A Russian IELTS student on her way to Australia!
Olga is aiming for PR in Australia for a better life for her two year old autistic child.
What is your MOTIVATION for passing IELTS?
Why are you putting in hour after hour in preparation?
For PR in Canada?
A better future for your family?
To study in the UK?
Reply to this email and let me know, I’m curious.
Olga shares how most improvements in language come in jumps rather than gradual consistent improvement.
Olga boosted her listening score from 5.5 to 7 – listen to find out how.
- What success habits helped her to reach Band 7
- How she expanded her answers for Writing Task 2
- How she used the Guardian to read for around 2h a week (get ideas and vocab) and
- What sentences she used to get Band 7……
You can download or listen to the audio version here:
YOU MAY READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Ben: Hello there, IELTS students. In this tutorial, we’re going to be speaking to a very successful, smart, and intelligent student called Olga. Welcome to the podcast, Olga.
Olga: Thank you.
Ben: All right. Can you give an introduction about yourself like what you’re doing, why you’re taking IELTS, and where you’re from? Is that all right?
Olga: I’m Russian woman. I live in Moscow. I’m 37 years old. Actually I’m an IT project manager and I’ve been working as IT project manager for about 15 years, but at the moment I’m on maternity leave. I have a two-year-old son. Actually, that’s it.
Ben: No worries. No worries, Olga. No worries. Just from that brief introduction, I guess you decided to take the IELTS exam while you were on maternity leave. Is that right?
Olga: Yes. That’s right. The reason why I have decided to take an IELTS was that actually, my son was diagnosed with ASD. It’s autistic spectrum disorder and I have decided to find more friendly environment for him let’s say like this.
Ben: Wow! That is very interesting. Wow! So, your plan is to emigrate out of Russia to find a better environment for your son.
Olga: Yes. My husband and I are actually quite successful IT guys. Actually, we have everything in our home country in Moscow, but unfortunately, I realized that we have no infrastructure for such kind of disease let’s say like this.
Ben: Wow! What a powerful motivating factor.
Olga: Yes. You don’t expect something like this to happen to you; sometimes it happens.
Ben: Yes, of course. Yes, yes. It’s so mind-blowing.
Olga: And actually, I’m very thankful to you, Ben, and to your team that actually I have bought your course in June I believe and we’ve found ourselves– me and my husband found ourselves fully exhausted with all these problems let’s say that is going with our son and we just packed our bags and moved to Montenegro for a couple of months to chill so have rest near the sea because here we have some opportunities to work remotely.
I just realized that I have no energy and stamina to work on your course and I ask your team to postpone my enrolment for a couple of months when we will get back home and I was pleased to receive almost immediate answer that everything is fine to have your course frozen for how many time you need and just let us know when you need it back and we return your access to you. When I came back to Moscow I wrote an email to Nadyne. I have started to prepare [unintelligible 00:04:22.28] so thanks again for this opportunity to recover and to continue.
Ben: Absolutely. Yes, I totally want to support. Life gets in the way and we all need just to take a step back, pause things, and just regroup, recollect and then jump back in once the energy bar is back up full really. Okay. Right, let me just summarize. You wanted to take a break, so you went to Montenegro to go to the sea. You froze your participation in the online IELTS course–
Olga: Yes, for two months actually.
Ben: Got you. Okay. Then you regrouped and then you returned to– and all the time you were working remotely. Is that right?
Olga: My husband was working remotely. I was taking care of my son and my husband.
Ben: All right, got you. Got you and then you went back to Moscow.
|OLGA’S IELTS PREPARATION|
Ben: Got you. Okay then and in Montenegro, did you do any kind of preparation or like listening to English audio books or watching films?
Olga: Yes. I was trying hard to do some listening, but I had just one hour of the day when my son was sleeping in the middle of the day and actually, I wasn’t progressing, but that was my…
Ben: It’s so frustrating, isn’t it, when you don’t see that progression.
Olga: Yes, yes. I just trying to take the listening test from the internet; from the previous IELTS test then I look at examples in internet and I was always just 5.5, 6.0, 5.5, 5.0. So, for two months, I wasn’t progressing. I was on the same level all the time. So, yes it was frustrating.
|HOW OLGA IMPROVED HER LISTENING SCORE|
Ben: How did you end up improving this listening score?
