Good day IELTS Students!
What do you do when you have NO TIME to study?
You have family, work and an IELTS exam coming up very soon?
This is exactly what happened to Rupert, he is a smart Filipino working in Singapore as a chemical engineer.
Rupert had taken the exam a few times, and even insisted on a remark.
In this podcast, he tells us how he squeezes in his IELTS preparation while working different shifts every week.
What was critical to Rupert’s success was the effective organisation of his time.
He made a schedule and planned his study sessions, to do this effectively he was relying on getting his feedback from our team of essay correctors.
He was on the online course, and knew that his feedback would be returned in 24h, this way he could plan his study schedule effectively.
Rupert shares his favourite online resources he used for preparing for the exam. He also shares why he felt he should get a remark.
You can download or listen to the audio version here:
If you also want to get feedback on your essays to improve faster, then have a look at the Jump to Band 7 or it’s Free course. By the way, this course has also helped students get to Band 8 and 9.
Here is a copy of Rupert’s study schedule:
YOU MAY READ THE FULL 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: Hi there, IELTS podcast listeners. In this tutorial, we’re going to be speaking with Rupert who’s got a very interesting story to share with regards to IELTS. So, Rupert, welcome to the podcast and could you just tell us where you’re from, where you’re based and why you’re taking the IELTS exam?
Rupert: Okay, Ben. I’m happy to be here and it’s great talking to you. So, I’m from the Philippines and I’m currently based in Singapore. Actually, I took the IELTS exam to migrate to Australia. So, I need this skill points assessment for my English proficiency. So, I took the IELTS to prove my English level. So, that’s it.
Ben: Wow! Interesting. And how is life in Singapore?
Rupert: Actually, it’s very great. Actually, Singapore actually you know it’s very diverse. So, there are different races here. There’s Chinese, Malaysians, Indians. Also Vietnamese, Filipinos and some other race, Japanese. Some of them. So, it’s a melting pot of ethnicity.
Ben: And any Brits there? Any British people?
Rupert: I think so, but you know the problem is they usually look so white. I’m not sure if you are British or you are American or Australian or– I’m not sure, but if they speak, then I can ask them.
Ben: Got you. Got you, okay. Got you. Okay. I was just curious there. That’s it. An interesting answer. All right. So, what are you doing in Singapore? I guess you’re working.
Rupert: That’s correct. I’m working actually. I work in a petrochemical plant and for my part when I was actually doing the IELTS review or something, I need to actually squeeze in the review while I’m still working because I don’t break office hours. I work a very typical schedule like– I work on shifts. So, sometimes I work night shift, afternoon shift, and very seldom do I work morning shift. So, it’s very troublesome for my part.
Ben: Wow! Yes. That would just totally destroy my routine and my consistency because personally, if I’m studying or if I’m working, I need to get into a fixed routine and just make everything almost like a habit. So, I guess– I don’t know if that’s the case for you. Do you work– do you find a routine is better or were you okay preparing with this shift pattern of work?
Rupert: I agree with the routine part actually because you have to have this certain time that you can concentrate solely in your review, but when you work on shift, you need to make compromises. I really squeeze in the time to– especially the writing part, I have a very difficult time actually to target that band 7, but now, I did get that band 7, so it’s great. It’s finally over.
RUPERT’S REASON FOR APPLYING A VISA
Ben: Awesome. Awesome. Well, we’ll go into this in more detail. So, you’re on your way to Australia and is it a skilled visa that you’re going to be applying for? Is that right? What’s it called?
Rupert: Correct. It’s a skilled visa. Actually, it’s under the skilled points assessment, I think. So, I need this English level that I can prove my English.
Ben: Interesting. Did you say you are a chemical engineer? Is that right?
Rupert: Yes, exactly. I actually was– no, I am. I finished my chemical engineering degree here in the Philippines.
Ben: Okay, okay. Got you. Just for the listeners, at the moment, Rupert is in the Philippines visiting his family, but he’s normally based in Singapore just in case it sounded a little bit confusing.
Rupert: Right, correct.
