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What to Expect on Your CELPIP Exam: Exclusive Interview with Our Test-Taker Rica Zara

June 10, 2021

What to Expect on Your CELPIP Exam: Exclusive Interview with Our Test-Taker Rica Zara
Are you considering booking your CELPIP exam at Ashton Testing Services? You may have lots of questions about the health and safety measures we employ and what you can expect during a proctored exam. Our team recently connected with marketing and communications professional Rica Zara, who took her CELPIP exam with us. In our exclusive interview, she shares some helpful tips and insights about her experience. 

Was this your first time visiting ATS? 

Yes. I think it is great that it is located right at the heart of downtown Vancouver. The nearest SkyTrain station is 5 minutes away which is convenient since you won’t need to drive and spend time looking for parking. 

How comfortable are you when you are in the space with the health and safety measures?  

I definitely felt safe! I think the check-in process is comparable to airport security which is not a bad thing. It shows credibility for the test centre. Covid-19 safety protocols are in place in every area of the test centre. The registration area is quite small, so they strategically placed physical distancing markers in the hallway, so the test takers are not cramped in a small space.  It’s also very Covid-safe because every time you touch something, you have to sanitize your hands. 

How was the registration process? 

Rica: The check-in process starts 45 minutes before the actual exam, to ensure a smooth registration process. Before you enter the premises, they do a temperature check and then check your exam identification and documents. You can either print out your registration confirmation form or show the digital copy from your phone. 

What identification was required? 

You need the ID you registered with, either your driver license, PR card, or passport. Always make sure that your legal name matches exactly with the one you signed up with. After they confirm your identity, you can enter the premises. Then you proceed with having your picture taken by the proctors.  You also need to place your stuff in a locker. I saw them sanitizing the lockers, so I was super confident my stuff was safe in there.  You are allowed to have water breaks during your 3-hour exam, as well as snacks. I actually chose not to have any breaks, but it’s good to know that it’s an option. After all that, you’ll sign a confirmation form, then you go into the actual computer stations. You’re only allowed to bring your paper, and a pencil or pen and also the ID you used when you booked the exam. Those are the only things allowed. They’ll also check your sleeves. So, prepare for that and don’t make it hard for yourself. Check-in is super thorough but necessary. 

Was there anything that surprised you about the CELPIP exam? 

What surprised me was the peer pressure from the other candidates. They are operating at 50% capacity due to Covid protocols so there is no one is sitting on either side of me. Despite this, I’m still stuck in a confined space so I can still hear everything, even with headphones on. You’re going to sense your fellow test-takers who are way ahead of you and it can make you feel quite anxious. Don’t let the pressure get to you. You have 3 hours to do the exam. I remember when I was about 30% done with the exam and I heard one guy who was already on the final module, which is Speaking. When I heard him doing the speaking part of the exam, I was like ‘OMG, am I doing okay? What time is it?’ I actually have plenty of time left, but it still makes you nervous though. 

What did you find most challenging about the exam or the experience?  

The waiting time after check-in is the hardest part. If you’re done with registration in 15 minutes, you’ll have to wait for maybe half an hour for everyone else to be checked in. You don’t have your phone to play with or anything except a paper, pen, and your driver’s license. I find the wait is the most challenging part of the exam.  Though, I also think it’s a great opportunity to remind yourself this is happening, and review everything you know in your head. 

Did you have a favourite section on the exam? 

Yes, I’d say the reading section was my favourite because it was the easiest for me. Reading was multiple-choice and you must choose the best answer based on how you understood the article. 

Was the environment friendly at Ashton Testing Services? Were the staff members helpful? 

I’m a nervous test taker and I am so glad I chose ATS because of the proctors. I was expecting super strict proctors. However, when I got there, the proctor said, “Hi, hello, welcome!” and I thought, "Oh, they’re super friendly.” I chatted with them a little bit before I went into the testing room. The small talk helped calm me down and their friendly demeanour actually helped with my anxiety. 

What advice would you give to someone who is preparing for the CELPIP exam? 

Preparation helps a lot even if English is your first language. Although English is not my first language, I’ve been speaking it all my life, so at first, I was like ‘Oh, I’m just going to show up and wing it. I’m going to be fine.’ Don’t do that. Once you book your CELPIP exam, at the very least, you should start taking the free practice tests that are available on the CELPIP website. You’re going to be surprised how several factors can affect your performance, such as the time limit or your ability to focus. Doing the practice exam will help you identify your weak points, and then you can improve from there. 

What did you learn from those practise tests? 

I didn’t realize that the time limit on the listening part would be challenging. When I did the practice test for Listening, I was surprised that I ran out of time and got several items wrong. That was a real surprise because I have been speaking English all my life. 

What other resources did you find useful? 

I would recommend taking advantage of every preparation resource out there, especially if you’re trying to achieve a specific level or band score. A lot of them are free and available on the official CELPIP YouTube channel, where you can get an idea of what the expectation is for each band score. 

Was the CELPIP YouTube channel helpful for your studying? 

It was great. They have a comprehensive series of videos on how to prep for all test components. For example, I needed a level 9 for university admissions purposes. The CELPIP channel has real answers for level 9 Speaking or Writing. I can look at different level 9 answers and compare them with a level 6 or level 5 scores. I was able to get an idea of the difference in vocabulary and grammar. I was so glad I stumbled upon their YouTube channel. 

What was your overall impression at the end of the day? 

I’m glad that I booked the CELPIP exam with ATS. I will definitely keep them in mind for future testing requirements.