate on pursuing my passion. Winning this prize also proves, especially to my parents, that I am competent enough to do the things I love.

With a strong affection for natural landscapes, I love to study the phenomena that shape such beauty for us to enjoy. Now, I can do that in one of the most advanced laboratories at the University of British Columbia in the beautiful Okanagan Valley. Watching our nature be subjected to human-caused destruction has motivated me strongly to act. After returning to Vietnam, I have a vision for my startup company, which will provide consultation in environmental conservation technologies and conduct research into affordable, yet qualified green technologies. My team would also make renewable energy and home-based recycling tools accessible to local people. If the business succeeds, I would like to establish a research fund for environmental projects as a way to recruit like-minded people and motivate other people in protecting the environment. I know it sounds like a fantasy, but fantasies can become a reality if you have a strong will.

I was fortunate enough to be eligible for the IELTS Prize after I decided to re-sit the IELTS in September. My primary reason for applying for the prize was, indeed, the grant so I could support myself. However, the Prize was not only a solution to my financial problems, but it was also a stage on which to share my story. Hence, I began to put more effort into outlining my experience and aspirations. The first round of selection was to submit a piece of writing. I guess mine was good because it enabled me to reach the next round, where I was able to speak about topics of concern and my future plan. Honestly, the atmosphere during the interview was congenial and engaging, which eased any anxiety I had. 

My experience of taking IELTS with the British Council was great. The registration procedure was simple and took me less than 15 minutes to complete, including the queuing time. It was possible thanks to the support, prompt action, cordiality, gentleness, and professionalism of the staff. Upon confirming my registration, I was offered free library services at the British Council office. It is a perfectly quiet place where I could concentrate and access lots of resources for test prep such as dictionaries, prep books, magazines and even a PC for online learning. I often spent my whole evening there, cramming for a better score band than my previous test, which eventually paid off. The British Council also provided candidates with a free account to the Road to IELTS online platform. Furthermore, the test venue was much more comfortable than I had expected. The test room was spacious and bright. The staff were attentive and prompt and making sure you do not miss the opportunity to get a free pencil and eraser.

I think IELTS gave me the tools to explore the vault of knowledge, to communicate with people from different parts of the world, and, to study abroad. Scoring an overall 8.0 in IELTS strengthened my confidence and belief in both my command of English and potential success in college. Each of the four components of the IELTS test provides me with the ability to transform my ideas into written and spoken words and to understand lectures so I can voice my opinions. Moreover, preparing and taking the IELTS also altered my personality dramatically: I have become more outgoing, keen to explore new sources of knowledge, and receptive to new ideas. IELTS is globally recognised as a reliable measurement of English proficiency. Therefore, for almost all post-secondary institutions, IELTS scores are considered a standard method of evaluating the English proficiency of non-native students, a key criterion for admission. Proper preparation and a strong will are all that is required to achieve the desired IELTS score.

To ace the test, I highly recommend, especially for those who are about one to two weeks away from the test date, the Road to IELTS website or app, where you can find general tips and online resources including e-books, tutorial videos and sample practice tests. In my own experience, my top priority was to develop good reading habits which lay the foundation for essential skill sets such as speed-reading and interpreting context. Also, it is definitely helpful in improving other skills such as establishing intimate knowledge of various topics and creating a unique style for the writing and speaking sections, which, in turn, gains you the ability to anticipate the context in the listening part. My trick was first thing upon waking and then last thing before going to bed I would read an article of my favourite topic, which was usually about sports, on the CNN mobile app. Later on, you can always challenge yourself further with articles or books of greater length and complexity. Lastly, it is always worth familiarizing yourself with the test format and strictly following the instructions.

Vietnam

Truong Minh Hang

Master in Educational Studies, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

I was elated to learn that I had been awarded the IELTS Local Prize 2018/19. As a self-financed international student, money is and always will be a constant worry during my education abroad over the next two years. The generous scholarship from the British Council acts as a safety net that will help to ease the financial strain and thus enable me to focus on my studies. The prize is also reassurance that I am pursuing something worthwhile not just for my professional endeavours but also for the collective good of society.

In my opinion, the IELTS Prize is the scholarship that anyone with a dream of studying abroad should apply for. The eligibility requirements are minimal compared to other programs: no fixed number of years of work experience is needed, and no specific study major/career is favoured over another. As long as you demonstrate a strong passion and a clear plan for the educational path you have chosen, everyone gets an equal chance of winning. The selection process was also completely transparent. Everything there is to know about the IELTS Prize is available on the official IELTS Asia website, which helps first-time candidates like me, quickly familiarise ourselves with the scholarship.

When it comes to taking IELTS, the British Council has always been my trusted organisation since day one. The first time I took the test in 2014, the service was excellent, especially in terms of pre-test perks. Official practice materials for IELTS were not as abundant as they are now, therefore the ‘Road to IELTS’ package offered exclusively for British Council candidates was tremendously helpful in the last stage of my preparation for the test. I definitely could not have gotten as high a score as I did had it not been for the authentic practice exercises and insights gained from this material. Since then, the British Council has raised the bar even higher to ensure the best test-taking experience. Registration is now available online with a wider variety of time slots, instructions inside the test room are more detailed, and the score-sending process to overseas universities is handled professionally with the help of the staff.     

