The email below is from a student we worked with a few weeks ago:
Here is a story.
First time when I opened an Academic IELTS 11 book it might have been October 2016 and I thought it’s gonna be a piece of cake. I’m sitting the exam, getting my band 6.5 overall which was enough at that stage and I am walking away with a happy face and realising there will be more sweat to come.
As my dream course in New Zealand requires not only overall band 7 but also 7 from writing which seems to be beyond my abilities, I’m deciding to boost up my IELTS skills in Byron Bay, AUSTRALIA joining IELTS preparation course for 2 months. My overall confidence is rising and the IELTS shouldn’t be a problem. Coming back to NZ and getting the same results was a freezing shower.
Two problems popped up.
Lack of time to finish my reading as well as hopeless wondering how to organise my writing.
Therefore, action had to be taken.
Firstly, I got my cognitive skills assessment done and it turned out I was allowed to get extra time.
Secondly, I needed a guidance for my writing.
When I was hopelessly wondering online who might have been able to help in times of adversity, I came across to your podcast and as there was NOTHING TO LOSE I’ve enrolled.
EVER SINCE, I started to be confident, everyday practice with POSITIVE FEEDBACK made me feel to carry on. I got my results I had “only” 6.5 from writing. I kept studying but I’ve also submitted the EoR just to be sure I’ve done ALL I could.
It’s Friday morning and I’m getting this email to come and pick up my new TRF at my local IELTS centre.
Got there, opened it and my writing band has changed up to 7.0 (with the overall 8) !!! Happy days 🙂
I truly thank you for your amazing guide and will recommend it anywhere I go, considering that I’ve spend around $10-15K on the IELTS and your affordable guide might have saved me thousands of $$ makes me feel a bit funny, but hey, I got what I coming for so who cares anyway.
Best Regards from a happy czech boy,
Jan spent THOUSANDS of dollars in Australia, on a 4 week intensive IELTS preparation course, and was still confused with the IELTS Writing Task 2.
His class was full of students with mixed abilities. Some students at Band 6 others at Band 8 -what a nightmare!
Even worse, after completing the classes, he said he still didn’t know what structure to use for the IELTS Task 2 essay.
And then he discovered the online course at IELTSPodcast.com.
Check out the rest of the interview here to get the full story:
Read the transcript here:
You’re now listening to the IELTS podcast. Learn from tutors and ex-examiners who are masters of IELTS preparation. Your host, Ben Worthington.
Ben: Hello there, podcast listeners. In this episode, we’re going to talk to Jan from Czech Republic but he’s now living in New Zealand. And we were chatting before and he’s got quite an interesting story about how he came into New Zealand and what he’s doing now and then where he’s going to go. So Jan, welcome to the podcast.
Jan: Thank you. It’s good to hear you.
Ben: Awesome. Could you tell us about yourself? Where are you from and what you’re doing in New Zealand?
Jan: Yes. I’m from the Czech Republic. I came to New Zealand after I finished my uni back home in Prague. When I came here, I was already decided to stay in New Zealand for a couple of years and go through the process of getting my residency here and that was the first time when I actually came across with the IELTS. So I did my first IELTS. I’ve had 6.5 overall which was enough at that stage but it wasn’t enough for my further studies that I was
planning to take.
Ben: I got you. Okay, now I understand. So when you took the IELTS the requirement that was requested of you was 6.5 but then by the time you decided to start your studies they upped the bar? And they increased it, is that right?
Jan: No, that’s not correct. I needed to have 6.5 for the immigration. I’ve got that straight away. So I was able to apply for my PR but I knew that I’m going to be applying for my further studies later on and the requirement for the studies for the school was 7 overall and also 7 from a few parts including writing and I was struggling with my writing.
Ben: Right. Got you. Now, I understand. Okay, and how were you preparing for the IELTS before starting in the course?
