Can IELTS be the common thread between Kuwait and Colombia?

So what does a Kuwaiti and a Colombian have in common (other than the makings of a really lame joke)? A few weeks ago I found out: the IELTS.

Turns out, two friends of mine had been freaking out over the same test — Ahmed, a 21-year-old Business student at Florida International University and Stephanie, a 20-year-old med student in the Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá. Both felt the pressure of the IELTS coming on. Ahmed, who had taken it when he first came to the States and said the experience had been nerve wrecking, recently told me he was even more nervous this time around. But I didn’t understand why — he had already passed once, after all. “Well, with my time with the language now, I should know more…”

I found this incredibly interesting. Added to Ahmed’s anxiety wasn’t the fear of what to expect – he knew the structure of the exam from beginning to end. It was the pressure to prove to himself, his family and the university, that his English (the reason he came here to begin with), had in fact improved.

Then there is Stephanie, who as a med student in Colombia is required to prove she has a basic proficiency in English (as if the whole saving lives thing wasn’t enough!) But, if you really think about it, it makes sense. The results of Stephanie’s IELTS score are important because it will be that proof she needs to show her future international colleagues, that language isn’t a barrier for her life saving skills.

So what do my two friends have in common? The fact that they both rely heavily on the benefits the IELTS has to offer. So if you find yourself considering if the test (and the inevitable anxiety that comes with taking any test) is worth it, just take a moment to think about all the doors that could open for you if you just give it a go! Happy thinking (and studying!)


The IELTS or TOEFL

ielts or toeflWhen applying to most universities in the United States, proof of knowledge of the English language might have to be presented.  The standard way institutions of higher education check for this is through standardized tests such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

The IELTS is an examination established in 1989 and managed by the University of Cambridge, the British Council, and IPD Education.  Although preparing for the exam may be stressful and challenging for those wishing to be admitted to a university with a set minimum score, performing well is far from impossible.

The IELTS is broken down into four main components – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.  It’s very important to read and listen to directions carefully, as not closely following them can mean bad marks earned.  Simple mistakes are often made by not conforming to the directions given.

The TOEFL is headed by the Educational Testing Service, and was originally created by faculty at Stanford University in the 1960s.  Like the IELTS, it is also broken down into Reading Speaking, Listening, and Writing sections – though it’s a bit different.

There exists a variety of preparation courses that aid in getting a better grasp of the language and scoring high on these examinations.  A quick search online can lead an inquisitive student in the right direction to a local or online resource.  With proper preparation, exam scores can be raised significantly after completion of a course.  Universities are generally told not to accept neither IELTS nor TOEF scores older than two years, so an up-to-date report is necessary for most applications.