OPPORTUNITIES ABROAD

IELTS Tips from the Teacher

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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!

The View From Campus: the low-down on U.S. student visas

We quizzed Martin A. Bennett, Director, International Admissions & Services, University of Findlay, Ohio about the ins and outs of getting a U.S student visa and what makes UF tick…

  • Describe your institution in 5 words? Innovative, Safe, Friendly, Affordable, Meaningful
  • What is your institution best known for overseas? Having a strong international community.
  • What are your top academic programs? Undergraduate: computer science, business, equestrian studies, animal science, nuclear medical technology.  For  Graduate:  MBA, environmental safety & occupational health management, TESOL, applied security & analytics, health informatics.
  • What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution? Saudi Arabia, India, Nepal, China, Japan; 15% international
  • How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process? We accept IELTS for both undergraduate and graduate studies. Generally, a 6.0 allows a student direct entry in an undergraduate academic program, while for each graduate program the minimum scores range from a 6.5 to an 8.0 on the IELTS test.

 

Student Visas for the U.S. – Your questions answered

 

  • What is the I-20/DS-2019 form that a student receives after they have been admitted and documented funding? The I-20 or DS-2019 form is a non-immigrant document produced by the college that students are admitted to that is used to apply for an F-1 or J-1 student visa (respectively).
  • How soon can a student apply for a student visa after receiving the I-20/DS-2019 form? Students can apply for a student visa no more than 120 days before the program start date listed on their I-20/DS-2019.
  • What is the SEVIS fee students have to pay? The SEVIS fee is an administrative fee charged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which helps to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Students must pay this fee before they can apply for their student visa interview at the U.S. consulate/embassy.
  • What advice would you give to students who are nervous about their student visa interview? Prepare by having all the right documents (I-20, admission letters, proof of funding, test scores, etc.); Relax; Dress appropriately; Be honest; Be yourself! Good luck!

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 Résumé Tips to Get Yourself a Part-time Job

Are you a university student? Want to make some extra money, develop job skills, and get some valuable work experience before you graduate?

 

Part-time jobs, be it ‒ waiter, shop assistant, telemarketer, teaching assistant ‒ can make you richer (just a tad though) and more employable. So how do you begin looking for one? A well-constructed résumé (also known as curriculum vitae or CV) will certainly help you sell yourself effectively to employers.

 

Here are five ways to make your résumé, a written record of your education and work history, compelling!

 

  1. Functional vs. Chronological

There are as many résumé types as there are job applicants; each individual is unique and so is their résumé. Perhaps the most popular format is the chronological résumé ‒ work information is arranged beginning with the most recent job, followed by the one before and so on. Since college students may have little to no experience, it’s best to use a functional résumé, as it highlights the applicant’s skills rather than work experience.

 

When it comes to the format, choose wisely!

 

  1. Relate Past Experience to the Job

If you add details of some work, project, or assignment you did in the past that seems totally unrelated to the job you’re applying for, describe them in a manner that brings out some essential quality employers look for. For instance, if that past experience indicates that you are reliable or have a strong work ethic, employers are likely to take notice.

 

Every detail on your résumé should add value!

 

  1. Customise

Each job you apply for is different to the previous one; make small changes to your résumé so that it fits the job description posted by the employer. If a particular skill like teamwork, for example, is considered important in a job, emphasise that in your résumé; use clear examples to show that you can perform well as part of a team.

 

Your résumé should be tailored for the job you’re applying for!

 

  1. Highlight Education

Education often appears at the bottom of a résumé. If you are a student with very less experience in the target field, your education is the most valuable thing you have to offer – make sure it appears prominently. Add details such as the names of educational institutions, their location, extra-curricular activities, projects / courses completed (if relevant), etc.

 

The less experience you have, the more important your education becomes!

 

  1. Use Strong Action Verbs

Strong action verbs make your skills and achievements sound more impressive so remember to use them in descriptions. Let’s compare:

 

  • Found ways to increase business during week days
  • Identified ways to increase business during week days

 

  • Did a course in creative writing
  • Completed a course in creative writing

 

Words such as identified and completed increase the strength of your writing. Here’s a list of action verbs to get you started.

Always begin a description with a strong action verb!

 

Remember, an impressive résumé alone can’t get you hired, but what it can do is create enough interest in you to land you an interview. So, be prepared!

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!

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