Thursday, 27 October 2011

Stress Test (aka Life in the UK test)

Hubby and I passed the Life in the UK test! Yay! This is the first hurdle in getting settlement, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain, also known as "Your work permit is expiring. No, you cannot renew it. You have to pay thousands for ILR or hit the road, Yanks."

Now that the test's over, I can reflect a bit. It sucked. The study materials sucked. Most of it was useless information. Which involved lots of numbers and statistics. Which turned out not to be on the test in favor of questions about when the frickin' pubs close. Aw, man!

I made notes, studied them over and over, and took the many official practice tests many times. I know the rules regarding children in jobs, what jobs they can have, what hours they can work on which days. I know the different minimum wages here (which vary by age). I learned the population of each country in the UK, what percentage that population was of the overall population of the UK, and what percentage of it was an ethnic minority. I learned how many of each ethnic minority there was, both in percentages and millions. I learned all that same info on the different religious groups in the UK. I learned about the different legislative bodies in each country, where they meet, what types of laws they can pass, what the members are called and how many seats there are. I learned loads of stuff I'll never need to know.

In light of all that type of information, I didn't pay too much attention to when the frickin' pub closes. And that question was on none of the practice tests. I put 11pm, as that's when it closed years ago when I was a younger lass visiting these parts and actually used to close down pubs. I know that here we have stayed out past midnight on the rare times I've gone out, but I assume rules have changed, and that they changed after this test booklet was made. I have no idea if I was wrong or right as, get this, we weren't told which questions we missed or even how many we missed. Just pass or fail baby, a smack on the ass and out the door you go. In a manner of speaking.

Other BS: There was a question about your landlord raising rent. Again, not something that was on a practice test nor anything I committed to memory as there was loads of other more likely data on which to make notes and study while cursing under my breath.

Then there were the questions I knew inside and out. And the test managed to phrase them in such a way that it was unclear what they wanted. Such as asking if EU nationals can vote in elections. Well, I knew they could vote in all but general elections. But the question didn't ask if they could vote in ALL elections, it just asked if they could vote in elections. I picked that they could -- hubby says that was probably wrong. Other things had similarly unclear wording.

This test cost £50 each to take and of course transportation costs to get there. We had to get to Maidenhead for a test, where it was given at the library. For some reason, despite all info clearly saying you needed to allow one-and-a-half to two hours to take the test and get your results, some people had parked in one-hour spots and had to move before it started. I thought evil thoughts about them if they were going to delay the test. Turns out they didn't as registration took so long.

It took forever to start as everyone had to be registered and do a practice test. Then no results were given out until everyone had finished (there were 24 questions; you could miss six and still pass). Most people were done in 10 minutes or so, but one person needed the full 45, and I imagine that's pretty common. Anyone who isn't up on their English would struggle. And, btw, this lovely mess of non-essential info started as an English proficiency test that many thought people from English speaking countries shouldn't have to take, anyway. Now it's a cash cow that should at least have the decency to have carefully prepared study materials and thoughtfully worded tests, but doesn't.

One interesting thing in it all was the Maidenhead Library. It was beautiful and exuded affluence. Upstairs where we were there was actually a little coffee bar, comfy chairs and bistro tables and a machine that popped out coffee and tea for a low price (50p? Can't recall, but inexpensive).

There was even this art(?) pictured below. I snapped it on a crappy cell cam, but it's some sort of sculpture stuck to a flag. I don't get the meaning of it, though I'm sure there is one. It was just an odd-looking thing.

Anyway, that's that. As long as we don't lose our official letters saying we passed, that is. Because if we do, despite the fact we are in the system and all is linked to our passports, if the letters go missing before we get ILR we have to take the freakin' test again. I'd rather get a root canal. And we'll have to save them even after ILR as the same test is needed for citizenship on down the road.

Next step: Loads of paperwork and big fees for ILR. And, surprise surprise, if the application is rejected for any reason, even some minor omission, you have to reapply and pay thousands all over. I will not rest easy until that's done. Man, I wish I liked alcohol, 'cause the thought of all this makes me want a drink. In theory.

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