(Disclaimer: This is not a step-by-step procedure on how to ace your IELTS exam.)
OhhhhMyyyyGossssh. What a wonderful title for this entry. No wonder I only got 7.5 in the Writing section of the IELTS. haha But before we get into the results, here’s my experience taking the famous English Language Exam at the British Council Philippines in Manila.
Am I the only impulsive human being on the planet? I guess not, but this not about them. This is about me. It was only yesterday that I had an epiphany.. while doing the dishes. Yes. All of a sudden, I saw myself as an impulsive, over-thinking woman in her mid-20s. I worry a lot, I think a lot, I plan a lot. I forgot how to take things slow. I am very patient when it comes to other people, but not when it comes to me. Me, myself, and I.
Before seeing myself in that manner, I had major bouts of impulsiveness and impatience. Quitting my awesome teaching job and going to Europe was an impulsive decision. It was also impulsiveness that caused me to jump from one place to another. My philosophy was “Do it first, and see what happens”, or “Follow your heart’s desires”. With the same philosophy, I registered for the IELTS exam on November 17, 18 days before the actual test day!
Why did I do that? Well, I have been scouring the net for academic opportunities. Most of the academic institutions, not only in Europe but all over the world, require a proof of English language proficiency. You cannot just barge in and say that you can speak fluently and comprehend whatever there is to comprehend in English. They require that you take an exam — IELTS, TOEFL, and the like.
Taking the IELTS in Norway is costly. Everything in Norway is costly, anyway. (surprise-surprise!) The IELTS exam costs 2500 NOK if taken in Oslo with the British Council. That’s more or less PHP 14000. Meanwhile, it costs PHP 9400 if taken in Manila with the same agency.
But wait, there’s more. I thought it was more economical to take it in Manila, but that PHP 9400 plus the costs of board and lodging (~PHP 5000) and transportation fare (~PHP 1000) if you don’t live in the city proved otherwise. Too bad, I realized that too late!
Anyway, so I registered thru this website: https://www.britishcouncil.ph/exam/ielts, and I got the receipt within a couple of minutes via email. I was promised a confirmation email containing the dates and venues a week before the exam, so I waited patiently, but my inbox got nothing. (TIP: You have to be VERY patient and very ‘makulit’, or insistent, to get the information you want. I corresponded with a few different customer service staff via email, got different responses, so in the end, I had to call and go to their office in Ortigas Center. Guess that’s how it works in PH.)
One of the staff contacted me on November 20, with the subject *URGENT URGENT*, regarding my last name. But after I sent her an authorization letter to amend my last name, the staff vanished into thin air. No confirmation that the letter was received, no response to my inquiry about sending the results abroad. 😀 I sent a few more emails, but na-da!
So came my flight to the Philippines on November 22. How did you prepare for the test, you ask. Well, if you register for the exam with the British Council, you are entitled to a 30-hour online reviewer. Which I didn’t really make use of. Don’t do what I did! Make use of it! And better your performance.. TO better your performance. Also, the tips and the technical do’s and dont’s on the reviewer are very helpful. The online reviewer provides only a couple of examples, though. If you want to have more, you have to pay.
I only had 3 weeks in the Philippines, so I spent the first week in the countryside. Hosted by my aunt, uncle, and their families, I forgot all my worries and stress! Even the coming IELTS exam. But on the 30th of November, I traveled back to Laguna. I had other errands to do (CFO seminar, PRC ID renewal, etc.) And before I knew it, it was two days before the IELTS!
I was excited to make my way in Manila again. I was used to the the traffic jams and all the dangers and challenges there were in the city. But it had been 31 months since I was last there. Europe is a safe zone, so I wondered if I could still conquer Manila. I decided to make a detour and visit my alma mater first before checking in at a hotel located very near the test venue. I left around noon time, took the bus to Magallanes MRT station, and then, took the MRT to Quezon Avenue. From Quezon Ave, I took the jeepney with UP-MRT-Pantranco route. Yes! I still could do it!
My alma mater seemed to look the same, except for the full parking lots and the new dormitory buildings. CASAA was no longer there, but the bazaars they put up before Christmas were still there. Interestingly, there were also some bargain stalls selling imported jeans in front of the Health Service. 😀 It was almost 12 o’ clock, so I decided to participate in the Mass at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice. Everything was nostalgic, the choir loft, the toilets, the Delaney Hall, everything.
After the Mass, I approached my Comm Arts professor who happened to be there. It was very pleasant to see her again, after I commented on her facebook post and she commented back. She told me to come back to PH after my soul-searching. 😀
Going back to IELTS, I spent the day before by going to the British Council office at 10th floor, Taipan Place to inquire about my speaking test. I called them a couple of days ago, but having received different information in the past, I just had to make sure.
They do send the results abroad.. for PHP 1400. 😀 Great. I really should have taken the exam in Norway. 😀
In addition to the online reviewer, you can also drop by their office and make use of the available review materials. I spent 4 hours there, digging thru review material #17. I did manage to practice my reading skills using the said material, ie, cramming at its finest!
I had less than 17 hours, and I still had time to roam around Ortigas Center. Darn, they’ve got plenty of malls — Robinson’s Galleria, the Podium, SM Megamall, St. Francis Square. And they’ve got plenty of restaurants. By 5pm, I was back at the hotel, prayed, and slept early.
I was reminded to go to the venue an hour before the test. Don’t follow this. Go to the venue a little bit earlier! I wasn’t expecting around 300 test-takers jammed in a ballroom hall at Crowne Plaza Hotel-Manila. It took some time to leave my belongings at the secured area, have my photo taken, register, and confirm registration. That’s 4 different queues, my friend.
The test was conducted professionally. I did feel nervous, but I kept reminding myself that I had been studying English for many years, and that confidence is a major key in acing the exam. By 12 o’ clock, I was already seated at Pizza Hut having my lunch.
My speaking exam was held on the same day, at 2:30pm. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure then if I did good on the Speaking part. The examiner kept throwing questions that were not related to one another. I thought it’s going to be like a conversation. The context can also be confusing. He kept saying describe your home, and my understanding was home=family. In high school, I was taught that the home means the family, while the house refers to the building/structure. He meant the latter, of course. The examiner also asked about who’s more fashionable, the young or the old. I had to say that there are many factors to consider, like the economy and the preferences. But he insisted that I only had to say in an absolute manner whether my answer was “the young” or “the old”. Sir, what about the gray areas?
I went home tired yet happy after the exams. It doesn’t really matter much what score I will get, but it will surely boost my esteem if I’d get good marks.
And today, December 18, I got the results. This is good, considering that I didn’t have much preparation, nor had I availed those expensive review booklets.
The highest band one can get is a 9, and those who achieve a 9 is, of course, expert users and mostly, native speakers of the language. See that writing score there? haha So mediocre. 😀 I’m happy with 8.5 for both Listening and Reading, whereas an 8 for Speaking is good. Told you, he should have said “Decribe your house”, instead of “Describe your home.” But I forgive him. #spreadlove
And oh, I swear I didn’t use smileys or hashtags on that Writing part! 😉
Here’s how you interpret your IELTS score:
And here’s how your IELTS score corresponds to the Common European Framework (CEFR):
So there. What’s next after the IELTS exam? Where will my impusive behavior take me? Will my epiphany, i.e, seeing myself as a wicked and impulsive and overthinker, work and teach me to take things slow? We’ll see. 😉
Poise, Maerose. Poise.