Jan: Okay, so first when I had to take the IELTS, I just bought a book. I bought the book called IELTS 11. I think it’s quite popular there. Yes, so I just actually spent a couple weekends before the exam. I went to this and I’ve passed well enough for the immigration which was 6.5 as I said. And then I left it. I left it for a year or so and then I decided that I’m
ready to apply for further studies and I knew that I’ll need 7 overall plus the writing. And at that stage, I just knew that I’m not going to be able to get 7 for my writing myself so I just decided I’m going to get some help.
Ben: Got you.
Jan: And the first thing that I was considering was an English school. I mean, the IELTS preparation course. Yeah, I’ve enrolled in Australia and went there for about 10 weeks. Yeah, it was for 10 weeks for the IELTS.
Ben: Oh, you went specifically to Australia to do this IELTS preparation course.
Ben: Wow, interesting. And how much was that?
Jan: It was okay, so regular price for a week is 500 Australian dollars and being at that school previously taking General English and knowing that through the agency you can get quite high discounts, it cost me 240 Australian dollars a week.
Ben: Wow! Okay, so you spent about 3,000 or 2,500 more or less.
Jan: Yes, and obviously there are related costs. So it’s not only about the tuition itself.
Ben: Yeah, you’ve got your accommodation to pay for as well and cost of living while you’re there also.
Jan: Yeah, and I’m telling you Australia is not a cheap place.
Ben: Yes. That’s true. I know what mean. I was there a few years ago and I was traveling from Thailand to Australia and the shock was depressing. I was just used to living like a king and then I get to Australia and I was like, “Wow, okay.” Yeah, it’s tough.
Jan: Yeah. You kind of want to go the other way around.
Ben: Exactly, yeah. That’s what I’ve been doing most of my life and then I took a wrong turn, went to Australia to see my sister and I was like, ouch. You know, back to McDonald’s.
Jan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was sort of my feeling as well.
Ben: Okay, and in your class in the course that you did, can you tell me who was there? Were there like a bunch a Europeans or were there South Americans? What was happening?
Jan: Actually, I was quite lucky because people were from all over the place so I would say 60% Europeans, then around 20% or 30% South Americans as well as a few Asians.
Ben: I got you. Okay. The classes they were just entirely focused on IELTS, is that right?
Jan: Yes, there was the IELTS preparation so it was all about the IELTS. But there was one issue about this class that pretty much any student at any level was allowed to go in. So the problem was that the teacher had to kind of keep up with everybody which you know, got turned down, people with higher skills, aiming high and also it was a little bit too difficult for lower students.
Ben: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, this used to drive me crazy. Actually, when I was in Valencia and I started my own sort of like language academy in Spain and one of my challenges was that the way I saw it was okay, I can put all the students together and make more money which is good if you’re running a business or I put the students in separate classes all the intermediates together, all the beginners together, and the teaching’s more effective but my
costs doubles immediately, you know?
Jan: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: And it’s always sort of this like catch 22 for the business, you know, do you make more money? Or do you have happier students and it’s a real challenge and this is one of the reasons why I kind of fell out of sort of like present a normal classroom teaching and moved to the online system. So this is what was happening in your class. You’d have students aiming for band 9 and students aiming for 6.
Jan: And there were also students who just thought and it was actually a truth that if you went to general English, to the advanced class it was still lower than the IELTS class so students from the advanced classes who considered the school as not challenging enough they just joined the other class even though they didn’t really aim to take the test or you know, they didn’t really have any target, any purpose to do it.
Ben: Ah, that must have been frustrating.
Jan: So yeah. Well, you know, I knew myself because I’ve done it before. So I was trying to focus on the parts that I needed to improve, but there was quite few moments that I was just bored and kind of you know, you don’t want to pay for something that doesn’t improve your skills.
Ben: Absolutely, I got you. Wow, yeah. I’ve been there as well. Just sat there. I’ll tell you I remember at the university one of my friends in Spanish class the teacher was speaking English all lesson and he was just getting really upset and really tired of it and he just put his head flat, face down looking at the table like that, not even sort of like to one side, just staring at the table in complete resignation. That was like, okay yeah. I could imagine that. So let’s get back with the course. One of the reasons I was really pleased that you agreed to do this interview is because you did the course, you worked through it, right?
