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.