Articles and tips from Evgenia Efremova

What score can I get on IELTS and how do Russian-speaking students pass the test?


What score can I get on IELTS and how do Russian-speaking students pass the test?



If you plan to enroll in higher education programs abroad and study in English, then you must provide an English certificate confirming knowledge of the language at the required level. One of the most popular tests, which are accepted by almost all universities where training is conducted in English, is the IELTS exam. Each university sets a minimum score, which you must confirm by entering a particular study program.

In order to successfully prepare for such a test, it is important to clearly understand what the scores required by universities mean in terms of language level. We will also pay attention to how Russian-speaking students pass the test in order to conclude what skills should be emphasized in preparation.


General or Academic

IELTS exists in two versions - the general module (General Module) and the academic module (Academic Module). As a rule, employers require the IELTS General Module to confirm the level of language sufficient for successful communication in a professional environment, as well as immigration programs, for example, in Canada, or educational training programs. IELTS Academic is a module that is required for admission to higher education programs. In addition, like most international English tests, IELTS has four parts and separately assesses the level of language proficiency in all four competencies: listening, reading, speaking and writing.

Accordingly, the first thing you should clearly understand is which module you need to take, because due to the difference in goals, different skills are evaluated, accordingly the nature and level of training will differ. Although the content of the Listening and Speaking parts in General and Academic are the same, they differ significantly in the Reading and Writing parts.

In general, the content of the texts and the nature of the questions for the essay in the Academic Module are more complicated because it evaluates the more comprehensive English language skills for the academic environment.

Despite the fact that both the academic and the general module evaluate the level of language development due to differences in structure and issues, the same score for IELTS General and IELTS Academic does not mean the same level of language. Scoring 7.0 on Academic Module is much more difficult than scoring the same score on General Module.


Minimum score

Second, you need to know the minimum required score for the selected study program. IELTS evaluates the overall level and level for each of the skills on an 0 to 9.0 scale in increments of 0.5 points. The testing developer gives educational institutions recommendations on setting the minimum acceptable score depending on the nature of the program. So, for example, for “linguistically demanding programs” - these may include competitive undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate programs in the humanities, as well as programs in top universities - the minimum recommended score is 7.5 or more, which corresponds to the level of C1 (Advanced) by standards European Scale (CEFR). For “linguistically less demanding programs” the recommended level is 7.0, which according to the European scale also corresponds to the advanced level. For many universities in Europe and streaming universities, a score in 6.5 is sufficient, which corresponds to a level above the average - B2 (upper-intermediate).

Each year, the testing developer issues a report with statistics on delivery, where you can compare the results by demographic data, country of delivery, mother tongue of the dealer, and also track differences in the results by section.

It is interesting that according to the average indicators of students from Russia who passed the test in 2017, the average student passes below the minimum required points of highly competitive educational institutions in countries such as the USA and Canada, but such points are quite suitable for admission to many programs in European countries and average paid universities , especially for technical specialties.

IELTS statistics

Data Source: Official Statistics


Points for each part of IELTS

Third, pay attention to whether the university has requirements for minimum scores for each individual part. Statistically, the majority of those who pass the exam have four-part skills developed unevenly. That is why many universities began to establish minimum requirements not only for the total score, but also for the minimum scores for individual parts, which they consider important for successful training in a particular program.

This is understandable! Reading and listening skills are passive language skills; they are easier and more pleasant to train, especially in educational systems, where we are used to “book” learning. Speaking and writing skills are “active skills,” and in order to succeed in them you need to practice a lot. Such an activity involves a large load on the brain and causes a desire to postpone the essay until later. According to the results of the analysis of the homework of students preparing for IELTS courses in the Global Ambassador, many students perform written and oral tasks reluctantly or do not do them at all.

Often, a student believes that he can easily cope with oral and written tasks, since many questions are “open-type” questions and appeal to the student’s knowledge and experience. However, many students forget or do not know that such answers are evaluated according to certain criteria. When compiling such questions, test developers suggest the use of a specific grammar, response structure, and logical connectives. All this is taken into account when evaluating answers in conjunction with the vocabulary and semantic content of the answer. The student may falsely feel that he gave an excellent answer, because “he had something to say,” and the examiner nodded sweetly and actively to him, and as a result received low scores.

Below are vivid examples of how section results (from real IELTS certificates) can differ greatly:

IELTS result 1

1 example. Table of official results of a Russian-speaking student. 


In this example, the student demonstrates an advanced general level (C1), but in the parts of writing and speaking only “average - above average” (B2). Therefore, if the selected training programs has requirements not lower than 7.0 in each of the sections, the student is no longer suitable for such a program, despite a high overall score.

IELTS result 2

2 example. Table of official results of a Russian-speaking student. 


