Ning Fen studied with British Council Singapore from the age of 16. After taking her IELTS at the age of 17, and receiving an excellent score of 7.5, she has earned place at University.
Having lived in Singapore for quite some time, which are the things about this country that you like?
I love living in Singapore not only because it's safe and clean, but also because it combines the cultures of the west and of the east, which is very unique and interesting.
Education is a good chance to acquire friends. Students get to learn a new language and make many new friends from around the world. How about you? Have you made many friends through British Council?
I've made a lot of friends through British Council. I think it's one of the great things about studying in British Council. It offers me the opportunity to meet people from different parts of the world who speak different languages and come from very different cultural backgrounds. I came to learn English, but at the end I've learnt much more than that. The interaction between students is interesting and we each have learnt something from others.
Who are your favourite teachers? Take this chance to say why you like them.
One of my favourite teachers is Mark, who has given me encouragement and good advice. His ability to make us laugh and never feel bored during the lesson is remarkable. He can also explain things clearly and often in a hilarious way. It is great to learn English from interesting teachers like him.
How long have you been learning English? What were the challenges and difficulties you faced during the journey?
I have been learning English for six years. Speaking is always the most difficult part for me because I'm too nervous to speak; in fact, I only started practicing my speaking when I took up General English course this year. In the past, I had focused on vocabulary and receptive skills such as listening and reading. At first, when I read in English, my brain automatically translated every single word into Chinese and it was so difficult to understand English while my brain could only function in another language. I spent a lot of time reading English books and watching English dramas so that I finally reached a stage where I could understand English without thinking about the corresponding meaning in Chinese.
Could you describe your experience taking IELTS with the British Council? Was it stressful/manageable?
It wasn't so hard for me because in the previous year I did O-level English which is far more difficult. Only the listening part is a bit challenging, you really have to concentrate on the task and to stay calm if you miss some parts of it because the speakers do speak quickly and you have to write down the answer and at the same time listen for the next one.
How do you think taking IELTS with us has helped you? Do you think it will give you more opportunities for the future?
My teachers have helped and encouraged me before I took the test so I didn't feel particularly stressed when I took it. It also gives me more confidence to communicate in English, which is the one thing I needed most.
What tips or advice can you give to students who are finding it difficult to learn English but who want to achieve your results?
Firstly, good teachers are essential because their teaching methods and personalities will influence and inspire you. Secondly, practice makes perfect. Reading is no doubt the most important way to improve and I think it's better to start with topics that you are most interested. I found audio books very helpful, especially when I felt less motivated to read. Sometimes I read the text and listen to the audio book at the same time, it helps me to understand the book better. I also started listening to podcasts even though at the time I could barely understand what they were saying. I believe language is to be acquired through experience. The workbook exercises are only secondary.
Do you have any tips or advice for future IELTS candidates?
First of all, stay calm at all times. It's important to manage your time when you are doing the reading and the writing tasks so it's the best to do some IELTS practices and get your teachers to correct your mistakes in your writings before taking the actual test. As for the speaking, you should ask for individual help from one of the teachers in British Council and from whom you will get feedbacks.