Ben: Rupert, is there a lot of demand for chemical engineers in Australia?
Rupert: I hope so because these– I’ve seen a lot of openings for jobs for chemical engineers. So, I hope so.
Ben: Okay, okay good. All right. Got a big truck storming past there.
Rupert: [unintelligible 00:05:12.01] sorry. Sorry about that.
Ben: No worries. No worries. It’s always good to hear what’s going on in the other country. So, now then, let’s move on to IELTS. It seems that writing was the biggest obstacle. Is that right?
Rupert: Correct. It’s the writing part that I have the most– actually, it’s the– I really couldn’t get it because I took the IELTS three times. So, it’s very frustrating. It’s only the writing part that I couldn’t really get that band 7.
RUPERT’S IELTS PREPARATION
Rupert: Actually, speaking I also took your course the speaking part because, in Singapore, we usually talk in English, but when you do an interview and you’re very nervous like you don’t know what to say because out of nowhere they’re going to ask you any topic. So, I took your course and oh, yes. This is very helpful.
Rupert: So, I did prepare for that– yes, correct. Exactly. Then the reading and listening part, I just searched online actually because I don’t have any trouble with those two.
Ben: Got you. Got you. Were you doing– did you search online for tips or did you search online for practice tests?
Rupert: Both actually. I searched for tips and I searched for practice tests. Mostly, I took the practice test rather than the tips.
Ben: Do you have any good websites that you could share that were really helpful for this; for the practice tests?
Rupert: I really– I forgot all about the website actually. Sorry about that, but I still have my spreadsheet because I usually put all my notes, my websites in a spreadsheet. So, I can just go back there and review one more time.
Ben: Genius idea. I like that. I like that. After the interview, can you send me the spreadsheet or send me a copy? You might want to just clean it up a little bit, take your personal things out of there, but I’d be curious just to have a look and maybe I can produce something similar and put it in this post to help students. Like we said at the beginning, with a routine and planning and measuring, it makes it much, much easier. That’s a genius idea.
Rupert: Yes, because for my part, I work shifts so I really need to do what I can and what I can control so I can have the outcome that I want. I will– what do you call this one– I can send you the spreadsheet. I’ll be glad to help.
Ben: Please do. Please do. You just reminded me of one technique I do. If I’m working on a big project that I cannot finish in one day, what I’ll do is if I’m working in a word document, I’ll just leave a note in italics and it will sort of like say okay, Ben, part 2, part 3 are left. We’re waiting for some material from Daphne for part 4. When that comes in, we can move on. In the meantime, go straight to part 6. So, the next time I jump into this document to work on this project, I can pick up exactly where I left off. Did you do anything like that? Like a debrief.
Rupert: Actually, I did a different way. It’s not that detailed, but in my spreadsheet, I can have these dates. For example, I have this– today is which date? October something, right? I make a one week date. Each day, I need to finish this part, I need to finish this part and I need to have this feedback so I can actually correct myself and do it again. That’s my routine.
Ben: It’s like a project management kind of way.
Rupert: Yes exactly because I work shift. So, this part I’m morning shift, so I need to do it afternoon shift– I mean I need to do it in the afternoon. So, while doing that one, my next shift duty would be morning again. So, I need to do it again in the afternoon, but when my shift change, I also need to do it in a way that actually I can squeeze in this review so I can still have time for my review.
Ben: Got you. Okay. Now I understand it. So, you’re kind of like working forward and if you get– for example, if you get your working shifts like your timetable given to you and you see you’ve got three mornings and two afternoons, then in the afternoons– if you’re working in the morning on your spreadsheet then on the afternoon’s you might put something like IELTS listening test or write essay. Is that right? And just put an activity.
Rupert: Yes, exactly and actually, I have certain number of hours that is allotted there. So, from this time to this time and this time to this time. So, after that time, you can have a break then review one more time because sometimes depending on the work demand, they ask me to stay, so I don’t have any choice. That’s the problem.
