Monthly Archives: July 2008

Banks’ Student Love Affair Over

Financial institutions in the UK used to love students and would often go out of there way to sign them up. And why not? Students represent a fantastic opportunity for banks and credit card companies given their future earning potential and the fact most students tend to stay most their lives with the bank they had as a student. Banks used to spend millions in freebies trying to attract fickle students but are the days of student perks over?

The student financial market is seeing change, just like other areas of the economy. Freebies are disappearing as are added extras and favourable borrowing arrangements. Increasingly, you’d be lucky to be offered free cinema tickets along with your basic bank account – useful, eh? The credit crunch is hitting the student market just like others and the banks are seriously tightening their belts. No more iPods and cheap overdrafts. Sorry. There is of course another added risk for the bank which has shaken the very attractiveness of the student. With many students leaving university over £20,000 in debt and the credit crunch also harming the job market, there are worries that students may struggle to get those well paid jobs. This would put pressure on students’ ability to re-pay any bank debts and of course, this is something the banks worry about a great deal.

Whilst the situation might change, unfortunately it won’t in the short time. And remember, banks are also tightening their application criteria. You may be offered a reduced credit card and for many, the idea of a student credit card is out the window.

Need to Learn English Quickly?

Do you need to learn English quickly and improve your communication skills? Maybe you’ve just seen the job of your dreams advertised and you need to brush up on your English fast. If you want to learn English quickly you will need a course that will focus strongly on the key areas of English: reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. The best way to learn English quick is to study a Language Link intensive general English course. To get the most out of any learn English quick programme you will need to be supported with great facilities and teachers. By studying a course at one of the most successful UK language organisations that’s fully focused on students’ needs and aims, you’ll be sure to learn English fast.

Language link is located in one of London’s most fabulous and trendy areas, South Kensington. Established in 1975 and with m ore than 30 years teaching experience, Language Link has an international reputation when it comes to intensive general English courses and many students have successfully learn English quickly. Language Link is a member of Education UK and is fully accredited by the British Council meaning that you will receive only the very best in teaching. Not only will the teachers’ experience help you to learn English quick, but the fun and friendly atmosphere really helps to keep you motivated on your path to learn English fast. The Language Link intensive general English courses are popular across the world and have students from over 50 different countries.

You can take great advantage of all that Language Link has to offer and learn English quickly by taking a look at package 1: intensive general English. You will be taught for a minimum of 20 hours per week – the duration of your study does of course depend on how quickly you want to learn English. And if you really want to learn English fast, you can enrol now and get an extra hour’s conversation practice every day.

Drastic Measures to Tackle GMAT Cheats

It was announced this week by the owners of the GMAT test – the Graduate Management Admissions Council – that high levels of security will be used in the fight against the cheats. Students taking the test will have their palms read by biometric technology to confirm the identity of the person taking the test. Continue reading

Top 10 Student Money Tips

Student money guide from UK Student News and EventsMany UK students are waiting with baited breath for their A level exam results. For many of you, going to university will represent the first time you’ve had real independence and responsibility. Part of this responsibility will be managing your money. In fact, student money matters rate highest of all things currently worrying students. If you have decided to take a student loan, you will be receiving three lump sum payments throughout the year, which you will have to manage; bills need to be paid and of course you need enough money to live and party. Getting it right financially is very important; being down in the dumps with money matters will not only make you miserable, but could affect your studies too. But don’t panic, there is some great student money tips in this article to ease you into student life.

When you reach 18 years of age, you begin to come of age financially and unfortunately, you become a prime target for banks. They want to sign you up as quickly as possible – after all, you’re soon to be a graduate with great earning potential! – and will offer you all manner of incentives and schemes, which more often that not, can be impossible to decipher and make comparisons between the banks. In the UK there are 11 financial providers providing student services. These will all include interest free overdrafts. However, it is important to remember when arranging your student money matters that not all student accounts are the same; in fact, they vary considerably. Get the low-down with our top 10 student money tips.

