I’ve been helping a student prepare for the IELTS (雅思 in Chinese), and she recently brought an interesting point to my attention. In her book of practice tests (a quality book published by Oxford University Press), different fonts were used for different reading selections. For example, a selection about biology was written in Times New Roman, whereas an article about education was written in Arial, and a passage about blindness and visualization was written in Verdana. She wanted to know if the real test was going to be like that.
I was impressed by her observation, but I had no idea to respond. Does the IELTS use a standard font, or does it vary the font from passage to passage? I’ve done some preliminary research, but I’ve been having trouble finding an answer because when I use “font” as a search term, Google ever so helpfully includes font tags and CSS text in its search, rendering the search results useless.
I asked my student if she thought the choice of font affected her performance. She responded, “Yes, it does. Sorry, I’m sensitive.” Heh. It would probably affect anyone at least somewhat on the unconscious level, but her years of experience in the marketing industry brought it to her conscious attention.
So, I’d just like to know… does anyone know if the IELTS actually varies the fonts of the passages on the real test? If not, which font does it use? If so, why does a respectable publisher vary the font in the practice test?? I think it’s good practice to expose students to different fonts, but in a test prep book, I don’t think it’s justifiable unless the test itself uses various fonts.
I finally found out today what my scores were on my entrance exams to grad school at 华师大. They were what I predicted: two B’s. I got an 81 on the 汉语基础 exam and an 85 on the writing exam. (In China the scale is typically A: 90-100, B: 80-89, C: 70-79, D: 60-69, F: below 60.)
I’ll be paying my tuition soon, and the process for obtaining my student visa is already in motion. What was holding everything up was that 刘大为, the professor who was to be my advisor, has decided to leave Hua Shi Da for Fudan University. So they weren’t sure if I still wanted to do my Masters with them because he was leaving, and they weren’t able to get in touch with me because I was in the States. Kinda strange… is it normal to have one’s degree with a university in China dependent on having one particular professor as an advisor? 刘大为 is pretty famous, I hear, but still…
Anyway, everything is on track.
My entrance exams for grad school at East China Normal University are finally over. It’s hard to believe that I’d been preparing for them for eight months. I’ve been studying quite a bit harder this past month, I’ll admit. But what a weight off my shoulders!
I probably won’t find out the results until next week some time, but I feel pretty good about how I did.
Part I: Modern Chinese (2 hours)
I think I did OK. There were 10 questions, all asking for some kind of explanation, analysis, or comparison, and always with examples. (No multiple choice, no fill in the blanks.) Of the ten, eight of the questions concerned content which I pretty much fully anticipated. They weren’t tricky. A lot of regurgitation was involved for some of them. One of the unanticipated ones called for a full analysis of synonym groups. I had studied that a little and then decided that it probably wouldn’t be tested on, so I disregarded it. I probably got some partial credit there anyway, though.
I guessed correctly that there would be exactly one 修辞 (“rhetoric,” involving fancy topics like literary devices) question on the exam. That’s 10% of the exam. And yet the 修辞 section took up 100 of the textbook’s 500 pages. So I pretty much skipped it entirely, aside from briefly looking at the main terms. So I just BSed that one question on the exam. I bet I got a few points.
Overall, I think I got a B.
Part II: Composition (1 hour)
The topic was really general, like “do some comparisons of American and Chinese language and/or culture, based on your experiences.” Wow. They were obviously being nice to me. And it only had to be 700-800 characters instead of the 1000 the teacher had told me before.
Based on educated guessing, I had prepared for the topic “based on your experiences, compare and contrast the Chinese and American university systems.” So I was able to adapt that, as well as use some of the particularly well-crafted sentences and phrases that I recalled. I wrote about my experience of learning Chinese as an American, compared to the typical Chinese student’s experience learning English in China.
I’m sure there were mistakes, but my structure was solid and the conclusion is one the Chinese will like (basically 各有所长: “both have their strong points”), so I probably got a B overall.
So now I’m just waiting to be notified that I’ve been admitted to grad school and they want my tuition money.
A while back I met with a professor of East China Normal University to discuss my upcoming entrance exams for grad school (exams: modern Chinese, composition). He told me the exam would be administered at the end of May or beginning of June.
Well, the end of May is quickly approaching. He left me his phone number to contact him if I had any questions, so I’ve given him quite a few calls lately, but there’s never any answer. The phone number is not a cell phone number, so I figured it was his office number. Why is he never in his office? I concluded that he either isn’t in his office much or isn’t even at the university much these days.
When I mentioned the matter to my tutor the other day, she made everything clear. The professor had most likely given me his home phone number. It’s very common for university professors in China to give their home phone numbers out to their students. Furthermore, there’s sort of an unspoken rule: if students need to call their professors at home, they should call between 8pm and 9pm.
That explained a lot. It explained why I could never get an answer. It explained why I frequently got requests for my home phone number from my students when I taught university classes in Hangzhou (I wouldn’t give out my number, though). It also possibly explains why so few students would show up to office hours. Maybe they’re just used to calling instead of visiting the teacher’s office.
I’m not going to call the professor on the weekend, so I’ll have to wait until Monday to finally talk to him about the date of my entrance exams.