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!