In this episode we chat with Irina who will soon be on her way to Canada!
She was preparing with her local academy in Moscow but got frustrated with the contradictory advice, timetable requirements and general faff of class attendance.
Also, she had a little boy running around the house, and was 6 months pregnant!
Determined to take the whole family to Canada, and wanting to pass before the baby was born she invested in the online IELTS course.
Irina used the C2-Framework (included in the online course), dropped her ideas into it, got feedback, and then did the test!
She was so happy with the result she will buy the course for her husband’s birthday!
You can download or listen to the audio version here:
YOU MAY READ THE TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Irina: My baby is in baby carrier. You can’t hear him sadly, but he’s fallen asleep, I hope.
Irina: My name is Irina. I’m from Moscow and I have a dream to move to Canada someday. Yes, I was in Vancouver last year and I really liked this city. So, I need IELTS to fill in the forms for the citizenship, Canadian.
Ben: I see. I see. Are you in Moscow at the moment?
Irina: Yes. I live in Moscow at the moment and I spent three months in Miami, USA because I gave birth there.
Ben: Wow! Okay.
Irina: Yes and I went back in June, so a couple of months ago with my son.
Ben: Your son, Leo, correct.
Irina: Yes, my son, Leo.
Ben: Got you and he might be making an appearance on this podcast. We don’t know yet, do we?
Irina: Maybe. I hope not.
Ben: Okay. I’m just saying that because I was chatting to Irina before and Leo is her three-month-old baby and he’s just gone to sleep at the moment and he’s having a few outbursts I think. I don’t know if that’s the right word, a few cries every now and again, but it seems like he’s settled now. Would you agree, Irina?
Irina: I hope so. Yes, he’s sleeping in the baby carrier.
|HOW IRINA PREPARED FOR HER IELTS|
Ben: Okay. Super. So, Irina, could you tell us how you were preparing for IELTS, please.
Irina: I started preparing in December last year and I went to some courses in Moscow like when you study in a group and you do some home tasks, but it wasn’t so useful I think because I had two teachers and they had different strategy especially regarding the writing part. So, I didn’t have clear idea how to write essay. So, I bought your course and I had just one week to prepare for the exam.
Irina: I really had to cram, but you know your course was so useful because it was– it gives a clear idea and it has a strategy and I just to tell you the truth, I just memorized the writing part like your structure, writing C1 as far as I remember it’s called. So, I just memorized it and used it during the task.
Ben: Excellent. Wow! That’s fantastic. I’m really glad you got the– well, I know the results and will tell the listeners the results later, but they were impressive, but before we get into that, in this test preparation center in Moscow, you had two tutors each telling you the way. Did you not want to choose one of the methods that they were using and just stick with that one? I’m just curious.
Irina: You know they had different charts for essays. So, they divide it into different themes like they name them and they have different structures, but one of the teachers told that the essay has to have four parts, another told that it has to have like three parts. So, I didn’t know what to do.
Ben: I see. I see. So, in this test center, they were just preparing you for the writing or did they help you with the other sections as well?
Irina: Yes, of course, they helped with the other sections and one of the teachers she emphasized the reading part, but the reading part wasn’t the most difficult for me.
Ben: I see.
Ben: Can we steal some of their strategies that you found useful or maybe we can share them with the audience?
Irina: From that course?
Irina: Maybe the most useful was that you have to write the second part of the writing part first and then the– I mean that you have to write the essay first and then you have to write the letter second just to save your time. So, it was the most useful one.
Ben: Oh, wow! Okay, that’s an interesting– yes, it’s an interesting point. By the way listeners, we also teach the same; to start with part 2 because with part 2 it’s where you’re going to pick up the bulk of your points. So, obviously, let’s get that bit under control first and finish it and then move on to part 1 just as– task 1, sorry, just as Irina said. So, Irina, had you taken the test before?