1.    Don’t make any decisions based on incentives

One of the most important student money saving tips is to make sure you choose the right account. Making a decision based on freebies and incentives is not a smart money tip and could make things harder for you in the long term. Being a student, your overdraft will be the most important thing for you; it will enable you to survive! You should be sure to research the best overdraft deals rather than being impressed by free cinema tickets or CDs. The only exception to this student money saving tip is in the case of NatWest: if you live a long way from your university and will be doing a lot of travel, NatWest’s offer of heavily discounted rail travel should be considered. Freebies really shouldn’t be a sweetener for you when it comes to opening a student account; once you receive your NUS card as all students do, all manner of discounts will become available to you anyway.

You should also avoid any accounts which offer you a cash incentive, such as Lloyds TSB. While it may sound great to be given some free cash, nothing is ever free in life. If you read the fine print you’ll see that 80% of your cash incentive will only be given to you if you refer 4 friends to Lloyds TSB and they open accounts and deposit at least £200.

2.    Choose the best account for your needs

Now that you’ve begun to look past the incentives and freebies, what features do students need with their accounts? This is really a question that can only be answered by you, but our student money advisors have come up with some things you should be thinking about.

Unless you’re one of a lucky few, as a student you are unlikely to be interested in what credit interest is on offer – you’ll be living in the red for most of your student days, believe me! So, student money saving tip two is to really research the overdraft facilities available – these really will vary from bank to bank.

3.    Save as much as you can before you go to university

Having recently finished your A Levels I’m sure all you’re thinking about is letting your hair down and having a good time. However, you should think about doing some work during the summer break. If you can put just a little bit of money aside for your future it will make a big difference. A great money student tip is to make your summer savings work hard. Instead of leaving your money sitting in your current account earning a very poor rate of interest, you could consider investing it more wisely. We’re not talking about tying your cash up, but there are definitely more efficient uses for your hard earned cash. You should look at putting what money you can into a cash ISA which will give you interest at over 6%. Even better for students, money earned in interest on an ISA is completely tax free!

4.    Budget and stick to it

Part of the university experience is learning how to manage your money. It can be so easy to just draw £10 or £20 at a time without giving it any thought; this will however soon add up! If you let your spending run away you could find yourself without any money to pay bills and to enjoy your time at university.

It may sound boring and I bet your parents have already bored you to death with this topic, but setting a budget is an important aspect of student money matters. More impotently however, is having the discipline to stick to your budget.  Our student money advisors recommend that you should try to incorporate a 10% ‘what-if’ allocation in your budget. Run through your total income and your total expenses and you can see what money you have left to enjoy yourself.

5.    Use your student loan wisely

You should receive your student loan payments three times throughout the academic year. The first instalment should reach you around the same time you start university, during fresher’s week. This can be the most dangerous time for student finances; every club will try to sign you up, you’ll want to go out with your new friends and you will of course be caught up in the excitement of being at university. Try to keep your head and don’t blow all your cash really quickly – you’ll be stuck with no cash until your next loan payment and believe me, from personal experience, it is no fun having no money at university.

6.    Be cautious of credit cards

This is the largest of all student money matters and can cause serious amounts of grief if mismanaged. I unfortunately had to find out about the dangers of credit cards myself. I quickly overstretched myself, couldn’t pay the bills and find myself in quite a bit of trouble. In fact, despite graduating many years ago, the mismanagement of my credit cards still affects me today. The problem is that you may be offered several cards, with what appear to be small limits, normally in the range of £500. However, with a very limited income as a student, even paying this small debt off can be a challenge. The best student money advice we can give surround credit cards is only take one for a specific purpose – emergencies, for example – don’t get one just for the sake of it. Most importantly, please remember that if you do find yourself in financial trouble, you are not the first and you certainly won’t be the last. If you are struggling with credit card debt you should get help as soon as possible. Don’t ignore the problem. Speak to you university and get help. Don’t ignore the problem – it most definitely will not go away.

7.    Make use of online banking

Modern technology has made it much easier to keep a check on your finances. More often than not, all your student money matters can be dealt with through your online banking facility. Make sure you login a couple of times a week and look through all payments which have left your account. If you see a payment which you don’t recognise, you should call your bank immediately to have it investigated.

