Author Archives: Santiago Ibarra

About Santiago Ibarra

As a BROWNS former student I am passionate about international education. Helping other students to live the Australian experience is one of the things I enjoy the most and Digital Marketing is the way I use to connect with them. Views are my own.

Santiago Ibarra

5 Signs You Need an IELTS Preparation Course



We all know that the IELTS is not the easiest English test out there. Indeed, after taking it twice, I could say that it is one of the most difficult. It is used by governments and academic institutions to prove your English proficiency so you can be sure that the standards are high. I have seen many people repeatedly fail 1 at IELTS because they usually underestimate the test and many times overestimate their knowledge.

Use the following 5 signs to know if you need to take a preparation course before taking the IELTS test.

Sign # 1

Context: During the listening module, you’ll have to provide answers to 40 questions throughout 4 recordings. The recordings will be played only once, and you’ll be required to answer those questions on-the-fly. Typical questions include sentence completion, summary completion, form completion and multiple choice.

Sign: If you feel that you lack the necessary speed, accuracy and focus when multitasking in English, you need an IELTS preparation course.

How the course can help:  Before each recording, you will have some time to read the questions. You need to know in advance what information you are expected to supply depending upon the question. Is it a number, a name, an address? You will learn this in the course.

Also, it is not surprising to get lost during a conversation, but you need to recover fast or you will miss all the questions of that task afterwards. This would be a disaster.  In the course, you will be taught how to follow a conversation even if you miss something and how you can recover to continue answering the next questions.

Sign # 2

Context: The reading module consists of 40 questions (both academic and general training) spread across three sections. The purpose of this module is to test a wide range of reading skills such as reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument, and recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.

Test takers have to provide short answers, match information, complete sentences, match headings or complete diagram labels.

Sign: If you are not familiar with these types of questions, or if you are trying to read these texts as you normally read a book, an IELTS course will definitely help you get a higher score in this band.

How the course can help: You don’t have the time to go through the texts several times. There are strategies to help you to avoid this situation. You will learn, for example, how to skim the text and on what kind of information you need to focus.

Additionally, in the course you will practice a lot the different types of questions and you will get used to them. This will save you a lot of time.

I personally found to be very difficult the type of questions that are True/False/Not given; but after doing many teacher-assisted exercises, the difference became much clearer.

Sign # 3

Context: The writing module is perhaps the one that most people struggle with. It has two tasks: in the first (academic training), you will be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process and how something works or describe an object or event. You need to do this in 150 words.

In the second task, you will be asked to write an essay (250 words) in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Both tasks in the academic training must be written in a formal style.

Sign: If you don’t know what a formal style is like, or if you feel like you know the answer but struggle to find appropriate and assertive English terms, you will benefit from taking an IELTS preparation course.

How the course can help: Describing and explaining data requires practice. Even if you are an expert at doing this, you may struggle when trying to do it in English. In the IELTS course, you will learn the most appropriate language to do it. You will also practice the different types of charts (line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, tables, multiple data sources, processes, diagrams) so that you get used to them and will not, therefore, be surprised in the test.

Truth must be told. Writing Task 2 is not easy at all. First, because the topic given can be hard to develop if you are not familiar with it. You might have an idea but remember, you need to develop it in 250 words and you only have 40 minutes. Second, because the essay must have a proper structure, you cannot write everything that comes to mind.  In an IELTS course, you will learn what the structure of an essay is, how to develop it, how to write the introduction and conclusion, and so on. You will also learn how to connect your ideas using proper English. Additionally, you will practice writing about topics that are common on the IELTS so you become familiar with them.

Moreover, you will learn and practice the different types of essays that commonly come up on IELTS: Agree or Disagree, Discuss two Opposing Opinions, Advantages and Disadvantages, Problems and Solutions, Causes and Solutions, Causes and Effects.

Last but not least, the main advantage of the course is that a teacher will correct your mistakes and will show you how to improve your writing.

Sign # 4

Context: The fourth and final module is there to assess your speaking skills. This test is less than 15 minutes long and is split into three parts. The first 5 minutes are reserved for introduction and general topics between the test taker and the examiner. The second part assesses the test taker’s ability to speak about a random topic given on a task card. The last part merely adds complexity to the second. At this stage, the examiner will also pay attention to pronunciation, lexical resource and fluency.