Olga: Frankly, I started to listen to your podcast. It’s not an advertisement; it’s true.
Ben: Got you.
Olga: You have inspired me a lot and I was listening to you all the time that I can; when I was preparing food for my son, when I was walking at the street with him and actually, I believe it became about three hours per day of listening your voice. One day, I was really tired, I’m sorry. This is not your kind of content let’s say like this, but I got some inspiration and you pushed me a little bit in a good way.
Ben: Got you.
Olga: And after that, I started to listen to any other podcast; just BBC News, arts and design, any subject that I would like to listen [unintelligible 00:08:18.00]. Actually, BBC has a lot of different podcasts and sometime it was like white noise for me.
Ben: I totally understand.
Olga: That you don’t understand almost anything; some words phrases or… yes, but the main point was to continue with this frustration– to overcome this frustration and I just left things go okay, I don’t understand almost anything, but I will continue.
Ben: I will persevere, yes.
Olga: Yes. You know when you learn, the progress is not linear.
Ben: Yes, it’s not linear.
Olga: Sometimes it feels like you are on the same plateau for a long time, but [unintelligible 00:09:02.00] is a very complicated thing and actually one day, I found myself I understand everything that was saying in this podcast. Okay, not everything, but almost 80%, 85% and let’s take an IELTS listening example from internet and I found myself on the 7.0 level.
Ben: Wow! Wow! It’s a beautiful experience, isn’t it, when you make those breakthroughs. It’s just absolutely beautiful. I remember one guy actually, Havier, very clearly. He just walks into the living room and I’m like Havier did you have a good weekend and he’s just like whoa! And his eyes popped open and he’s like I understand you!
It just goes back to what you’re saying. The progress isn’t linear. It’s weird with languages. It kind of like jumps and like mini breakthroughs, but there’s one thing that I just wanted to elucidate, I want to highlight for the listeners and that’s that there are two really good nuggets of information that Olga has just shared with us.
Number one is that doing the practice tests this is a good strategy— well, three things actually. The immersion, listening to the podcast, and doing the practice test, but also having the gumption and having the insight to realize okay, I’m not really progressing with this mode of learning. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to vary my listening input and I’m going to listen to, as you said, art and design, BBC podcasts. I’m going to vary it and start listening to new material, new accents, new topics and then I’m going to come back and do another test.
I’m not just going to keep doing test after test after test. It’s obvious that I need to do something else. So, I think that’s a really good strategy especially– well, probably for the reading and probably for the listening as well. So, yes. Thanks for sharing that, Olga. So, you said art and design podcasts and things like that to get more– because you’re interested in art and design. Is that right?
Olga: I just was interested in actually in every IELTS related subject. I was listening about pollution or [unintelligible 00:11:37.04] on the exams and really; relationships, nutrition, every general topics that actually can give me an idea for what to say.
Ben: Got you. Super. So, you were filing your head up with ideas which I guess probably helps for the writing as well, yes?
Olga: Yes, yes, I was trying to kill a few rabbits at the same time with one shoot.
Ben: To kill a few birds with one shot.
Olga: A few birds, yes, yes.
|OLGA’S PREPARATION FOR READING, WRITING, AND SPEAKING PARTS|
Ben: Got you. All right. So, in the end, so, we’ve looked at the listening. What did you do to prepare for the reading, the writing, and the speaking?
Olga: For reading– to prepare for reading actually nothing because initially, it was quite easy for me and I just read the Guardian on a regular basis because it’s my habit. I like the opinions column there. I just like to read it. So, frankly, I spent about two hours maybe per week with reading just to keep fit. It wasn’t something special.
Ben: Yes, yes, yes. Can I just interrupt you just for listeners. This is another important point that Olga has just touched on is that she found something that she enjoyed. You found something that you enjoyed.
Olga: Yes, that’s right.
Ben: And then once you find that you enjoy it, it’s just easier to stick with it and I imagine– I’m guessing that you probably still read the Guardian now even though IELTS is long gone. It’s something that you enjoyed. It’s something that is part of the English language that you could adopt and just make your own. Okay. Super. Good point. Good point. So, you carried on– so you’re reading the Guardian about two hours a week.