Ben: And then you took the test and what happened?
Jan: So we are talking after your course?
Ben: Yeah, yeah.
Jan: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so what happened – actually, let’s start here. I came from Australia. I took my test and I didn’t pass and I knew there was something wrong.
Ben: What scores did you get Jan?
Jan: What’s that? Sorry.
Ben: What scores did you get?
Jan: Exactly the same as before.
Ben: And that’s – did the 10-week —
Jan: I mean, actually my reading improved and my listening as well a bit but the main purpose was writing and they didn’t improve at all.
Ben: Wow, okay. I got you. I got you.
Jan: Yeah. So I went through your course and from the very first day, I knew that it’s different and what was different was the actual guide which told me what sentence – I mean, there was a purpose for each sentence which was basically what I needed because I was struggling with my structure and we have a guide in Australia, but it was for different question types, different guide so we ended up with five different guides and I wasn’t like — I
was mixing them up and it just didn’t work out.
Ben: Yeah. I got you. It can be too complex, can’t it?
Jan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I went through this course and then I took my exam but as you know, I ended up with 6.5 again for my writing.
Ben: Yes, I was quite shocked then. Yeah. And so what happened then? What did you do?
Jan: I was just hopeless to be honest because I was ready to get this test done and obviously, the other parts they were good enough. You know, it was around 8 plus so I was quite happy with myself and the writing was 6.5 so I was disappointed but as we all know, we need to fight on till the end so I was just thinking, “Okay. There are some parts that need to be improved in my case which was definitely the first task in writing” but at the same time I was just thinking “Okay, it’s going to cost you just a little bit to get your results appealed” so I’ve applied for an appeal.
Ben: Hold on a second Jan. So before – well, you applied to get the appeal, right?
Ben: And in the process as well you also asked for a refund from my course, is that right?
Jan: Well, it’s not really correct because we didn’t really understand each other because I texted you but I don’t know who was reading it, but anyway I just emailed you that I don’t want to get any refund and I want to carry on straight away just to boost up my knowledge to the point where I can get a 7.
Ben: I got you. Okay, there must have been a mix-up then because I thought you wanted a refund.
Ben: Oh, okay, okay, okay. But we offered to work with you, didn’t we, anyway?
Jan: Yes. So it was a little bit confusing but anyway, my point was I just want to carry on no matter what. But yeah, there was another thing why I was pretty confident to take your course because obviously I was on 6.5 already so I knew that there’s nothing to lose and I wasn’t in the position because I’m working full-time to just attend in another school hoping for better results from the same approach sort of thing.
Ben: Got you, got you.
Ben: it was trying to just change strategy.
Jan: Yeah, yeah because this was my fourth attempt of the IELTS and every single time I didn’t really succeed the way I wanted to. I was trying to change my approach to the exam and the last one was the one that was successful.
Ben: Very smart, well said. You decided, so just going back to the test you got 6.5 in the writing. You felt that you should have gotten more so you asked for a remark, is that right?
Jan: Yeah, that’s correct. This is the second time that I’ve applied for it. The first time it didn’t change anything. It cost me $200 and nothing really changed. But yeah, I just believe that you know, you have to keep trying until you succeed so next time it happened again and I was just thinking okay, it’s going be another 200 bucks, but there is just some sort of chance that it might happen and I was pretty confident with myself so I was just thinking
okay, let’s do it again.
Ben: Got you. And then so you applied the remark and then how long did it take for them to get back your reassessment?
Jan: It was actually pretty fast. It was three days.
Jan: Yeah, it was amazing. Yeah, I was quite surprised so they emailed me that I should come back to the IELTS centre. So I went there and then I got it. Obviously, it was successful so I just got my refund. But the funny thing is I am supposed to go and take my exam this weekend as well as in like three weeks’ time because I just knew that I’m ready to you know, pass the exam but sometimes it depends on your promptness as well. So I just booked myself for a couple of attempts in advance. So I’m still booked for this Saturday.
