There are many circumstances in which foreign student have to talk about their intentions to study for advanced degrees. Statements of purpose written to accompany applications for university admission are the most obvious case, but the same situation comes up in interviews with recruiters, IELTS Speaking Tasks, and verbal interactions of all kinds with the officials at the universities you will be attending.
Unfortunately, it’s the time many foreign students say things that sound the least “English.” As a result, these unavoidable statements can often suggest that your command of English is weak. Even though all the native English speakers who regularly hear foreign students make these statements have long gotten used to hearing them spoken incorrectly, the mistake always registers with them at some level, however unconsciously.
To make the best impression on university administrators and IELTS examiners, use the right language to talk about your degree and your academic sentences.
The following are the most common mistakes:
“I’m going to learn a master’s degree.”
“I’m going to study a master’s degree.”
“I plan to learn a master degree.”
Don’t make these unnecessary but common mistakes. All that is necessary for you not to make them is to understand clearly what the appropriate words are and mean.
- A “master’s degree” is a noun. When written, it always has an apostrophe, that is, “master’s degree,” not “masters degree” or, worse, “master degree.”
- A master’s degree is not, however, a field of study. We don’t study a master’s degree, we study a field in which we earn (or, more colloquially, “get”) a maser’s degree. Therefore, in English, we say that we plan “to earn a master’s degree in marketing [or the name of some other field].”
- The degree is what we get as a result of studying, not what we study. So, when we talk about studying, we normally say, “I plan to study economics [or some other field].” It’s not incorrect to say, “I plan to learn marketing,” but “I plan to study marketing” is more normal, idiomatic English.
- The certificate that confirms that we have successfully completed a course of study and earned an advanced degree (not necessarily a master’s degree) is called a “diploma.” You can say, “I plan to earn a diploma in marketing,” or, if you have completed the degree, “I have a diploma in economics.” But if you do, realize that a native English speaker will not necessarily understand which graduate degree you have earned.
- The most appropriate verbs to use with “master’s degree,” prior to receiving the degree, are “study for,” “earn,” or “pursue.” So, you should say, “I plan to study for a master’s degree in communications,” or “I plan to earn a master’s degree in marketing,” or “I plan to pursue a master’s degree in engineering.”
This may seem like a minor matter in terms of language. However, making the most common mistakes can lead a university official or IELTS examiner to think less of your English language skills or, in the worst case, your intelligence.
So, practice writing and saying these simple but important sentences correctly.
Incorrect: I’m going to study a master degree.
Correct: I’m going to study for a master’s degree.
Incorrect: I will study a master’s degree of marketing.
Correct: I will study for a master’s degree in marketing.
Incorrect: I will learn a masters degree in economics.
Correct: I plan to earn a master’s degree in economics.