Clever Reading Skills to Improve your English (Part 2)

books stack

 

If you are poor at reading, then perhaps it’s because you use only one style ‒ intensive reading.

 

In part 1, we looked at how skimming can help you understand the gist, i.e. the general meaning, of a text. Here are two more sub-skills that are widely used in reading.

 

Scanning

This method is useful in identifying factual information in no time, e.g. names, dates, numbers, address, etc. Scanning involves moving your eyes quickly down a page in order to find a specific fact or piece of information without reading the entire text. While scanning, the reader:

  • understands the way the text is structured before beginning to ‘read.’ For instance, is information arranged from A to Z (e.g. a dictionary, where items appear in alphabetical order) or by category (e.g. a catalogue)?
  • sometimes uses their finger or hand to focus on what they are reading.
  • does not make an attempt to understand the whole text; instead they read relevant parts around keyword

 

Many of us use this skill in our daily lives without realising it. For example, when we look for someone’s number in a telephone book, or football scores in the newspaper, we are, in fact, scanning.

 

 

Intensive reading

As the name suggests, this sub-skill is used to get a thorough understanding of a text by reading it closely and carefully. Here, the reader:

  • focuses more on the language (grammar and unfamiliar vocabulary) than the text.
  • sometimes deals with grammar and vocabulary that is beyond their existing language ability.
  • reads the same piece of text again and again to ensure that they have understood words correctly.

 

If you are poor at reading, then it is perhaps because you use only one style ‒ intensive reading. Obviously, this will slow you down, apart from making you too dependent on every single word you read to increase your understanding. Instead, train yourself to use sub-skills effectively so that you are able to read fast and understand better.

 

Remember, a good reader always uses different styles to read effectively!

 

GLOSSARY

 

factual
Form : adjective
Meaning : relating to facts
Example : The newspaper article about the incident had a lot of factual errors.

 

in no time
Form : phrase
Meaning : very quickly
Example : Since there was no traffic, so we reached the restaurant in no time at all.

 

catalogue
Form : noun
Meaning : a list of items, usually with details, that people can look at or buy
Example : The library catalogue lists many rare books amongst its collection.

 

keyword
Form : noun
Meaning : an important word
Example : When giving a speech, Bob keeps a list of keywords to remind him of what to talk about.

 

 

thorough
Form : adjective
Meaning : defines something done completely, with great attention given to every detail
Example : Detective Stinson has a thorough understanding of how crimes are committed.

 

 

View From Campus: My Journey from Nepal to Studying in the U.S.

Rasana

IELTS has made a substantial contribution to what I am today

 

We spoke with Rasana Pradhan from Nepal, who is studying Environmental Safety and Health Management at the University of Findlay in the U.S. She told us about her how the IELTS test helped her prepare for U.S. study and her dreams to set up an environmental NGO back in Nepal.

 

How would you describe your experience in preparing for and taking the IELTS test?

As a graduate from St. Xavier’s College and an avid English novel reader, learning English has always been my passion. I always wanted to come to the U.S. and I knew IELTS was the gateway to it, so after completing my BA, I booked my IELTS date and bought IELTS books. I frequently went to British Council to grab some more IELTS books and DVDS so that, I could learn more. Later on I also participated in British Council’s weekly classes and IELTS sessions. Writing essays on variant topics evidently enhanced my writing skills, and speaking about different topics in front of everyone was one of my best experiences.

Then finally, the test day arrived.The best part of taking my IELTS was my speaking test. I had a great time talking to my examiner about my hobbies, my friends and my aim in life. Overall, when I have to sum up, the IELTS test improved my English and boosted my confidence.

 

How did you decide on the U.S. as your study destination? 

I always had a thirst for knowledge. The education system in the U.S. is one of the best in the world, as it strives for more practical education rather than just theoretical one. I came here to quench my thirst for getting an education that will allow me to grow professionally. In addition, the U.S. is the land of opportunities!

 

How has the IELTS experience prepared you for your degree program? 

I think IELTS has made a substantial contribution to what I am today. It has undeniably made me a confident English speaker. I have actively participated in my class presentations, I can confidently talk to my professors and my American friends. IELTS taught me the exact format of writing, which helped me a lot during my course assignments. Moreover, because of this confidence and good communication skills, I also earned a graduate assistantship this year. For a graduate assistant, fluency in English is essential, so IELTS has helped me fulfil my duties. You not only learn from school, but also from your day-to-day life. I have not only learned to be more independent, but also to solve my problems. Here, I have been able to get a holistic education that goes beyond school and definitely beyond books.

