Bonus Episode 22 -How does the IELTS Test ACTUALLY go? | Ft. Lauren

May 10 / Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this episode, Charlie speaks with a current academy and IELTS student of his called Lauren. Given that she recently took the exam, Charlie wanted to talk about the exam day itself and how the process actually feels. Lauren received an overall band score of 8 in the IELTS test so make sure to listen to this one as she describes what helped her to feel confident answering the written and oral exam.

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Meet today's guest

Lauren

Lauren has been a member of the Academy and IELTS workshop since September, 2021. As an avid learner of foreign languages, she chose English as her major in university. However, she finds the more she learns, the more difficult it is to use English in a natural way. During her study journey, she has realised that understanding the culture well is an essential part of achieving proficiency in the language. Incredibly fascinated by British culture, she aspires to speak natural and authentic English like a native with a standard British accent.
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Transcript of Part 1 Charlie w_ Lauren IELTS Talk No Ads 1.mp3

Charlie:
Hello and welcome to the British English podcast with your host Charlie Baxter. I'm here with Lauren, who is from Hong Kong, and she has taken a test of the IELTS exam, and she would like to tell us her experience. And I think it would be very interesting to ask her some specific questions about, you know, whether the examiner was nice to her and what she did if she made a slight mistake or anything like that. And I've just realised that actually you're not from Hong Kong.

Lauren:
Oh well actually I am originally from mainland China. I was born in Guangdong Province, actually very close to Macao.

Charlie:
Right, right. But then you moved to Hong Kong, when?

Lauren:
I moved to Hong Kong about 11 years ago.

Charlie:
11 years ago. Okay. Do you do you identify as Hong Kongese?

Lauren:
I think maybe I am a little bit of both. I received my early education in mainland China and then I came to Hong Kong to further my studies.

Charlie:
Okay, well, thank you very much for giving me the time to go through this experience that you had. Before we get into the specifics, can you tell us the results that you got for the IELTS exam that you that you did in December 2021?

Lauren:
My overall score is eight.

Charlie:
Overall eight and specifics of the four categories.

Lauren:
Yeah, I got nine in listening and 8.5 in reading and I got 7.5 in both writing and speaking.

Charlie:
Right. Okay. Interesting. Do you feel like your writing and speaking are on the same level generally, or do you think that your speaking is better than your writing or the other way around?

Lauren:
Actually I had aimed higher, but... but, you know perhaps I need to work a lot harder to improve my results, you know?

Charlie:
Well, you were you were a very good student. You've been proving yourself in class because Lauren has been taking part in the IELTS course on the British English podcast.com. You joined around about September in the academy, and then you came on to the IELTS course a couple of weeks or maybe a month later.

Lauren:
Yeah, yeah, actually indeed. I really enjoyed taking your programmes and I benefit so much from the IELTS programme.

Charlie:
Oh, wonderful. Well, I've really enjoyed teaching you, but enough about my stuff. So you took the exam in December? You feel like you want to get higher than an 8.0?

Lauren:
Yeah. I aimed for, actually I aimed for a C2 level. So attain that level, I need to get at least 8.5. I mean, for a score.

Charlie:
Yeah. Okay. All right. So you want to go again?

Lauren:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah? And have you have you booked a test again?

Lauren:
I haven't, because, you know, I think for that margin, maybe 0.5 margin, maybe I need to... to improve quite a few bits, like, you know, exam preparation, like under time condition. And also, like, I need to improve a lot in speaking and writing. And also, I need to do loads of exercise of reading and listening.

Charlie:
Okay.

Lauren:
Perhaps I may book one again in April, but not. It all depends on my progress or whether I feel fully prepared for the next one.

Charlie:
It's nice. Okay. Well, it sounds like you're taking it seriously. You're not just going in without thinking about much. Let's go back to that day that you woke up knowing that you're going to take the test.

Lauren:
Hmm.

Charlie:
Actually, let's go back a little bit further when you booked it. It would be interesting to know how much did it cost.

Lauren:
It's 2,200 Hong Kong dollars.

Charlie:
Okay. 2,200 Hong Kong dollars. Do you know the conversion in U.S. dollars?

Lauren:
Not sure. So if I remember well, it should be 2,200 HKD and maybe around 270 USD or something like that.

Charlie:
Pretty good. Yeah. Yeah. I think the currency has changed a little bit recently, but it's 280 at the moment. Yeah. 280 USD for the test for for you in Hong Kong in December 2021. Okay. That was how much it cost. And then what was availability like for you to book?

Lauren:
I didn't recall exactly, but I booked it at least one month before the test date, I suppose. Yeah. And. Actually there are different examination venues that I can choose. Like in Hong Kong, you know, there are quite a few venues that you can choose to your convenience.

Charlie:
So and is that just based on location within the city or, you know, a more luxurious building?

