More than a year prior to taking the March 20, 2010 exam for the first time – October 2008 to be exact, I enrolled in a 2-week review program conducted by Healthforce-One Review Center in Baguio (Pelizloy Centrum, Lower Session Road). I chose British Council because based on what I heard from the previous takers, the interviewers for the speaking test were British nationals as opposed to those of the IDP Australia who were Filipinos. Main point? The foreigners are more friendly, and seem to be pretty amazed just by the fact we are able to speak another language aside from Tagalog; while the Pinoys tend to be more discriminating to their fellows – crabmentality right? (Note: This idea came from them, not me.) I thought that was absurd because everything’s going to be recorded as proof of my real performance, and the interviewers won’t have anything to do with the scoring. But I wasn’t in any position to risk my future, and so I decided to play safe, sticking to BC.
BTW, you might wonder why I took the exam like 16 months later. After the review, I got news that I had been shortlisted for interview by the HR Department of Lorma Medical Center where I passed my application for a position as a staff nurse. And yeah, I got it. So I had to postpone my exam, until I found the perfect time. Since part of the review package of HF1 that I paid for was the processing of my application/registration for the test, I went back to Baguio to have it filed. I filled up the application form and paid them the fee.
I can’t remember how long it took before HF1 texted me about my speaking interview and that I can go back to their office, but I just decided to stop by a day before my scheduled interview. When I did, they handed me a letter from the British Council, which was the formal notification of my examination. It had the details of my speaking and written exams which jived with the text message from the healthforce1 (hhhmmm.. did you open my letter?! lol). The good things about this notification is that they’d also given me links and (if I remember it right) username/pw for free online practice tests. How cool is that? Anyways, I wasn’t able to check it as I wanted to spend the day before my main speaking exam just relaxing.
The Speaking Test
Whooaaahhh!!! My stomach’d been a butterfly sanctuary that morning, I swear I died of a frantic heart! My sister (for moral support) and I were already at the Veniz Hotel less than two hours before my schedule as I wanted to familiarize myself with the place – might lessen my anxiety, i thought. Minutes later, the BC people arrived and called us for our registration. I also got to mingle with some interviewees who were as nervous as me, even though it was already their second/third time. They were retaking it either because their last results have already expired, or they didn’t reach the desired band scores whatever institutions they are applying for required from them.
Then they started calling our names one by one, which lessened (if not halted) whatever conversations were going on. I guess there were three rooms where the interviews were taking place. As I waited for my turn, I looked at the others – some looked too formal – dress and heels; black leather shoes, slacks and ties. I was wearing a long fitted shirt over a faded fitted pair of jeans, and doll shoes. Not too formal, but I can say it was still pleasant. Then a white guy in his early forties showed in the door of one of the rooms and looked at us saying “Precious May?”. I stood up. He smiled and said “You’re next”. THIS IS IT.
I entered the room – a large bedroom. I expected an office room, but what the heck, we’re in a hotel, haha! I sat down in front of the desk as instructed, and he did the same at the opposite end. He wasn’t intimidating at all, and I felt his professional friendliness. He told me to relax, and that everything is going to be recorded. And we started.
He talked to the recorder first (lol), said something like :
“This is IELTS Speaking Test conducted at blah blah on blah blah by examiner blah blah on candidate Precious May Ulat (I was still single).”
And he turned to face me: “Before we start can I check your ID please?”
“Sure Sir”, I handed him my PRC ID.
“Okay, thank you.”
Task 1 (Personal Information)
“So Precious May, can you tell me something about the place where you live in?”
I remember telling him everything I could about it, the name, the people, the way of life. He asked more questions about the place, and I answered more.
Task 2 (The Task Card)
Talk about a famous person you want to meet.
You should say: Who he is.
What he does.
Why you want to meet him.
OMG! I read/encountered this question so many times during my review and I never bothered to practice answering it! I thought about Manny Pacquiao, but remembered my language coach telling us to think international, and so I decided to talk about Barrack Obama. Yeah, yeah, I know he was kinda overused, but he’s the second person that immediately came into my mind, and I’d rather use what’s remaining of my precious 60 seconds thinking of what to say about him other than choosing another person.