The main reason I choose to take IELTS instead of other English proficiency tests is because of the diversity offered in all four components. Be it speaking, listening, writing, or reading, the IELTS test covers a vast array of topics that require learners to accumulate real-world knowledge on the subject matters if they are to comprehend the essence of the text/speech fully. The listening test uses multiple accents, which simulate realistic conversations in a world where English is the lingua franca. I believe the ability to recognise and understand the different ways of speaking English sharpened through the test preparation period will come in handy when I study in Leuven, Belgium – a university city with an international student population of almost 40 per cent.

My advice to people who want to ace the IELTS test is to be patient and take joy in the process of learning. The road to excellence may always be arduous, but whenever you feel like giving up, remind yourself why you started and work up the courage to get back on your feet. My journey of gaining fluency in English speaking is an example. When I was in high school, despite having a strong foundation in English grammar and listening skill, I was never able to utter a word in English in front of other people due to extreme shyness and a lack of exposure. I then challenged myself to sign up for a major English speaking contest in Hanoi only to undergo mind-numbing stage fright in front of 50 people. Those 20 seconds of silence felt painfully humiliating at the time; however, now that I look back at this experience, I could see that it was actually liberating. Because I knew things could not go any worse, I kept on trying to push my limits. In the next contest, I made it to the top five best candidates, and at the end of my freshman year in college I earned a first runner-up prize in a collegiate debate competition. Slowly but surely, I became comfortable with presenting myself in the English language.

To push through difficult times in your IELTS/English learning journey, it is essential that you surround yourself with a community of supportive people who are willing to answer your questions and encourage you to move forward. Form a study group, do practice exercises together and give one another constructive feedback. After each week, make notes of the most salient weaknesses you have in each test component so that you can hone in on these areas in the next practice sessions.

In the scenario that I have limited time – say, less than two weeks to prepare for the test, I would prepare myself by taking a full practice test every day. I would focus on the writing skill since this is, in my opinion, the most demanding part of IELTS. To do this, I would find a few prompts from recent actual tests, write my answers in strictly timed conditions, have them reviewed by a more advanced writer and make necessary revisions until I am completely satisfied with my answers. This is my personal best strategy to ‘cram’ for this exam.

Community

Since 2011, the British Council IELTS Prize (East Asia) has enabled more than 270 IELTS test takers to pursue their studies around the world, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and more. Read their stories about completing their first year or their study and get inspired to shape yours!

Dillon Wei Xuan Chew

Moving on to the next phase of my life… The idea of studying abroad has always been a dream of mine. As I grew up in a small city-state, it was natural that I wanted to ‘fly the nest’ and experience what the rest of the world has to offer!

 

When I arrived at the University of Cambridge, I was thrilled to meet lots of like-minded people from all over the world. Using English as a common language, we were able to chat naturally, sharing our different interests and experiences.

 

Even though the thought of studying abroad might seem a little daunting at first, take it step by step and believe in yourself – It is never too late to be what you might have been.

 

Thank you, British Council, for giving me this great opportunity and a new perspective on life.

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Praveena Mahadevan

It’s finally sunk in that I’m heading to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to pursue an MSc in Public Health! It’s a dream I’ve had ever since I began medical school and, if it weren’t for the generosity and support of British Council, this dream may have remained on the back burner.

 

Winning the IELTS Regional 2nd Prize has really been a whirlwind experience. I even had the daunting-but-fun experience of being on Bernama TV! I especially enjoyed meeting the other inspiring local prize winners from Malaysia – Joanne, Nadia and Nicholas. I didn’t expect us to get along as well as we did, nor did I anticipate how much fun we’d have as a group given the short time we spent together.

 

I’m also thankful that I got the chance to get to know the people who make British Council what it is. They have been nothing short of amazing and supportive throughout this entire process. I look forward to seeing everyone again soon!

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Phyo Thura Htay

I’ve always longed to study abroad so I started preparing for my Master’s quite long in advance! This hard work paid off as I’m now at the National University of Singapore, one of the top universities in Asia. Taking IELTS with British Council has really given me the communication tools I need to adapt to this new community – in both academic and social settings.

 

To others who also dream of studying abroad, language proficiency is really important to get accepted into your university of choice and, of course, for daily conversations in English. IELTS will help set you up for success in these areas so I highly encourage you to spend enough time preparing for the test.

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Stay Connected

For previous and new winners of IELTS Prize, we welcome you to stay connected with the British Council and the fellow alumnus to build your professional network. As IELTS Prize winners, you should have received an invitation link to join the alumni community online, be in touch with us if you have not yet been added to the community.

Applications are open from

1 December 2019 to 29 May 2020.

Get started today!

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