Lauren:
Yeah, well, I think actually it's more or less the same. No matter where you take it or not. And in Hong Kong, and you can either take it in British Council or you can either take it in IDP.

Charlie:
What's the IDP? Don't know that one.

Lauren:
I think maybe it's an Australian authority like.

Charlie:
Oh, okay.

Lauren:
It's part of the... the organisers. I mean, it's one of the organisers of IELTS.

Charlie:
Uh huh, yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I can recognise that logo actually. Logo actually. International education specialists. Yeah. Yeah. Cool. They are an international education education organisation offering student placement in Australia, New Zealand, the US, UK, Ireland and Canada. Anyway, you had availability or you booked it a month in advance and I'd be interested to know what time of day you booked.

Lauren:
I booked, like, 8am. for listening, listening, reading and writing. And then in the afternoon, like 1 p.m. And then I took the speaking test.

Charlie:
Right. Okay. Yeah, that was actually another question if you did it together. So the venue hosts all four, all four parts of the test.

Lauren:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah, okay. And typically I believe you can... Can you do the speaking before?

Lauren:
Yeah. That's an option. Yeah. You can either book speaking ahead of the other three tests. I think I perhaps I needed to stay fully focussed for the reading, writing and listening parts. So I chose the, the early sections for, for those three parts.

Charlie:
Right. And those three parts, can they be separated in your booking or they all have to be taken together?

Lauren:
They are all together.

Charlie:
They're all together. Yeah, okay.

Lauren:
Because you just sit in front of the computer and then and then you finish all the three parts together.

Charlie:
Yeah. Okay. And then so you had a break of a couple of hours because the... 8 a.m. until, what, 11?

Lauren:
I suppose maybe around 12.

Charlie:
Oh, so it's a four hour stint?

Lauren:
Yeah. Because before the test, the invigilators have to read out the guidelines and instructions, right? And some testing. Yeah. So it took some time before the test.

Charlie:
Yeah. So what time did you get there, if it was at 8 a.m.?

Lauren:
I think it's 8 a.m. should be the time that you you should get there. In that venue. I mean, for registration and they check your identity cards or supporting documents. Then you have to wait in a room. We we actually started to test... I'm not sure because I was not allowed to take my watch... And I suppose it it might be around 9 a.m..

Charlie:
Okay.

Lauren:
I mean, the real start began at around 9 a.m. or something like that. And before that we have to go through the procedures like checking in and check the identity cards. We had to take photos. To take photos. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So take photos for for the report cards. Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah. Is that photo used in your certification or is it just to identify you are who you say you are?

Lauren:
I think maybe both. But I think the key purpose is to put it in your certificate.

Charlie:
Right. Okay. So did you think about that and, you know, put your face on when you when you were getting ready in the morning?

Lauren:
I didn't, actually I hadn't thought much about it. So I just thought was I could get there in time.

Charlie:
Yeah, I'm sure it was the last of your worries then. Yeah. We always, we always regret our driving licence picture in the UK. We always look at each others and we're like Oh, it looks rubbish! But really, I mean, I think it's funny how we say, oh no, it doesn't look like me, but it legally does look like you, so... But did you, did did you have that with your driving licences when you were a bit younger?

Lauren:
Well, unfortunately, I don't know how to drive.

Charlie:
Then you didn't have that worry.

Lauren:
Yeah. So to take something interesting when I was young, I have a phobia for taking rides on the bus because I had a phobia to have a ride on the bus because it was very easy for me for me to get carsick. So, yeah.

Charlie:
So you didn't get you didn't get a driving licence because you thought you would get carsick?

Lauren:
Yeah. Another thing is that I have to admit I'm not good with directions. I always get lost, so I would be a lousy driver, so I might as well avoid it.

Charlie:
I appreciate your honesty. Okay.

Lauren:
Yeah.

Charlie:
So, but you got the photo. Okay. You got to arrive at eight if it's at eight, and then they take your watch. So is this to just confuse you about everything in life, or is it for a real legitimate reason that they took your watch off of you?

Lauren:
I think it's for legitimate reasons, something like that. I think we were not allowed to take like personal belongings or some metals or something like that. And when I took my photos, I was asked to take off my earrings and hair clips.

Charlie:
Ah, no accessories.

Lauren:
Very serious. Yeah. And if you need to take water inside, I mean, your water bottle have. Your water battle has to be transparent, you know? Yeah.

Charlie:
That reminds me of when...

Lauren:
Very strict.

Charlie:
Yeah. My my tests as a young boy having the pencil case that had to be transparent as well. Yeah. Okay. All right. That's why they took your watch off of you. I asked you what time of day you booked it, because I remember watching a TED talk about the implications or the psychological implications of the time of day that a court proceeding goes ahead. And there was a significant difference between after lunch and before lunch, and the judges were more likely to send people to jail...

Lauren:
Really.