What’s unforgettable about this task was, I ran out of other things to say before my time was up, and ended my speech with “That’s it”, a NO-NO according to my coach, boo! =( I just wished it wasn’t too short.
Task 3 (Abstract Thoughts/Personal Opinion)
The conversation was long, although the only topic I could remember (sorry for that) was about fame (related to task 2), its ups and downs, and the like. I talked a lot and made the British nod and smile, even laugh a little bit, and that somehow made me more confident. ^_^ After a lot more Q&A’s, he concluded: “Okay, you’re done with the speaking test! Good luck on your written exam tomorrow.” I smiled and thanked him.
The Written Exam (Listening, Reading and Writing Tests)
We arrived an hour earlier at the CooYeeSan Plaza Hotel, and I was shocked at the vast number of Koreans outside the examination hall. Are we at the right place?!? I double checked – We are!! Still amazed, I looked at the bulletin board and checked my candidate and seat number, and it’s real, there were almost more Korean names listed there than the typical Pinoy/English names. Then I saw them distributing lots of pencils with their colleagues and it struck me.. I DON’T HAVE ANY PENCIL WITH ME!!!! I looked at the time, 40 minutes before going inside the hall and the registration’s ongoing. I pleaded for my sister to buy me Mongol No. 2 pencils (which the guard said were only sold outside, since their grocery was still closed), and she quickly went. OMG, I swear I died without her! So while waiting for her, I went with the registration. After 15 minutes (which felt like eternity), she appeared at the elevator door and whoah! gave me my three new swords for the battle. I thanked her a million times. I then asked a kind-looking Filipina to lend me her sharpener and thank goodnes, she generously did.
Going inside, the proctors at the entrance checked my ID. My seat was at the front row – a good sign. No distractions from the other examinees. But the possibility of being bothered by test-takers who’ll be going for their bladder break, or the test administrators entering and leaving the hall is present, because the chairs were facing the door. -_- Minutes before the exam, we were told to use the vintage sharpener (the one with the base, 6 holes and rotating handle) in front if we haven’t sharpened our pencils yet. The proctors were too generous and accommodating to us, even offering to do the task themselves. They also all looked so pleasant and organized, as they wore their uniform red and black jackets.
So around 10 minutes before 9AM, the general instructions were given, and the battle began.
Hhmm.. My least favorite of the three tests. I remember getting so consumed on the first set of questions and it’s too late when I realized that the conversation on the audio material was already for the next series of questions. -_-
There wasn’t much that I remember about the reading test. I just hated the idea of reading rich articles only to answer questions and not to get educated – one which I’ve always done since time immemorial.
I love writing! I won’t be spending lots of time blogging here if I don’t. I can’t remember my task 1 diagram though. But for the second part, I think the topic was about computers and modern technology.. Something like that.
So there, after the exam, I met my sister outside and we went to the mall to use our remaining hours in Baguio. She happened to make friends with a few Koreans who were also waiting for their friends who took the exam, and one, whose name was Ken, insisted on treating us for snacks, because it was his first time to make friends with Filipinos, making him a little excited. It was a pretty cool experience, hearing his stories over food. He was studying English here in Baguio, and that a lot of them, Koreans prefer the place because the weather is somewhat similar to that of South Korea. He struggles with his english most of the time, revealing that he has taken the same exam three times already and yet wasn’t able to get a score higher than 6.5. Aaaww.. After more minutes of friendly conversation, we decided to go and wished each other good luck in our future endeavors. My sister and I went back home later that afternoon.
13 days after the test, I checked my results and was glad that I got the desired band scores required by the London Nursing and Midwifery Council. My scores were:
Not bad. 😉
I disappointedly deactivated my Facebook account the other night. I think the site has a serious problem being able to send my messages to its intended receivers. Like it displays that the messages had been seen, but it doesn’t show their response. I mean how can there be no answers to important questions if they’ve actually seen it? So I just started to make a hypothesis that there’s something wrong with Facebook messaging. No, not the people. So while I don’t have anything too interesting to share to FB for the mean time, I’d rather temporarily quit. I prefer skype or viber for now.
“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
― George Bernard Shaw