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A Tale of Focus and Dedication

A Tale of Focus and Dedication
Every so often, I like to blog a case study.  I like to do these blogs because it shows you firsthand what it looks like to work with me and how I can help you achieve your goals, and it also highlights the success and victories of my extremely hardworking students!  This case study illustrates a journey we both took to reach a particular language goal.  Like the other case studies I have done, the benefit gained was mutual, but unlike the others this case study was a very scary journey.

This student was still in Japan when I was approached.  He was an eminent doctor, well-known in his field both in Japan and internationally.  He was coming to the UK to take up an appointment in a large London hospital.  There was, however, a problem.  He had to have a score of 7 in each of the IELTS papers and he had taken the test twice in Japan and not achieved this.

The hospital had decided that he should come to London, study, be immersed in the language, visit the hospital and get to know people there and then re-take the exam in London.  This made sense but there were two problems:

  • I was about to move house,
  • We had exactly one month to prepare, take, and achieve the required IELTS scores or Takeshi would be unable to take up the post!

So, no pressure there then!

The first lesson

Not one to shrink from a challenge, I accepted the task.  So, on a cold, blustery January 2nd I arrived at the hospital in London to meet Takeshi.

He asked me if he was my first student of the year.  I replied that he was, and he was happy about this and presented me with a bottle of very good champagne!

The first thing I noticed about Takeshi was how very organised he was in his learning.  He had approached everything very systematically and his study folders were meticulous.  We went through an example of each part of the exam noting everything that was incorrect or not fully understood.  At the end of this process we had a list of areas to develop.

And so, we set to work.

We decided to concentrate on the following areas in particular:

  • Listening – we would concentrate on tuning his ear into English sounds to help him look for nuance and deal with listening passages in small chunks.
  • Writing – the task here was to get the writing to flow better and give it bit more of a natural feel.
  • Speaking – we decided that we would work on pronunciation and making his speech flow more naturally.

His attention to detail was amazing.  His surgical training really helped here.  He dissected the reading passages and rarely got a question wrong.  His speaking was very precise and showed a very wide range of vocabulary and good use of structure.  His writing was well organised and developed, but still needed some work.  It was his listening skills that needed the most work.

In the case of Takeshi, there weren’t really any specific breakthroughs, it came down to simple dedication and hard work.  One of the biggest things that I was able to do for Takeshi was to help him get focused.  It was simple for me to assess his current skills and I could see very clearly were we needed to focus his training, and so that is exactly what we did!

We both ‘rolled up our sleeves’ and got on with it!

The study plan

We met every day for 2 hours in the morning.  We worked through all the tasks, building vocabulary, confidence, and honing skills.  At the end of each session, I assigned work and Takeshi then spent the afternoon and evening studying.  At the beginning of each day we went over everything and then continued learning and checking, and checking and learning.  He even spent most of the weekend studying too.  For this one month, nothing else mattered!

I have rarely seen such absolute dedication to a task.  He lived, ate and slept English and IELTS. Every grammar error was followed by more practice until it was clear.  I was in danger of running out of material!

Each mistake had to be understood, corrected and practised until Takeshi was sure he had eliminated it.  The process was not boring or in any way onerous – on the contrary it was like nurturing a plant and seeing it grow day by day.

Speaking became more natural (not only due to me, but also due to the time he spent with his colleagues).  Listening skills blossomed until, like the reading, there was rarely an error.  His writing flowed more and, especially in task one, he was almost writing better than me!

As the month drew to a close I felt satisfied that we had ‘all the balls in the air’ and Takeshi felt more confident about taking the exam again.  He had chosen a centre that would be easy to get to and would not pose any travel problems.  He took the exam and flew back to Japan the next day.  I did not get the chance I usually have with my students of discussing the exam afterwards and seeing how they feel it went.  It is safe to say that I was waiting to hear from him with bated breath!

A few weeks went by with no news.  Then one day I received a very excited telephone call from Japan!  Success – we were both so relieved!  He had scored a mix of 7s and 8s but the particulars of his scores weren’t what was important.  What mattered the most was that he had scored what he needed and was making preparations to move his family to London and take up the post at the hospital.  A happy end to a tale of hard work and dedication.

Some months later I was contacted by the hospital again.  This time to teach Takeshi’s wife.

What I learnt most from this student is that dedication, hard work, and a systematic approach to language learning pay off – especially when you have a clear goal.  Of course, there’s nothing like a bit of external pressure to get the adrenaline flowing!  Takeshi was a brilliant student, and it was a joy to get to work with him and help him achieve his dream.

I have helped thousands of students achieve their IELTS goals, and obtain their dreams.  I would love to help you.  Check out my immersion programmes and come and stay with me at Fleetham Lodge, or check out my immersion workshops and online courses.

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