Olga: So, we’re coming to the main thing and the main reason why I have bought your course this is the writing and especially task 2 essay.
Ben: Everybody loves task 2, writing task 2.
Olga: It was fine with the letter– writing a letter in task 1 because I am an IT [unintelligible 00:14:15.07] and I wrote a lot of letters, so it is easy to [unintelligible 00:14:21.08]. I have some mistakes with formal and informal, but in general, it’s okay for my desired band. So, essay 2– task 2, I have spent quite a lot of time with a personal tutor.
Ben: Oh, really.
Olga: Yes and I’m a technical girl.
Ben: Okay, got you.
Olga: Right [unintelligible 00:14:50.06] of nothing. It’s a challenge for me. Also, I am a deep introvert actually and I don’t like to talk a lot about nothing.
Ben: Got you. I totally understand like this idea of small talk and idle chit chat, it’s horrible. Isn’t it? It’s absolutely horrible.
Olga: I’m not a chatty person even in my native language. I just avoid any situations when I just have to talk about the weather, [unintelligible 00:15:30.16] blah, blah, blah, blah. I just try to escape these situations.
Ben: Okay. Don’t immigrate to England then because England is full of small talk. It’s horrible.
Olga: Yes, yes and essay is all about– okay, you have to describe some points, but this is one sentence in my case and this is not enough. Okay, two- three sentences.
Ben: Got you. Got you.
Olga: I was struggling with this actually since my learning at school. I got perfect marks in technical subjects, but literature and essays was not quite good for all my life and I was actually sure that it’s not possible to develop this skill in my almost 40 years.
Ben: Interesting, interesting. Did this– sorry to interrupt. You had a tutor, yes? Did he/her–
Olga: For half a year.
Ben: Sorry, did they help you with the writing or were they more for the speaking?
Olga: She helped me with the writing and the speaking; with both things, but I found myself still frustrating in all subjects I have to write an essay to.
Ben: Got you. Yes, yes, I understand.
Olga: So, all the time it was quite a big stress. Yes, she provided me with the structure of the essay. Actually, you can find it in internet and she forced me to practice a lot. If subject was close to me like traveling or something, I was fine with it. If something was quite far from me, I was just stuck, no ideas, just nothing in my mind.
Ben: Did your listening– sort of like your listening time, when you were listening to different podcast and different topics, did that help generate ideas when it came to task 2?
Ben: It did. It did. okay, so this is one way how you overcame this sort of like my mind goes blank issue to listen to lots of different materials and fill your brain with the–
Ben: Got you.
Olga: Yes and I found actually the same idea in your course that if you don’t know what to write, you have to research the internet and somehow find ideas. And also, the Guardian the topics are actually quite related to IELTS topics was helpful also, but my tutor she didn’t force me to read the internet let’s say like this.
Ben: Got you. So, she was– although she was a good teacher, she didn’t give you the skills or the complete package of skills that you needed or the direction or the coaching you needed for task 2. Is that right?
Olga: Yes. But I felt not quite confident.
|HOW DID OLGA BOOST HER SPEAKING CONFIDENCE?|
Ben: Got you. Okay, understood, understood. So, how did you solve this problem? How did you boost your confidence?
Olga: As I said, I am a technical girl and you provided the magical formula.
Ben: Yes, yes, okay.
Olga: And actually that was the key for me personally. For some other person maybe it’s not, but for me, I just [unintelligible 00:19:50.06] blah, blah, blah blah, blah and later in the course, you provided some exact structures of sentences.
Ben: Yes, yes.
Olga: And actually, on the IELTS test I have used quite a lot of them.
Ben: Oh, good.
Olga: Yes, and I was getting a little bit– I thought the examiner will understand I’m writing on script. Do you understand what I mean?
Ben: Yes, yes, but we got away with it. We got away. High five.
Olga: But everything was fine. Actually, I have read the essay in the end. There are a lot of my personal words and ideas, but exact structures helped a lot. You advised to use just a couple of them for the essay, but in fact, I have used maybe five. So, almost half of the essay was with the structures– the exact structures you have provided, but with my own ideas, of course.
Ben: Absolutely, yes, yes.
Olga: The result was 7.
