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.

Clever Reading Skills to Improve your English (Part 1)

newspaper stack

Nowadays information can be taken in through an ever-increasing variety of media: newspapers, magazines, hoardings, flyers, blogs, phone messages, web chat, online posts, dictionaries, brochures, and so on. And the end result? Most of us are forced to deal with an endless stream of content in our daily lives, in both electronic and print form. However, the way we read these texts differs.

 

For starters, why we read is not always the same. Sometimes we read to gain information, at other times we do so for sheer pleasure. Understandably, WHY we read something influences HOW we read it. Another factor worth considering is writing style: the tone of a novel is quite different to that of a research paper, which means we change our reading style depending on what we are reading.

 

In an exam situation – for example, the IELTS Reading test – it is important that candidates use various sub-skills to read different texts efficiently.

 

Skimming

When we skim, we read a text very quickly to form an overall idea of the content. In other words, we move our eyes rapidly over the text to get an overview of it. While skimming, the reader:

  • reads just content words ‒ nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs, which generally give us the most important information in a passage.
  • takes a quick look at the heading and subheadings to understand how they are connected.
  • does not stop to ponder over the meaning of individual words or phrases.

 

So how easy or difficult is this technique? It may not seem all that simple at the beginning, but learners get better at using this skill with practice. Of course, once you master skimming, you may be able to go through about 700 to 1000 words per minute and obtain an overview of it all.

 

And that’s exactly the kind of ability that will help you perform better in a reading test.

Look out for Part 2 for more tips and skills to help improve your reading.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

for starters
Form : phrase
Meaning : to highlight the first in a list of reasons
Example : We are facing many problems – for starters, we don’t have enough staff.

 

sheer
Form : adjective
Meaning : complete or total
Example : Watching their daughter take her first few steps was sheer joy for Mathew and Lisa.

 

rapidly
Form : adverb
Meaning : very quickly
Example : Crime figures in some parts of the world are increasing rapidly.

 

overview
Form : noun
Meaning : an outline of something
Example : Our research provides an overview of the challenges faced by today’s youth.

 

 

ponder (over something)
Form : verb
Meaning : to carefully think about something
Example : Minnie spent hours pondering over her father’s comments about her career.

 

master
Form : verb
Meaning : to learn how to do something extremely well
Example : He still hasn’t mastered the skill of passing the ball to his teammates accurately.

 

 

 

IELTS Reading: Dealing with Difficult Question Types (Part 1)

group reading

The IELTS Reading test, in both Academic and General Training, has 40 questions. A wide range of reading skills are tested using a variety of question types, some of which are much more challenging than others.

 

In this part, we’ll take a closer look at a particular question type that most candidates feel is the hardest – identifying information (True/False/Not Given).

 

Here’s a simplified version of this question type to help us understand how best to deal with it.

 

Reading text

Mr Farrell, a revered professor at the university, walked into the room in a huff that day. Dressed in a pair of dark trousers, light-coloured shirt and red tie, his dapper appearance seemed to be in stark contrast with the foul mood he was in.   

 

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading text?

Write:

 

TRUE if the statement agrees with the information given in the text
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information given in the text
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

 

  1. The Professor was wearing a black shirt.
  2. The Professor was wearing a blue shirt.
  3. The Professor was wearing a pastel shirt.

 

So what do you think are the answers?

 

Tips to answer

 

Choose TRUE when you find information in the text that agrees with the statement in the question.
Example: 3. The Professor was wearing a pastel shirt.
Explanation: Since pastel shades are pale or light-coloured, it’s safe to conclude that the statement agrees with the text.

 

 

Choose FALSE when you find information in the text that contradicts the statement in the question.
Example: 1. The Professor was wearing a black shirt.
Explanation: Black isn’t a light colour so this statement contradicts the information in the reading text.

 

Choose NOT GIVEN when you don’t have sufficient information to choose either TRUE or FALSE.
Example: 2. The Professor was wearing a blue shirt.
Explanation: The colour blue is available in different hues, both light and dark. There simply isn’t sufficient information in the statement to choose either True or False so the answer is Not Given.

 

 

Remember, statements that are TRUE are the easiest to find; perhaps start with them and then move on to the others.

Discover further reading preparation and tips for the IELTS test here.

 

Happy reading!

 

How IELTS can help you get into Canada

maple leaf

Whether for study or work, Canada is a top destination for international entry. It’s a prosperous, safe and liberal country and the second largest in the world. So, how to go about proving your English level for immigration or study?

 

For study

As far as study is concerned, Canada is a huge draw with over 350,000 international students visiting last year and 95% of them recommending higher education in Canada to prospective students. To follow in their footsteps students will need to show their English level and the best way to do that is to take IELTS. More than 350 organisations across Canada accept IELTS, including University of Toronto and McGill University, Montreal, so you’ll be spoilt for choice of places to study.

