There are many circumstances in which foreign students need to speak out about their intentions to study for postgraduate degrees. Letters of intent accompanying applications for college admissions are the most obvious case, but the same situation occurs during interviews with recruiters, IELTS speaking assignments, and verbal interactions of all kinds with the officials at the universities you will be attending.
Unfortunately, this is the time when many foreign students say things that sound the least “English”. As a result, these unavoidable statements can often indicate that your English skills are weak. Even if all native English speakers who regularly hear these utterances from foreign students have long become accustomed to hearing them mispronounced, the error always registers with them at some level, albeit unconsciously.
To make the best impression on university administration and IELTS examiners, use the right language to talk about your degree and academic sentences.
These are the most common mistakes:
“I’m going to learn a master’s degree.”
“I’m going to do a master’s degree.”
“I plan to learn a master’s degree.”
Don’t make these unnecessary but common mistakes. All you need to avoid making them is to clearly understand what the corresponding words are and mean.
– A “master’s degree” is a noun. When written, it always has an apostrophe, meaning “master’s degree”, not “master’s degree” or, worse, “master’s degree”.
– However, a master’s degree is not a field of study. We’re not studying for a master’s degree, we’re studying a field where we earn (or colloquially “get”) a master’s degree. Therefore, in English, we say that we are planning to “do a master’s degree in marketing [or the name of some other field].”
– The degree is the result of study, not what we study. So when we talk about college, we usually say, “I plan to study economics [or some other field].” It’s not wrong to say, “I plan to study marketing,” but “I plan to study marketing” is rather plain, idiomatic English.
– A “diploma” is the certificate that certifies that we have successfully completed a course of study and that we have acquired a postgraduate degree (not necessarily a master’s degree). You can say, “I’m planning to get a degree in marketing,” or if you graduate, “I have a degree in economics.” But if you do, you need to be aware that a native English speaker will not necessarily understand what degree you have obtained.
– The most appropriate verbs for “master’s degree” before receiving the degree are “study for”, “earn” or “pursue”. So you should say, “I’m planning a master’s degree in communications,” or “I’m planning a master’s degree in marketing,” or “I’m planning a master’s degree in engineering.”
Linguistically, this may seem like a minor matter. However, the most common mistakes can make a university official or IELTS examiner think less about your English skills or, in the worst case, your intelligence.
So practice writing and saying these simple but important phrases correctly.
Wrong: I’m going to study for a master’s degree.
Correct: I’m studying for a master’s degree.
Wrong: I’m going to study marketing for my master’s degree.
That’s right: I’m going to study marketing for my master’s degree.
Wrong: I will do a Masters in Economics.
Correct: I am aiming for a master’s degree in economics.
Thanks to Svend Nelson