The Dreaded English Test

I think it’s common knowledge that I want to head back to Canada. I am currently in the process of getting my shit together so I can start the Permanent Residency (PR) visa application. The very first stage involved getting my higher education assessed at a whopping cost of $200. This excluded other fees charged by my university and college. I had to request a copy of my transcripts and send them to a company in Toronto (World Education Services). I’m eagerly awaiting my report. Secondly I had to book an English test. Yes it is ridiculous. I’m English born and bred and wanting to move to another English speaking country. Apparently that means nothing, I had to pay £170 and sit an exam. I tell myself it is going to be worth it, don’t overthink, stop stressing and keep calm. I haven’t sat an exam in 10 years. So the thought of taking a test in exam conditions already gave me cold sweats and heart palpitations. I had read that non-native English speakers scored higher on this test than native speakers. I had to revise and swot up, whilst thinking how incredibly ridiculous this whole situation is. The closest test centre was in York so I made the short trip on the 19th January. I felt prepared. I had fully exhausted Liz’s website of all the information for the International English Language Test System (IELTS). I had done several practice tests and studied recent topics that have come up. I was ready, yet still doubting my English ability and worrying about my potential failure.

I was surprised to see so many people at the test centre. What a money making scheme. About 15 people doing the general training test, used for immigration to Canada, New Zealand and Australia; and roughly 15 people taking the academic test, used for international students wanting to study in England (masters and above). The room, actually it turns out the whole building, was freezing. The college had made approximately £5000 in test fees that day, I’m sure they had enough money to pay the heating bill. Anyways I powered on through like a soldier. The test began at 9:30am, with strict instructions to arrive between 8:30 – 9:30. We were guided to our room, given brief instructions on what not to do. You could feel the tension in the room. Despite the nerves, it was exciting to see everyone embarking on a similar journey to me. I overheard their stories and their dreams to live in another country. Although I will continue to say this test is absolutely ridiculous, it opens doors to the immigration process. Something I’ve been eager to start for almost 9 months.

The first part included a 40 minute listening test, a 60 minute reading test and a 60 minute writing test. The whole day was a bit of a blur. I don’t remember any of the topics discussed in the listening part. I do remember missing one of the answers and shear panic came over me. The reading test had 3 sections, read the passage and answer the questions. That was fairly straightforward. The writing test, handwritten may I add with my frozen hand from the frozen room, involved 2 parts. I had to write a letter (min 150 words) to a colleague who was leaving and throwing a leaving party. I had to explain why I couldn’t attend, what I enjoyed about working with them and how we were going to stay in touch. I felt confident with this as I write letters daily at work. Last but not least I had to write a short essay (min 250 words) about the advantages and disadvantages of using ready-to-eat foods. I feel like I covered the points I wanted to draw upon. I found it difficult hand writing the essay as you couldn’t go back and add sentences here and there. I didn’t feel rushed; it was a good amount of time. The revision website I used gave pointers on how to manage time and structure your letter/essay. I am so thankful to Liz at IELTS as her website was beyond helpful.

So I left the room feeling confident, less worried and nithered (frozen) to the bone. I had just short of 2 hours before my speaking test. I decided to hunt down the nearest Costa Coffee, devoured a toastie and downed a flat white coffee. I managed to warm up and text my nearest and dearest about my awful morning. I headed back to college in preparation for my speaking test. I was most confident about this part, as guess what? I speak English everyday.

It began with a brief introduction with the examiner. I was ridiculously nervous. I would have preferred a microphone and a room to myself to record whatever they required from me. She instantly made me feel so uncomfortable, not a personal dig at her (I’m sure she’s a lovely person). It felt like an interview I was not prepared for. It felt so formal and intrusive. I hated every minute of it. She asked me questions about good news I had seen recently and then went on to ask questions about how news publications are changing etc etc. I honestly don’t remember much other than it was about news. And that I repeated myself a bunch of times, I asked her to repeat the question too many times, I didn’t know how to answer. I just freaked out. I had read up on recent topics, for example talk about your ideal house or a beautiful city. I think it would have been an entirely different story if it was a topic I was genuinely interested in.

I walked out with a massive lump in my throat, ready to burst into tears at any moment. I collected my belongings, said my goodbyes, walked swiftly to my car and let them all out. I am a bit of a cry baby. I’m an emotional human being and if I need to cry, I’m going to cry. So I did just that, sat in Penny the Peugoet down a residential street of York. I sobbed to my Mum and Dad on the phone. I felt like everything was resting on this test. I knew I could always do it again but that costs money and more time that I did not want to waste. I genuinely thought I’d effed up big time.

Results day came fairly quickly on the 1st February. I could access my results online or wait for them to be delivered to my home address. I couldn’t wait any longer. I just wanted to know how bad I did. So the morning of the 1st February was tense. I woke up too early. My plan was to sleep in and then I’d wake after 9am therefore able to get online and see the dreaded scores. I showered, faffed about for a bit and then 9am arrived. I logged on, heart beating, sweating palms and saw my results. I surprised myself in two ways. Firstly that I did better than I thought. On the other hand I didn’t ace it. My score is high enough for my visa application so I’m trying not to focus on the actual number. The highest score is 9 so I definitely got a few questions wrong. I’m just thankful I never have to do this test again.

So that’s one thing ticked off the list, with any luck my education assessment will be completed soon. Then on to the next part of the immigration process. This whole situation is very daunting but extremely exciting.

Please share your immigration or pointless test stories below, I know I’m not the only one.

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