Saturday, 13 April 2013

Canadian Language Benchmark Test (CLB)

It has been awhile since my last post. I'm getting longer and longer gap between posts now. It seems to me that my life is just moving forward by exponential of busy level. One year ago, I thought that maybe I could never find any busier moments than that time in my life later on. I was wrong. Now I know how it looks like when I have to tighten every single minute in my days. Anyway, let's drive back to the topic for today. I just took CLB test last week. Since the test is just used in Canada, it was too hard to find some information about test format or framework on the Internet. I think I should share some tips and hope they works out for people who needs the test score for a university/college application. 

(Source: http://www.language.ca/cclb_files/image_library/newchartsmall2.JPG)


First of all, if you're hitting this post by googling, I bet you know what CLB is. CLB stands for Canadian Language Benchmark and, CLB test is the test to give you a benchmark score out of 12. I don't know if it's possible to reach the score higher than 8 by doing the test since I've never seen anyone get it. Although I was pretty sure my reading score must be higher than 8 if they marked the score by the number of correct answers,  I still got 8 only. Therefore, I suppose that if you take CLB test, your maximum score is 8 for each skill. Maybe the higher score is for native speaker? [If you know any non-native speakers got higher score than 8, please kindly let me know in the comment field below. I would like to know more about this as well.]

This post, I focus mostly on people who want to have a high CLB score in the first attempt for a university or college admission. These people don't really have many choices. They just have to pass the score or not (usually around 7 or 8). The government designs CLB test to assess language skills for newcomers so that they can use the score to classify newcomers into different classes of language training. The training program and the test are all free. Therefore, they suppose people who need the test are also the people are questing for higher training in languages. That is the reason why even though you got scores for 4 skills as 6, 7, 8, 8, your overall score is still 6 only. They implicitly understand that they need you to improve your language proficiency from the lowest skill. This is a disadvantage for people who use the score as an entrance requirement of some other purposes different from higher language training. Remember, within 6 months, you cannot take CLB test more than once. That means, if you're applying for a university/college program and your application deadline is less than 6 months, you have no second chance, one and only one. Also, the most important requirement to take the test is that you must be a permanent resident (or landed). Don't waste your time to register for the test if you're a temporary resident (student and work permits). 

Talking about CLB, I think this website (http://www.language.ca/) is the only resource for us. By exploring that website, you may find some useful info like samples of speaking and writing tests, self checklist for different score levels, CLB test centres... At the end, if you're rigorously looking for more, you can also find the online self assessment tool at http://www.language.ca/display_page.asp?page_id=937. I dug into all of those areas on the website. However, coming is a disappointing part: Those test samples are not resembling the test format at all! I got a big surprise and I think that was a bitter experience to me. 

With speaking test, they won't sit you down and ask you a single question. They start testing you from the time the examiner takes you to the time he/she lets you out. That means, you need to treat all of your answers to him/her as a part of your test. They do ask your opinions on some formal topics about environment, or living style or so when you sit down with them. However, keep in mind that everything you speak to the examiner tells something about you. Don't wait until the formal test starts to show your skill.

After speaking test is listening test. This test hurt me the most. It's completely different from the ones given by online assessment tool above. I was waiting for listening to a recording and picking a correct answer. However, the real test, the examiner will play recordings from lower to higher level. He/she will stop the record when needed and ask you to describe back to him/her what you have heard. If you miss any detail, he/she will ask questions to check if you are able to cover those details. That means, you're required to memorize every single detail for the entire record WITHOUT TAKING NOTES during the time you are listening. I was failed not because I couldn't hear the information mentioned in those audio records, but it was because I couldn't remember all detail I heard. I don't know how to overcome this part. You may talk to the examiner at that moment to get his/her sympathy? I don't know if it works. You may ask the examiner if you're allowed to take notes during the time you listen to the recordings. Who knows if some of them will let you do that. Finally, I need to jot down one important detail about this test: speakers are in use, not headphone! Remember to practice with speakers instead of headphone if you experience yourself yield very different results with these two sound systems. 

