IELTS 2.0

One year and eight months after facing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination and still being stucked here in the Philippines, I now faced the Academic module of the IELTS test; this time with the goal to work in the United Kingdom (UK). Just to reiterate, this is my last and final attempt to pursue my nursing career overseas: the most crucial score that will dictate my future. If I get my desired score of 7.0 in all the IELTS subtests, I will work as a nurse in UK, but if not, that concludes my nursing journey until I am able to repay my scholarship by April 2015.
My test payment actually came from my 13th month salary. I paid for an exclusive test group for 9.0 Niner (my review center) students held in Tagaytay City. The owner of the center told us that there is a possibility to achieve better scores in exclusive examinations held in the provinces because the most lenient and generous examiners are the ones assigned by British Council there.
British Council is one of the two organizations issuing IELTS in the Philippines. I like the sound of ‘lenient’ and ‘generous’: the perfect characters my examiners should possess.
I needed an IELTS score of none lower than 7.0 in all subtests: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking, to be admitted to the UK as a nurse. I swear I have never exerted great effort in any examination I took in the past besides this one. Believe it or not, I never garnered a 7.0 score in any of my speaking and writing coaching sessions. I honestly could not believe it myself, but then I just let go of all the remaining pride in my body and accepted all the coaches’ criticisms and unbelievable scores.
I can honestly say I did everything for this test: I complied mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I attended lectures and coaching sessions that my schedule permitted. I signed up for an exclusive 9.0 Niner examination. I had my pencils blessed for good luck. I sent prayer intentions to the Pink Sisters Chapel, the miraculous Our Lady of Manaoag, and the Our Lady of the Pillar.

Therefore, I am sure I have no what if’s in terms of preparation.

THE SPEAKING PART
My test venue for both oral and written examinations were at Summitridge Hotel in Tagaytay City, though the speaking part was designated one day ahead. With my schedule of 0920H, I carefully planned my route towards the venue. I was told by the 9.0 Niner coordinator that I should arrive 30 minutes prior to my schedule. I specifically decided to commute to Tagaytay from my hometown Imus, Cavite because I do not want to be stressed by driving. I want to be at my most relaxed state so that my mind is clear as I answer the questions of my examiner. I calculated that from Imus, I will reach the venue within two hours travel time.
So that Friday morning, I left my house at 0700H and hopped on a Public Utility Bus (PUB) bound for Nasugbu. The PUB was so full I had to stand in the isle while wearing a dress! Nevermind, I still kept my calm as my punctuality is more important than poise. Then, the PUB conductor do not seem to know where the hotel was. I had to check google maps for directions, thank God for technology. Traffic was also bad that day; by the time I was dropped of by the PUB at the junction between Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road and Mahogany Avenue, it was already 0850H!
Upon alighting from the PUB, I could not see the hotel from where I stand. I am really nervous at that point but since I was running out of time, I ran towards the direction the PUB driver told me. I ran for aboout 800 meters in my animal print-dress and heels. How embarassing! With each step, I wiggled my hands to release the tension I was feeling. I kept running until I reached the hotel lobby.
I was sweating a bit as I asked the security officer where the speaking tests are being held. I rushed towards the 2nd floor and had my photograph and fingerprints taken for registration. I knew I looked terrible then but at that time I do not care. Apparently, this was not the most relaxed state I planned to be in.
After registration, I was lucky to still have a few minutes before my schedule of 0920H so I went to the bathroom to freshen up, munch on a few chocolates for energy boost, and waited outside a door where my examiner’s name is posted: Mr. Marcus.

My examiner was a tall man aged of more or less 50 years old. He speaks in a very clear manner and do not seem to smile. Compared with my first IELTS test, the venue was bigger this time which seems like a vacant meeting room. Like my first, a recorder was placed on the table but I was not as distracted by it as before.
For the first part of the exam, I was asked about my work, of my experience during my first day at work, and if nursing was my personal choice. Fortunately, I had prepared answers for this because these were some of the questions I have encountered in my coaching sessions. 
I was then led to the second part in which I was given a set of questions. One minute was given to me to prepare for my speech and then two minutes to speak uninterruptedly while answering the set of questions given.
My task card was:
Tell something about a magazine which you like to read
What is the title of the magazine?
What is its content?
What do you like about it?
I honestly have not read many magazines in my life and I have never owned a single piece. And so I improvised and talked about Cosmopolitan Magazine, the lifestyle paper which I happen to read when waiting for my turn in my favorite skin clinic. I fabricated that I share its articles with friends and that most of the things I have read from it are very informative, things like that. 
Some of the other topics given to me were about markets and journalists. I could not read my examiner’s mind if he would give me a 7.0 or above, I sure wish he felt the desperation in my answers.
Before I knew it, my speaking exam was over in less than 15 minutes and I was outside the hotel in the hot Tagaytay climate.