UF alumni

What are your plans after graduation?

I am planning to work for 3-5 years as an environmental and health specialist/manager in the U.S. to gain experience. After gaining sufficient amount of experience here, I have a dream to go back and open an environmental NGO in my country. I co-founded an organisation called The Youth Today Nepal in 2014, and this organisation inspired me to work more for the betterment of the people. There aren’t many good environmental and safety organisations in Nepal and the state of my country’s environment is deteriorating, so I would like to improve those conditions and serve others.

The View From Campus: Five Things to do Before Your Arrival in the U.S.

 

In the third edition of our View From Campus series, we look at five tips international students should follow when preparing for their studies in the U.S.

We spoke to Adina Lav, Assistant Provost for International Enrollment at George Washington University, about her college and the advice she gives new arrivals…

 

  • Describe your institution in five words? Innovative; diverse; ambitious; socially responsible.
  • What is your institution best known for overseas? We are a university with students and faculty members from every state and more than 130 countries. A GW education integrates intellectual discovery, interactive learning and unparalleled access to opportunities in every sector of society. In a city shaping the future, George Washington is a university where faculty and students not only study the world but also work to change it.
  • What are your top academic programs? GW is well known for its majors and research in political science and international affairs. We also have excellent programs in business, engineering, arts and the sciences.
  • What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution? GW has 26,000 students, with nearly 2,400 students from 130 countries, 300 visiting international scholars, and a footprint in more than 80 percent of the countries in the world.  In Fall 2015, China, India, S. Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada were the top five countries represented in our student body. 
  • How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process? IELTS is used as an assessment of English language ability: writing, reading, speaking, and listening – in the admissions process. We use it as part of a larger, holistic review to understand a candidate’s chances of success and best fit for GW. 

 

Five Things to do Before Your Arrival in the U.S.

  1. Once students have got their visas to enter the U.S., what is the most important thing you recommend students do next? Students should focus on their arrival timeline. Most universities have a ‘report date’, which is the date by which the student must be on campus. This date may or may not align with the student’s orientation program. If housing is available, I recommend that students plan to arrive no later than two days prior to their orientation program. This gives them time to get into the country, settle in, and fight any impending jet lag before orientation starts.
  2. How soon can students enter the U.S. once they have their visas? Students entering the United States on F1 or J1 visas can typically do so up to 30 days prior to their report date. Students entering early should confirm housing availability or have a temporary, alternative option set up.
  3. Would you recommend any resources in the students’ home countries to help them prepare for their journey to the U.S.? One of the best resources is the US. Department of State’s EducationUSA advising centres in the student’s country. These centres often have in-person or online pre-departure orientations, which offer a wealth of information to students before the leave for the U.S.
  4. How do U.S. colleges assist international students to prepare for their arrival on campus? In addition to assistance throughout the visa process, colleges typically offer their own pre-departure orientations, checklists, and resource guides. Social media is also a wonderful tool to not only get to know the school and community you’re moving to, but to meet other in-coming students as well. Many schools also offer summer send-off celebrations for students and parents through local alumni chapters.
  5. What advice would you give students who are about to get on a plane to the U.S. to begin a degree program? Come into the country with an open mind and a sense of humour. Americans are naturally curious and straight-forward. Be a good ambassador for your community and remember that the U.S. is a very diverse country, with lots of ideas about the outside world, but generally little exposure. Students have the opportunity to represent themselves, their home communities, and eventually their new universities well.

Five Reasons to Study Abroad in Scotland

 

Scotland has a huge number of international students – around 48,000. But, what makes it such a popular destination?

Here are five reasons why the land of J.K Rowling and Adam Smith is a hit with study abroad candidates…

 

  1. A long history in higher education

More than 600 years, in fact! It has some of the world’s oldest and most respected universities that have help shape our world. From the invention of the telephone to the world of Harry Potter, Scotland’s universities continue to produce international icons.

 

  1. Research is excellent

Scotland’s universities are leaders in research.  It is home to five universities ranked amongst the top international institutions, including Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews. Research for STEM subjects is noticeably well funded and boasts world-class facilities. Whatever you want to pursue academically – Scotland is the place.

 

  1. Graduates go on to find a job

Scottish university graduates are very employable. Nine out of every ten graduates go on to find a job or continue study within six months. These prospects are not only down to the well-respected teaching at Scottish universities, but the strong links between industry and the university sector.