Ben: Yes, my next question was imagine you’ve finished your morning shift and you go home and you open up your spreadsheets and you see practice reading test, for example, scheduled for that afternoon because you’ve already done your morning shift, but then you get a message from a friend and he’s got a really interesting proposal, go down to the park and barbeque some sausages and play Frisbee. I don’t know. Or maybe something better than that or watch the premier league or whatever. What would you do in that situation, Rupert?
Rupert: Because I’m very strict with my schedule so if they ask me to go out and have barbeque actually, I say no. They can understand because they know me as being the orderly type of guy. I have a schedule, so I need to do it this time. If you want to go to a barbeque, you just tell me one week before so I can actually schedule it again.
Ben: Awesome. Awesome. So, you didn’t neglect your social life 100%, but if it was planned, you would build it around– you’d build your study schedule around the social events or around work, but you would definitely not depart from this structure you’ve put in place.
Rupert: Exactly. Actually, they feel bad that sometimes I reject them. I can actually– I told them I have plans so just understand this part. Next time, I will go with you definitely. So, just understand me this time, okay?
Ben: Awesome. Awesome. I remember when I was in university and I was in Spain actually because I was doing like an Erasmus exchange year and I made all these friends during the summer and then as soon as term started, I had to ditch them and just– really, really because I was going out like six nights a week during the summer and then when– yes, because I was really keen on learning the language and then when the term started, I just got bombarded with course work and I had to prepare and it went from six days a week down to one day a week and I had to say exactly the same as you like hey, I’m really sorry, but I’ve got to focus on this at this point of time. When the holidays come up, I’ll probably have some more time. Just please understand. So, you had this plan and you said to your friends, sorry, no barbeque this Friday. I’ve got a plan. Please understand. How long did your plan last?
Rupert: I told you before that I took the exam three times and after the exam, I– So, at least it took four months. Actually, I think more than that. So, every exam I need to review at least a month again especially the writing part. So, yes. For four months or more than four months, I need to actually now reject them in a way.
Ben: Got you. Got you. So, yes. For like around four months you made a plan, you stuck to the plan, and then you passed pretty much.
Ben: good work. Well done.
Rupert: Yes. Thank you for that. I’m very happy.
Ben: Can I just mention one thing? Originally when the IELTS test came out, you could not apply to do the test again until at least four weeks later. The logic was that you could not– they said okay, there’s no point taking the test again because you won’t have been able to improve in a day or two days– in two days’ time, for example. So, they said you’re not taking the test until at least 30 days have passed, but then they changed it.
They changed it a while back and they said okay, look. If you want to take a test on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then another one on Thursday and another one on Friday, go for it. We will no longer reject your money. So, what I’m saying is that you leaving a month between each test was a very smart thing to do because you’ve given yourself time to improve and it’s even like according to the original sort of like procedures. You’ve given yourself a good four weeks or so roughly to improve because it’s quite difficult to improve otherwise unless you are just a week of insanely intense practice, but more often than not– as I’ve said before in previous episodes, more often than not, students want to try their luck in the IELTS casino. they want to try their luck and just say oh, I’ll just give it another shot. Maybe I’ll pass this time and I’ve been in similar situations with my driving test.
Ben: Yes, it was one of those. I was just taking test after test, but anyway let’s get back to your situation. So, you were preparing– you had your spreadsheet and you were preparing doing practice tests and finding tips and the same for reading as well I guess.
Ben: And then for the speaking, you were using– well, you live in Singapore, so you were using English every day.
Rupert: Correct. Exactly.
Ben: And you were using the online course as well for the speaking. How did the online course help? Does anything come to mind?
Rupert: I do remember the first part that don’t be nervous because it is true actually that when you go to your speaking part and you’re very nervous, you couldn’t actually deliver what you actually can do. So now, if you can speak every day like Singaporeans speak English every day. You speak to them in a natural way, but then you have to prove yourself that you can actually deliver what you have in mind and you actually need to use collocations like– how can you say this one– like same or something, it’s like– it’s not– can you help me with this?
Ben: Which collocation do you want to say?
Rupert: Yes, I was actually trying to practice– I really want to say in and of itself during my speaking exam. I want to say I don’t know but I like that word, in and of itself.
