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.