When I first heard that I had won the IELTS Prize, I was thrilled and incredibly happy. I am honoured for the British Council to recognise my potential and capabilities, and I will work hard to ensure the British Council that I am worthy of their support. There were many competitive applicants with impressive backgrounds, so being chosen has given me the confidence to start my journey at graduate school and pursue my career as a material scientist and engineer. I will work diligently to reach my goal of bringing positive changes to the world using the power of technology and will always remember the moment of winning the IELTS Prize whenever I encounter hardship during my degree course.

I applied for the IELTS Prize because I wanted to be recognised by an organisation of international renown such as the British Council. The selection process for the Prize was well-organised, and overall I found the local interview particularly interesting. All of the applicants for the Prize were required to prepare a presentation about their life story and aspirations. Preparing for this was a great experience because I was able to look back over the past and write down my own story including the valuable lessons that I had learned. I enjoyed the Q&A session because the interviewers asked detailed questions about my aspirations and goals. By answering their questions, I once again consolidated my motivation to study and earn a PhD by studying abroad.

The best part about preparing for IELTS with the British Council was that the whole process could be done online. There were no difficulties during registration, payment or getting my scores. I used the service provided by the British Council to send my Test Report Form to MIT DMSE (Department of Materials Science and Engineering) graduate admissions office via the electronic reporting system. I did not have to spare time checking the shipping status of the report form, which greatly alleviated any anxiety or concern during the application process. Also, test-related information was clearly organised on the website, which saved my time searching for tips about the test.

While studying and researching for the test, I became interested in studying abroad and working with talented people from various backgrounds. To network with people around the globe, I had to greatly improve my English skills so I could become fluent enough to communicate in English. All of the sections of IELTS were deeply relevant to my future goal, of being a global researcher. The Reading and Writing sections helped to develop my academic use of English. As a researcher, reading skills are indispensable because you must be aware of fellow scholars’ ideas and research results. The Reading section improved my skills of choosing important information from a given article in a limited amount of time. As I prepared for the writing section, I learnt how to analyse data and organise my thoughts, which is required when I write a paper for publication in a scientific journal. The listening and speaking sections improved my practical use of English, as they are perfect simulations of real-life situations; so by preparing for these two sections, I gained more confidence in my spoken English.

For other English proficiency tests, the improvement in your English skill is often not directly related to earning a satisfying score in the test. However, for IELTS, perfecting your English is the only tactic to get a high score. My best advice for any test takers is to expose yourself to English constantly in an enjoyable way. For example, you can try to watch television or entertainment shows without the subtitles of your mother tongue. These will greatly improve your listening skills and help you to capture useful vocabulary. Achieving good writing skills is a time-consuming process. When I prepared for the IELTS writing section, I wrote six essays a day; this helped me to brainstorm and logically organise my thoughts in a given amount of time. Always remember the quote “Practice makes perfect”, and never lose faith in yourself or your potential.