Irina: Yes, I had taken the academic 1 in January as far as I remember this year and yes, I had pretty good results. I think 8 and 8 for listening and reading and 7 for speaking. The worst was the writing part; it was 6.5.
Ben: Wow! Okay.
Irina: So, yes. And also I was– sorry, I needed the general course, but I don’t know why I took the academic one first because for the Canadian citizenship you need the general one.
Ben: I see. I see. So, even if you did get the scores you wanted you would have had to take the test again anyway.
Irina: Yes, anyway. So, I scheduled to the test on March and I was about seven months pregnant so I wanted to do it before my due date and before I left Moscow because I moved to Miami for three months. So, the only date was March 2nd and I had only one week to prepare for the test with your course.
|IRINA’S STRUGGLE IN THE WRITING PART|
Ben: Wow! This is insane. Wow! So, seven days. This is crazy. And what was the biggest sort of like challenge with your– well, obviously it seems like it was the writing, but what specifically were you struggling with regarding the writing?
Irina: I’m not very good in writing, you know. Like putting my thoughts onto the paper it’s hard for me always and you know sometimes the themes or the essays are so challenging. Yes, but I was lucky I had some easy one as far as I remember. It’s something about fitness or healthy lifestyle, so it’s more common for me.
Ben: Interesting. Okay. There are two things I want to just mention, Irina. The first one you said I’m not very good at writing and just to correct you there, I would have put that in the past tense and said I wasn’t very good at writing because now you clearly are because you’ve passed.
Irina: Thank you.
Ben: You’ve passed the exam and you got the score you wanted and later we will reveal that score. So, I’d say that was in the past and also you said you had challenges putting your thoughts down onto the paper and answering them and I guess organizing your thoughts as well. Is that right?
Irina: Yes, that’s right.
|IRINA’S TASK 2 QUESTION|
Ben: Got you. Got you. Okay. And then the second thing I want to mention is that you found the question easy because it was about sports and fitness. Is that correct?
Irina: Yes, that’s correct.
Ben: Right. Is sports and fitness– is that something that’s interesting for you personally?
Irina: Yes, I’m personally into a healthy lifestyle like healthy food and fitness and keeping fit yourself. So, it was easy to find some thoughts and write about it.
Ben: Excellent. Excellent. I think it’s so much easier if it’s a topic– if you get a topic and this is true with the speaking as well or perhaps any part of the test, but if you’ve got a topic that you are personally interested in it makes it so much easier because you know the vocabulary, you’ve got more ideas. Yes, it just makes it more straightforward. So, just going back to the organizing the thoughts and putting your ideas down onto paper, was that a part that you used to struggle with?
Irina: The part?
Ben: Yes, was that a section of the exam that you used to have difficulty with; putting your thoughts onto the paper?
Irina: Yes, I had difficulties with that because– actually, I was worried if my mind went blank and you know you’re short on time and you’re in the exam. You know also when you are pregnant– oh, maybe you don’t know.
Ben: Not yet, no.
Irina: But when you’re pregnant you have some hormones flowing in your bloodstream and they make you not sillier but your mind can be flattering.
Ben: I see. So, it’s like harder to focus. Would that be a good–
Irina: Yes, yes, harder to focus. That’s true and that’s also true for the listening part because I’m quite good at focusing on some tasks, but when you’re pregnant it’s getting more harder–
Ben: I see.
Irina: It’s getting harder.
Ben: I see because before I was a bit curious because you said you wanted to get the test done before going to Miami and giving birth and I thought why not just do the test in Miami in an English speaking environment, around English speakers, but I guess you wanted it out of the way before going there because– is this true that the further you are nearer to the birth, the stronger the effects of sort of like or the more difficult it might be to focus? Would you say that’s right?
