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Life in the UK

I was back in sushidog's old neighborhood today, to take the Life in the UK test. The test, as the practice versions make clear, is a medley of the very easy with the pedantic. Mostly, it's pedantic about the 2001 census. Since I clicked a button swearing I wouldn't give away details of the test itself, I'll give you this example from the practice book:

True or False: 25% of the UK's population has tried illegal drugs.


Large parts of the study book aren't on the exam at all, as noted in the introduction to the book itself, including the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and history.

Another omitted part is an extremely dangerous bit of advice about buying goods on the internet: "You also need to make sure that the website offers a secure way of paying- this is shown by a small picture of a yellow padlock at the bottom of the screen." No, no, no. It's true if you're using IE - as, I suppose, the civil service is obligated to? - but is not true for any of the web browsers I use. Also, it's worded generally enough that it seems an open encouragement for all scammers to put a little picture of a yellow padlock on the bottom of their web pages.

As of the exam-taking experience itself: it was in a soulless, slightly weary, poorly-labeled office building. There were about 15 of us, and I was easily the palest-skinned person in the room. I was also the only person who did not have black hair. Thanks to two cryptic questions, I reviewed my answers and stalled on submitting the last two for nearly 15 minutes. I was third out. I was fifth called for results afterward, a very slow process involving a lot of staring out the window at distant hills north of Stratford on my part.

The one thing I really wish someone had told me before I went to the test center? Bring a rigid folder, to be able to bring home the piece of paper they give you afterward without getting the edges ratty.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
For those of you interested in the answer to the true/false question: it's false. That's because about 1/3 of the UK's population has tried illegal drugs. You see what I mean about pedantic?
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:44 pm (UTC)
But then, 25% is also true! (I'm pedantic too!)
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
That was my thought too!
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
Don't you feel safer knowing that potential UK citizens are being trained into such literalism? /snark
Jul. 12th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
I agree with you. This is the sort of test on which one must absolutely not over think. It's all about literalism, and thinking about what they're looking for, rather than what is, technically, also true.

Happily, only a minority of questions on the test have such precise requirements. It is, after all, designed to be passed by most people without *too* much preparation.
Jul. 12th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
Just like they want GCSEs and A-levels to be these days. The triumph of what you *can* test over what you *want* to test.

Jul. 13th, 2010 08:13 am (UTC)
Yes -- that's the reasoning I took. The chances that exactly 25% have taken illegal drugs are very remote (the exact figure would have many more decimal places) but I felt pretty certain that more than 25% had and therefore 25% had.
Jul. 12th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
Stoopid. A third includes a quarter.

Pedantic is too kind to them.
Jul. 12th, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)
The test doesn't cover numeracy (obviously!), although passing it means that the taker doesn't have to take an additional literacy test. (My pass certificate doubles as formal documentation that my English is good enough that I can function here.)
Jul. 12th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
HA!!! I got it right (and thought I remembered it being about a third). YAY!

Just about everything else from the booklet I have forgotten...
Jul. 13th, 2010 10:21 am (UTC)
I said false as it couldn't be *exactly* 25%... How absolutely bizarre - and not a very good question, to be honest.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 12th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
I think the question may actually specify "admits to". I should have done the booklet justice and double-checked.

How the system of government operates is at least included in the test's mandate, so it gets as far as voting, if nothing else. So are driving laws. Insurance laws. Paternity leave. Human rights. Lots of statistics on the population. The fact that NI's Assembly was still suspended as of when the booklet was produced....
Jul. 12th, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC)
There's an even chance it'll be suspended for anyone who takes the test in the next couple of decades. It's like the eminent statesman who was asked to give a speech on current affairs at an event some months in the future. He was asked to supply the title of his speech immediately so that a programme could be printed. He chose "The current crisis in the Middle East", on the basis that there was sure to be a situation considered a crisis in the Middle East at the time of his speech, though he had no idea what that situation would be and would write the speech closer to the time.
Jul. 13th, 2010 12:35 am (UTC)
Did I ever point you at this?
Jul. 13th, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)
Congrats on now knowing lots of random statistics you can bring up at dinner parties from now on :) I took the test last year and agree that it's a mix of pedantic and simple.

But I know people who have failed this test - I suspect it is a lot easier if you have experience at sitting multiple choice exams, using a computer etc.
Jul. 13th, 2010 08:16 am (UTC)
Doesn't sound too dissimilar to the driving theory test, most questions being along the lines of "What must you do before leaving your car? A. Park it on double yellow lines. B. Sound the horn. C. Lock it." along with a few extremely precise ones such as stopping distances and towing speeds.
Jul. 13th, 2010 11:39 am (UTC)
Also you don't have to get all the answers right. Took me ten minutes. Good thing I brought a book, because you have to sit around waiting for everyone else to finish...

There was one woman in my group taking it for the third time, but clearly not a native English-speaker/reader. I'm presuming the guy who needed help just filling out the form beforehand failed, since he obviously couldn't read English. Otherwise, you only even need the booklet because the answers must agree with it, not be correct...
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )