July 12th, 2010

Laptop with wireless mouse

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.