IELTS Success – Studying Academic English at a School

Hi, there. We get a lot of questions on the site about all the different exams you can do with English. So we’ve decided to come along to a very good English school this morning to ask Shirley, who’s in charge of exams and qualifications at the London School of English, about the different exams you can take, and Monica, who is a successful candidate of the IELTS exam.

So Shirley, there are so many different qualifications. Why is the IELTS, in particular, one that many people try and do? Because it’s the gateway to university. IELTS is the exam that you need to get into university and for further study. There are other exams that you can take, but IELTS is by far the most popular. And if you have a level of or 7, you can go on to do whatever it is you want to do in your life. So getting that exam can be very tricky. So I think probably one of the reasons you get so many questions is because people are constantly looking for ideas and help and tips on how to get the best out of their exam.

Sure. Monica, how did you find doing the IELTS? Did it take you a long time? Did you have to study very hard to do this exam? And how did you find it easier by coming here to the school? I study almost six months IELTS in Japan. But I couldn’t get my IELTS score in my country. So that’s why I decided to come here. And then — yes. I can say my English skill was improved a lot in this school. So — and then, this experience has contributed to getting into university. And did I get it right, Shirley, that there are two different kinds of IELTS? There’s academic and general. General, yes. By far, the most popular one is the academic one. But if you want to — if you need an exam for visa purposes or for immigration purposes, you can use a general IELTS, which is a slightly different exam.

Actually, the writing paper is different, and the reading paper is different. But the speaking and the listening are the same. On the general English exam, the writing is much more about the kind of writing that you would have to do if you were living in a country, so it’s letters. And the reading is more about understanding life around you. The type of IELTS that you probably get questions about is academic. And the writing is a sample of the kind of writing you can expect to produce in university and the same with the reading. It’s the kind of text that you will need to access. And they are very difficult. But they’re designed so that they can test every level from a beginner right through to advanced.

So you really need to understand how to tackle the text because there will always be a question — if you’re a level 6 or a level 7, there will always be a question that you can’t answer because only a level 9 can answer everything. And if you don’t know how to tackle these texts, it can really feel like an impossible task. But it’s not. You just need to know what you’re doing. It starts from — well, you’ve got — a level 1 would be a beginner. And a level 9 is native speaker competence, so somebody who’s completely comfortable with the language, and everywhere in between. So if you’re looking at what you want for university, it will generally start around a level 6.

And a level 6 will get you into a lot of universities. But you’ll find your course quite stressful because it’s pretty low. Actually, it will get you in the door, but if you want to really succeed, you need more than a 6. And I would say you aim for a or a 7 to feel really comfortable. And it’s not always IELTS that will get you there because often, you need more general English.

You need to understand more about English in general before you can understand the academic side. If you study purely IELTS, you’ll never get anywhere. You have to study IELTS and general English side by side. Yeah. So you’ve studied at this school for a while now. You’ve obviously become much better in your language skills. But are there other things that you’ve learned? Maybe you’ve learned thinking skills, analytical skills that have helped you? What I improved the most in this school and in London is the communication skills with people. So now, I have a much more confidence to communicate with native speakers because my English is not perfect. But I guess a lot of native speakers don’t expect to speak a perfect English. But I can communicate with people. And I enjoy my university a lot. Of course, it’s sometimes stressful, but it’s very, very good experience for me. I just passed the first year of master’s this June.

And we’re very proud. Thank you very much, Shirley and Monica. Thank you very much. I hope you found that useful about the IELTS examination. Now, I’m here with Rosie. And she is the university — what was the actual title? University relations manager. That’s right. Now, your role here is to help students — you have an actual course for people who are applying for universities in London and the UK, and you help them actually get into those courses if that’s suitable for them.

That’s right. Yeah. We’ve got a university preparation course called “English for University”, which is academic English. So we have a separate IELTS preparation course. That doesn’t cover the skills that you need for university, really, so extended essay writing skills, research skills, note taking in lectures, reading skills — extensive reading skills, things like that. It sounds like a really exciting course. The students actually go out into the university to see what they’re like because you do need to actually see a university before you know it’s the right place, don’t you? Yeah. Exactly. That’s part of every four-week course. We go to visit a university, a London one. And as part of that, they get a campus tour. They go to the student cafeteria. They’re often shown around by a student there. And they have a taste of a lecture. So they actually sit in a lecture. They listen to it. Whatever subject is on the course that month, they have a lecture associated with it. They take the notes and experience the real thing.