 

For immigration

IELTS was the first test to be recognised by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Immigration Québec as proof of a person’s English language level for immigration and citizenship programs. There are other government programs for which a proof of English is required such as Express Entry, Citizenship and the Federal Skilled Workers programs.

 

All in all, there is only one real choice for entry to Canada and that is IELTS.

IELTS Tips from the Teacher

help-1468281_1920

In the first of our ‘Tips from the Teacher’ series, we spoke to Claire Hunter, EFL Teacher and long-time IELTS expert, about her top tips for people learning English as a Foreign Language.

 

For how long and where have you taught EFL?

Only in Scotland. I taught at Basil Paterson for six years and have been at Edinburgh School of English for three years now.

 

From your experience, what are the biggest hurdles for a student learning English as a foreign language?

Putting the language that they’ve learned to use! Students learn all sorts of grammar rules etc, but need to develop a ‘feel’ for the language, and you can only do that by actually using it!

Also, the range of vocabulary and structures that we have in English can be difficult for learners. There’s not only one correct way to say something – that can be daunting!

 

What are your top three tips for students preparing for an IELTS test?

1.     Strike a balance between: a) language improvement, b) test techniques and strategies, and c) test practice. All three are important, not just the last one!

2.     Don’t worry about speed/timing straight away! Get your techniques right, then get faster. Think of it like driving; you don’t drive at 70mph straight away! Master the techniques at slower speeds first!

3.     Read as much as you can of whatever you can!  Read, read, read!  It’s a great way to collect vocabulary and grammar, and see how it’s used. You’ll also start to get the ‘feel’ of the language. Take every chance to talk about what you’ve read too. This helps recycle the vocabulary and structures you’ve learnt.

 

Where have your students gone on to study/work?

Everywhere! They’ve been all around the world, including: Oxford, MIT, Edinburgh… I’ve had students go on to work at the Roslin Institute (think Dolly the Sheep), Ernst and Young, as well as a number of fine artists, doctors, pilots…the list goes on!

Top Tips to Improve Your IELTS Speaking Score (Part 2)

In the previous part, we spoke of how it is best to avoid memorised answers in the IELTS Speaking test. Here’s another way to be yourself during the interview.

State YOUR opinion, not the examiner’s

 

Bad example

Examiner: Let’s now talk about the role of advertising. Do you think advertising influences what people buy?
Candidate: Hmm… No, I don’t think so!
Examiner: Well, how do we then explain companies spending billions on advertisements?
Candidate: Oh, OK; I guess advertisements do influence people in some ways. Sorry!

 

The Speaking module has three parts:

  1. Introduction and interview (4 – 5 minutes)
  2. Individual long turn (3 – 4 minutes)
  3. Two-way discussion (4 – 5 minutes)

 

The third part gives candidates an opportunity to state their views on abstract topics and justify them. Sadly, some candidates don’t express how they really feel about a topic; instead they agree with whatever the examiner says the whole time!

 

As a candidate, you are assessed on your language, not your ideas or views. All the examiner wants to know is how wide your range of language is, so focus on exhibiting that. If your opinions are different to those of the examiner, feel free to disagree with him/her. Be confident and speak your mind.

 

Good example

Examiner: Let’s now talk about the role of advertising. Do you think advertising influences what people buy?
Candidate: No, I don’t think so!
Examiner: Well, how do we explain companies spending so much money on advertisements?
Candidate: In a highly competitive market, it becomes necessary for companies to promote their products and services. Advertising helps them reach out to billions of people. How else would people notice a particular product or come to know of its existence? But the question here is whether it influences consumer behaviour. Now, I strongly believe that there isn’t enough evidence to ….

 

Remember, always be frank and express your thoughts; do not change your opinion to mirror that of the examiner – just be yourself!

 

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

be yourself
Form : phrase
Meaning : behave or act naturally
Example : Why do you put on an accent, Tom? Have the confidence to be yourself!

 

abstract
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes something based on general ideas, not anything in particular
Example : They spoke about love in abstract terms – for example, is it valued in today’s world?

 

justify
Form : verb
Meaning : to show that something is right, especially when others think it is wrong
Example : It’s difficult to justify paying huge salaries when the company is making a loss.

 

 

 

 

 

exhibit
Form : verb
Meaning : to show something such as a quality or skill
Example : He exhibited his skills during the football match.

 

speak your mind
Form : phrase
Meaning : to honestly say what you think, usually in a direct way
Example : Clara always speaks her mind, which sometimes gets her into trouble. 

 

frank
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes someone who is honest about their opinions
Example : Dan was completely frank about the problems he was facing in his marriage.

