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Where did you grow up, and what made you decide to pursue studying abroad?

I come from Weihai in north-eastern China and grew up in a middle-class family. Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated by colours and patterns which sparked my interest in studying design. China has some good universities, but I wanted to broaden my horizons and gain an education abroad that gave me a solid understanding of both eastern and western design principles and influences. I came to know about RMIT University in Melbourne, which is world-renowned for its art and design programmes. My parents could see my interest and despite their modest means they gave me all the support I needed to pursue my passion.

Tell us about your first encounter with IELTS.

One of the first steps to applying to university was to book an English proficiency test. It was a no-brainer for me: IELTS has a great reputation in China and is the first name that comes to mind when you say English language testing. I didn’t think twice before booking my test.

A bigger challenge perhaps was how to prepare for the test. I grew up only speaking Chinese at home, and although we used to have weekly English lessons, my command of English was limited. I enrolled for a 20-day IELTS training program in a neighbouring city institute where they also provided on-campus lodging and meals. They trained us on all components of IELTS, and test taking techniques like scanning passages for information, which I found particularly useful. It was enough to get me the required overall band score (5.5) that helped me secure admission in the university.

Can you recount your memories of when you first landed in Australia?

I arrived in Melbourne in 2014 as a teenager with almost no previous exposure of an English-speaking environment. Initially, I lived in a homestay with a family who only spoke Aussie English. I found the communication a bit difficult, especially their pronunciation and accent. But that’s where my experience of preparing for IELTS helped me. I treated every conversation like a speaking test (except of course, there was no one judging you!). Over time, we bonded well. Within six months I was ready to move into a rented shared space; I had made tremendous improvement with my English language proficiency, something which my homestay mother also pointed out!

What made you sit for IELTS again?

A casual photograph of Ivy Feng alongside the River Yarra.

My second rendezvous with IELTS was when I booked the test in 2019 for my post-graduate work visa. By this time, I already had five years’ experience of living and studying in Australia, which was great preparation itself. For this test I relied on practice material available on the IDP IELTS website and some YouTube tutorials.

Another key difference this time was that I booked the newly introduced IELTS on computer test. It came with a free timed practice test that simulates the exact same experience of the actual test, which really helped me familiarise myself ahead of the test day. I ended up with 7.0 overall score, which was enough to secure me the visa.

I could never have imagined the very test that gave me sleepless nights would also give me my first job!

How did you land a role with IDP?

After graduating, I was applying around for jobs. I came across an opening at IDP and sent my resume which led to a series of interviews. It was the first time I was being interviewed for a job. I treated the experience like an IELTS Speaking test, except this time I had to secure a job instead of a high band score. Before I knew it, I had been hired!

At IDP, I’m the Digital Content Producer for IELTS where I’m responsible for visualising and executing global campaigns and preparation content. My job is to simplify complex propositions and present them to test takers in a way that is easily understood.

Where has IELTS taken you?

I could never have imagined the very test that gave me sleepless nights would also give me my first job! As a young test taker, I saw IELTS as a hurdle in my quest to live and study in an English-speaking country. But the inner strength I gained from passing the test gave me the confidence to tackle bigger life challenges head on.

IELTS has helped me combat my fears. The band score was not just a testament of my English language ability. It raised my confidence to achieve greater successes in life.

To me, IELTS is not just a proficiency test. It’s preparation for life.