Irina: Yes, that’s true and actually, I also thought about passing the exam in Miami, but we have the only date that was very close to my due date. So, I was afraid that I will buy the course and I would go into labor.
|HOW THE IELTS ONLINE COURSE HELPED IRINA|
Ben: Okay. I understand. All right, yes. So, it was basically a case of let’s get the test out of the way in Russia, in Moscow before we start with Miami and the pregnancy. Yes, that makes perfect sense. Now then, would you– so, you did the course for about a week. Did the course help you with organizing your thoughts and putting them onto the paper? And you said about mind going blank; did the course help you with that too?
Irina: Yes. The course helped me very much because it has a very clear structure and it has only what you need. So, nothing like more than you need.
Irina: And you can choose the themes you know. It is very convenient. It is very comfortable, so you can study when you want like I have the elder son and when he falls asleep I could go and study with your course.
Ben: I see. I see. I thought I could hear another child talking earlier. I thought I could hear it and I was like that can’t be Leo if Leo has gone to sleep. I heard Leo before, but okay, I just confirmed the other voice now. Okay. So, you said that it helped you– it’s like a little bit more flexible, it can fit in with your time table and also sort of like it was clear and that’s the point I wanted to make. Because it had just what you needed– well, it includes just what you needed, I have thought–
Irina: Yes and the best thing I think was the feedback from you and your colleagues when you write the essay and they give you the feedback like in the form of a voice message. Like video and voice message from– I think from YouTube. You make a little video so it gives the full sense like you have the private classes with the teacher.
Ben: Yes, absolutely. Yes. This is an important part of the course as well because the teacher not only should be saying like okay, this is okay, Irina, but we can improve it. This is what I like about the video corrections is that we teach the tutors to not only recognize where the student has performed well, but also to correct, of course, but also– just to repeat myself, they have to correct the essay. They have to recognize where the student has done well and then this is my favorite part, is that recognize there’s a sentence that is okay, but we want more than okay. So, we recognize– so, I teach the tutors to recognize these okay sentences and spot them so we can give suggestions on improving them. And I think in the video, as you said, if you get somebody saying like hi, Irina. This is a really good essay. Well done. Send me the next one and all this, it really– it motivates you, doesn’t it? It motivates you to write the next one.
Irina: Yes, that’s true especially when you’re not fond of writing essays like me.
Ben: Yes, this is one of the reasons why we do the video corrections because the PDF ones as well is like it could be done by a non-native English speaker and I’m not criticizing them, but I think if you have a native English speaker looking at your work, you can feel a little bit more confident in the correction. Also, you’re hearing the person, so you can literally– you know that they are a native English speaker. I think there’s that benefit as well. So, on your test day you had this exam question about personal fitness and health. Is that right?
Irina: Yes, that’s correct.
|HOW IRINA ATTACKED THE TASK 2 QUESTION|
Ben: Right then. And with this you– how did you attack this question? What did you actually do? Do you remember?
Irina: Actually, I don’t. It was more than half a year ago, so I just– I was trying to organize my thoughts in your structure writing C1. It helped me because I was– I spent not so much time for the writing so I had–
Ben: Was that the older son?
Irina: That’s the other kids. We are in the small hotel in Moscow region because my husband has his birthday tomorrow. Yes, yes and I even bought the present for him your course [unintelligible 00:18:07.23]
Ben: Yes, I remember.
Irina: Yes, I need him to pass the IELTS as well, so to have more points for Canadian citizenship.
Ben: Super, okay.
Irina: Yes, he’s not very confident with his English and I just promoted your course and I told him it’s the best thing I had.
Irina: So, I think he will have the present tomorrow.
Ben: Excellent. Excellent. That’s fantastic. And yes, I hope we can get your husband on the podcast as well later. That would be fantastic and then maybe one of your boys in a couple of years.
Irina: Maybe. The whole family–
Irina: –in your podcast.
Ben: But sorry, we were going back and you said that it was good to sort of like you organize your thoughts and structure it into the C2 template which was sort of like the Sentence Guide C2 template. So, in the exam, you saw the question, you developed your ideas and then you basically dropped them into the C2 template that you memorized. Is that right?