8.    Don’t run away from your problems

I touched in this when discussing credit cards. However, it is so important that it definitely deserves its own spot in our top 10 money saving tips for students. It is likely that during your time at university you will run into financial difficulty at some point. It is so important for you to face any problems you have and deal with them as quickly as possible. Not only will this stop any charges from getting out of control, but it will help you to quickly eliminate the stress from your life. There are a wide range of sources of money help for students, from either your bank, your university or online. If you are approaching your overdraft limit and know that you will exceed it, speak to your bank. Unarranged borrowing will cost you a fortune. It is much cheaper to ask them to temporarily extend you overdraft, normally for a charge of around £20. Do the right thing, pick up the phone and speak with your bank, don’t hide away from your problems. Remember that all your financial activity will be recorded on your permanent credit file and unresolved issues at university can come back to haunt you in later life. I can’t stress this enough – don’t make mistakes like me, be responsible with your money!

9.    Protect yourself

Just because you’re having the time of your life away from home and at university, don’t let your personal security lax. There are some simple steps you can follow to secure your student money. Don’t ever ask a friend to go to the ATM for you or let anyone use your card and PIN. Recent surveys have found that around 70% of all students allow their friends to use their card. This is very bad practice. You should also ensure that you properly dispose of your receipts and any communication from your bank. Student money advisers would recommend you to keep your bank statements, but if you wish to dispose of them, invest in a shredder to ensure financial security. Identity theft is sadly on the increase, but if you are aware of the issue, you can take measures to protect yourself. As an extra security precaution, we’d recommend that you keep your correspondence address as your parent’s address. Living in shared accommodation presents a real opportunity for identity theft; by keeping your confidential documents as far away from prying eyes as possible can be real help.

10.    Buy insurance

Many students will choose to ignore this option – do so at your own risk! You may think your stuff is safe in university halls, but unfortunately thefts do happen on campus. You will probably be provided with details of great student insurance rates from specialist companies as part of your university welcome pack.

20 things you need to know about the IELTS test

The international English language testIELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. The whole purpose of the IELTS examination is to measure your ability to communicate in English. You be will tested across the four major disciplines of listening, reading, writing and speaking. If you plan to study or work in an English speaking country it is more than likely you will be need have passed the IELTS test. We’ve brought together 20 of the most common questions about the IELTS examination.

1.    What can I take to the IELTS test?

You are only allowed to take your pens, pencils and erasers into the examination room. It’s a good idea to write your answers in pencil as you will not be allowed to use correction fluid either. It’s a good idea to leave any valuable items at home, such as your mobile phone, as you will have to leave your belongs in the cloakroom outside the examination room. Remember you can’t take your mobile phone with you – it must be switched off and not on your person. If you are caught with a mobile phone during the examination you will be removed and disqualified.

2.    How long does the IELTS test take to complete?

When you take your IELTS examination you will sit the listening, reading and writing modules after one another and in that order. There will be no break between the examinations, so be sure to take some water with you and go to the toilet before you begin. You will take your speaking module within 7 days after your first IELTS examination date.

3. Will I have to deal with difficult accents during my IELTS test?

As the IELTS examination is an international one the questions reflect its international nature. You will therefore hear a wide variety of English accents during the listening and speaking modules of the IELTS examination.

4. Will I have enough time during the IELTS listening test?

Yes you definitely will. At the beginning of your IELTS listening examination you will get to hear a sample question. This will allow you to get a feel for the timings and pauses between questions. The paper is split into 4 sections and you will hear and complete each section in turn. It will take you 30 minutes to finish all 4 sections and you will be expected to write your answers down as you listen. The final 10 minutes of the examination is to allow students to transfer their answers to their answer books.

5. Do I get time to transfer my answers in the IELTS reading test too?

Unfortunately you do not get any time to transfer your answers during the IELTS reading test. The test lasts for one hour and you are required to write all answers directly onto your answer sheet.

6. Can I answer the IELTS listening and reading tests in pen?

No, you can not. You must mark your answers in pencil. This is because the special machine that is used to mark your examination can not red pen. Do not, I repeat do not use pen unless you want to feel very embarrassed!

7. Do I have to submit any notes I make?

No. It’s a great exam tip to make some notes on the IELTS examination question sheet as you prepare your answers. You will not be required to hand the question sheet in along with your answer booklet so the examiner will not see your notes.

8. What is the IELTS speaking test like?

You will meet for a one-to-one interview with an IELTS certified examiner. The interview will probably last around 15 minutes and will also be recorded. The aim of the interview is to recreate common everyday situations so expect to have to talk about a wide range of things.