Ben: Wow! Wonderful. Well done there, Olga. Well done. Congratulations for that and I will just say for the listeners that it is important that you not only use the structure, but you kind of adapt it to your argument. You’ve got to adapt it and it’s got to be– you’ve got to adjust– you might have to adjust your argument to fulfill the structure and the question and there’s a little bit of skill in this because I’ve seen essays that have used the structure, but it didn’t really suit the argument and the student didn’t get this.
This is why there are lots of essay corrections included in the course to make sure that we get to grips with the structure and we can use it effectively and when it is used effectively, it will deliver results. I know what you mean as well, Olga, about using these copy-paste sentences that could be– it might seem like kind of cheating, but it’s not really cheating because it’s sort of like a universal high-scoring sentences, but if you use them effectively and if you use it with your own ideas that you put in there, then it is a powerful way to score higher, to improve. So, you needed a 7, right, and you got over 6.
Olga: I got 6, yes.
Ben: You needed over a 6 basically. On the test day, did you do the computer-based one or did you do the pen and paper?
Olga: [unintelligible 00:22:59.00].
Ben: Oh, you did computer based. Got you. Got you. Do you remember your question?
Olga: Yes. It was about when fashionable clothes become very important for people, do you think it is positive or negative development? Something like this.
Ben: Okay, okay and can you remember your ideas? Can you remember your argument?
Olga: I said something that you have to use clothes maybe fashionable ones [unintelligible 00:23:40.09] if you are going for an interview for a director position, you have to wear something [unintelligible 00:23:49.29] for this, but yes, I think that people have to focus on creating something– people have to focus on improving not on the clothes and as an example was Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
Steve Jobs was always wearing black long sleeved and a pair of jeans. Mark is also with grey t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Except when he is on [unintelligible 00:24:29.14] or something special. These two guys have changed our lives with their like say inventions. So, my point was don’t be a slave of the fashion. Use it for your purposes.
Ben: Interesting. Interesting. There are two good things that I like about this answer. One is that it’s very unique, but it also proves the point that you can answer anyway, but you just need to back it up. There’s no right or wrong answer. There is ridiculous answers and there’s crazy answers and there’s outrageous answers, but if you can back them up with at least some kind of knowledge or real world examples, then you’ve got a license and you can do this.
What I like about your examples, Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs it’s like instant. Everybody knows about these people and also the dress sense, it kind of like comes as an afterthought once you start thinking about examples and second, you said a very useful collocation for this argument which is a slave to fashion. I imagine you probably used that in your writing as well.
Ben: Excellent. That would have picked up points because that’s natural use of the language, it’s a collocation, and it’s almost like an idiomatic phrase. You can say a slave to fashion or a fashion victim. They mean similar things.
Olga: I didn’t know this.
Ben: They mean broadly similar and I imagine you’d have probably picked up this terminology possibly from doing all the reading in the Guardian and listening; all these different sources. So, this just really emphasizes the logic and the rationale behind doing all these sort of like extra work and making it a habit and really immersing yourself. Well done there, Olga. Well done. And the computer-based test, that was pretty comfortable for you? You enjoyed that?
Olga: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Again, I’m an IT girl.
Ben: Exactly. It’s a no brainer.
Olga: I always work with the computer, but actually the main reason why I was taking the computer-based test was the essay because I write something, I delete and write again. I delete and write again and again and again and in the end, it’s clean and readable, but when I was doing the handwriting, it’s so messy.
Ben: I think it’s much more of a challenge because if you want to go back and edit and add a phrase and add a sentence and all this stuff, you can do this with your written work, but it ends up looking like a train crash. You’ve got all these edits. It becomes more of a challenge to read and this is like friction for the examiner.
Doing the computer-based, you’ve got this luxury which really suits the online system we have as well of thinking of ideas and then building up the example then building up the argument because you can add and edit and just follow the process. Okay, we’ve kind of covered the writing now, what about the speaking, how did you prepare for that?
Olga: I was listening to your course and frankly, it wasn’t enough for me. So, I was trying to–
Ben: I may edit that out by the way. I’m just joking.