The same can be seen in the second example, where the student shows the highest result in reading and slightly lower in listening, but a relatively low result in writing. Most likely, entering a humanitarian program, such a letter score will not be enough for admission.


Conclusions and recommendations

From all this, it’s worth making several conclusions about how best to organize preparation for IELTS:

1. Take the preliminary trial IELTS of the required module. This will allow you to assess the level of development of skills in each of the four sections in a testing format, get a preliminary score and focus training on those skills in which significant shortcomings are observed.

2. Understand your current level and adequately evaluate the required training period. For example, if you need to get an 7.0 score, which corresponds to the advanced level, and your current level is intermediate (intermediate), which, tentatively, will allow you to take the 4.5 test, then you need not only to devote considerable time to preparation, but also concentrate on increasing level of the language as a whole, before proceeding with the preparation.

3. Choose courses, materials and a teacher that are suitable for preparing not only for the testing format, but also for the types of tasks, the skills that these tasks test, and the criteria for their assessment. Many training courses pay little attention to the development of language skills that are tested by various IELTS assignments. They put more emphasis on getting to know the format of tests by “dragging”. Such preparation, of course, will introduce you to the format, but if you change the essence of the question or the structure of the task, you may not have the skill to successfully complete it.

4. Train active skills - writing and speaking, because their development requires more practice. Do not rely on familiar questions regarding reading and writing - and they will not help if you do not know how to apply the correct structures for constructing arguments, descriptive answers, etc. Take advantage of the experience of other students, who confirmed that for writing and speaking, as a rule, students receive a lower score. Set yourself up to work on these skills.


We wish you a successful and effective preparation!


Author: Evgenia Efremova, Master of Harvard University, author of preparation courses for IELTS, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc. 



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Why can preparing for TOEFL or IELTS take longer than it seems?


Why can preparing for TOEFL or IELTS take longer than it seems?

 toefl ielts case

Why can preparing for TOEFL / IELTS take longer than it seems? 


If you plan to graduate abroad in English, you will need to pass one of the international language proficiency tests. The most common are IELTS Academic and TOEFL ibt. The selection committee of each university, where teaching is conducted in English, sets a minimum score. To assess the prospects for obtaining the required TOEFL or IELTS scores, you need to know what the main difficulty of these exams is. Let's look at a typical case.

You decided to enter a good foreign university. This university requires the provision of TOEFL ibt results not lower than 100 points, and the deadline for submission after 2 months. At the same time, your current Intermediate level, but you are aimed at entering this year and want to pass the exam. Will you be able to pass the exam for 100 + points in 2 months? Let's figure it out.

Surely you learned English at school. Perhaps they studied at the language center. In any case, you learned general English, the purpose of which (especially at the initial levels of study) is to build vocabulary, study basic grammatical and syntactic structures, and develop basic listening and speaking skills - that is, everything that will allow you to communicate in an everyday environment and solve everyday issues. With general English at the Intermediate level, you feel confident communicating while traveling, maintaining everyday conversations with native speakers, and even traveling on the Work & Travel program. But this level is not enough when you need to express your opinion, think about something or argue your point of view - there is discomfort associated with a lack of vocabulary and the inability to clearly articulate your thoughts.

It is skills such as reasoning, reading structure and building arguments in the context of academic topics that are the skills that are mainly tested on the IELTS Academic and TOEFL ibt exams, that is, they assess proficiency in academic English. Academic English is a language for learning and thinking (also called cognitive). It involves the development and application of cognitive skills, but not in the native language, but in English. These skills include critical analysis and logical reasoning, which should be used not only in reading and listening, but also in writing and speaking. Highly cognitive skills (analysis, assessment, critical thinking, generating new ideas) require a high level of English proficiency.

The basis of the TOEFL and IELTS tests is precisely academic vocabulary, complex syntactic and grammatical structures, without mastering which it will not be possible to fully understand the essence of what has been read or heard. In this case, questions and tasks involving synthesis, analysis and evaluation of ideas are difficult and incomprehensible for us. Therefore, when you start preparing for TOEFL or IELTS with an average level of general English in a short time, you should not try to sharply increase the level of knowledge of the language, but you need to study academic vocabulary, which will help to catch the point and answer basic questions of a factual nature. After 2 months of preparation, you can count on 50-75 points for TOEFL and 4.5-6.0 for IELTS. Nevertheless, if you need higher scores, the situation is not hopeless: first you need to put more time into preparation, and in the process of preparation remember the existence of individual characteristics of the development of cognitive skills. 


