Here we are with the second of my 4 case studies and for this post I want to introduce two IELTS students to you, both doctors; Lera from Russia and Sophia from Germany.

The IELTS Workshops are aimed at students who need band 7 at least (many of the students who have come need higher scores than this – band 7 in all or even band 7.5 or 8). During the course (this is usually 3 or 4 days or a full week )  we work on IELTS for around 6 hours each day (this may sound tough but actually it’s all well-paced and we  take breaks so it generally works out well) and it truly is an IELTS immersion. Of course we have some time to relax in the evenings and at the weekend.

For Lera to register as a doctor in the UK the IELTS requirement was band 7.5 overall and a minimum of band 7 in each of the 4 parts of the exam. For Sophia who was applying in New Zealand the requirement is 7 in reading and writing and 7.5 in speaking and listening. These are very tough scores to achieve (given that 9 is ‘native speaker’ level). Lera had taken the exam twice and was currently around 6.5 and Sophia had taken it  12 times (spread over several years) and her scores had been fluctuating.

The key to achieving high IELTS scores like this is to focus on the areas where marks are lost while making sure everything else is maintaining its level or better still improving further – keeping ‘all the balls in the air!’

Coming here for an IELTS (Immersion) Workshop means being surrounded by English all day so this helps to put students into an ‘English’ frame of mind and helps them to be really concentrated on the work in hand.


Checking vocabulary and grammar with Sophia

Sophia was a little disillusioned by her IELTS history and had achieved some really amazing scores (a 9 in reading at one exam) but the scores were not coming together in one sitting. We needed to work mostly on speaking and listening as these required higher levels and also make sure the writing achieved and maintained at least band 7. One of the biggest tasks was to help her to remain calm in the speaking exam as nerves made her ‘run-away’ with the speaking. Confidence – unsurprisingly after many attempts at the exam was also something to engender – however she was always cheerful and determined to succeed in her desire to work in New Zealand and to make a new life with her family.

By working systematically and intensively on specific areas or speaking, listening and writing, the scores began to increase and stabilise. This can happen very quickly when students grasp some of the techniques and then the next job was to make sure that these continued to build up to the day of the exam. To do this we continued to meet online after Sophia had returned home.

A short trip to relax during the course (albeit a cold one!)

The exam went well and Sophia felt she had performed well in each part but now we needed to wait for the results.

It was on Good Friday when I received a very excited call from Sophia to tell me she had made it!! Her results were stunning –

8.5 Listening, 7.5 Reading, 7 Writing, 7.5 Speaking

You can see my YouTube interview with Sophia here

She could follow her dream to go to New Zealand. I know that her whole family is now enjoying their new life there.



Lera mastering writing and listening

Lera was looking to go and do further medical training at university. She is a qualified doctor but needed to do further training in order to work in the UK in the medical field. She had been studying IELTS for sometime and taken one exam which had not delivered her band.

Her dream was to work in medicine in the UK. She was, when I met her, working as an art tutor and is a very talented artist. We first worked online on my IELTS Intensive 3-month course before Lera decided that she wanted to come here to Yorkshire and take the IELTS workshop. She came for two days and then came again for a further 4 days just before her exam.

We couldn’t resist the Yves St Laurent exhibition to relax

For Lera the two areas which were challenging were Listening and Writing. Writing was good but the timing proved to be the main issue (this is true for many students). It was only when we worked face to face that I discovered what the main problem was with listening – Lera was underlining too many key words and so when she began to listen she was trying to focus on all of these words and ended up not really following what was being said – she couldn’t “(see) ‘hear’ the wood for the trees!” Once we were able to cut this down to just one main key word for each question then the scores improved dramatically and in her exam Lera achieved an amazing band 7.5 in listening.

It was late November when Lera came for the second time and there were two IELTS students on this workshop and thinking about her exam always conjures up the smell of wood smoke as we had a wood-burning stove in the room to keep us all cosy as we studied.

Lera was successful in the exam which she took just a couple of days after returning home and as well as her fantastic listening result she also achieved band 8 in speaking. She stayed up all night to get the result and was so excited when it came.

You can see my interview with her on YouTube here.

I can now tell you that Lera is now working in research here in the UK and is about to do even more study at university.

Both Sophia were hard working and determined in their ambition to be successful and IELTS was an important key to their success. I am very proud to have played a part in their success and it was just as exciting for me to hear about their results. I hear from them both from time to time and I know that they are both enjoying the dream that they planned for a long time and that coming here to take an IELTS Workshop made a big difference to them in their IELTS success.

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