Saturday, April 24, 2010

Let me tell you one thing, I actually felt more apprehensive in taking this exam than when I was about to enter the high-mortality battlefield of the Nursing Licensure Exam. Because a) I love multiple choice type of tests and IELTS is not one of them and b) I tend to do horribly in interviews for some reason no matter how hard I try to prepare for said inescapable moment of doom.

That's why for this past year, I have been putting off this exam for the longest time, waiting for a recommended date by the guru of my review center to assure higher chances of passing. Unfortunately, those thumbs-up dates are commonly held in provinces and, more or less, I lost about 3 months waiting for an advisable date in Manila which I never got. If it wasn't for my beau who told me, like a bucket of cold water splashed on my face, that 1. "You are wasting time." and 2. "You are great, and I have no doubt that you will pass." that I finally applied and waited, like a prisoner waiting for her execution, for my exam.

It went like this:

My speaking test was scheduled the day before my written ones. I actually prefer it the other way around as not to feel hopeless and/or suicidal if ever the interview was disastrous, however, I had to conform to my schedule. I arrived at Taipan Place (Office of British Council Manila) an hour and a half before the time of my interview. I remembered that it was a non-working holiday (April 9) and there were only a few people coming and going through the building, all of which have to surrender an I.D. to the guard stationed at the lobby. Being a paranoid, I only brought my PRC ID (needed for the speaking exam), my cellphone and some pocket money because I know that bags are not allowed inside the interview rooms.

I told the guard that I did not have an extra ID. He gave me an irritated look and reluctantly gave me a pass saying that next time, I wouldn't be allowed to enter the building without one. I thanked him thinking "There won't be a next time." as I planned to pass the exam. I was ready and confident, at least at that moment in time. 

The British Council office was way too cheerful than I expected. I thought there would be formal looking lobby with formal looking sofas and business chairs and formal looking people clad in formal corporate attires but I was dead wrong. It was a medium sized room that reminded me of a preschool classroom minus the animal pictures and the alphabet charts. It brought me back to pre-elementary phase that I actually wanted to run around the place if the room wasn't filled with nervous energy that was almost tangible in the cold air-conditioned air.

After registering, the first thing I noticed is how diverse the people taking the exam are. I was used to the NLE scenario where almost every test taker was my age but this was definitely not the case with the IELTS exam. Next thing I saw was the name posted in one of the doors. It was the examiner's name and I almost cracked an all-knowing smile. I knew that name, and that name brought good news. I attended a seminar where we were briefed about most of the examiners conducting the test and I more or less have an idea who give good grades and who doesn't. This knowledge proved to be an asset that day.

So, I was relieved. Until the organizer started calling people to go 6 floors down for their interview. The image of smiles and sunshine suddenly vanished from my brain. So, there were other examiners. Silly me to think that all 20+ people in the room are going to be interviewed by one person.

I was mentally willing the assistants there to not call me and let me stay in the room where flowers and puppies reign but nooo, of course that didn't happen. After a few minutes, he called my name and instructed me to go down to the 4th floor of the building where other organizers are going to be waiting and assisting us.

The 2nd room resembled a spa. There was yellow lighting and rich mahogany wood all around the place. There were doors after doors with opaque glass windows that I almost mistook as those rooms people have facials in. Or massages with aromatherapy oils and rain forest music. I had a mental image that I was about to get a facial but quickly pushed it aside. Must stick to gameplan.

After taking a seat, I immediately noticed the names posted on the doors. From where I was sitting, I can only see and read 3 names although I was pretty sure there were at least 7 of them there. One of the 3 visible names leaped out from the rest. It was "the" name. "The" examiner. The one test takers would kill for if they're really desperate to pass the exam.

I distinctly remember Sir Ervin saying "Kung siya ang examiner mo, anak ka ng Diyos!" and we all laughed, silently wishing that we were to be that lucky. She was known to coach examinees when they were getting lost and, although she's not generous when it comes to giving grades (Ceiling Grade of 7.5) she is very lenient and gives lots of passing scores. Let's call her Ma'am Glee.

I eyed her door enviously hearing muffled noises in the background. The organizer was telling an interviewee that so and so is his examiner. After less than 2 minutes, although it felt like forever, the assistant came up to me, asked for my I.D., verified my identity on her list and briefed me on my interview. She said:

"Ma'am, your examiner is Ma'am Glee. She will call you when she's ready."

And I was like, "Oh my Obama, anak ako ng Diyos!"

But that was where the ecstasy ended.

I entered the interview room so carefully I could make an Akyat Bahay proud. The truth was, I wasn't nervous, more like detached. This happens every time I get interviewed. That out-of-body experience where there is only void where anxiety and pressure should be. And no, it's not a good thing.

She looked more stern than I expected but she did smile and tried to put me at ease with her friendly tone of voice. She asked for my I.D. and I gave it to her. She gave it back and started reading questions about myself that constitutes Part 1 of the speaking Exam.

1st Question went something like, do you live in a house or a flat? I answered house but before I could speak another word she asked another one. What do you like about your house? This is where the disaster started. My first answer was technically wrong so she prodded "No, your house." and then I realized that she was referring to the structural aspects of the building. And yet, before I knew it, I was at a loss for words. My brain, like it did before and the time after that, decided to go all haywire on me at the time I need it to function properly and I was left like a blubbering idiot.

The next questions were about movies and sports which I answered pretty decently, I admit. Then came Task 2.

My Task 2 was about a city that I once lived in. It was infuriating because back when I was reviewing, it was one of those topics that come up over and over again in the speaking topic handouts. Of course I ignored the one question that I happen to get.

I think I said the same thing over and over again that 2 minutes of non-stop speaking. I could be pretty talkative if I'm comfortable and interested with what I'm talking about but with such mundane topic I am not prepared of, words and ideas were hard to come by.

Task 3 (Abstract Ideas) was more about cities. Oh the joy. No, not really. What are the advantages of living in a city? Compare city living and living in the province, or something like that. I have ideas, but in the end, I felt as if I could have said more, stuttered less.

I noticed that at the last question, although I didn't know it was the last, just when I was running out of words, she gently concluded the interview saying that that is the end of the speaking exam. She didn't congratulate me or anything, just smiled courteously. I said thanks and went out the room, feeling dejected and unbelievably idiotic. I knew I could have done better. I walked (wearing Torture Shoes I might add) to Megamall where I took an FX home.

It took me the rest of the evening to get over the, in my opinion, failed interview. I held on to the knowledge that Ma'am Glee was my examiner and she will bring forth the power of leniency and give me my much needed 7 for my speaking test.  It's either 7 or retake. The thought filled me with dread and I remembered Manong Guard  scolding me at the lobby. I went home thinking that there might actually be a next time.


Fatimah said...

Thanks for sharing your IELTS experience. You can actually make test anxiety work for you. Here's a related post about it.

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