Sign: If you lack fluency or coherence in direct communication, you need some practice. This module is all about repetition. Repetition, repetition, repetition!

How the course can help: In an IELTS course, your pronunciation will be improved with the assistance of the teacher.

You will practice under the exam conditions and will get used to the pressure you will have during the test. You will learn how to write down the notes that will help you to talk for two minutes during the second part of the test.

You will practice answering questions when you don’t really know the answer. Remember that your knowledge is not assessed but your English language proficiency.

Sign # 5

Context:  The IELTS test has a time limit and you will only have the time given for each module. After that time, you need to leave your pencil on the table and you will not be able to continue. The IELTS examiners will proceed to collect the sheets before giving out the ones for the next module.

Sign: If you cannot finish each module due to the time limitation, or if you cannot concentrate accordingly due to the timing pressure, you need an IELTS course.

How the course can help:  in an IELTS course, you will learn how to approach each section of the test to avoid problems with the time limit. If you are having problems with it, perhaps you are spending too much time in the reading section that can be reduced considerable by employing certain strategies. Perhaps, you are spending too much time thinking about what to write in task 2; but if you spend some time planning, you can reduce it. Your IELTS teacher will help you identify all these problems and teach you how to overcome them.


Most common mistakes on IELTS exams include:
● Answering in more words than instructed
● Writing shorter essays than required
● Writing longer essays to score higher
● Spelling
● Not studying the questions
● Leaving blanks
● Overuse of transitions

If you struggle to refrain from these mistakes, you definitely need an expert by your side.

1Technically, you can’t fail at IELTS because the results are reported on a 9-band scale (1 being the lowest, 9 being the highest). However, this is not entirely true because you did fail, for example, if the University you wish to attend requires an IELTS band 7 and you scored 6.5.

Barista in Australia: An Opportunity You Should Consider


Many international students, who come to Australia, find in the hospitality industry an opportunity to work and gain some priceless experience. Some areas require long preparation (time and money) until you get ready for a job, but it is not the case for coffee. If you choose an appropriate course, you can be job-ready in only 5 weeks. (Learn more about our Barista @ BROWNS course).

Let me explain why you should consider working in the Australian Cafe industry. In the past years, it has experienced a strong growth offering an increasing number of jobs. According to IBIS World, “Cafes and Coffee Shops in Australia: Market Research Report”, there are more than 86,243 people working in this AUD$4 billion dollar industry (yes, billions with a b). It is then not surprisingly that getting a job in this industry is not hard at all; indeed, our Barista@BROWNS graduates only need 3 weeks on average to get a job across the more than 6,701 coffee shops around the country. Better yet, our graduates get paid an average AUD$19-AUD$22 per hour, which is more than their peers who work in different industries such as cleaning. The great news is that experts forecast an annual revenue growth of 3.2% over the next five years through 2014-15, which means more jobs and better wages.

Sounds like a good opportunity for you, doesn’t it?

As I said, it is not hard to get a job in this industry if you choose an appropriate course. As an international student, one of the main concerns about getting a job in Australia is the language barrier. But this is something you don’t need to worry about if you join the Barista@BROWNS course because being job-ready implies that you will also have taken English lessons focused on the hospitality industry. You will learn the vocabulary extensively used in a coffee shop which will give you the confidence to work with colleagues and even serve customers. Moreover, you will receive a statement of attainment for 3 nationally recognised competencies that you need have to work as a barista:

• SIXTFSA101 – Use Hygienic Practice for Food Safety
• SITHFAB204 – Prepare and Serve Espresso Coffee
• SITHFAB201 – Provide responsible service of alcohol

Don’t take my word for it when I say you will be job ready. According to information we have been able to gather from our graduates in the last 6 months, 74% of them are working in the hospitality industry in Australia while 18% have decided to continue their English language studies. A small percentage have returned to their countries and 2% have opened their own coffee shops (click here to read the story of Chatcha and Tony from Thailand who opened their own Cafe business in Thailand).