Ben: Awesome, okay. So we’ll come to those next tests coming up in a few minutes. So you went back into the centre and they refunded you the cost of applying for a remark, is that right?
Jan: Yeah, that’s correct.
Ben: Got you, okay. And they said we’ve re-assessed your work and your writing is now at 7.
Jan: Yeah. Well, no one really talked to me because I think they felt disappointed because the way it works from what I understand is that they actually sent my work somewhere else. I think it was either IDP or somewhere. And someone who is a senior examiner is correcting that essay again. Once they have their results they send it to the
centre and the centre has to inform you. So yeah, the centre just gave that envelope and they didn’t really tell me anything. Yeah, yeah. I just feel like they are a little bit disappointed that you know, the way they marked it. It was lower but yeah, that is just my assumption. I don’t know.
Ben: Got you, okay. But in the meantime, you’d already booked some more tests. But also I just like to say in our mix-up that you asked for a — well, I just thought you’d asked for refund but you said that you didn’t get the mark you wanted but you want to carry on working. And then that’s when we decided that we’d carry on correcting your work. Go on.
Jan: Yeah, because I knew that this course is definitely improving my structure as well as English itself. And honestly, it was the very first thing that I felt a huge improvement in about a year’s time. So I just didn’t want to give up at all. So it was just a misunderstanding with our emails but yeah, the very first email that I texted you after my bad results it was just let’s carry on.
Ben: Got you, got you. Yeah. I just wanted to make it clear to the audience that if you don’t get your grade we said jump to a band 7 or it’s free if you don’t get that then we are willing to carry on with you and push you until we actually get there. You know, and even though I get his name wrong he could say that yeah, we were willing to carry on working with him. So I just wanted to get that across the audience. So now Jan, you’ve got two more
tests coming up.
Jan: I do. I think I’m going to get one refunded because it’s in about a month’s time so there is still time to cancel it. But the very next one on Saturday I will have to go and take it again, I guess. I mean, I don’t have to but I want to anyway.
Ben: Yeah, that’d be interesting and plus it’ll expire in two years so if you put in a good showing it’s going to last what a month longer than the other one?
Jan: Yeah, and also you know, I can test myself how it is to go there without stress because my requirements are fulfilled so now it’s going to be just pure test.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. You can just sit back in the speaking exam with your hands on your hands on your and let’s lean back and the next class.
Ben: Just sit down and go shoot. Let’s go. Go for it.
Jan: Yeah. I was actually quite happy about my speaking because from my past experiences the examiners they were quite bored when they talked to me. Last time it was kind of – I just get some sort of facial feedback so it was nice and helpful.
Ben: And that was the test in Australia or in New Zealand?
Jan: No, in here in New Zealand.
Ben: Right, I see. So you went to Australia to join a course, 10-week course and then came back to New Zealand and took the test there.
Jan: Yeah, correct.
Ben: Understood. And why did you do the test preparation in Australia and not in New Zealand?
Jan: Well, that’s another interesting story as well because I was considering to take this preparation here in New Zealand and I went to the school in advance because I told them that I would love to see the class first and I went to the class. Right? I was there with probably 95% Chinese talking to each other in Mandarin.
Jan: I was there with a French girl and she has had probably the highest level of English level at the class and she was French, right?
Ben: Right. Just in – French there Jan.
Jan: So I just said thank you and I just don’t want to attend this class and as I said I had experienced in the school in Australia and I knew that there’s going to be diverse national mix and that’s probably the most important thing for me as well as you know the teacher itself.
Ben: Got you. Okay. It’s interesting. So you quit your job or did you ask for a leave to do this 10-week course?
Jan: Say that again? I’m sorry.
Ben: Did you quit your job or did you ask for a leave?
Jan: Yes, I’ve resigned and I told them I will just need to go and study and they were alright with that they actually accepted me to come back after I came from Australia.
Ben: Super, awesome.