THE WRITTEN PARTS
Because I have learned my lession, I went off 30 minutes earlier the next day. I was still standing in the PUB’s aisle, and it was raining hence the traffic. Upon reaching the junction, I hopped a Public Utility Jeepney (PUJ) bound for Mendez / Indang that took me to Summitridge Hotel. I am then more relaxed compared to the previous day which is a good thing because I know I will be needing a lot of my energy for the three examinations ahead.
By 0815H, I was at the hotel lobby and it was buzzing with people falling in line, talking aloud, and wandering aimlessly. I freshened up first and look for my name in the masterlist. I was surprised to see two of my co-nurses in the venue, we chatted for a while and then I registered.
The examination was held in a ballroom which I believe is the biggest in the hotel but still not enough for the number of examinees. It seems that the organizers lacked in preparation. Some of the tables were not yet arranged, there were no water provided inside the ballroom, and I was assigned to a round table, not a rectangular one. Not that I am complaining, but it seemed like the venue was not well suited for that type of function. Fortunately, I bought a bottle of water with me and I managed to make myself comfortable despite the awkwardness of writing on a round table. Security was also not strict in this venue, some examiners had in them 10 pencils when during my last test, pencils in excess of three will be confiscated.
We started late at 0917H and I expected that will end late also. During the Reading test, a door of the ballroom flew open and we could hear the people outside. This scenario stole a few seconds of our concentration when in fact time is very valuable then. I felt the urge to urinate during the Listening test but was not allowed to do so, then during the Reading test I finished answering with 10 minutes at the end of the test and so going out is illegal and I definitely did not want to risk wasting a few minutes in the Writing exam.
The writing exam by the way is the most challenging part of the IELTS and I had the hardest time preparing for it. The first part was to interpret a line graph on the quantity of garbage produced by different countries and the second part was…
Shops should not be allowed to sell food and drinks that are scientifically proven to be bad for people. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
I completely disagreed with the statement because I believe that banning shops from selling certain products is bad for business and will later on affect the national economy because some merchandise such as chocolate and tobacco which are Diabetes and Lung Cancer-causing, are exported and imported by our country. Also, the people’s free will of purchasing their favorite food and drink will be deprived once certain products are banned.
I was really pleased with how my ideas flowed out. But as I finished my essay, I noticed that I did not reach the 250-word required minimum. I even counted all the words and it was indeed underlength! I made a few revisions but at the end of the one hour time limit, I knew the words were still not enough. I wish the examiner will let that pass.
At 1230H, the examination came to an end and I was rewarded with a bladder break. All examiners were also given free snacks of ham sandwich and juice which was a really good thing considering that it is past lunch time already. 
We were told that instead of the standard 13 days for the exam results to be posted, the agony was prolonged to 16 days because of the many holidays brought about by the Christmas season. While waiting, I was given the time to include my exam result to my Misa de Gallo intention. 

THE JUDGEMENT:

LISTENING………………………… 9.0
READING…………………………… 7.5
WRITING……………………………. 6.5
SPEAKING…………………………. 7.0

OVER-ALL BAND SCORE       7.5

  
Whew. Indeed so near yet so far. Surely, the 250-word minimum is big deal to whoever my examiner is. But at least my long wait is over. I can finally move on with my life and make concrete plans for my future. I take this failure by thinking that God has planned something bigger for me, bigger than Canada or UK. Now, I can firmly bid goodbye to Nursing.

For now, I am not quite sure of the profession I will be entering after Nursing, but one thing is for sure: whatever that profession is, it will help me save money for my tuition fee so I can be a student journalist. I can’t wait!

Cheers to our last four months, Nurse Peng!