Ben: It has a nice rhythm to it, doesn’t it? In and of itself.
Rupert: Yes, but unfortunately, I never had the chance to use, but so far– but the results are still okay. So, I’m happy with it.
Ben: What did you get in your speaking, by the way?
Rupert: Okay. My speaking the latest one is actually 7.5, so I’m happy with that.
Ben: Good. Good score. Good score. And what about the reading and the listening? What scores did you get there?
Rupert: Okay. My reading part is 8. My listening is 8.5.
Ben: Wow! Fantastic. Fantastic. Good scores there, Rupert. Well done.
Rupert: Yes. Thank you.
Ben: Your project– your spreadsheet paid off. It worked.
Rupert: Yes, exactly.
Ben: Now, just going back to the speaking, I just want to mention for the audience that’s a really going point there. Rupert liked this collocation. He’d practiced it and you said that you’d used it like in everyday situations just to get to grips with it and like internalize it. Is that right?
Rupert: Correct. Exactly.
Ben: Right, but even so, even though he’d put in the work and learned it and learned how to use it and when to use it, he didn’t use it in the exam because it wasn’t necessary, was it? You didn’t need it in the end. There was no situation.
Rupert: Exactly because actually, the topic that they gave me was about movies. So, I don’t know how to use that collocation in movies.
Ben: I see. Yes. What I want to say for the audience is that and this is true for the writing as well. So, you may have learned some beautiful collocations or some beautiful expressions and phrases. Don’t use them unless it’s appropriate, unless the situation calls for them because otherwise, it can sound unnatural and when you sound unnatural, you’re not going to pick up the points. So, even though you like a collocation, even though you’ve put some time in to research it and use it correctly and you’ve moved it into your active vocabulary, even in that case, if it’s not appropriate to use it, just ditch it and this is why it’s good– this is why it’s absolutely necessary to learn a wide range of collocations and expand your vocabulary so you’re not fixated on using two or three just to get– I’ve researched these two or three. I’m going to use them come hell or high water. I will use these. It’s not going to sound natural.
Ben: Yes, go ahead.
Rupert: In addition to that, when I actually heard– actually, I read in some websites that they’re trying their best to impress the speaker so.
Ben: Yes. Sorry, Rupert. What’s happening? What’s happening there, man?
Rupert: Actually, my daughter is crying.
Ben: Oh, sorry. Okay.
Rupert: Can you hear them out there? I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Ben: Don’t worry. I was hoping you were going to say it’s somebody you know. No problem. No problem. I actually didn’t know you had a daughter. So, I’m kind of relieved you know what’s going on. I’m glad you didn’t say I’ve got no idea, Ben. It’s just a normal day.
Rupert: No, it’s my daughter actually. I do know what happened.
Ben: Okay. Poor girl. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry to interrupt you there. Carry on.
Rupert: Okay, getting back actually because I read in some websites that they try to use collocations and expressions just to impress–
Ben: The examiner.
Rupert: What do you call somebody? Examiner. So, but if it’s really off-topic, you don’t have to use it.
Ben: Exactly. Yes. Exactly. In previous episodes and in the course, I do give some expressions that can be useful. I really do stress especially in the writing course that use these when it’s appropriate to use them otherwise as we were saying before, it’s going to be unnatural. So, Rupert, your speaking exam was all about movies.
Rupert: Yes. Correct. Movies. I think they also asked me about languages. The funny thing is they asked me is English hard? Yes, it definitely is actually. I answered– the examiner said, is English hard? Yes. I said definitely yes because you have these homonyms that actually they sound the same, but it’s a different meaning so it is hard.
Ben: Beautiful and well done using that technical phrase there; polynyms there. That’s the kind of thing that gets you points.
Rupert: I think so. That’s why I got 7.5. It really helped.
Ben: All right and in your exam, were you nervous?
Rupert: I was nervous in the writing part and the speaking part actually because just like I mentioned a while back, I took the IELTS three times. The first and second time, my writing was– I do admit that it’s not enough to get a band 7, but I took the third exam I was confident and I know I did better compared to the other two. So, I think this is the best time that we can actually talk to the audience that I opted to have a remarking with my writing part.
