The result came as a complete surprise for me. It never crossed my mind that I would be selected among many other talented and high-achieving candidates. I feel grateful for the generous grant and very excited to be given the role of a British Council IELTS Ambassador. More importantly, the Prize will ease the financial burden on my family and allow me the opportunity to concentrate on pursuing my passion. Winning this prize also proves, especially to my parents, that I am competent enough to do the things I love.

With a strong affection for natural landscapes, I love to study the phenomena that shape such beauty for us to enjoy. Now, I can do that in one of the most advanced laboratories at the University of British Columbia in the beautiful Okanagan Valley. Watching our nature be subjected to human-caused destruction has motivated me strongly to act. After returning to Vietnam, I have a vision for my startup company, which will provide consultation in environmental conservation technologies and conduct research into affordable, yet qualified green technologies. My team would also make renewable energy and home-based recycling tools accessible to local people. If the business succeeds, I would like to establish a research fund for environmental projects as a way to recruit like-minded people and motivate other people in protecting the environment. I know it sounds like a fantasy, but fantasies can become a reality if you have a strong will.

I was fortunate enough to be eligible for the IELTS Prize after I decided to re-sit the IELTS in September. My primary reason for applying for the prize was, indeed, the grant so I could support myself. However, the Prize was not only a solution to my financial problems, but it was also a stage on which to share my story. Hence, I began to put more effort into outlining my experience and aspirations. The first round of selection was to submit a piece of writing. I guess mine was good because it enabled me to reach the next round, where I was able to speak about topics of concern and my future plan. Honestly, the atmosphere during the interview was congenial and engaging, which eased any anxiety I had. 

My experience of taking IELTS with the British Council was great. The registration procedure was simple and took me less than 15 minutes to complete, including the queuing time. It was possible thanks to the support, prompt action, cordiality, gentleness, and professionalism of the staff. Upon confirming my registration, I was offered free library services at the British Council office. It is a perfectly quiet place where I could concentrate and access lots of resources for test prep such as dictionaries, prep books, magazines and even a PC for online learning. I often spent my whole evening there, cramming for a better score band than my previous test, which eventually paid off. The British Council also provided candidates with a free account to the Road to IELTS online platform. Furthermore, the test venue was much more comfortable than I had expected. The test room was spacious and bright. The staff were attentive and prompt and making sure you do not miss the opportunity to get a free pencil and eraser.

I think IELTS gave me the tools to explore the vault of knowledge, to communicate with people from different parts of the world, and, to study abroad. Scoring an overall 8.0 in IELTS strengthened my confidence and belief in both my command of English and potential success in college. Each of the four components of the IELTS test provides me with the ability to transform my ideas into written and spoken words and to understand lectures so I can voice my opinions. Moreover, preparing and taking the IELTS also altered my personality dramatically: I have become more outgoing, keen to explore new sources of knowledge, and receptive to new ideas. IELTS is globally recognised as a reliable measurement of English proficiency. Therefore, for almost all post-secondary institutions, IELTS scores are considered a standard method of evaluating the English proficiency of non-native students, a key criterion for admission. Proper preparation and a strong will are all that is required to achieve the desired IELTS score.

To ace the test, I highly recommend, especially for those who are about one to two weeks away from the test date, the Road to IELTS website or app, where you can find general tips and online resources including e-books, tutorial videos and sample practice tests. In my own experience, my top priority was to develop good reading habits which lay the foundation for essential skill sets such as speed-reading and interpreting context. Also, it is definitely helpful in improving other skills such as establishing intimate knowledge of various topics and creating a unique style for the writing and speaking sections, which, in turn, gains you the ability to anticipate the context in the listening part. My trick was first thing upon waking and then last thing before going to bed I would read an article of my favourite topic, which was usually about sports, on the CNN mobile app. Later on, you can always challenge yourself further with articles or books of greater length and complexity. Lastly, it is always worth familiarizing yourself with the test format and strictly following the instructions.