 

  1. An ancient land to explore

Beyond the classroom, Scotland universities offer students a gateway to adventure. Scotland’s landscape is some of the most wild and beautiful in the United Kingdom, with stunning lochs (lakes) and glens (valleys) to get lost in. There are countless things to do and see – from Whisky tasting to Whale watching – that will make your time studying in Scotland really memorable.

 

  1. A rich cultural scene

Taking place in August, the Edinburgh Festival (sometimes referred to as the ‘Fringe’) is the world’s largest arts festival. For students in Scotland, this is a fantastic opportunity to see some of the best theatre, music, art and comedy from across the world. And that’s just one of over 350 festivals taking place in Scotland every year!

 

The best judges after all, are the students. It’s no surprise, then, that they rate their experience in Scotland as among the best for studying abroad.

You’re welcome!

Five Cardinal Sins to Avoid in the IELTS Writing Test

 Look out for an overall trend in the maze of data; identifying it is half the battle!

In the IELTS Academic Writing test, candidates attempt two tasks of 150 words and 250 words. The first is an information-transfer task, asking you to describe information given in a graph, table, chart or diagram. Simple, right? Why then do so many candidates make a real hash of it?

It’s quite possible that they are guilty of one (or more) of these five cardinal sins…

 

  1. Not meeting the word limit

Even a cursory glance at the writing booklet will tell you that your response to Task 1 should have at least 150 words. Fail to meet this word limit and you’re hurting your score. Scripts that are under the minimum word length attract a penalty, which could be severe if the response is very short.

TIP: Learn to identify how long 150 words looks in your handwriting beforehand!

 

  1. Not using figures to support descriptions

Are your descriptions of the pictorial data just a series of words that describe trends?

Does it, for instance, say: “Even though the price of crude oil hit a trough, it soon surged to its earlier level, remained stable for a short period, before peaking towards the end of the year?”

Without any figures to substantiate these descriptions, it’s difficult for the reader to fully comprehend how exactly crude oil prices fluctuated over an entire year.

TIP: Add figures where necessary to provide a clear context to the reader!

 

  1. Answering the wrong question!

Example: “As per the data provided on the question paper, it’s evident that crude oil prices saw a great deal of fluctuation in just 12 months. Could it be the Gulf war? Perhaps it’s the result of a change in foreign policy?”

Why prices varied is well and truly beyond what’s provided as task input, so do not attempt to speculate. If you do that, you end up wasting time, adding totally irrelevant information to your response.

TIP: The test shouldn’t be used as a platform to showcase your general knowledge. Your job is to summarise the information provided by selecting the main features; so focus on that!

 

  1. Not producing full, connected text

IELTS Writing tasks require candidates to produce answers as full, connected text. Obviously, this means that use of bullet points and note form are inappropriate; scripts that use of them are penalised.

TIP: While writing, just stick to creating paragraphs. Disregard this simple rule and you may have to pay the penalty!

 

  1. Not drawing a conclusion

A report is a document written after careful consideration of various aspects of a situation; it needs a logical conclusion. If your response doesn’t refer to the bigger picture ‒ a statement that summaries the pictorial data provided ‒ it would be incomplete to say the least.

TIP: Look out for an overall trend in the maze of data; identifying it is half the battle!

 

Remember these handy tips when you begin preparing for the writing test; they’ll save you from underperforming when you eventually take IELTS.

Best of luck!

Four Reasons to Study in Poland (in English)

Mathu

Photo courtesy of Mathangi Jeyakumar

 

An Unconventional Choice

Born in Norway to Indian parents, Mathangi Jeyakumar ‒ or ‘Mathu’ as she’s known among friends and family ‒ had her schooling in two different countries, India and Norway. Having completed her O-level in Norway and a bachelor’s degree in India, she then made an unconventional choice: to do a graduate programme in Management at Kozminski University, Poland – taught in English!

More and more people are taking advantage of degrees in continental Europe taught in English and, like Mathu, open their horizons to new cultures and experiences amongst an international peer group.

 

Why Poland?

 

  1. Over 400 courses in English

Despite Polish remaining the common medium of instruction across the country, more than 400 courses are now taught in English. And the good news for international students is that this number is expanding at a fast rate, thanks to Poland’s growing reputation as a centre of excellence in European education.

 

  1. Expanding community of international students

Poland’s international student population is getting larger and larger with each passing year. Visit one of its top-class medical universities and you are likely to meet students from the USA, UK, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, among others. Many arrive as exchange students for a term but are attracted by its rich history, great food, vibrant night-life and picturesque countryside.