Ben: Awesome. So now then what would you say to anybody sort of like on the fence or is thinking about joining the online sentence guide course that we offer?
Jan: Well, first thing is that you probably need to find out what your weakness is and then okay from my experience I’ve taken only writing. If writing is what the problem is, it’s
definitely the most helpful thing that I found in about a year’s time joining two different schools. Oh, I actually forgot about my private teacher. I actually took a private teacher for $50 an hour over here who was an ex-IELTS examiner. There was a lady who was correcting the essays for the IELTS.
Jan: And she was exactly the same. She said, “Okay, this is wrong and this is right” but she has never told me how to get it right.
Ben: Got you. Got you.
Jan: Yes, so once I found that you are providing guidance that goes sentence by sentence, there was something that you know, if someone is having the same issue I would definitely recommend to join the course.
Ben: Thank you for that. Yeah, I just like to say that this is what I’ve realized when I looked at other tutors doing the essay corrections. There are a few things like one was that they’d say, “This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong and this is good, excellent, wonderful vocabulary, wonderful conjunction there, whatever.” But it was a bit hit and miss. You know, if like the student by chance structured it all correctly, the teacher would say, “Well, done”
but they wouldn’t say, “Okay, this is why it’s good.” They just say, “This is really good.” They wouldn’t go into the actual how the essay was constructed, how it was built. So yeah, this is what I’ve really wanted to get clear from the get-go with the course was it’s going to just solve a lot of confusion as to how you actually go about planning and writing it sentence by sentence without a sort of like memorized essay. You know, that’s going to be the same as essay you write for environment, about crime, about gender equality, whatever. It’s sort of like it’s a flexible structure. So yeah, and Jan so now that you’ve passed the IELTS exam, you said before you’re going to apply for New Zealand – was it permanent residence? No, you’ve got your PI is that right?
Jan: Yeah, yeah. I’m all set with that. So right now I’m just enrolling to the school and hopefully I’ll start my studies in December. So it was quite well timed. I was supposed to pass my first exam for my studies in August and then ever since then I was just hoping that it’s not going to be full and the intake of this is still open and it was so I’m quite – yeah.
Ben: Wow, yeah that’s quite fortunate.
Jan: It’s sort of like a last-minute thing but yeah, so I’m ready to study in December and I’ll see how it goes.
Ben: Awesome, that’s awesome. Well, I’m really happy that it worked out and I’m really happy that you got the grades that you want and I just like to say to the listeners Jan and me we were talking before and what I’ve realized about Jan when he told me his story about New Zealand, about his work and you probably noticed it as well is that he’s got an amazing attitude of like okay, I’m going to do this. I’m going to be successful. It’s the attitude you need not only for passing IELTS but it just makes life so much easier when you’ve got this kind of attitude and it’s definitely useful for passing IELTS. It’s just tenacity and determination to get the results and put in the work as well. I mean, look, he put he took 10 weeks off work, bought a course, an intensive IELTS preparation course you know, and then he came to me afterwards. But what I’m saying is that the level, the degree of determination there is incredible and that’s why he’s probably getting to where he wants to be. So I just want to say that. Well done to Jan. I’m really impressed.
Jan: Well, that was quite nice. Thank you.
Ben: No, I think it just goes unnoticed sometimes and I think attitude sometimes doesn’t get mentioned enough. Okay, so I think that’s the end of the call. Now Jan, it’s the end of the interview. Do you anything else that you would like to add for the students?
Jan: Not really, no. I mean, you said it yourself. You know, like whatever you want to achieve you just have to believe in it and no matter for partial defeat it’s just a temporary thing and it’s going to go well at some stage if you’re going to carry on with your preparation or whatever you do or whatever you want to achieve.
Ben: Absolutely, it’s just a case of staying on your path and yeah, not getting knocked out of the way, just keeping on and keeping pushing forward.
Jan: That’s what it is. That’s my message.
Ben: Awesome. All right, thank you very much Jan.
Jan: No worries. You’re welcome. Thank you.
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