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.