 

  1. Inexpensive tuition fees

Compared to many European countries, Polish educational establishments charge a lot less in tuition fees. You can expect to pay somewhere between £1,250 and £2,750 a year, which is a bargain considering that you get to study in a European country. Of course, this figure may vary depending on your choice of institution, type of course, etc. ‒ enrolling at one of Poland’s acclaimed medical universities can cost you over £10,000 per year.

 

  1. Low cost of living

When a  meal can cost you under £3, a loaf of bread is under than fifty pence, and shared accommodation is available for about £100 a month – you know you’ve come to an inexpensive part of Europe. If you are used to the high costs in countries such as the UK and the US, then it’s safe to say that Poland is cheap!

 

For more information about studying abroad and proving your ability in English click here

Powodzenia! (Good luck)

Financing a U.S. Degree: A Funding Overview

Money US

Photo courtesy of Thomas Galvez Flickr CC

 

When applying to colleges and universities in the United States, one of the first experiences most students have is shock at the costs involved.

For example, the annual cost for a bachelor’s degree program at an elite institution, (including tuition and fees, living expenses, books and supplies, health insurance, etc.) can exceed $75,000.

While there are institutions where the annual expenses may be under $20,000, the majority are in the middle, out of reach for many aspiring students. Yet there are currently over one million international students studying in the United States.

 

So, how do they fund their studies?

The Institute of International Education’s (IIE) annual Open Doors Report shows that for 64% of students, personal and family sources are the primary source of funding, followed by U.S. colleges or universities at 21%.

financing a US degree image

According to data from a 2014 NAFSA report, international students received almost $10 billion in financial support from U.S. sources in the form of scholarships, grants, tuition waivers, assistantships, etc.

 

Which schools gave that aid?

There are over 4,500 accredited U.S. colleges and universities. To find current financial aid offered to international students, use this searchable database.

 

Graduates

In general, more aid is available to students seeking graduate (masters or doctorate) degrees in the United States, in the form of graduate teaching or research assistantships that provide tuition waivers, and stipends for work done for specific departments on campus.

 

Undergraduates

The first step to financing your undergraduate degree in the U.S.  is to assess your own funds and the typical costs for your university of choice. You should also research the area you’ll be living in and the typical living costs involved. Your university will be able to advise you on this.

You’ll of course be required to prove your English ability. To find out how IELTS can prepare you for a U.S. degree, visit takeielts.org

Get off to a Flying Start with a UK Degree

London Eye large

Image courtesy of Gregg Knapp CC. Flickr

Life-changing!

For those people who have gained a degree from one of the United Kingdom’s many colleges or universities, the experience is often life-changing. For international students especially, getting a UK degree can open doors to employment and give you a chance to succeed at the highest level in your chosen field, be it there or back home.

 

Each year, thousands of students from around the world study at UK Higher Education institutions, with a high proportion of them (over 88% international graduates) satisfied with the learning experience.

 

So why are UK degrees in such demand?

 

  1. Quality education: Higher education centres in the UK offer inspirational teaching, first-class facilities and excellent research opportunities. The approach to learning is such that students receive independence to express their creativity and build on their skills. Since colleges and universities are periodically reviewed, maintaining high academic standards is given great importance.

 

  1. International reputation: The United Kingdom is home to some of the most respected educational establishments; some of them – University of Cambridge (#3), University of Oxford (#6), University College London (#7), and Imperial College London (#8) – feature among the world’s top ten universities.

 

  1. Employability: UK-educated graduates are among the most employable – they come out with the skills and abilities that employers look for. Studying on a UK course also helps students improve their English skills; and gives them the opportunity to meet people from every corner of the globe. Many courses also give students the option of spending time in industry to learn essential skills and make connections for the world of work.

 

So, if getting a world-class education and taking the fast-track route to employment are what you’re after, the United Kingdom might be your ideal destination.

Click here to start your journey to a UK degree

 

One Easy Way to Improve Your English Listening Skills

Photo courtesy of Philippe Put (Flickr) www.ineedair.org

 

So Easy A Baby Could Do It! 

As babies, we’re bombarded with sounds that our brains begin to codify almost straightaway. It’s a skill that is in-built and helps us to adapt to real life situations and understand our environment. So, as adults we should approach listening comprehension in the same way, by relating it to real-life experiences.

 

It’s all about context

Babies associate familiar people ‒ such as parents or siblings ‒ with typical situations (e.g. feeding time, bath time, naptime, etc.) and the sound chunks that are frequently produced on these occasions. Listening to repeated utterances of these chunks makes it easier for them to understand the gist of what is being said.

Let’s now take this theory and apply it to language tests.

