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!