Two months, no, actually it should be two and a half months has passed me by. And then it came to August 30, 2008, my IELTS exam date. It could compared to the importance of one’s wedding day or one’s funeral service. But to me August 30 is a date for freedom. I am examphobic. Over the past two-month or so, I stayed home almost every day. Exercises one after another, if I were at the gym, my six-pack abs could be shown positively. Gosh! Since when I start fantisizing guy’s built on me? I originally planned to take some training classes for IELTS. But when I got to the renowned training center to take a look, I was totally surprised at the malmanagement there. So I was determined to be self-taught!!!
Last night I got the chance to count my "sweat and toil" if that is countable. I have done 11 exercise books which cover listening, reading, writing and speaking in English. And I have used up three A4-size note books for writing and one 200-page note books for listening and reading. Moreover, I have disposed six used ball-pens and three pencils. I guess I am quite a material for a creative writer if all my written words sum up. When I told my friends that my abstinence from entertainment during the Beijing Olympic Games was the price I pay for IELTS, they laughed at the term "abstinence" I used as it indicates sexually in Chinese. Gosh! I had totally left Chinese behind while buring my heads into those strange scientific English terms. One week before I took IELTS, I sat for a mocking test organized by the school which is the venue of the test. It cost me 300 RMB.
I hope my price deserve a good result though. This was how my typical day went yesterday. I got up at 5:55 A.M. And I had a mug of self-made coffee with bread as a downer for my nervous brain and fast beating heart. I also played a little bit of classical music just to soothe my mood. Then I perused the reminders I generalized from the past two-month’s drills. Get dressed, putting on my superstitiously-believed "victory attire"; and equipped myself with an ID, a candidate proof, a photo, a wristwatch and 200 RMB. I have never got out of the house without bringing my cellphone and keys. Yesterday was exceptional. I left home at 7 A.M. sharp.
This was the fourth time I came to the school. I felt kinda familiar with the surrounding. I took a taxi to the school. So it was about half past 7 as I arrived at my destination. As I entered the school, I saw many students, much younger than me, were in company with their parents for IELTS. It was like an opening day. Autos were already lining outside and inside of the campus. That was the rich people’s way of concerning about their children’s future. I was a bit cynical now when seeing rich families and their spoiled kids particularly after my consultation from a local agency about studying overseas. Anyway, that’s my attitude, hope it won’t affect yours.
The waiting periods were extremely long. I spent at least three hours altogether on doing nothing yesterday. We were not allowed to get into the classroom until 8 A.M. sharp. So I waited outside of Room 405, my exam room, for 30 minutes, standing and watching people. By 8:03 A.M. we were organized to queue in a line to enter the exam room. A college girl, a part-time staff I guess, examined my ID card before letting me in. As I entered the room, cool air came upon me. Nice air-con air!! A Chinese teacher examined my ID card again, more carefully this time. She looked at the ID photo and the passport-size photo I gave her, then compared the photos and my look.
"Do you have mobile phone and any electronic devices on you?" she asked in English.
"No. I am clean." I said firmly.
She smiled, "Good."
"No. I am clean." I said firmly.
She smiled, "Good."
I felt like I was in the police station. Then she directed me to my seat. There it was! The third seat in the row near the window. My dream came true! I always like to be seated by the window when I am taking exams. I believe inspiration and luck will fall upon me from the window. There I was seated for another 30 minutes before all candiates were registered and seated. I felt sorry for that Chinese teacher. She had to said 43 times "Do you have mobile phone and any electronic devices on you?" as she said once whenever a candidate came in.
After we tested our infrared headphones, the exam papers arrived. We just followed the procedures–filling out the answer sheet and finishing the paper within limited time. The teacher had to read the announcement before every part of the test. And a pencil and an eraser are prepared on every candidate’s desk. The listening booklet is white, the reading booklet is yellow (I appreciate the one who choose that color. After being an editor for three years, I know yellow paper can deminish the tiredness from reading.) and the writing booklet is a piece of green paper. I guess these papers are recycle as the texture is quite different from the normal paper I take notes on.
I didn’t know why my palms sweated a lot yesterday. With the mix of lead from the pencil, my hands were as yucky as the ceremic craftsmen’s. We were timed every part of the test. And the teacher not only reminded me by marking down the time on the blackboard but spoke loundly at certain time periods. The clock hanging in the classroom was considered as the standard time, not our watches. And she had an electric timer. What bothered me the most was when I did reading part, I was never used to being disturbed by verbal time reminder or noises from turning over pages in the test room. When I was in deep thinking, suddenly, "40 minutes left" was bursted. Then "20 minutes left", "10 minute left" and "1 minute left." It was difficult for me to concentrate especially on the third passage. Anyway I survived.
I was lucky to be arranged to take the speaking test on the same day as some candidates have to take it on Monday and Tuesday. My speaking test was scheduled at 4:20 P.M. in Room 410. So after my written test in the morning, it was noontime. I guessed butterflies were still in my stomach as I didn’t eat much at lunch. I finished lunch by 1:45 P.M., the slowest lunch I tried to drag. After a cold drink at an herbal chain store, I started to return to school at my slowest pace as I had so much time to kill. I reached the school by 3 P.M. and sat in the shade for another 30 minutes before I checked in for the speaking test. In Room 309 I sat another 40 minutes before being called to the test room. As I did not bring a cellphone or any personal belongings, I could swiftly be seated in Room 410. It was an American old lady, a familiar woman to me, examed me. I took it as another fortune as I thought I could not get used to the British accent in a serious test. My luck! I was supposed to begin my speaking test at 4:20 P.M. But by the time I came out of the test room, it was 4:25 P.M. I guessed either I spoke too fast or I began earlier than the scheduled time.
In my recollection, I was asked what was my favorite food. I said, "All I could think of now is ice-cream as I am very hot. And I have ice-cream all seasons, especially in summertime." And my part II question is to describe a good law in my country. I was a bit surprised. In spite of how much I hate "One-child Family Policy," I tried to sing high praise of it in my answer as that was the only law I could think of at that critical moment. Then I was asked more questions, such as any exception for breaking the law; what are the difficulties of making an international law; will there be a common international law in the future etc. I used keywords like nine-year complusory education, interest of the country, Russia and the US, Cold War era, the UN, environmental issue etc. I definitely think this question is designed for my best friend Ivy who works in the court. Seeing the blue eyes of my examiners, I felt hope. It is my superstition again. Blue eyes are charming and friendly. At the end, the American old lady asked me where did I study. I don’t know if this is an impressive prying because of my English or a curious side question due to my lousy performance. Anyway, the moment I step out of the classroom, I felt the air of freedom.
Come what may I have tried my best. Thinking of mom and be thankful to God for your blessing! Amen!!!