I am very happy, honoured and humbled to be one of the recipients of the IELTS Prize. This award will help lighten the financial burden of studying aboard and allow me to focus more on my research instead of worrying about educational expenses.

Finding a scholarship had been much more challenging than I had expected as there are very limited opportunities available in funding postgraduate studies in the field I have chosen. If not for the IELTS Prize, I might have reconsidered studying abroad. Therefore I am extremely grateful to the British Council for giving me the chance to pursue my passion.

The staff at the British Council were friendly and helpful, making the IELTS Prize application process a very positive experience. My interview had to be postponed, but the interviewers were very accommodating in working around my schedule and even offered ways to make the process more convenient for me. The coordinating manager was also very thoughtful in sharing event dates with me as soon as they were available so I that I had enough notice to apply for leave from work.

I was quite nervous about taking the test because I did not have a lot of time to prepare for it. I was working full-time and was late in applying to the university. Thankfully the online resources provided by the British Council were very helpful and insightful. Going through the materials helped me become familiar with the test format and gave me a great boost in confidence. I also really appreciated the British Council’s informative Road to IELTS online course, which I was able to study at my own time and pace.

The IELTS test is a widely recognised English language proficiency test that helps ensure test takers are well equipped to live, study, and work in the new linguistic environment and better assimilate into the culture. I have taken other language tests previously, and I find the IELTS test more rigorous and comprehensive because, in addition to syntax and lexicon, the test also includes practical applications, like exposure to different regional accents.

The most effective way to improve your proficiency in English, or any language for that matter, is to keep practising. I had an undergraduate foreign language professor whose tests would only include long open-ended questions and essays. He would say that it did not matter what you were writing as long as you wrote something – even if it was riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors. In fact, the only way you could receive a lower grade in his class was to give safe one-liner answers. It was an intimidating task, but also one that propelled my language skills. I would often surprise myself by how many words I was actually able to use correctly, and how I was able to form well-structured sentences under the pressure of a timed paper.

My advice to the people who are sitting for the IELTS test is to be brave in using the language, be consistent in doing practise papers, and be confident in the preparations you have made.