So much of what I know about how to pass the IELTS exam (and teaching English in general) comes from the successes, and err, non-successes of my previous students.
I have learnt a great deal from these students, and by reading their stories, so can you.
As such, in this series of articles, I'm going to share some stories with you about the most memorable WINS and FAILS of my former students*.
*All of these stories are real, but all students' names have been changed to maintain anonymity.
Batyr and his Consumption of the English Language
Today, I'm going to tell you about Batyr, his excellent level of English, and how he got a band 8.5 in the IELTS test.
I taught Batyr one-to-one online, and it was immediately clear that his English level was phenomenal.
His accent was very neutral, if not native-like, and his grammar was basically perfect.
Not only that, but his vocabulary was very, very good and he wrote with skill and flair. Here's an example of one of the first essays he wrote for me:
In today’s world, a person’s accomplishments are often gauged by the amount of money they have and the things they own. This essay will argue that the net worth of an individual is not the best indicator of how successful they are, and that there is no single recipe that has brought all high-achieving people to where they are today.
Wealth, though quite indicative under some circumstances, is simply too shallow a notion to embrace all of the meaning behind the word success. After all, there are many different kinds of success, and each of them manifests itself in its own unique way. For instance, many writers devote their lives to their craft to such a degree that they eventually arrive at living from hand to mouth. However, should the works of such authors earn public renown, one could never utter even a single word of their not being successful. On the contrary, it would be unanimously accepted by society that such people are indeed successful, even though they might not be particularly affluent.
Furthermore, it should be noted that each success story is unique and inimitable. With all the different kinds of mass media and information technologies available to humanity in this day and age, it is miraculously easy to look at the most successful people and assume that there is a certain blueprint for their accomplishments. Such an assumption could not be further from the truth, as every person who has managed to excel at something has trodden their path in their own way at their own time. Take Mark Zuckerburg and Colonel Sanders as an example. While the former became successful in his twenties, the latter did so near the end of his life. Nevertheless, in both cases success is the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear the names of these two individuals.
In conclusion, though society tends to use a person’s wealth to determine how successful they are, I would argue that it cannot be relied upon in all cases, as there are different kinds of success, and each individual attains one or another in their own fashion.
Actually, his vocabularly was a bit too good, and he wrote with a bit too much flair for the IELTS exam. The main feedback I had to give him for his writing was to neutralise the tone a bit (or, a lot) and to make it a bit less literary and ornate.
Still, as you can see, this guy's English was pretty special and he was a talented writer.
However, what was most interesting about working with him was his relationship with the English language; more particularly, his consumption of English media.
He loved British comedies such as I'm Alan Partridge and Peep Show, listened to a lot of British rock music (so clearly he was also a man of good taste!), and enjoyed reading in English.
In fact, when I was teaching him, I had just finished a book called The Wordly Philsophers, which details the history of great economic thinkers, and since he was studying economics, I recommended it to him as something he could maybe read one day.
While this book is fascinating, it's also dense, and contains a lot of vocabularly that was new even for me.
To my surprise, when we met again the next week, he had already started reading the book and was a couple of chapters in!
His attitude and his habits explain why his English was so damn good.
We only had about 5 classes in total and he was ready to take the exam. It only takes a couple of weeks to learn what to do (and what not to do) in the IELTS exam, but it takes years of reading, listening, generally consuming, and most importantly enjoying the language to reach a high level.
Quite unsurprisingly, Batyr got a band 8.5 overall in the IELTS exam
This truly was an EPIC WIN!
I love sharing his story, not only because he was an impressive individual, but it goes to show how good your English can become if you have good long-term habits of reading, listening and engaging with the culture.
Fair play to you, Batyr! 🎉🎉🎉