Ben: Excellent, in the final one you’ve just taken– in the one you’ve taken recently.
Rupert: Correct because I know because your writing course it’s really advisable that all of them should take it especially the feedback, the template; it’s very good. Actually, it’s very, very good. Honestly.
Ben: Thank you. Thank you very much, Rupert. So, you put in all this effort and you improved your writing, but you didn’t get the score you wanted, correct?
Rupert: Yes, correct.
RUPERT’S JOURNEY TO REMARK
Ben: Right, but you were convinced in your bones, so to speak that you were writing a better essay.
Rupert: Exactly. I was confident that I know I should have a band 7 score because I still remember this one episode that actually Ellen was the one who– there’s this one episode that Ellen said if you have a 0.5 difference– I’m forgetting when, you know to yourself that you know that you actually got a band 7, you are the perfect candidate to have a remarking. When I heard that episode, all right I did request for a re-marking.
Rupert: Yes. So, that 6.5, initially the third exam was 6.5 that they gave me, I requested for re-marking then they emailed me back that there’s a change in my score. So, when I got the score, the results, it’s 7 because I know that I– my essay with your template, with all the feedback, I know that I should have band 7. So, now I can breathe.
Ben: A massive sigh of relief, no?
Rupert: Exactly. After that one, actually, the first time I saw the result, I was furious. I couldn’t accept it because I knew I should have gotten a band 7. So, I did opt to have a re-marking. Then it’s what they said no, after the result came, they did give me band 7. So, I know I did great. I did good. That’s why I got a band 7. So, all of you, if you are confident enough that your essay is actually– should have gotten a higher marking, don’t hesitate to have a re-marking because more often than not actually, maybe they could give you a chance and increase your band score. And a 0.5 difference that 0.5 difference will actually make this– you wouldn’t have to take the IELTS one more time. So, yes. You should go.
Ben: Exactly. It’s really interesting. That 0.5 difference, it’s such a small number and it’s so tiny but it can make a massive difference on the trajectory of your life, the trajectory of your score, what you’re going to do next in life and all of these and there’s so much riding on it, but yes. What I want to say picking up on what Rupert just said that if you’re confident, but it’s not only a question of confidence I would say, but if you know that you’ve put in– if you’ve put in the work, you’ve invested in yourself and you’ve invested in time and maybe you’ve invested in a decent course and you can see like okay, this essay a few months ago was around 6.5 and I can clearly see probably why it was a 6.5 whereas this one that I just wrote now, that’s amazing. I got feedback from it and there’s hardly any grammar mistakes. It’s on topic. The teacher said it was a decent essay. Why am I still getting 6.5? In that situation, just like Rupert had, where you’re really confident and you’ve put in a lot of work and you can see a clear improvement in your work, then it’s time to ask for a re-mark.
Rupert: Correct, Ben.
Ben: I hear this a lot. When the student is very convinced and they can see the improvement, then it’s time to ask for that re-mark. Okay. So, Rupert, who was correcting your essays when you were working through our course?
Rupert: It would be Ellen. Hi, Ellen.
Ben: Ellen. Okay. Good. Good. Good. Good. Excellent. She did all of them or did you have different–
Ben: All of them?
Rupert: All of them. Actually, if I’m not mistaken, I did 50+ essays within that four months.
Ben: Wow! Wow! So, this is another reason why Rupert was more than confident in asking for a re-mark. Yes, good work there, Rupert. Well done. Well done, man. Wow!
Rupert: Right and in addition to that one, you also have this part of the course that you can have your essay corrected within 24 hours. It’s very helpful actually when you are in a hurry especially for my part that I work shifts. 24 hours makes a lot of difference.
Ben: Yes. Yes. I’m glad you mentioned this because I was saying before that IELTS can be frustrating and you need to be very planned and for example in your situation, Rupert, you’re working these shifts and you’re probably relying on getting your essay back for x day for the third or the fifth and you’ve probably planned in your schedule. Yes, you can’t be just go home and okay, I’m going to prepare for my IELTS exam. Oh, the essay is not here. I wonder when it’s going to come? What should I do in the meantime? Maybe a barbeque.