Charlie:
...before lunch because they were frustrated and they were hungry and they had a mood temperament or they had a fluctuation in their moods. So I thought, oh, for, for the IELTS test, maybe we should think about that and go after lunch.

Lauren:
Yeah. Thank you for such useful information. I think there might be some truth in it, you know? So for examiners, like, they have to sit there for the whole morning, you know? So it seems like you are the one that prevents him to go for lunch or something like that.

Charlie:
So yeah, exactly.

Lauren:
It would be great if you take the speaking test after the examiner has had a full lunch.

Charlie:
Yeah. Although, although thinking about it, if it's a it's a big lunch, then maybe they're a bit sleepy straight away after their lunch. So there's probably a perfect moment in the day, maybe just when they're having their first or second coffee if they drink coffee.

Lauren:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, so yeah.

Charlie:
Anyway.

Lauren:
I will jot it down and maybe next time I can book the perfect time slot.

Charlie:
There you go. Maybe that's the difference between an eight and an 8.5.

Lauren:
Thank you, thank you.

Charlie:
Okay, so you booked it at 8 a.m. to start for around about nine to do the three and then the speaking happened at 1 p.m.. Okay. So thinking about when you woke up that day, tell us how you felt. How did you feel when you woke up knowing that you've got an exam that day?

Lauren:
It felt like I was going to do something really big on that day. I'm not sure, you know.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Lauren:
It was like you you go to a very formal meeting or you are going to present something in front of a large audience because the audience is going to judge you or it's going to place a mark for your speaking. And, you know, so to me, it seemed like a day of presentation, like maybe the presentation of your dissertation, in your final year, in front of the teachers in the department. And you have to you have to get fully prepared for the incoming questions and raise some questions about your essay. And you have to elaborate or you have to explain in detail what your essay is about.

Charlie:
Yeah. Okay. You've painted a picture there because I remember those moments of preparing for university presentations. I remember I actually did a presentation with Harry quite a few times.

Lauren:
Oh, yeah, that's interesting.

Charlie:
And we also so we did a presentation once at like 6 p.m. and we were nervous. So we thought, well, let's take the edge off and let's go for one beer at the pub before, and it worked. It really worked. We felt... We felt a bit less nervous. Yeah, I'm not recommending this to everyone. Yeah. Because we recommended it to our our friend at university because he was really nervous on that presentation. And then the next presentation we had, it was me, Harry, and this other guy that we had told about going to the pub and he took it quite literally because our presentation was at 10 a.m., it was at 10 a.m. the next one. Yeah. And we got to the, we got to the, the lecture hall and he was pretty much drunk like how? What? And he was like, yeah, I took your advice. I'm feeling great. Feeling great. Let's do it. Let's do this. Like you must have knocked down the pub's doors because that's very early to get a pint. Yeah, even for England.

Lauren:
So interesting. So. So. So maybe drinking. Drinking at that time helped you overcome the stage fright?

Charlie:
It did. But yeah, if your... If your exam is at 11 in the morning, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

Lauren:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Charlie:
Anyway, onto more legitimate things. What was the examiner like?

Lauren:
Well, actually, he's a local. Yeah, yeah, I think he's a local because he introduced himself, a very nice person and he spoke very perfect English. Yeah, very nice. Perfect. Yeah, perfect English. And then he nodded along while I spoke. And a very nice person and at the end of the speaking test and he said, Happy New Year. Because, you know, and that's how I think it should be like the 30th or 31st of December. So we were celebrating a brand new year. So I think it was really kind of him to say some some warm words like Happy New Year. Yeah, it really it really means a lot to the candidates.

Charlie:
I can imagine. Yeah. And that must have been quite a big celebration for you that evening or the day after. Was it?

Lauren:
Maybe.

Charlie:
Covid?

Lauren:
Yeah. I mean, say it would be a relief because I finally finished a test. Yeah.

Charlie:
But did you did you celebrate New Year's Eve? Quite, quite in a quite big way after your test?

Lauren:
No, no, no. Actually, I remember at that time the government was imposing some strict restrictions on gathering.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Okay. So your government put a stop to your fun of letting your hair down after your your test. What was the environment like? Was it like a really small kind of an office that isn't well looked after, want for better words? Or was it like a very modern corporate kind of kind of environment?

Lauren:
Yeah, I took the test in British Council. It's located on the Hong Kong island and actually it's next to the British Consulate. Yeah. Yeah. Should be in Admiralty. Yeah. It's a very tall building. Yeah. Tall building. And then they arranged us, I mean the candidates, in a waiting room for the speaking test. So I remember at that time, just three of us, three girls sat around a round table, so nobody spoke. So it was a little bit awkward.

Charlie:
That was. That was the waiting room. A round table of three candidates.