Irina: Yes, that’s right. That’s right.
|IRINA’S TAKE ON THE IELTS ONLINE COURSE AND C2 TEMPLATE|
Ben: Excellent. Okay. Fantastic. Well, we’re coming close to the end. I’ve got two more questions. What would you say to somebody who’s thinking about joining the online course; the Sentence Guide C2 template course?
Irina: You mean what will I recommend them or what?
Ben: Yes, if they are on the fence about joining. If they are thinking maybe I should maybe I shouldn’t.
Irina: Oh, I think it is absolutely worth this money because you know maybe people who pass IELTS, most of them they want to immigrate so they immigrate from the third world countries like maybe our salaries are not so high, so the price might be– you might think that the price is high, but it’s not. It’s not, of course. So, it’s absolutely worth this money and it’s worth the time you spend for the course. So, I think that’s the best thing you can do for your IELTS.
Ben: Awesome. Awesome.
Irina: For your self-preparation.
|IRINA’S IELTS SCORES|
Ben: Fantastic. Thank you. Now then, what score did you get for the writing? You were at 6.5 before and then when you took the course and seven days later you took the test and then you got your results. What were your results?
Irina: I got 7.5.
Ben: Wow! Wow!
Irina: Yes, that was more than I was expecting. I just needed a 7 and I heard that it would be hard to have 7, but I had 7.5.
Ben: Wow! Fantastic.
Ben: That is excellent. Well done, Irina. That is fantastic.
Irina: Thank you.
Ben: Yes, you can definitely say that you used to have problems with the writing, but if you’re at a 7.5 you don’t have any problems now.
Irina: Thank you.
Ben: I think that’s everything. Did we just hear Leo a few seconds ago or was that the other kids?
Irina: No, no, no. just the other kids.
Ben: What’s the other child called?
Irina: You mean my son? My son is Michael. Michael and Leo, so I’ve got two boys.
Ben: Got you. Can we get Michael on the podcast now just to say hello to everybody because we’ve heard him?
Irina: I think he ran to the playground.
Ben: Okay, no problem.
Irina: It’s far away.
|FINAL TIPS FROM IRINA|
Ben: No worries. No worries. Right then, the last question I promise. Do you have anything else to add or any tips for students who are currently preparing for the IELTS exam?
Irina: I think– I also struggled with the speaking part because I was afraid as well that my mind went blank and I was meant to– sorry, they are playing. They’re very loud. So, I recommend just to breath before the exam like when you are sitting and waiting for the interview or for the speaking part, just take like ten breaths just to calm down and smile and feel confident because interviewers are– they value like your appearance, like you move, like you talk. Just be confident and you’ll have the better score because at first, I got 7 then I got 7.5 as well.
Ben: Oh, wow! So, you improved with the speaking as well.
Irina: Yes, yes, I improved maybe because I had the easy topic for the second part. It was about your favorite city, so I spoke about Vancouver, of course, and it was easy for me and I was so excited about it.
Ben: Wow! That’s fantastic.
Irina: The interviewer– the tutor liked my speech.
Ben: That is excellent. It seems like you were a little bit fortunate as well with your exam. I think it kind of all just lined up perfectly for you. You had the test– the written test a topic that you liked, a speaking topic that you liked and you had the strategy as well for the writing, so– and you had that really useful technique of just breathing and controlling your breath and getting like a calmer state of mind. Would you say that’s right?
Irina: Yes, that’s right.
Ben: Excellent. Okay and I think that’s everything, Irina. That was Leo, wasn’t it?
Irina: Oh, it’s Leo.
Ben: Hello, Leo. Okay, so we can finish now and I’ll let you get back to being a mother and yes, good luck with your application to Vancouver and for Canada, sorry, and thank you very much for doing the interview, Irina. It’s been fantastic.
Irina: Thank you so much.
Ben: You’re welcome.
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