Olga: I talk to myself. For example, in my opinion and all the stuff, but yes it was so hard. So, I hired a person. It was for a month, just for a month and it was like four hours or five hours per week. So, every day for one hour I had a talk which I hate in general about weather, my family, food, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, where I live, what I’m doing, all these IELTS style conversations and what surprisingly even for me to absorb how different I can perform in different day.
Ben: Very interesting.
Olga: Practice makes perfect. Just continue. Okay, you think you don’t progress; just overcome it Go further. It’s not linear like–
Ben: You just got to keep putting in the time, putting in the effort and eventually, you’ll see a jump.
Ben: You’ll see the jump. Like we were saying before, it’s just like the light bulb switches on and like hey, I can speak.
Olga: I understand that I’m ready– I think that I’m ready was actually when my husband asked me at the kitchen in English, asked something like have you noticed that jeans is very popular topic on speaking in IELTS, but I was checking this resource also [unintelligible 00:30:03.18].
Ben: Yes, yes, yes. I’m going to edit this out of the podcast… I’m just joking.
Olga: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. [unintelligible 00:30:14.20].
Ben: Okay. So, tell me about the jeans.
Olga: My husband asked me at the kitchen, have you noticed that jeans is a very popular topic for speaking and I said something yes, so what and he started imitating the examiner. So, do you like to wear jeans? It was just kidding–
Ben: Yes, just having a laugh.
Olga: Yes, and I just fluently asked him all these questions with actually quite plain sentences, but bold one. I answered the question he asked and I just realized wow! It should be fine for 6.
Ben: Wow! That’s really inspiring. That’s really inspiring. So, is it that moment that you were like I can do this? I can do this. If I can talk about jeans, totally unprepared and confidently then, I’m more than ready for this IELTS exam. That’s fantastic Olga. Well done. Well done and I imagine that realization was a real boost as well.
Olga: Yes. Definitely. Definitely.
Ben: Yes, just a point I want to mention for the listeners there is you said– earlier, you said that you were talking to yourself in English and you changed your environment in your home and your husband was speaking English to you as well in the house.
Olga: Yes. So, approximately two hours per day of speaking.
Ben: Wow! That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, thank you very much. Olga, do you have any– so, before we finish, two things I want to ask you. One, anything that you would like to add to help current students battling with their IELTS? Also, after that, I’ll ask you what your plans are.
Olga: One more thing as Steve jobs– and one more thing, you have to practice regularly, every day even if you are exhausted and tired. It doesn’t matter what actually. You have to at least listen to something.
Ben: Yes, yes, yes.
Olga: Even if you think you don’t understand, actually something is happening in your mind. You’re still progressing even if you think that you’re just [unintelligible 00:32:50.05].
Ben: Yes. Beautiful point and now then, Olga, what are your plans now? Are you going to go to– where do you want to go? Are you going to Canada, U.S., Australia, England?
Olga: Yes, Australia.
Ben: Australia. Wow!
Olga: I have tried many countries.
Ben: Wow! That’s fantastic [unintelligible 00:33:15.03] to go to Australia. You’ll be working as IT– you said project manager.
Olga: Yes. Project manager; my husband is software programmer, so we should be fine.
Ben: Wow! And the door is open for people with your type of skills.
Olga: Yes. We’re still young and quite [unintelligible 00:33:30.25].
Ben: And you’ll be going to Australia next year, 2020 or this year?
Olga: We don’t know. We’re just working to have our invitation for visa, so at least a year.
Ben: Okay then, Olga, I think we can finish there. It’s been really enjoyable and yes, you offered a lot of value, Olga. So, I appreciate that. You will be inspiring a lot of students as well.
Olga: Thank you, Ben, for your course. It made a difference in my studying of English. So, it cost every dollar I have paid.
Ben: Got you. Got you. Yes, [unintelligible 00:34:19.14].
Olga: Thank you very much for your course, for your great job, and for your team who is responding really fast and it feels like you have a personal tutor next room. It is really cool.
Ben: That’s fantastic. I appreciate that and thank you very much. What I’ll do, Olga, as well is probably edit that part and send it to the teachers and the team just to inspire them as well. Getting the feed back—
Olga: Sure. They did a great job. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Ben: That’s made me super happy, you know. I’ll be dancing around the office today. All right then, Olga. Take care.
Olga: Have a great weekend. Bye-bye.
Ben: You too. Bye-bye.
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