Yes – Day 1 is over! That’s the Grammar, Reading and Writing.
I was at the languages institute at St Petersburg university before 9.30 for a 10 am start, along with my son who is doing the Second Certificate, B2 level (I am doing the Basic, A2 level) There were two Chinese boys and three Chinese girls anxiously waiting as well – all doing the First Certificate, B1 level, apparently the most popular one. We all waited outside Room 208…
The exam door was closed until 5 to ten when the supervisor came out and checked our papers and took away our mobile phones. She was actually quite human- I had been expecting a really strict, mean-looking invigilator, but she was almost pleasant. (Should I say surprisingly?)
The room was actually a room of computer booths, rather than rows of front-facing desks. I quite liked this. We will only use the computers tomorrow, for the listening test; today’s exams were on paper. I sat in a booth next to my son – it was quite nice actually, even though we couldn’t communicate and were doing separate exams anyway.
Unexpectedly, the first exam was the Writing 🙁 I had hoped for the Grammar first, to ease me in, as I find that the least difficult, but, whatever. My two questions were fairly straightforward, the first, a letter to a new penfriend introducing yourself and asking questions about him/her. (How many times have I trained GCSE students in similar letters?!) The second question was writing an apology for not being able to attend a party and suggesting a meet up at a later date. I actually finished the two questions in twenty minutes and then spent the rest of the time (up to 50 minutes) double checking word in the dictionary. So much did I feel back in my student days, 40 years ago, that I actually wrote my maiden name on the exam paper and it wasn’t until the last five minutes of the exam that I actually realised, scribbled it out and wrote my current name!!
The following exam was the Grammar. Bits of this were quite straightforward and I only had to guess a few of them. Thankfully there was a whole passage using motion verbs so my relentless lessons of the last couple of weeks, plus the video course from Dr Curtis Ford on tips4russian haven’t gone to waste 🙂 HOWEVER.. the layout of the multiple choice answer options was very confusing, going across the page 31,32 and then down to 39 and then across to 37…? Questions 33 and 34 appeared on the next page, as if the copying had been done in a strange way. I’m confident I got most of these right and I will be asking for a remark if I get a low grade because I want to make sure the person marking them was aware of the odd location of the answers too 🙂
The reading took me 45 minutes out of the 50, again some challenging texts. I kept forgetting that I was allowed to use a dictionary – it just wasn’t in my psyche, never having been allowed to for my own school and university exams (apart from a post graduate translation diploma, but that was slightly different)
I realise now I was doing an exam that was at the appropriate level for me. All exams I did at school were way below the level I had already achieved and so always seemed easy. It was interesting to do an exam where I had to really focus, where I sometimes didn’t know words or had to guess.
My three exams took me from 10 am until 12.30 and I did feel tired afterwards. In fact, we both came back to my apartment and went to sleep for a couple of hours!
Tomorrow – listening and speaking. Speaking is the one I am most concerned about but hey – it’s only a language exam…
It seems that this examination is methodologically advanced, for example allowing candidates to use a dictionary (I presume it was a bilingual one?) The writing tasks themselves are realistic too, and pretty challenging for level A2. In the Cambridge exam for English at this level (KET) you’re only expected to write about 30 words.
A2 should be standard but I confidently say this is harder than my expectations of A2 in the UK. This meant to be equivalent to a high GCSE grade but it seems to me more akin to first year A level. As for the bilingual dictionary, my son at B2 level was allowed a monolingual dictionary for writing but not for anything else.