About writing test, after you read a writing sample on the website, imagine that the real writing test must be around 3 times harder. In my test, there were 3 questions. The first one was very simple, copy given texts to another location. I fooled myself in this question since I tended to fix the typos and errors I found in the texts. When I was aware of the test purpose, I had to re-do it, copied and kept exactly the same as I was asked. Definitely, I lost my precious 5 minutes here. On the first page of writing test, they ask you about your name and something like that. Remember, just need to write down if they really tell you to do so. If not, skip it to save your time at the end [your examiner knows your answer sheet and yourself anyway, why bother?]. If you're not lucky enough to see a relaxed examiner, you will know what it means when I mention about time issue here. I will talk about time issue more later. Let's move to the next questions. The second question was about describing some good memory you have in your life in around 7 sentences (wedding event, the first day you came to Canada, your graduation day...). The third question was asking to write a formal essay. You can find all kinds of this essay topics in writing task 2 of IELTS such as 
Some people believe that studying at university or college is the best route to a successful career, while others believe that it is better to get a job straight after school. Discuss both views and give your opinion
or
Some people think the main purpose of schools is to turn children into good citizens and workers, rather than to benefit them as individuals. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
My topic was asking to discuss both sides of strict and relaxed teachers on underage education. You have only 30 minutes for everything including the time you walk from the examiner's room to the exam room. My personal opinion, I think writing topics are not hard. The most difficult thing is time. You need to control your time well or else you end up with an undone result. As talking to other people and also my examiner, I noticed that it still depends on the examiner a lot. Some of them are easier, they let you have 5 more minutes to finish your test. They can even let you sit there and finish the test in your own time, and then get back the result to them. However, be prepared to see my examiner who seemed to me like just standing behind me and looking at her watch. When it ticks, you're done. I actually mentioned to her at the end of the test that I saw a man in front of me, he came before me but when my time was up, he was still sitting there with his test. Because I didn't have a watch with me, I was looking at him and thinking that my time was still long. My biggest mistake ever. If possible, you should bring a watch to the test. I wish I had known that. 

The last test is reading. You will be given around 4 passages from short/easy to longer/difficult level. The hardest passage will ask you about 8 to 10 questions including questions to cover the main topic and the author's attitude. There is no important note for this test except timing issue. You have 30 minutes totally for about 25 to 30 questions. Don't stay at one question for so long. If you don't know, mark it there and return later if possible. If you cannot finish them at the end, just do random choice, better than leaving them empty. There are a lot of strategies to do reading test which I'm not able to cover here. If you familiarize with IELTS reading test, you may find this test similar. 

Last but not least, you should bring your own draft in case you need to elaborate ideas or framework for your essays. They won't give you any kind of paper for notes taking. 

After all, whatever I'm writing here is just my personal experience for my first attempt. Whenever you take the test, you're given another test set. The test set is not the same for the second time or different testees. Just use my notes here as a reference. It's not a complete guide or an absolute test sample.  Good luck to your test if you're heading for one. 



19 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this. I will be taking the CLB in few weeks. While I was surfing the net and trying to look for review materials, I tumbled upon your website. I think you are the only one who did an extensive discussion on CLB. It is very informative. Any review material that you can recommend?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Katey,

    You are welcome. I think those tips I mentioned in this entry were pretty much whatever you need to pay attention. Up to that time, I had not seen any materials fully supporting for the test. I think the test just tries to pull out naturally your built-in English skills, kind of whatever yours is yours, no need for more or less.

    Good luck for your test.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your reply is highy appreciated. Thanks a lot for the tips.

      Delete
    2. Your reply is highly appreciated. Thank you so much.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. You're welcome, Larissa. Good luck!

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for sharing this. I will be taking the CLB in a couple of weeks. It's a very very helpful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Sarah. Best luck to your test!

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. why did you delete Sarah christian comment

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if you care, you can log in and show your name at least. Thanks for asking anyway. She left three repetitive comments. I removed two and answered her above if you've ever read.

      Delete
  8. thank you so much for the information. I took CLB once before I had a hard time to finish a reading part. I could not finish all the question. I had to stop the test. so I got low score in reading part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to hear that. Do you plan to re-take it? A bit strategy is needed there. I usually tried to scan quickly on questions before I read the passages so that I can capture necessary info quicker for answers without re-reading many times. This is a known technique, not my own finding though.

      Delete
  9. Hi.. this is so informative... Thanks.. Please let me know the total time you took for the assessment... how many hours

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Jiya,

    I'm so sorry that I took this test a few years ago and now I cannot recall the info you need anymore. It was roughly around 3 to 4 hours I believe. I remember it occupied my entire morning from 8AM to over 12PM or so since I was late to work for afternoon shift on the day. Before 9AM, it was waiting time and registration process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jiya,

      I took the test today, it was around 1hour and 30mmins.

      Delete
    2. Hi shiva,

      Was the speaking part hard? Is it done by an examiner or computerized? Was the listening part played by a stereo as well? Am I allowed to take a paper with me to write notes?
      Thank you.

      Delete
    3. Hi shiva

      Was your speaking part done by an examiner as well? And am I allowed to take a paper with me for notes?

      Delete

Thanks for leaving your comments

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...