9. What should I take to my IELTS speaking test?

You will need to take along the same documents that you used when you first registered for the IELTS examination. Do remember to bring the exact same identification as it will be checked against the details you provided on your original application form. Have these documents handy when you arrive at the IELTS examination centre as they will need to be checked by both the administrator and the examiner too.

The IELTS examination is internationally recognised10. Help, I’ve lost my Test Report Form!

Don’t worry these things happen. It’s not the end of the world as long as you took your test within the last two years. If you are within the two year cutoff period, you can apply to the IELTS examination centre where you took your test and they will send you 5 copies of your Test Report Form completely free.

11. When will I get my IELTS test results?

You should receive your results 13 days after your speaking examination. Allow some time for the post and if you haven’t received your IELTS examination results after 15 days, contact your IELTS examination centre so they can arrange a new copy for you.

12. How soon can I re-sit the IELTS test?

There is limit to how many or when you take your IELTS test. You are only limited by the availability at your local IETLS examination centre. You could theoretically fail a test today and sit another on immediately tomorrow. However, if you’ve already studied for the IELTS examination you will know that to increase your score, you will have to undertake further study; repeated attempts in a short space of time will not see your score increase significantly.

13. What kind of provisions are made for disabled students?

IETLS examination centres will do everything they can to accommodate any disabled students wishing to sit the test. Staff will be available during your test to ensure you understand the questions and tasks that form the examination as well as understand how to provide your answers. It goes without saying that everyone will be treated and assessed fairly and objectively. If you do have any special needs you should contact your local IELTS test centre and tell them of your needs when applying so adequate arrangements can be made.

14. Help! I missed my IETLS test but it wasn’t my fault, honest!

Should you miss your test for any reason out of your control you should contact your IELTS examination centre as soon as possible. At their discretion they may offer you another test at the next available opportunity.

15. Can I cancel or postpone my IELTS test?

Yes you can cancel or postpone your IELTS examination date. You can do this free of charge if you contact your IETLS examination centre at least 5 weeks before your examination. If you need to cancel or postpone your IETLS test within 5 weeks of your allocated date, you will be required to pay the full fee. This may be waived only on medical grounds. You will have to submit appropriate medical evidence should you need to cancel or postpone your IETLS examination within the 5 week period.

16. What happens if I miss my exam without telling anyone?

If you are not present at your IELTS examination and you haven’t made prior arrangements to postpone your test, you will be marked as absent. You will also not be permitted to take the IELTS speaking examination as there would be no point. You will also lose the full test fee which you paid. If you missed your test because of medical reasons, you can receive a refund provided you submit a medical certificate within 5 days of your examination. There will be an administrative charge applied by your local IELTS test centre in processing your refund.

17. What can I do if I have a complaint about my IELTS test results?

You can appeal your examination results if you wish and request an enquiry into the test procedures at your local IELTS test centre. You will have to pay to challenge your result which will be refunded if your IETLS test score changes.

18.  How can I get copies of my IELTS test results?

Up to 1 month after your IELTS examination, you can get 1 personal copy of the Test Report Form. You can also request up to a maximum of 5 extra copies free. Arrangements can even be made for your IELTS examination certificates to be sent to universities you are applying to. After this, you may be required to pay a small handling charge for requesting more copies of your IELTS test results.

19. Where can I take the IELTS test?

See our post Update the Next IELTS test dates for details of upcoming IELTS examination dates at the UK’s 37 IELTS examination centres.

20. When can I take the IETS test?

Normally there are 4 sessions per month for you to take your IELTS test. Contact your local IETLS examination centre for more details.

The IELTS examination is available to take in two formats – Academic and General Training. FInd out more about the IELTS examination.

So is pronunciation important then?

Simply, yes it is important. It is the second most important aspect of learning a foreign language, after vocabulary. Words are important but people need to be able to understand what you are saying. You need to be able to communicate clearly so pronunciation is important.

Having said that, it is important to point out that there is no real write or wrong English pronunciation. Consider the difference is sound between English in America and English in the UK. And of course there are regional dialects too. In fact, even just within London you will find different accents and pronunciations of words. So, don’t let pronunciation stress you out too much. There are people who will try to tell you what they think is correct pronunciation, most notably those who think British English pronunciation is the ‘right way’.