Lauren:
Yeah, yeah, three candidates. And we put our belongings aside and then we just took out our identity cards and supporting documents and a pencil, and we just sat there to wait for our turns. No, nobody spoke. Yeah, all of us just sat there.

Charlie:
Were you tempted to start conversation with some of them to distract yourself from what was about to happen and also practise your English?

Lauren:
No, because at that time we all looked quite serious, you know, like a real examination. So, I mean, the examination vibe. Yeah, I just calmed myself down and then prepared and maybe practised. Speaking in hearts privately.

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah. In my mind, yeah. Internal dialogue. So as soon as you came into the waiting area, it felt like a test examination kind of environment and everything was quiet. There were three other or two other three or two or three other people in the room. And how long did you wait there for? Until you were called?

Lauren:
Maybe less than 10 minutes.

Charlie:
Yeah. Okay.

Lauren:
Because I think maybe we were we were in the first round in the afternoon, so. Yeah.

Charlie:
Got it. Yeah. So you were straight after lunch?

Lauren:
Yeah. Yeah, actually, I didn't have time for lunch.

Charlie:
Oh, no.

Lauren:
Yeah.

Charlie:
Okay.

Lauren:
Before the writing test, I suppose it was like. A 12:15 or maybe later, you know. So my my speaking yeah, my speaking time was 1 p.m.. So maybe just half an hour. I just walked out of the building. And sat on a bench in the park. And then.

Charlie:
And scoffed your face.

Lauren:
Yeah. And then try... self introduction. Any answers and trying trying to prepare any answers.

Charlie:
Right. Okay. Oh, I see. So you used that time after the morning slot to practise the speaking part and you didn't have time to, to have any lunch. So you you had no food from 8 a.m. until after the speaking part, which is around about 1.30, 1.40?

Lauren:
No food and no drink because...

Charlie:
No drink?

Lauren:
Yeah, because I didn't want to waste time going to the restrooms, going go into the toilets, you know.

Charlie:
I see. Right. So it's tactical decision not to have any fluids.

Lauren:
Just my case.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I would say, though, that it's quite good to keep yourself hydrated for the purpose of, you know, being able to function cognitively. But yeah. Interesting.

Lauren:
Yeah. But before the test, I did drink a cup of coffee.

Charlie:
Yeah. Mm hmm. All right. So. We understand the timings of it all and the meeting room. I'm doing very specific questions because I want people to feel almost like they know exactly what's going to happen for them. Because I think the unknown is what is nerve wracking for these kind of things. So you were in a small meeting room and then you were called like a doctor's appointment kind of thing. Lauren, can you please come through?

Lauren:
Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah. Tell me bit by bit how it went down.

Lauren:
I follow one of the staff to a room and then I knocked at the door. And then the examiner said, yes, come in, please. Then I walked inside and the examiner said hello to me and asked me to sit down. And then he introduced himself. He he asked me to present my identity cards. Yeah. And they asked me to introduce myself in full name. And actually something happened here because I just that my English name that actually the examiner was asking my full name, so...

Charlie:
Your full legal name.

Lauren:
So I thought, oh maybe the examiner will think she misunderstood my question.

Charlie:
So immediately you felt like maybe I've done something wrong. Okay.

Lauren:
Yeah.

Charlie:
So, guys, when you. When you go in there looking for your legal name. Yeah. Is that right, Lauren? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. What is your Chinese name?

Lauren:
Loy Ying. Actually, it's Chinese pinying, that's in Cantonese. It's pronounced differently.

Charlie:
Interesting.

Lauren:
I think, because in Cantonese it's pronounced Loyang, it's quite similar. I mean, a little bit similar to the pronunciation of my English name. Lauren.

Charlie:
Yeah. Is that why you chose it?

Lauren:
Yeah, because at school, my classmates just called me Lauren. Very spontaneously. I just didn't know why.

Charlie:
That's quite a nice, natural way to find an English name. Just let your schoolmates figure it out for you.

Lauren:
I found that Lauren was a very popular name in the nineties. I just picked this name as my English name. Yeah.

Charlie:
Okay, right. So we're going to go on to talk about the specific parts of the speaking exam, you know, part one, two and three, how you got given part two, what kind of questions you got in part one and all all parts of it. That will be in, not to confuse you as the listener guys, but that will be in part two of this episode and part three. So that's all we've got time for in part one of this episode. So Lauren, thank you very much for that. Would you like to say goodbye to the Part one listeners?

Lauren:
Bye, everyone. See you later.

Charlie:
Wonderful. All right. Thank you very much, guys. And hopefully see you in part two. If not, see you next week. We will be leaving part one there for today. But don't worry, we have part two and three round the corner for you to enjoy. But first make sure you utilise all of the learning resources available to you for this part. And then when ready, I'll see you in part two to continue the conversation. Thanks again for supporting me. This is my full time job. So here's to many more episodes of the British English podcast to help you improve your English.

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