TOEFL, the last exam in between me and applying for masters in colleges in the USA! A sudden burst of adrenaline sometime in October, 2012 made me write this, most probably the fact that I was away from home and the thought of going in an aeroplane that pushed me towards this decision. Went online and tried to get a date in Bangalore for the month of Decemeber but nope, all the IT babu and babuas kids are going to Amreeeka and writing TOEFL in the completely trafficked [you know which vowel has to be replaced] city of Bengaluru [I am aware that it sounds like a vegetable gone bad]. So date chosen was 8th of December and location Hyderabad, back then the $1 was 54 something INR and I think I ended up paying close to 9000 [translates to JP Miles, for free flights since my dad was so happy I was writing TOEFL he decided to pay for it].
2 months to go for the test, absolutely no worry! I am going to studying 30 days before exam and it is going to be all cool. 1 month before exam, hmm ok so I must start studying at least 15 days before exam. 15 days before exam, its getting closer, maybe this weekend I should just sit and study and maybe revise during office throughout next week. Weekend comes by and I am like oh oh, but hey wait I don’t have a book so I can’t study! Even if I did order one it would get delivered after 2 days so that is next week, let me just study through the week. The week went by, usual office work and finally friday arrived and where was I? At a Microsoft party at Novotel, Hyderabad Airport! Not kidding, I partied all evening and went home at 2 AM and slept, thankfully I rememberd to keep the alarm for 6 AM the next day. The exam center was pretty far and I had to leave by 6:30 AM else I would be late. It did not strike me even once that I had absolutely not prepared for the exam and was going to dive head first into something unknown to me!
Got up on time, left on time and reached well ahead of time, 2 hours early to be honest. Why? Well I have this habit of miscalculating time, yes it is a habit as I do it on purpose so that i’m not late for something important. It was a small dingy building and I was shell shocked when I saw a well air conditioned office inside, that was the exam hall! There were 3 chairs and I took one, after about 45 minutes another guy came and we started talking and he said he studied only for 4 hours the previous day and no other preparation. In a way I was relieved that it was only 4 hours between one other test taker and me, I don’t know how that would affect my performance but going by standard indian laws of thought processing it seemed alright. After all the verification was done, they took mugshots of us and led us into our respective places in the exam hall.
The exam center for sure picked up all the systems for 10 bucks per kilogram from the local old newspaper agent! They were so old and mostly broken and the monitors were a shade of brown, originally white I guess when new a 100 years ago. We all did the basic login and checking the hardware like keyboard [sticky keys was a physical phenomenon not software], mouse [I am sure more than one mouse slept on this] and the headset [sorry what? I can’t hear you]. The exam was to begin in 10 minutes.
Let me pause to give a brief history of my exam skills
1) The first one to leave exam hall since grade 1
2) Worst handwriting in class
3) I was/am more worried about time taken than quality of answers
4) My answers were known for their brevity [at least that is what I thought], in my teachers words emptyness
5) My physics teacher always asked my Dad which flight I was running off to catch
6) This carried on through college and GRE
7) On an average I slept for 90 minutes in every 180 minute exam
Statistics (3 hours exams)
Fastest: C++ Programming [1st year BTech] -> 45 minutes
Slowest: Mathematics [11th Standard] -> 170 minutes
My works were never related to my speed of writing or not writing, I used to be bottom 50% in school and surprisingly top 50% in college.
Back to the TOEFL exam in hand, what might already be a lost cause, the exam begins and I breeze through my first section, suddenly I hear a voice, its loud and its a girls voice. Everyone around me was calm, was I the only one hearing it? Is this place haunted? I just got up and saw in the direction of the sound to see some girl talking at the top of her “sweet melodic” my foot voice. I was wondering what was happening, then decided maybe its some problem she has and continued with my test, over time more and more people started talking and I felt zombies were overtaking them and now I am going to get killed. All of them were chanting the same sentences about some school where education was taking a toll, I am unable to recall! I was at the edge of my seat, section 2 was just over. I was completely unaware of what was happening, was I able to read the mind voice of people? Or is this the apocalypse coming 14 days in advance? I clicked on the next section button on the screen and figured why people were talking, ok in writing it seems lame but back then for someone who had no idea about TOEFL it was creepy! I just had a private laugh and started talking just like everyone else around me, but I was conscious of being loud and kept my voice low only to figure out that unless you speak loud the system is not going to record anything! So I screamed, wailed at the top of my voice and got done with the section.
The final section was writing an essay, I thought I was done with writing stuff in words I mugged up for GRE, nope it was back to bite me! My body clock said I had been sitting here for 3 hours, the exam is 3 or 4 hours I guess and I panicked, wrote the last section in exactly 10 minutes and galloped out. On my way out I saw I was the only one outside the test room! Everyone else was still seated, 1hr 30 minutes, TOEFL done. I was not at all happy with how I had done the exam, I just walked out into the surprisingly mild Hyderabad winter took a bus home and slept the whole day and then think about the exam on sunday and got back to work on Monday. Results came, i had done well, but I did not use the score, I am still sitting at my work desk in India and writing my blog.