Lena is from Moscow, and starts university in Germany in September.
Lena scored 7.5 in the writing.
She followed our online IELTS course, wrote essays and our team of EX-IELTS EXAMINERS, corrected her work, gave her feedback, and she quickly improved her writing skills.
Lena scored for the following:
Overall: Band 8
Lena shares what happened on her speaking exam (she had a very interesting examiner…..).
She shares how she prepared for hard IELTS topics she didn’t know what to write about.
Lena also shares a book she found really useful for preparing for IELTS topics.
Never give up!
You can download or listen to the audio version here:
READ THE TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Female Voice: You are now listening to the IELTS podcast. Learn from tutors and ex-examiners who are masters of IELTS preparation. Your host, Ben Worthington.
Ben: This podcast gets published internationally in China, in the U.S., in Mexico, in Italy, South Africa. Are you ready for global stardom?
Lena: It sounds wonderful. Yes, I am.
Ben: All right, fantastic. Hello there, IELTS students. In this episode, we are going to talk with a very smart student called Lena. Lena took the IELTS exam and she’s got an interesting story to share. Welcome to the podcast, Lena.
Ben: Hi there. Can you just give us an overview of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, just to get us started?
Lena: It sounds like the first question in IELTS speaking part.
Ben: I’ll give you an IELTS score at the end as well.
Lena: My name is Lena. I’m from Moscow; it’s in Russia. Actually, I’m a news correspondent at an online newspaper. I don’t work with the English language every day, but a couple of months ago, I decided to took the exam because I’m thinking about entering a German university and I need– some courses in German universities are in English and I need this certificate to prove that my knowledge is okay to cope with them.
Well, I realize that I had to take the exam and I think that in winter, I started preparing for IELTS. I used different materials and your podcasts as well. It was my first attempt. I have never done IELTS before and it was successful, so I’m very glad.
Ben: That is fantastic. So, you passed. You got the grades you wanted first time.
Lena: Yes, quite right.
Ben: Super, super. Just a question slightly off topic; is it a good time to be a news correspondent at the moment in Russia just generally speaking?
Lena: It’s a bad time to be a journalist in Russia, to be honest, but nevertheless there are a few newspapers, high-quality papers and it is a pleasure for journalists to work there, for instance, Kommersant. If people have this opportunity, they are lucky. I don’t have this opportunity right now, but you never know maybe in [unintelligible 00:03:34.05].
Ben: Okay, just another topic and then we’ll get– well, this is actually related to IELTS this question. Would you say that your sort of like industry-specific knowledge i.e. journalism and news and international news, would you say that was beneficial for maybe IELTS writing task 2?
Lena: Well, it’s possible to say so, but it’s also important that I have a very good education. Actually, my university– I’m actually a linguist and a teacher and I have a very good education and when I was a student we covered a lot of different topics and we had some subjects like the language of mass media and that’s why the topics in IELTS essays, for instance, they were familiar for me in a way.
Ben: I see, I see. Yes, because I thought that maybe from journalism and covering different stories you’ll probably have an above– like a higher than average knowledge of certain different topics like internationally compared to somebody who just studies, I don’t know, maybe art or somebody who just studies biology because it’s quite global I imagine.
Lena: Yes, on one hand, you are quite right, but as I work only with news I don’t have the opportunity to go into depth and for some topics, you need more specific knowledge.
Ben: I see, I see. I will go a bit off topic related to the questions I’ve got in front of me because I’ve got some set questions because I just want to dive into this because I find it quite interesting. You found that– you just said that for– it gives you sort of a good overall idea, but for some topics it doesn’t go into depth. Is that right? Yes?
Lena: Yes, for instance, I can give you an example. In one of the podcasts, you discuss the topic of international marketing and when I heard about it I was shocked and terrified because, to be honest, I have no idea what it is and in the exam, it would be a disaster.
Ben: Right, this is it. There is a lot of– this is what I have said quite a few times before that it’s not only going to test your language. It’s going to– especially task 2, it’s going to test your knowledge of international events and certain topics. Sometimes it can be a little bit detailed and be demanding more detail and more knowledge than you’d possibly expect.
