Preparing for the IELTS: a vital step towards foreign education
By Saalar Ahmad
Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS) are two most widely accepted proficiency evaluation systems.  To pursue my academic dreams outside Pakistan,  I decided to opt for the IELTS and opted for British Council’s designed MOOC Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests.
This language evaluation system gives a candidate two choices; the first one being the general test while the second one being the academic one. Either one has the same four aspects i.e. listening, reading, writing and speaking. The general and academic variants differ in the writing and the reading parts. The academic module, however, is a bit harder in these areas whereas the general one opts for a lighter testing.

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Rob, the video teacher explaining about IELTS testing criteria

The general test is for those who want to study or work abroad. The academic module is designed for schools and universities. The listening, reading and writing tests are taken the same day whereas the speaking test is conducted on a separate day, which could be either before or after the other three tests.
The speaking test lasts for about 13 minutes. Firstly, you will have to talk about yourself and your family. Then you will be given a topic to talk upon with some follow-up questions. Listening, speaking and reading are similar, as some specific criteria’s are focused upon.
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Online quiz along with guidance
I have been studying for IELTS since the starting for the month of May. I spent a lot of time surfing the web for some online courses but did not find any.  Interestingly, I was taking my O level examination in May which made a lot of sense for studying English. My first paper was of the English subjects while the others were to be attempted in the same language. While rushing towards the gate of the examination center after finishing my O levels papers, I found myself without plan anything for the coming weeks. I discussed it with my father, and he advised me to look for an internship. I was stoked for the idea. I joined the internship of at an inspiring company set up by a TED senior fellow who also happened to be a friend of my father.
My profile for the IELTS online course
My profile for the IELTS online course

While I joined internship to learn website development and social interaction at workplace, the office wanted me to write content writing for some of their client. One day I was at my workstation that my boss, Sir Faisal, came to me asking if I was interested in the IELTS. “Sure. I am, sir.” I explained that I am already planning for it. He advised me to register for agree course on the British Council’s Future Learns website.
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The test layout showing all the components in the quiz

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Future Learns online courses list

This course is phenomenal where I got to learn a lot of things. Being particularly less social, it was a good opportunity for me to interact with others via their comment section and the website’s integrated layout. I made one friend as well and we are on Skype!
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A glance of the intuitive comment section.

The course is quick yet time-taking. Keeping up with the course and ‘marking steps complete’ is easy, but if you are a late-comer or just got behind, catching up is difficult as much gets covered through Facebook streams or swift uploads on the website in a short span of time. The thing is that to do an online course, you need to be responsible, dedicated, honest as to what and how much you have done etc. All this combined makes a good online learners experience.
Meanwhile, I visited my grand mom in Istanbul, Turkey, for vacations. Despite a busy touristic schedule with family and cousins, I managed to take time out for the ILETS course. Admitted that I am a self-learner with some degree of self-discipline but time management isn’t always easy. True that I did not have much time on some days but not always.
So far, the course has been very useful to me as I had a chance socialize and learn quite a lot of things I did not previously know. For example, I did not know much about the IELTS examination itself, and how it is taken. The course is fun and easy to interact with other fellow learners and the teachers. The exercise has also helped me boost my confidence in general.
The progress chart to keep you up-to-date
The progress chart to keep you up-to-date

I am awed by the idea of free online courses conducted by the most reputed institutions like the British Council or the Harvard University.  Such are the blessings of internet and creative thinking at the knowledge houses that I participate in any learning activity and benefit from guidance of the best in the field. I hope one day, I’ll be able to pay for my online courses so that this great initiative could remain financial viable for the dedicated and inspiring institutions.
Now that the course is about to end, I am very confident about my IELTS preparation. I am planning to give the academic module and score good grades for university. At least that’s what I have planned to. I know it’s a bit too late but I think if you have the time and the patience, you can still catch up with the course that I highly recommend.
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An optional certificate which can be bought from their website