Sunday, April 25, 2010


The written exam is composed of 3 parts. The first hour goes to Listening: 40 minutes listening and answering plus additional 10 minutes to transfer the answers to the answer sheet. Next is Reading for 1 hour, no extra time for transferring of answers. Last is another hour for Writing, composed of 2 writing tasks, one is an interpretation of a graph/table/chart (Minimum of 150 words) and an essay (Minimum of 250 words).

I arrived at Crown Plaza Hotel a few minutes before 8am. The test starts at exactly 9am but we had to arrive an hour before. One has to look for and remember his/her Candidate Number posted on white boards, look for the seating arrangement, register by presenting valid ID used upon application and surrender, leave valuable belongings in the baggage counter (only pencils, eraser, sharpener, water and/or candies are allowed inside the testing area), then proceed to one's designated seat.

The venue and the people organizing the event were both great, in my opinion. Maybe, that's the reason why the exam fee is so expensive (Php 8,640).  We were really treated as professionals, addressed as Ma'am/Sir, a stark contradictory to the classroom setting (re: teacher/student) of taking the NLE.

I would recommend everyone taking the exam to wear long sleeves and/or bring an extra jacket because the testing area is quite chilly, add to that the clammy hands and feelings of anxiety and you'll be feeling the arctic winds from the air conditioners a little too much.

My seat was at the left side of the grand ballroom near the emergency exit signs. I didn't really care where I was seated, to be frank, just as long as the sound system's decent. It was, their system's working properly.

The Listening Test

Composed of 4 parts, alternating recorded dialogue and monologue played via the loud speakers. You have to answer the fill in the blanks/ multiple choice questions while listening to the audio. The first and second parts were pretty easy, at least for me. In the third recording, one of the speakers spoke really fast but it was still possible to understand every word that she was saying if you concentrate.

The fourth section, I thought, was extremely hard. It was a monologue of the history of the rules and regulations of football. The speaker spoke in moderate speed but the words that was used in the recording were completely different from the ones written in the booklet. There was a point where I had no idea what question number we were supposed to be on already and I actually missed one answer. The gaping empty line stared at me as I stared back. I decided to write a wild guess instead of leaving it blank. After the recording, we were given an extra time of 10 minutes to transfer our answers to the answer sheet.

The Reading Test

3 long articles, 40 questions in 1 hour. No extra time for transferring. The technique is reading the questions first and and answering them as you read. The first article was unbelievable confusing. My head throbbed as I searched for names and details, all of which I cannot find in the article. The questions and the article were also so differently worded to the point that they seem to point at opposite directions. I skipped the first part because time was running out.

The last two was a complete contradictory to the first one. It was surprisingly easy (one article was about the different types of temperament. I actually enjoyed reading that one), and I was able to finish them in less time than I expected, leaving me plenty of minutes to peruse the difficult first article. At the end of the 60 minutes, I was able to confidently answer everything and transfer those answers to the answer sheet.

One candidate wasn't so lucky. At the end of the hour, I was surprised to hear agitated pleas coming from the woman seated 2 seats behind me. She was begging the proctors to give her a few seconds for her to just transfer her answers to the answer sheet because she wasn't able to do so, thinking that an additional 10 minutes will be given like the test before. The proctors calmly explained to her the impossibility of the situation and took her papers away. I could hear her OMGing afterward and felt bad for the 9k php wasted because of a silly misunderstanding.

The Writing Test

My Writing Task 1 was a table, about the number of internet users and non-users in Canada divided by age. I was able to utilize the technique I learned from the review center, although the words didn't come instantly to my brain and I could feel the ticktock of the digital countdown flashed on the screen in front of us. What happened was I switched between writing Task 1 and 2 whenever I can feel my brain grasping for words.

Task 2 was a "Discuss both sides and state you opinion." kind of question. It was about cheap air travel and how it was taking too much resources from Mother nature, or something to that effect.

My problem didn't lie on whether I'm comfortable writing essays or have wide range of vocabulary and grammar strictures, I know I have, at least, a strong grasp on the English language. However, technical/formal writing and writing under time pressure aren't really my area of expertise. I thought the 60 minutes given for the accomplishments of the tasks weren't enough for anyone to showcase one's writing capabilities. It seemed like you have to write non-stop for 1 hour to be able to finish the combined 400-word-essays, and no, don't even think about spending time thinking about more appropriate words and better sentence structures.

I did my best to meet the minimum word requirement in both of my essays so as to not be deducted penalties for being underlength. Seriously, it was a photo finish moment, like a 3-point shot at the last second that I managed to complete the whole thing without it sounding unfinished. Yes, it was long enough, but the quality, I thought, was mediocre and there was no way I could get a 7.0 and above with that hurried writeup. I knew I could have done better if more time was given. I left the hotel feeling quite dejected.


The British Council offers an online results inquiry on their website. I wasn't that nervous to see my results. I, sort of, accepted already my unenviable fate of not getting the much needed 7.0 and above score on all of the subtests because of that horrible writing task and the ear cringing speaking test. And yet, when I saw my results...

READING ----- 9.0
WRITING ----- 7.5
SPEAKING ---- 7.5


Moral Lesson:

It's understandable that things will not go the way you planned and IELTS horror stories will be infesting your brain with hopelessness and dismay. In my experience, it's okay to brace for failure, however, don't let the unknown ruin everything you have worked hard for. I may have thought that there was no way I'm going to pass the exam, but in the end, it made the surprising victory all the more sweeter.


Anonymous said...

way to go! di mo pa pinerfect lahat! hehe :)

Clarriscent said...

@Jeko: LOL. Thanks. I honestly was shocked. Didn't expect such grades at all. :)

MRX said...

Do I really have to wear a formal attire in the exam especially the Speaking test? I just don't feel comfortable wearing one at all.

MRX said...

do I have to be in a formal attire when taking the exam?

Clarriscent said...

@MRX: No, not formal, at least wear a SMART CASUAL look, the kind that you would wear for a job interview. The reason for this is that the speaking exam is quite subjective and you would want to look as respectable as possible to foster a nice image on the examiner's brain even before you start to speak.

With the written exam, you can wear whatever you like although I would not suggest T-shirt, shorts and flipflops because it's freaking cold inside the the venue and you don't want to look like a beggar inside a hotel function room.

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I heard IDP gives you more chances of passing the IELTS than British Council. Im contemplating between the two. Hope you can shed some insight on this. Coz Im kinda anxious about the exam... huhu...

Clarriscent said...

If I remember correctly, the major difference between the IDP and British Council is that in IDP if you get exemplary scores in your reading and listening (8.5 - 9.0), they automatically review your writing and speaking test scores. It's not a lot but if you got a strict examiner on any of the two, it could mean the difference between a pass/fail. Hope this helps. Good luck!

jEn said...

I am reviewing for my IELTS today. I am so nervous in taking the exam because I don't have a broad vocabulary same as yours. :( Any tips? Wow!! great scores!! :) Hope to hear from you soon :)



IELTS Online Result Info said...

Check the IELTS Online Info

Anonymous said...

Hi, May I know which review center did you enroll? Thanks

Clarriscent said...


Niners. They have branches everywhere I'm sure you'll find one near you. :) Good luck!

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