Hi guys, I hope you are having a wonderful week!

Not so long ago, I was very fortunate to be awarded first place for the British Council IELTS Prize 2023 in Indonesia. It provided funds towards my Master of Research degree that I am currently undertaking in the UK, which I am immensely grateful for. I thought I could write about my experiences to help you decide if this is something you could be interested in – and don’t worry, you don’t need 9.0s or the best IELTS scores to win it! If you are planning to study abroad, take the IELTS exam with the British Council and are thinking about getting additional financial support, I highly suggest you check it out!

What is it and who can apply?

In their own words, the IELTS Prize is “awarded to high-calibre individuals with the motivation to develop their career, and who demonstrate the potential to contribute to society what they have gained from their undergraduate or postgraduate study experience.” The key parts are “motivation to develop their career” and “demonstrate the potential to contribute to society” – do you have clear goals/plans for how you want to develop your career and contribute to society? If so, this is perfect for you!

Eligibility criteria may vary from country to country and be updated with each new year, but generally up to now, “The IELTS Prize enables students to study any chosen course in an undergraduate or postgraduate programme of a higher institution that accepts IELTS as part of its admission requirements.” As of 2023, students could apply if they were a resident of the country they were applying from, had a valid IELTS score (above a 6.0 in each section (listening, speaking, reading and writing) for Indonesian applicants, may be different for other countries), and if they would be able to provide a letter of acceptance before the announcement of the winners – if I remember correctly, at the time of applying I was asked what stage I was in with my application to the university. If you are planning to apply, make sure you read their full requirements by searching British Council IELTS Prize on Google and going to the official website for your country.

My approach

For IELTS Prize 2023, there were two stages to the prize, with the first comprising short essays about how one has contributed to their local community so far, how they plan to develop their career and how they plan to contribute to their community with IELTS and what they have learnt from their studies abroad. Remember, you don’t have to be the best creative writer to win – it just helps to have as much grammatical accuracy as possible, clear and concise ideas, and a logical structure which tells your story best. I tried my hardest to connect the themes of the essays and write in a naturally flowing manner, as if each idea and essay was a continuation of the one before, instead of using discrete, unrelated chunks of story, even if that meant excluding ideas. I wrote mostly about what I have a very strong passion for – teaching, which I had previously done a bit of and hoped to be a part of my future career. Another thing I tried to do very carefully was be specific, especially in explaining how studying abroad could help me teach better and allow me to potentially teach in the future, as well as detailing what I wanted to teach and contribute to my community.

The second stage involved creating a short 1-minute video where I talked about how IELTS and studying abroad could contribute to making an impact on my local community. I didn’t need a fancy camera or complicated editing software for this – what mattered most was the content of the video. The start of the video had to be engaging, so I filmed the camera rolling out of a drawer, before directly addressing the audience and asking a rhetorical question, giving it a sense of urgency and compelling the audience to pay attention. For the main section of the video, I would switch to some static shots every now and then to emphasise the points I was making, but I mainly focused on the main shot – a one-on-one with the audience, where I was authentic and sincere in the story I was trying to tell, and the plans that I had for the future. When speaking, I tried to be as smooth, clear and concise as possible. Ultimately, I wanted the audience to be emotionally involved, and in a sense, tried to convince them to make that impact too. The deadline for the video was not very long after the announcement of the second stage, so definitely do not leave making the video to the last minute. It requires careful thought and planning!

Other things to consider

Winning the prize also came with becoming an IELTS ambassador for the British Council, and this role involves creating media content to help promote IELTS and share our experiences of studying abroad. Being able to inform and encourage others to take opportunities to reach their dreams and follow their passions is honestly the most rewarding thing.

And that’s all from me for now!

Thanks for reading!

– Verrel

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