The best way for you to think about English language pronunciation is that if you are a Thai person speaking English then there is nothing wrong with sounding like a Thai person speaking English. This is far better than you trying to speak like a Londoner and coming across crazy and not being understood at all. Once you start learning more English you can begin to practice to develop a more neutral English accent. This will make your English language pronunciation clearer meaning more people will understand you. You can listen in to this kind of English anytime by tuning in to channels such as BBC News 24.

You can find a school and inquire about their English pronunciation courses.

How can I learn enough English words?

Vocabulary is the single most important aspect of learning any language. It’s no use knowing how to construct complex grammatical sentences if you don’t know enough words to demonstrate your knowledge. Our article how to study English 7 tips and ideas has a great suggestion on how to increase your vocabulary:

5.  Start a vocab book
It’s great that you’re learning all these new words but you will of course forget some. So it’s a great idea to start writing down new words you discover in a notebook for yourself. You may like to order it in alphabetical order, include the word’s definition and perhaps write a few examples of how to use the word. This technique, whilst it may seem time consuming, is a really fantastic way to quickly improve your language skills. And eventually, you will have a huge, useful resource that you didn’t have to pay a penny for!

As you start learning new words you should make sure that you use them. This is how you remember the new words you come across. You can even show off your new words in English class and to your friends! It’s great if you keep a notepad with you, then whenever you hear a new word during the day you can make a quick note of it. Then you can go home and do some work learning the new words you picked up.

Should I study English grammar?

Many people may try and tell you that you don’t need to concentrate too much on grammar. After all, you learnt a language well enough when you were growing up didn’t you? I definitely didn’t use any grammar books when I was 2! However, the point is you’ve grown up now. You’re used to communicating using the rules of your own language, your own grammar, or lack of it in some languages. Also, your brain has changed; a baby’s brain is like a sponge and soaks everything up. Now you’ve grown up and been to too many parties to remember, your brain is not what is used to be.

So you just need to study smarter. I’m of the opinion that grammar is an important building block of language, especially English. If you lay the right foundations you will make much quicker progress in the future. Not only does a grasp of the grammatical rules help you to speak and write better, but it also helps you to learn.

We’re not saying you should spend all your time trying to master grammar. But it should form part of any practice and studies you do.

Should I study at a big or small school?

This is really does come down to personal choice and as you would expect, each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantages aren’t really the right term – it’s just that the size of the school does dictate the type of teaching and contact you will experience.

Big schools do have some obvious advantages, the primary one being that they have more of the important stuff: more courses, more teachers who specialise in different areas, more potential friends for you to make, more facilities…..the list could go on and I’m sure you get the general idea. The reason is obvious: the bigger the school, the more money it has, the more resources it can buy for you to use. It is important to remember that these items aren’t related to the quality of teaching or approachability of the teachers, which are important factors too. You should be cautious of some big schools as the above is not always true. Many big schools like to use the fact they are big to discount their course tuition fees not investing in resources.

One great advantage that a small school has over bigger ones is their ability to make sure you’re practicing your English. As there are smaller numbers of students, teachers at smaller schools can very easily make sure that nothing but English is spoken. Also, there it is less likely that there will be many people from your country at a small school, so you will have to use English anyway. Smaller schools are also better placed to offer individual students what they need; often tailoring courses to a student’s own needs and wants. You’ll also find that you will get to know your teachers and fellow students a lot quicker in a smaller school and you will quickly find out who is the best person to ask for help in any given situation. Most importantly, a small school can provide a welcoming and caring environment, really helping you to feel good and study well.

Should I learn English in England?

You don’t have to, but it is a very good idea too, for obvious reasons. If you study in your own country, you will miss out on so many opportunities to practice your English. Outside the classroom you’re likely to talk to friends and family in your own language. More to the point, you won’t have any opportunity to practice your English passively, through reading advertisements in English or listening to English radio, for example. We’ve covered this subject quite well on this blog so have a look at some of our articles for more advice. Finding a good school is very important. In a country such as England, with great tradition and reputation of academic excellence, there are many great English schools for you to choose from.