You Need to Learn English to Enhance Your Travel Experience



I have been studying English for a while now (I started my learning experience at BROWNS) and I can say that the better my English has become, the more I enjoy traveling. I probably love to travel as much as you do. In fact, going to new places and meeting new people from different countries and cultures is one of the things I enjoy the most.  However, Iet me tell you that when you can’t speak English, it’s tough. It becomes a great limitation. Apart from making communication difficult, being unable to speak the language hinders you from getting where you want with ease, not to mention what you need when you get there. It was embarrassing for me when I sometimes did things in the wrong way just because I wasn’t able to seek assistance from locals due to the language barrier.

In most countries, English is the language most spoken even though it is not the native one. In fact, you can travel around the world and socialize with people everywhere if you can speak English. Generally, the advantages that come with learning this language for vacationers are many, valuable, and varied.

Why travel lovers should learn English?

English is the language most vacationers use with others. While traveling, you will likely spend most of your time connecting with other people on a bus, in a hotel, at airports, on the streets, and in other places. Most of those encountered are tourists who can communicate in this language such that socializing becomes more effective for you if you can speak it as well.

When speaking to visitors who speak English, immigration officers, hotel staff, taxi drivers, and others use it to communicate. If you can speak it yourself, you will not have any problems dealing with the locals. Therefore, if you are planning to visit a country where the native language is not the same as yours, it is advisable to learn English (at least the basics). Since it is an international language, you will most likely find someone who can speak it, making communicating much easier.

Advantages of learning English for travelers

If you understand and speak English, there are many advantages you will enjoy as a tourist:

  • Ease of expressing yourself: Expressing yourself becomes easier everywhere you go. It is simple to ask for something and even explain what you want. For instance, if there are complications at the airport, you can easily clarify them. In the hotel, you can ask for food and specify your preferred room. English enables you to get what you want and the best value for your money.
  • Making new friends becomes easier: When you can speak a common language, interacting with others becomes less challenging. English, for example, enables you to socialize with the locals in your tour destination and learn something about their lifestyle. This way, you will easily meet new people and establish relationships.
  • It enhances confidence: When you know that you can easily express yourself and even make new friends, your confidence improves during travel. Since you hear what the locals are saying, and can even ask questions, you ensure your safety by avoiding dangerous places, for example. When you learn English, getting insight into other people, their lifestyles, and recommended tourist areas becomes easy, thus enhancing your confidence.
  • Better experiences: Knowing the basics of the English language can assist you with every day pleasantries and crucial phrases frequently used while traveling. You are bound to have better experiences as anytime you go to a new place, you will need assistance from the locals. Even if they do not speak the language well, they most probably will understand the basics enough to assist you.
  • Independence: Tours are great, but I personally prefer to organize my own experiences. I can go to the places I prefer and stay for as long as I want. Not all activities offered on tours are for me, and they are usually done in a rush. When my English was not good enough, I was restricted to such organized tours and I had to rely on the guides. Now that I can speak and understand English, I have the freedom to visit and explore places more independently.

As a universal language, English is often used in tourist areas. Thus, even if you do not have a local tour guide, you will not have any problems getting to the attractions you want to visit.  By reading signs, you can also book accommodations and obtain other services in a foreign country without hiring a tour guide. This will save you money since hiring a tour guide can be costly in some regions. In addition, when you can speak a universal language, even bargaining for products and services becomes possible. This will not be the case if you do not speak English.

You learn more in a foreign country when you speak English

Perhaps there are things you have always wondered about life in a foreign country. When you learn English, understanding the local culture becomes easier because you can interact more effectively and make enquiries. As a traveler inquisitive about different cultures, you no doubt want to learn new things.

Generally speaking, there are many reasons for and advantages of learning English as a tourist. The most important point of all is that when you learn English, you are able to travel in a more straightforward manner on your own and overcome the major difficulties and challenges that face those who do not speak it well or at all.

Why Studying English in Australia Is This Summer’s Best idea


Let me ask you a few easy questions. Please record yes or no on a piece of paper or sticky note on your desktop, or whatever device you are using. Just to make things easy, we shall go through each and every question to help you see the best option if you had not chosen it at the very beginning.

Ok, let’s get started:

Question #1: Do you prefer an exciting warm summer over the cold winter season?

Question #2: Would you like to improve your English skills for personal, professional or academic purposes?