Author: Evgenia Efremova, Ed.M. in Mind, Brain & Education (Harvard University), 
Global Ambassador Academic Director and Prep Developer TOEFL и IELTS 


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Building a personal brand for a career and education abroad


Building a personal brand for a career and education abroad

skill 10 1

10 Required Student Skills at Harvard University


Skill number 10. Building a personal brand

I want to end this series by talking about the importance of building a personal brand. Personal brand, you think ?! Yes, yes, exactly ... And no matter how amazing it is, you already have it. You can omit this beautiful professional term for a second and it turns out that these are just those feelings and emotions, images and associations that arise in different people when they hear your name. Why is a personal brand so important and why is it necessary to devote as much time to building it as to personal and career development?

Emotions are stronger than rational thinking.

As much as we want to think and make decisions rationally and think that this is how everything is happening, our world is driven by emotions. If we talk about the labor market, then here too you will be perceived on an emotional level. I don’t want to compare a person with a product, but in essence any person in the labor market is a “product” that competes with others due to its values, functionality and emotional appeal. And if you want you to be chosen among the many worthy ones, then it makes sense to adapt to the demand and expectations of the audience.

What emotions are embedded in your resume? Every detail creates an impression of you as a professional. Can you guess what reads between the lines in the mailbox titles “thebestgirlinthewholeworld” or “the_brightest_star” or from an inappropriate photo in the kitchen with half-breasts? How does a personal assessment of a foreign language at the “Advanced” level look like in a resume full of banal mistakes like inconsistency of times and others? When communicating on the phone for the first time, according to the tone of your words: your goodwill or lack thereof, an image about you is formed, which either disposes to communication or encourages to end the conversation immediately and forever. Not to mention personal contact. Your look and smile, speech and appearance, thoughts and demeanors, gestures and tact - all this together form a perfectly clear emotion about you. And no matter how gorgeous your resume may seem in terms of professional experience, the emotional center of your audience is sometimes stronger than their rational thinking.

Personal brand perception subjectivity

Even when we consciously form a positive image, our personality is perceived subjectively. Everyone, as they say, will not please you. Different people perceive information in different ways. Any new information and image is passed by other people through the prism of their personal previous experience, which subconsciously forms a positive or negative perception. Therefore, if your professional career depends on other people, it is important that you clearly understand what kind of audience it is, what its expectations are, and design your brand in such a way that it is perceived as unambiguously as possible. It's like a story with Apple, which causes clear understandable emotions in almost its entire audience.

The multichannel and public availability of information about you

In the era of social networks, when your personal and professional information is practically in the public lifelong access, everything related to your name can somehow affect the sustainability of the development of your brand. Therefore, it is important to evaluate what information about you is available on social networks, and what image it forms about you in the long run. Imagine that what you are going to put on a social network cannot be deleted? Will you do it anyway? Would you like to be hired by a potential employer if you accidentally stumble upon such information on the Internet?

Personal brand value

The development of a strong sustainable brand is impossible if it does not carry any value. What is your value as an interlocutor, as a friend, as a professional, or simply as an individual? Can you articulate this clearly? In fact, understanding and the ability to articulate your value for a particular audience is an important aspect of fruitful and mutually beneficial communication. You must have been in a situation where the appointment was canceled, and you sighed with relief. Apparently, either the interlocutor did not represent value to you, or you had nothing to offer in return. Any communication is based on the principle of a tacit mutually beneficial contract.

Personal Brand Development History

In addition to brand value and understanding “why” I do this or that, it is important to be able to tell the story of brand development. The ability to tell a story about your life that connects separate stages into a coherent, coherent story, overcoming life difficulties, emphasizing your strengths and achievements, as well as the uniqueness of your personality, will set you apart from others. The ability to tell stories, or “storytelling”, is not only a powerful literary device, but also a marketing tool, since it takes into account the peculiarities of the formation of long-term memory. A coherent storyline and unexpected twists and turns, accompanied by emotion and metaphor, will allow you to perceive information on an emotional level that fuels a person's long-term memory. Any story, its tone, syllable, style and actual content must correspond to the listener, his values ​​and expectations. So with a foundation, be sure to adapt your story so that it feels completely natural to your real audience. The good old ways of asking questions and listening to your conversation partner will allow you not only to win over your audience, but also to adapt your story.

The development of a personal brand is a constant conscious work not only on determining one's personal values, but also on one’s qualities as an interlocutor. This can be studied endlessly and improved throughout life. You can start with the answers to three simple questions that you can ask yourself or others:

  1. Why do people like to spend time with you?
  2. What value do you give people?
  3. The first thing people think about when they hear your name?

Finding answers to these questions will not only allow you to better understand yourself and increase your self-esteem, while maintaining a measure of self-criticism, but also become a more confident partner and interlocutor. I propose to reinforce these reflections by viewing “TED Talk The Golden Circle»About the difference between true leaders and companies.


Author: Evgenia Efremova, graduate student at Harvard University 
and academic director of Global Ambassador


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