So, what I wanted to ask you, Lena was how did you deal with this? How did you get into depth? How did you discover your weaknesses? Then how did you solve it with regards to certain topics?
Lena: Well, I believe that first of all, I listened to BBC World News Service every day and they have two programs a day. Each lasts for 30 minutes a day I think and they cover a lot of topics. Also, I used this program 6 Minute English. I downloaded programs for several years and I listen to them every day as well.
Also, I had a textbook. I used the textbook and would highly recommend it. It’s called New Insights into IELTS. They have a student book and workbook and they cover a lot of topics. They give a lot of examples and [unintelligible 00:07:59.11]. Then I realized that I had more difficulties with writing and with speaking and that’s why I downloaded two additional textbooks and worked them through as well.
Ben: Right, interesting. Very good, very good overview there. This book, New Insights into IELTS it helped you because it gave you some ideas for different topics, correct?
Lena: Yes. They have different texts and different topics and they give you essay samples. It’s very useful.
Ben: Interesting and there was another point that you mentioned. You liked it for two reasons. One, because of the topics and the ideas and then the second, did you say that it gives you lots of tips as well? Is that right?
Lena: Yes, yes and they do it step by step, so to speak. Not just to give you a task and you can come up with it as you will. No, they explain how to do it and when you follow the instruction, then at some point you realize that you know very well what to do and you can [unintelligible 00:09:17.18] quickly.
Ben: Interesting. Very good. All right, what was your– well you said before that your biggest challenge was– did you say the writing and the speaking? Is that right?
Lena: Yes, but I had more difficulties with the writing actually. I was afraid [unintelligible 00:09:42.07] take that right. I know that a lot of things depend on your topic and I was afraid that I get something like international marketing and besides some of your students in podcasts advised to write every day. I intended to do so, but unfortunately I work and study and I didn’t have enough time for it every day and that’s why I knew that I wasn’t’ well prepared for the exam.
Ben: Now, there’s two things I want to say there. The first one, just from personal experience we all do this sort of like set good intentions. For example, like in your case, I’m going to write an essay every day. I think everybody– a lot of people especially the ambitious ones, action takers, a lot of us we set these ambitions.
They are quite high. They are quite lofty and then we beat ourselves up for not– well, we can beat ourselves up for not attaining these lofty ambitions or these rules or these intentions. I’m speaking from personal experience because I set quite high goals for myself and not always do I manage to reach them.
I’ll give you an example. I’m trying to give up caffeine at the moment and I was beating myself up the other day because I’d fallen back into drinking coffee. It sounds kind of ridiculous, but my friend said look, you’re wiser now and when you try and give up the next time you’ll know what to expect and this time you got further than you did before. Before I could only last maybe like three or four days, but this time I lasted a good two weeks. Yes, I just got further.
What I wanted to say is we should still carry on trying and we should still set these intentions and still keep at it because even if we fail, we’re still closer than we were before just because we set these intentions. I just wanted to share that. The second point that I wanted to ask you is how did you discover that writing was your weak point?
Lena: I believe that I’ve always known it because my first foreign language is German and the spelling in both languages is different and that’s why from the very beginning when I learned English at university I had more problems with writing than with anything else.
Ben: I see. How did you solve your challenges with writing– with spelling, sorry?
Lena: I wrote these sample essays when I had time. For instance, at university when the lectures were boring I just copied them and in this way I found out some new words and the spelling of them. When I corrected my essays myself and when I found some mistakes I made myself write this word, for instance, in several lines to memorize it and so on.
Ben: I see, I see, the old school method of just writing just time and time again. I’ve done the same. I used to have lists of Spanish words and lists of English words and I would translate them back and forth, back and forth, back and forth not only to improve my vocabulary but also to learn the spelling.
Also, there are so many apps available nowadays that can help you improve your spellings. Lena, why did you decide– because you got this course that you wanted and obviously because that’s why we are on the call now, but what made you decide to join the course and start working with us? What made you decide to join the online IELTS course?