So I think it really helps to have a clear idea of what university is like. Do you think that it’s a good bridging process between someone living in, say, Japan, and then university life in England is going to be very different? Do you think this helps prepare them socially and in terms of what life living is going to be like in the UK as well? Yeah. It certainly helps. We actually developed the course with that in mind because we had students who were with us to do IELTS and then went straight to university.

And they came back and said, “This is so different from what we expected.” So — yeah. This is actually one of our main aims. I mean, it’s always going to be a shock to them when they actually start university in terms of the workload and the expectations of them because it’s often very different from their own country. But — yeah. Just constantly addressing all those issues. And like you said, social issues of being in university. How you address your tutor — you know, it’s not acceptable to be asking a million questions after every lecture. And the fact that they are, you know — they have to settle into accommodation, open bank accounts, and all the rest of it.

They have to be quite independent. And in terms of actually being accepted by a UK university, obviously the personal statement is very important on the UCAS application. How do you think this will help the students get the right message out there with that? Well, my role is — I go in, and I support the English university course very strongly. But my role is independent from that. So students come to see me at break times or at lunchtime with questions about their application. So it might be, “Where can I study this course?” Or it might be, “What qualifications do I need?” Or, “Are my qualifications sufficient?” It’s also very much, “Will you check my application.” And a big part of that is the personal statement. They often don’t realize just how important the personal statement is because if an admissions chief is looking at two very similar academic backgrounds, it will come down to the personal statement.

So it’s something that needs to be written and written again. Exactly. Yeah. It’s draft, re-draft. Draft, re-draft. So it is a backwards and forwards process, which I help them with as much as they need. And have you been getting some good feedback on your recent courses. Yes. We actually have an alumni group, which enables us to stay in touch with students who are studying in the UK, especially London. So we hear back from them regularly. And actually, we’ve started organizing reunions. So — yeah. We do hear back. We manage to keep in touch with the students. And the feedback we get is really positive. They do find it quite difficult to adapt to a university — or some do. But they’re always eternally grateful for the courses. They always say that without them, they wouldn’t have got into university or they wouldn’t have survived.

Great. And a little bird told me that there is a bit of a reunion party going on tonight. That’s right. Tonight’s the night. There’ll be good few of them coming back. Some of the teachers are coming along as well because it’s them that the students want to see. So — yeah. Cool. Should be good. See you at the party. [Crowd chatter] So I came down at the party, and I found a couple of guys. So we’ve got José here and Joe. José, where are you from? From Colombia. From Colombia. And we’ve also got Joe. And you’re from — I’m from Taiwan. Great. So I just met these guys. And these people were in the same class together.

Now, José, you’re now doing an M.A.; is that right? That’s right. And what’s the subject? The subject is record production. So it’s all the music part of the record production and how you create records and how you record. All the studio-related stuff. And your classmate Joe — it’s interesting because Joe is actually doing A levels now in quite scientific subjects. What subjects are you A levels again? I’m doing math – further math, physics, and chemistry. Cool. And is that someone near here in Central London? Yes. My college is near Fulham Broadway Tube station. Okay. And how are you finding being a student in the UK? Is it exciting? Scary? At first, I thought the subjects would be the same as Asian subjects. But actually, it’s not. Here, they demand you to think about more deeply, and you require lots of English. Sure. So you found it quite helpful studying here before you did — Yeah. Because I did academic English here, so I found this quite useful. Okay. And just because my students here are learning some English at the moment on the Internet, why would you encourage them to come to London or an English-speaking country and immerse themselves in the life and possibly a language skill? Why would you say it’s important? Well, I think London as a city — it’s a city that offers you everything you can find in the world.

So it’s like a melting pot of things and cultures. So as I said before, every neighborhood has its own characteristics and its own personality. So here, you’ll find everything. So you’ll find all the cultural differences you want to find. Lovely. I’m going to ask one last question to Joe. So just a little summary. What did you learn on your four-week course? You said it was academic English. It’s a really quite tough subject. So you need to write a lot of essays. Okay. So it’s essay writing as well. It’s like, for example, for chemistry and physics, they require you have, kind of, critical thinking. You need to write a little bit — very short essay — to express your thoughts. So you learned to have better written English. Yes. Great. Well, thank you so much for coming in and speaking. I don’t want to hold you any longer. So you know, enjoy the party. And thank you very much for watching this video.

Hope this helps..

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