 

mirror
Form : verb
Meaning : to match the feelings of someone
Example : He always makes sure his views on office matters mirror those of his boss.

 

 

Top Tips to Improve Your IELTS Speaking Score (Part 1)

 

 

 

 

 

…don’t sound like a robot!

The IELTS Speaking test is a one-to-one discussion with an examiner, lasting between 11 and 14 minutes. It has three parts, with each testing a different speaking skill. Here is one simple way to improve the score you get:

 

Be natural, DON’T rehearse answers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an example of how not to do it:

Examiner: Can you tell me your full name, please?
Candidate: Certainly! My full name is Mariana Georgina Gama. Mariana is my first name, Georgina is my middle name, and Gama is my surname. My friends call me Maria so you may call me Maria too.

 

The IELTS Speaking is testing your ability to use English in real-life and many test takers say the interview is similar to a conversation with a friend. So, you should speak in a natural way. Don’t memorise answers and reproduce them – the examiner can tell and mark you down. You don’t want to sound like a robot!

 

Let’s consider the example given above – the candidate’s rather long answer to a very simple question makes them sound artificial. If you don’t speak like that in everyday conversations, why would you do things differently in a test?

 

Good example

Examiner: Can you tell me your full name, please?
Candidate: Sure! It’s Mariana Georgina Gama.

 

A note of caution: although the format of the speaking interview lets you interact freely with the examiner, avoid using informal language (e.g. wanna; gonna; cheers, mate; etc.) or sounding too causal.

 

So to recap, the best way to improve your IELTS Speaking score is to relax and not to reproduce memorised answers. Just be yourself!

 

GLOSSARY

 

one-to-one
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes something that involves only two people
Example : I have a one-to-one meeting with my manager every month.

 

note of caution
Form : phrase
Meaning : a piece of advice or warning
Example : The old man sounded a note of caution, warning them not to play near the train tracks.

 

 

interact
Form : verb
Meaning : to communicate or be directly involved with someone/something
Example : Our new CEO is amazing – he finds time to interact with everyone in the office.

 

recap
Form : verb
Meaning : to repeat what has been said in a brief manner
Example : I’m so sorry for being late! Can you please recap on what you’ve discussed so far?

 

 

The View From Campus: Tips for Funding a U.S. Degree

EIU

Photo courtesy of jrmyers (CC licence)

 

Eastern Illinois University

We spoke to William Elliott, Assistant Dean of Graduate & International Admissions at EIU about financing a U.S degree.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

Nationally ranked comprehensive Midwestern university

 

What is your institution best known for overseas?

EIU is known primarily for its programs in Technology, Economics and Business Administration

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your institution after the U.S.?

India, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, South Korea and Nigeria. International enrollment is 373 out of 7990 total enrollment.

 

How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process?

We use IELTS as a part of our suite of language proficiency tests accepted to gauge a non-native speaker’s mastery of English language. It’s our belief that we should be as flexible as possible in acceptance of IELTS and other testing tools so as to allow our students more flexibility in their choice of use and availability.

 

Tips for Funding a U.S. Higher Education

  1. What are the best sources of funding for international students coming to the U.S.?

Most institutions will offer scholarships and graduate assistantships based on a combination of GPA (grade point average), financial need, and/or other factors.

 

Graduate assistantships can be offered in every graduate program as well as non-academic units. Assistantships provide a monthly stipend in exchange for duties performed in research, teaching and service, as well as a tuition waiver scholarship.

 

  1. How should prospective international undergraduate students look at the price of a U.S. higher education?

A student should understand that due to the strong accreditation system in the US, price is not a good indicator as to the quality of education they will receive. It’s possible for a student to be price-conscious and still earn a degree that will not only help them succeed in their career, but also be the equivalent of a higher priced, more “prestigious” university (as long as their school is equally accredited).

 

  1. For postgraduate students, what is the best advice for finding institutional aid?

My best advice would be to be as interactive with the graduate faculty as possible via whatever technological means available. A big part of successful graduate education is to search for a program that is a good academic fit for both student and their faculty.

 

  1. Talk about the role of work in funding an international students’ education in the U.S.?

Students must have their own means of outside funding and/or scholarship and monetary awards and not plan to support themselves with on-campus employment. The best that one might hope for might be to recoup some money from OPT (Optional Practical Training) employment after graduation, but that is not guaranteed.

 

  1. Are there funding sources available for students after their first year of studies, in case they don’t receive any institutional support initially?

In some cases there might be departmental awards or scholarships that come available once a student has proven their academic talent. Again, these should serve more as an unexpected reward for great academic performance, and not as a hopeful source of base funding.

 

We’ll have more interviews with university faculty members in the campus spotlight, so stay tuned.

 

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!

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