Lena: Well, when I learned about the podcast on the internet, I wanted to listen to it to understand what information I could learn and when I listened to one of the podcasts I realized that it was very useful. After listening to it the examination didn’t seem to be so frightening and I just wanted to find out more.
I began to listen to podcasts I believe three times a week when I cleaned my flat or something. Some of the podcasts were really useful. For example, the podcast when you discuss these essay for band 9 and I– to be honest, I just learned this essay by heart and used these constructions in the exam.
Ben: Genius, absolute genius, Lena. That is fantastic. What did you like about the course the most? What do you think helped you the most?
Lena: First of all, of course feedback of other students because they are very motivating and when I listened to them I realized that I could do the same myself and of course, the discussion of tasks which came into real exam are also very useful because when you discuss it and give some ideas how to answer different questions and which constructions to use, somehow it helps and I could recall it afterward when I started doing these tasks myself.
Ben: Excellent, excellent. Just a question popped back into my mind with regards to the preparation. You said that you had an issue with one of the topics which was international marketing. How did you solve that specific problem with international marketing, for example?
Lena: I didn’t solve it. I just hoped I wouldn’t get this topic in the exam and of course I looked on the internet what international marketing was just to have at least a slight idea of what it is, but to be honest, I just didn’t have enough time to prepare for something like this properly and I just hoped that I would be lucky. It’s a bad way, but I had nothing to do.
Ben: No problem. Maybe I will edit this part out of the podcast. No, I’m just joking. Lena, what question did you get on exam day? Can you remember?
Lena: Yes, it was very easy. It was something like some teacher and parents believe that they should supervise their children. Others think that they don’t. Discuss both views and tell us about your own opinion.
Ben: Fantastic, fantastic. Just by the way, do you remember if you did task 2 first or task 1?
Lena: I did task 1 first then task 2. In task 1, I had a scheme to describe; some changes in the work environment or something like this. It was very easy because actually, I expected to have a graph, a line graph or something or a diagram there.
Ben: Interesting. What happened with the speaking?
Lena: With the speaking, I actually did the speaking part the day before. It was quite easy because the examiner was very friendly. He asked me some questions about my work, but the main topic was about lies and telling people lies and find out the truth. Something like this.
Ben: Interesting. It’s good that you had a friendly examiner. I like it when I hear about these kinds of stories.
Lena: By the way, I just remembered I considered him to be from Great Britain because he had such a wonderful accent and it was a pleasure to talk to him, but afterward I got acquainted with some people and one of them knew that examiner and he told me that actually he was from the Czech Republic. It was wonderful because I could never tell that he was not from Britain.
Ben: Wow! That’s interesting. That kind of reminds me of this person I met the other day. He’s an instructor. It’s nothing to do with languages. He’s just teaching something else, but he had this Received Pronunciation accent like David Attenborough. Have you heard of David Attenborough?
Lena: Yes, yes of course.
Ben: This instructor he sounded exactly like him and I was like wow! I was kind of jealous because even though I am a native English speaker, when you hear a foreigner speak with the Received Pronunciation you are like oh, wow! It’s definitely inspiring.
Now, we’ve talked about how you prepared. We’ve talked about your experience on the online course and we’ve talked about the exam day. Now, can you tell us– this is the finale, can you tell us your IELTS results? These are what you got first time, correct?
Lena: Yes, quite right. So, I have 7.5 for writing and listening and 8 for speaking and reading.
Ben: Fantastic. Well done there. Well done, Lena. Those are excellent results.
Lena: Yes, I am very proud of myself as well.
Ben: You should be. Absolutely, absolutely. Nobody can take that away now. That’s yours and that’s going to get you into university in Germany, correct?
Lena: Yes, yes.
Ben: Excellent. Interesting. Have you decided which university you’ll go to?
Lena: No, I have chosen 15 I believe, so probably some of them will choose me as well.
Ben: Wow, 15! That’s quite a lot.
Lena: By the way, as far as the exam is concerned, I just want to add that the most difficult thing in the exam for me was to stay concentrated for such a long time because when I prepared at home, I did separately several sections. For instance, reading then I had a pause, did something else then did for instance listening, but in the exam you didn’t have time to rest.