Consider the IELTS Listening test, which is divided into four parts: the first two focus on informal contexts, whereas the last two are set in more formal situations. Just being familiar with the context can help you predict the sort of language that will be used, which subsequently helps you identify answers.

 

Filling in the gaps

In some language tests, the context of a conversation becomes clear as soon as the instructions are given. In IELTS, for instance, we hear the voiceover set the context at the beginning of each part; for example: “Section 1. You will hear a conversation between a university student and the shop assistant at a book store. First, you have some time to look at questions 1 to 4.”

 

Take a few seconds and think about your own experiences of buying books: What questions did you have? What information did the seller provide? Then, look at the questions and think of the sort of language you are likely to hear when the speakers reveal the required information ‒ i.e. how to get details such as the title of a book, its author’s name, the publisher’s name, its cost, etc.

Here are some ways in which such information can generally be sought:

Title Author Published by Cost
·   What’s it called?

·   What’s the title?

·   We have an international bestseller called …….

·   Who’s it by?

·   Who wrote it?

·   Who’s the writer?

·   Do you mean the one by Prof. Derek ……..? Oh yes, that’s the one!

·   Who’s the publisher?

·   Who’s it published by?

 

·   How much is it?

·   Is it expensive? Not really, it’s only $ ……

·   Is it cheap?

·   What’s the price?

 

Sometimes, anticipating the language for a specific context prepares you to spot answers in conversations.

So the next time you attempt a listening exercise, do what babies do – use situations you know to your advantage.

 

Click here to try this technique on a practice IELTS listening test

 

Good luck!

 

P.S. We’re going to be posting every week on a Thursday. So, come back for more English language tips, experiences and insight into studying abroad.

10 Tips for Applying for a Student Visa in the US

Good news! Over the last five years, the global average of students being approved for a U.S. student visa (F-1) has been over 80%, reaching 86% in the most recent statistics for 2013. So, with the right preparation, honest answers, and appropriate documentation you can give yourself an excellent chance of being granted a student visa.

 

Here’s our top ten countdown on how to do it…

 

10. Get your I-20

Make sure you have received the I-20 & admission letter from the college/university you plan to attend. You may have been accepted and received I-20s from more than one school. We recommend that you make a decision as to which institution you will attend before starting the visa process.

 

9. Check your passport

  • Make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months after your initial planned entry into the U.S.
  • Is your name spelled the same (and in the same order) as is listed on your passport? It has to be!

 

8. Pay your SEVIS fee

Students can pay this fee online. You will need an e-receipt for next steps in the process.

 

7. Complete the Visa Application Form online DS-160 (non-immigrant visa application).

You will need most of the following items to complete this form:

  • Passport
  • SEVIS ID (from your I-20 form)
  • Address of the college you will attend (usually on the I-20)
  • Travel itinerary to the U.S. if you have made arrangements already
  • Admission letter from the college you will attend
  • Proof of funding – bank statements, scholarship award letters, etc.
  • Dates of your last 5 visits to the United States (if any)

After completion the online DS-160 application, print off the DS-160 Bar Code page. You will not need to print the entire application.

 

6. Plan ahead 

You can schedule your visa appointment up to 120 days in advance of the start date listed on your I-20 (when your new school requires you to be on campus). In some countries there may be a substantial wait time to get an appointment, and, more importantly, to process your application. The good news is that student visa applicants are given priority.

 

5. Schedule your visa appointment at the U.S. embassy/consulate nearest you.

Using this site you’ll learn whether you can make your appointment online or by telephone. You will also need to pay the visa application fee (approximately $160, price varies slightly per country).

 

4. Attend a Visa Session at an EducationUSA Advising Center in your country.

EducationUSA works closely with the U.S. consular officers that conduct the visa interviews. At these sessions they will make it clear what they are expecting from successful student visa applicants, and the kind of questions they will ask.

 

3. Enjoy the experience

A couple years ago our friends at the U.S. Embassy in London put together a great video to help ease your fears, Mission: Possible – Get Your U.S. Student Visa.

 

2. Talk to your friends

Are any of your former classmates studying in the U.S. now? Ask their advice about their interview experiences and ask for their recommendations. You can also check out how successful students help demystify the student visa process.

 

1. Breathe, relax, and be honest

You have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources to get to this visa interview. Try not to be too nervous. You are almost there. Answer the visa officer’s questions honestly. Why did you pick the particular college you want to attend? How are you funding your studies? What are your plans after you finish your studies? It’s always a good idea to know how you might respond to these questions beforehand. 

 

Finally, good luck as you take this important next step!

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