Nicholas’ IELTS Story: From Preparation, Test, to Study Overseas in South Korea

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Nicholas, a British Council IELTS Ambassador and IELTS Prize awardee in 2020/2021. Source: Personal documentation
Nicholas, a British Council IELTS Ambassador and IELTS Prize awardee in 2020/2021. Source: Personal documentation

“Nicholas, one of the IELTS Prize 2020/2021 awardees from British Council, shares his exciting journey of IELTS test for reaching his goal to pursue higher education abroad. His IELTS story is enriched with comprehensive preparation, meaningful lessons learned, and practical tips for future test-takers.”

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Who am I?

I am Nicholas from Singkawang, a city located in Kalimantan Island, Indonesia. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Universitas Indonesia. After graduation, I focused my professional career in procurement and supply chain management in several multinational companies, such as Procter & Gamble (P&G), Shell, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), Kalbe, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG). 

During my college time, I represented P&G Indonesia to compete at the P&G ASEAN Business Challenge in Singapore. Right now, I am pursuing a master’s degree in Industrial and Data Science Engineering at Pukyong National University and Pusan National University (joint degree program), Busan, South Korea. During my leisure time, I watch movies on Netflix and walk around the city. My life motto is:” Do your best and let God do the rest.” After being selected as the IELTS Prize awardee, I was also appointed as one of the British Council Indonesia IELTS Ambassadors from 2021 to 2023.

What is the British Council IELTS Prize?

The British Council IELTS Prize is a financial award to the high-calibre individuals who have taken the IELTS examination in order to pursue an undergraduate or postgraduate degree around the world. It is applied for any chosen discipline in a higher education institution that accepts IELTS as part of the administration selection process. In general, a British Council IELTS Award winner does not only develop his or her own personal career ambition but also demonstrates potential social impacts to society. If we are selected as one of the British Council IELTS Awardees, then the British Council will reward us with a certain number of financial supports as well as opportunities to promote the importance of IELTS for anyone who is looking to study abroad. For more detailed information about the IELTS Prize competition, bookmark IELTS Prize official website and stay tuned for the announcement of the 2022 application opening!

How did you prepare for studying abroad?

First of all, I asked myself what course, which university and country I aim to pursue higher education in Industrial and Data Science. In my case, I would like to sharpen my knowledge in Industrial Engineering with additional competency in data science. In terms of country of destination, I chose South Korea because of its excellent education institutions for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), a mixed culture between traditional and modern, as well as a safe country for foreigners. I could confirm the mentioned reasons because I once travelled to South Korea in the past. Thus, I decided to look for a university in South Korea which offers the program that I want. 

Based on my research, Pukyong National University has a joint program called Industrial and Data Science Engineering in collaboration with Pusan National University. Therefore, I reviewed the admission requirements and prepared the required documents, such as the bachelor’s degree graduation certificate, transcripts, recommendation letters, motivation letters, and of course English proficiency certificate (IELTS or TOEFL). In general, the minimum IELTS requirement to enroll in my campus is 5.5.

Nicholas in South Korea. Source: Personal documentation

Why did I choose IELTS?

IELTS is one of the recognized English proficiency examinations by most universities in which English is the delivery language, including my targeted campus in South Korea. Since I have tried both paper and computer-based IELTS examinations, what I like the most is that the speaking section will be assessed directly with a human being. So, I felt it was more like a normal conversation with the examiner. Moreover, the IELTS result itself will be valid for two years which gives me enough time for retaking the next test if needed. In short, IELTS is the passport for me to pursue a master’s degree abroad.

How did you prepare for the IELTS examination?

As the initial step, I bought an IELTS preparation book to familiarize myself with the IELTS format. IELTS consists of four sections to assess our competencies in listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Since IELTS assesses our English proficiency comprehensively, I spent my time learning the IELTS preparation book for about three to six months. 

I still remember that prior to enrolling in the IELTS examination, I bought the McGraw-Hill Education IELTS book from Gramedia. I studied the book in order to familiarize myself with the IELTS structure. On average, I spent at least 10 hours per week studying. In addition, I also learn new vocabulary from TikTok since I love scrolling TikTok and why I do not try to learn English from it.  Furthermore, I attended several webinars and watched Youtube to learn the tips for getting a good IELTS score. I loved watching the tips and examples of the IELTS test available on Youtube. 

To further extend, I do believe that English competency is not gained within a night, hence I also tried to immerse myself in English. For instance, watching English movies on Netflix, listening to English music, reading news or journals, writing articles in English, and also having English conversations with my foreign friends.

IELTS Prize Virtual Award Ceremony 2021. Source: British Council

Why did you take the IELTS at the British Council Indonesia?

My first encounter with the British Council Indonesia began in early April 2021. In the middle of the covid-19 pandemic, I needed to submit my IELTS Test Report Form (TRF) to the campus latest by mid-May 2021. I tried to contact several IELTS testing centers in Jakarta and it was only the British Council Indonesia that still had some available slots back then. The call center of the British Council Indonesia was informative and responsive. 

Furthermore, the speaking test was also conducted at the same building with other sections. So, I decided to enroll in the IELTS academic-computer delivered examination at the British Council Indonesia in order to catch up with the submission timeline. In summary, I do recommend you to take the IELTS examination with the British Council for better, faster, and more reliable service.

Nicholas travelled to Australia. Source: Personal documentation

What are the lessons learned?

During the preparation stage, my key takeaways are: 

(1) to review as well as understand the IELTS format; 
(2) to always spend enough time for practicing; 
(3) and to learn from the IELTS resources as much as possible. 

Meanwhile, my main lessons learned during the D-day are: 

(1) to arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes to one hour prior to the test time; 
(2) to stay calm; 
(3) and to answer the questions as best as possible. 

Since I took the IELTS examination during the Covid-19 pandemic, I must wear a medical mask during the test. Honestly speaking, I felt uncomfortable wearing the mask, especially during the speaking test. However, I must obey the health protocol in order to prevent the covid-19 spread. Since I had no choice, I needed to speak louder during the test. One of my great pieces of advice is to wear the mask as early as possible, hence we will get more comfortable during the test.

Since I took the IELTS examination during the Covid-19 pandemic, I must wear a medical mask during the test. Honestly speaking, I felt uncomfortable wearing the mask, especially during the speaking test. However, I must obey the health protocol in order to prevent the covid-19 spread. Since I had no choice, I needed to speak louder during the test. One of my great pieces of advice is to wear the mask as early as possible, hence we will get more comfortable during the test.

Spring at Pukyong National University, Daeyeon Camus, Busan, South Korea. Source: Personal Documentation

Any tips for the IELTS examination taker?

If you have no IELTS experience, it would be good to search and review the IELTS from any available resources nowadays. If you have already taken the IELTS once, you may know which section you are good at and which section you may need to improve. For me, I am aware that my writing skill needs to be improved. Therefore, I collected and studied several IELTS samples from Google. 

Since I already learned the type of writing questions from the IELTS book, my next objective was to collect more writing style and format examples. Then I applied for the IELTS examination. Another example, when I watched movies on Netflix, I often found the idiom: I’m all ears. Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning from the dictionary and it means: ”Go ahead, I am listening attentively.” 

Unpredictably, I also heard the idiom during the IELTS examination, hence I am no longer surprised.  In this case, I would recommend you to focus on improving the gap without any compromise to the sections in which you have achieved good scores. To summarize, my main advice would be to practice, practice and practice. Good luck, Sahabat Indonesia Mengglobal!

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Editor: Aditya Parama Setiaboedi

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