Rupert: Exactly. I have a schedule. I have a spreadsheet. It should come by this time and I’m expecting it to be this time and Ellen did deliver within that time. So, I’m very happy for it.
Ben: Super, yes. And just one other thing. It’s not only a question of sort of like organization and routine, but it’s also a question of keeping up that momentum because if you sit down and you want to review that essay because you’re still pumped from the day before when you wrote it, but you’re waiting for it to come back and you still don’t know if it’s going to come back, if it’s going to come back this afternoon, tomorrow, whenever the essay corrector feels like doing it. It’s difficult to work like that because you want to get this momentum. You want to keep going. You want to get that feedback and apply it to the next essay.
Rupert: Right. Exactly.
Ben: Yes, it’s just when I started doing the corrections, I was like okay, it’s got to be fast because I’ve been in that situation waiting for feedback and it’s frustrating because on one hand, it’s like should I start this new project with the IELTS listening– should I start this new thing or should I just keep focused on this essay writing that I’ve been doing all week? It’s a challenge and IELTS is challenging enough without essay correctors and tutors messing up any routines and systems in place.
Rupert: Correct. Exactly. Sure.
Ben: All right then. Rupert, before we finish, do you have any advice for students who– there’s a lorry coming past, no?
Rupert: Yes, exactly. Sorry.
Ben: No, don’t worry about it. It’s fine. I totally understand. We can’t ask the lorries to stop for our interview, not yet anyway. Maybe next year. What I was going to say is do you have any advice for students who might be stuck at 6.5 and who are struggling with the IELTS exam?
RUPERT’S TIPS FOR YOU
Rupert: Just carry on. Keep motivated is what like Ben said. Be motivated. If you don’t have time, make time. Everything is up to you because you know that this one is actually for your future. For example, my part, I want to go to Australia. So, I’m trying my best, my very best. Everything that I can control, I control. Everything that I can’t, just make yourself actually– it’s what I’ve heard lately that everything that you can control, control it. Don’t complain with anything that you can’t control because you cannot do anything about it. So, make time, carry on, feedback is great. 24-hour delivery is great. So, just carry on and if you’re confident enough about your writing and you still have 6.5, don’t hesitate to request for re-marking. That’s all.
Ben: Absolutely. Solid advice there. I like the bit about what you said. Everything that you can control, do control it. And you’ll find life becomes a lot easier when you do those kinds of things. So, yes. I totally agree there.
Rupert: Correct. Exactly.
Ben: Yes, yes and taking responsibility. What I liked as well is what you said like making time if it’s important. I just want to tell a little anecdote here. just the other day, I asked my brother if he wanted to play chess with me online and he said no, I haven’t got time at the moment and I was okay, but what I heard was it’s not important enough for me to make time. I’m not crying about it. I was a bit miffed because it’s like dude, it’s going to take you like a minute at most a couple of minutes every day– got a Harley Davidson there. What I wanted to say just to finish is like if it’s important enough for you, you will find the time and you will make the time.
Ben: It’s just a question of priorities and organizing your life in a way that you can make time. Just exactly like Rupert has done. Maybe you schedule it. Maybe you cancel the barbeques, but it’s just a question of just prioritizing it.
Rupert: Correct. Exactly.
Ben: And having the right attitude and also a good point Rupert said, getting the feedback because doing it by yourself is tough. So, getting that feedback and the guidance is just going to accelerate it and get you to improve faster.
Ben: Absolutely. So, I think that’s everything and on this post, on this tutorial, we’ll have an unedited version of something similar to Rupert’s spreadsheet and we’ll probably put up some different versions there just to help you organize your study time and make the most of each moment when you sit down to work and get the most bang out of each hour that you study. So, thank you very much, Rupert. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you and I wish you all the best for Australia.
Rupert: Thank you, Ben. I’m looking forward to it.
Ben: Yes, you will get there. You will get there, Rupert. It’s a matter of time, buddy.
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