It was very stressful from this point of view because I believe that I could have done better in reading and in listening because when I did these tasks at home, I did them almost without any mistakes, but in the exam I was short of time and that’s why it didn’t work so smoothly.
Ben: Interesting. Very interesting. What could you recommend like if you could do the exam again? Do you think you would start practicing doing the whole exam in one session without taking breaks? Like you are at home and just do the whole reading, the whole listening and then the writing altogether to get used to it? Do you think that would help you?
Lena: I think it would. It’s worth doing it at least two or three times before the exam. For instance, I had for preparation two months and you can do it one time in three weeks, for example. Yes, it’s worth trying. It’s really very difficult to stay concentrated especially if you are under pressure of this tress and of other people who are around you and they all are writing things. It’s stressful.
Ben: Yes, yes. I can totally understand. I can totally understand. It just kind of goes back to what we briefly mentioned near the beginning that it’s not only the language exam, but you also need exam skills and it’s not just the ability to write in an academic way. It’s not just the ability to upgrade your language for the speaking exam.
It’s also being familiar with the exam conditions and not only be familiar but be prepared and be ready to go through the listening, the reading, and the speaking maybe the writing all in one day. Possibly all in one day. It’s just adding to those factors.
So, this is why I think what you did was very smart i.e. allocating a good two months and also did you mention that before Christmas you were listening to lots of material in English just to get familiar?
Lena: Yes, actually a friend of mine took this exam last year and I asked her about the way she prepared for it. She didn’t get my scores, but nevertheless it was interesting. She told me that two months were okay for it and that’s why I decided to have two months for it, but of course I tried to– in autumn and in winter, I listened to some podcasts and I read some materials from the internet just to get acquainted with the exam.
Ben: I see I see, but your serious preparation like your essay writing and getting feedback that started two months before.
Lena: Yes, yes, quite right.
Ben: All right. Perfect. The final question now or final two questions; first one is what would you say to somebody who is maybe considering joining the online course?
Lena: I would recommend it because it’s very difficult to study by yourself and if you choose this online course, you will work with people who have very much experience in this sphere and they will help you to organize your time and your efforts in the most efficient way.
It’s very easy to work in this way than to do it by yourself especially if you have no idea how to prepare for such exams. To be honest, if I would have failed the exam, for instance, the writing part I would turn to your writing help– your team just to work with them and maybe if I–
Ben: To continue with the writing team?
Lena: Yes, yes.
Ben: Got you, got you. Yes, okay.
Lena: Yes. If I will have to pass this exam in future, I would like to use the help of your team because, well they are specialists in this sphere and it’s always better to work with people who know what to do and who can share their experience with you. It’s a great help.
Ben: Absolutely and just for the listeners, we hire ex-IELTS examiners to review your essays. So, that’s for the essay correction service and for the essays submitted through the online course. So, there’s a great team there and then there’s the course that I developed with them to help students pass, to get fast results or just to simplify the whole process.
Thank you very much, Lena. We’ve come to an end. Is there anything else that you would like to add for the– to the students? Anything else you would like to say to the students just to help them?
Lena: The main advice is not to give up because unfortunately we– sometimes we can’t get the necessary results at the necessary time, but it doesn’t mean that we should give up. If you try and continue working on your progress, you will succeed in the end. That’s the main thing to remember.
Ben: Fantastic, fantastic and I strongly and wholeheartedly agree with what Lena is saying and this month I’m going to try and quit coffee again. Eventually, I will get there, but it’s going to be like my fourth attempt. The thing is you’re only a failure– you only fail if you quit trying I think. It might sound a bit corny, a bit cheesy there, but it really is true. And each time you’re going to get closer to your goal. Each time you try it and each time you set the objective you’re going to get closer. Well, I think that’s everything. Thank you very much, Lena.
Lena: Thank you for podcast and to your team as well.
Ben: Excellent. I’ll pass those kind remarks on.
Female Voice: Thanks for listening to ieltspodcast.com.