Question #3: Have you ever wanted to visit Australia?

Our score sheet ranges from 0 to 9. Now, mark it for yourself and be honest. If you answered yes for all questions, you got it right. You scored 9. Congratulations!

If you scored less than this, it does not mean you should stop reading at this point. I recommend that you continue on in order to understand why so many people come to study English in Australia during the summer. Even if you got everything right, it is time to determine how relevant your score is.

Warm summer vs cold winter

There are some reasons why summer is better than winter (you can agree, partially agree, or completely disagree).

  • Everything is easier in the summer; if you want to go out, you just throw on a pair of flip flops, and that is it. In wintertime you need to wear shoes or boots, socks, long pants, a jacket, gloves, a hat, a scarf and who knows what else.
  • Summer calls for spontaneity; a day at the beach requires a lot less planning and effort than a day at the ski lodge.  It will take less than 15 minutes to be ready for a surfing session. Being ready for a skiing session will certainly take much longer.
  • Summer is healthy: we exercise more and eat better food. In winter we are sedentary. How can we be motivated to exercise in the winter?
  • Activities such as swimming, sunbathing, outdoor barbecues, and open air festivals sound like a lot of fun, don’t they? Much more fun than skiing, ice skating, and snowman-building for most.

If you are still in doubt, which image do you prefer below?

Winter summer

Now you have the opportunity to change your answer to the first question if you like. So, a yes is the right mark since you get all the benefits of the summer season.

At this time of the year, the Northern Hemisphere starts getting colder and you might have already started thinking about where to go to escape winter. You probably have considered different places to break the routine where you can do something fun while you also benefit your professional, personal, or academic life. If you haven’t decided yet, I encourage you to keep reading.

Would you like to improve your English Language skills?

Let’s be honest, we all need improvement. I am not a native English speaker and I can say that my life has changed since I have learned to speak it. I enjoy trips much more, I make friend easily wherever I am in the world, I can seek assistance anywhere, and it makes my curriculum look attractive.

It doesn’t matter how old you are; learning is not limited to young people. Anybody can enroll in an English course. It is not important what your profession or occupation is; you are sure to benefit from learning the language.  However, there is a downside: learning a second language is not easy. To be fluent in English, you need to practice a lot; you need to breathe in English. This is only possible if you immerse yourself in a native English-speaking culture. By doing this, you can shorten the learning process considerably.

So, a yes to the second question is a good mark since you get all the benefits from learning English. If you desire to escape form the cold winter now and study English, the third question will close the loop.

Have you ever wanted to visit Australia?

You might have seen on TV, read in the newspaper, or heard your friends or family talk about a stunning country in the Southern Hemisphere that is unofficially called the Down Under; but perhaps you don’t really understand why so many people want to go there for holidays, to study, or even to live. Well you are not the only one because this was exactly what happened to me. After hearing so many great things, I couldn’t resist traveling and finding out on my own what makes this land called Australia so attractive. It didn’t take me long to see why Australia has one of the highest standards of living in the world. With a population of around 21.5 million, an area of about 7.6 millions square meters (it is at least 15 times the size of the UK and Ireland combined), and a strong economy (Australia had the world’s fifth highest GDP per capita in 2013), it is the perfect place to enjoy a unique experience and even start a new life.

Additionally, after travelling a little bit in the country, I realized that Australia has the most stunning beaches and landscapes a single country can have. You will see animals unique to the region such as kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, dingos, and wombats. Indeed, more than 80 per cent of Australian plants, mammals, reptiles, and frogs are indigenous to this country and are found nowhere else.

Moreover, it is a cosmopolitan country where you will meet people from countries that you didn’t even know existed. You don’t need to travel far to learn about different cultures, as they are all in one place.

Australia’s education system is one of best in the world, which is why it is the 3rd most popular international student destination in the world.

Now you have a better idea of what makes Australia the ideal destination, but let’s go back to the quiz. You can change your answers now if you want. If you answered yes to all three questions, this is the perfect moment for you to come to Australia to improve your English language skills and enjoy the summer season starting in December and finishing in March. If you need assistance don’t hesitate to contact BROWNS English Language School.

What are you waiting for to start your unique Australian experience?


Interested in studying English in Australia?

Yes, I am!