Short version: holy cow that Chinese test was hard, but I passed at a level high enough to get all the boost points.
Long version: after driving from Michigan to Arlington the day before (note to self, don’t EVER do that again) and staying in a hotel, I arrived at the FSI two hours before my test (when an over-achieving, type-A personality gets nervous, things like this can happen).
Checked in with security, got my Visitor badge, was was set loose on the grounds of the training center. I had been there once before about ten years ago for an academic thing, but this time I got to wander around and check the place out. “Impressive” is the best word to describe the facility. Nice campus, new-ish buildings, good classroom facilities.
I sat in the cafeteria and did some last-minute studying, and also eavesdropped on some of the people around me. A lot of the people there look professional and all, but so many of them looked so young to me. If I get in to the Foreign Service, I guess that I will have to get used to being the old guy in the group (I’m 47).
Due to NDA restrictions, I can’t say much about the test itself, but I can say that I was not surprised by the format or the process of the test. What did surprise me was the level of the language. I expected it to be hard, but I didn’t expect it to be hard right at the start. There was a bit of an easing into it, but it escalated very quickly. I felt comfortable enough during the speaking and listing section. The reading was very challenging, though. Lucky for me, I could choose between simplified and traditional characters for the test. I’m MUCH more familiar with traditional characters, so not having to deal with simplified characters made the reading less hard.
The testers were pleasant and professional, and I was pleasantly surprised that I got my score right away, after a short wait that lasted about 20 minutes but felt like 2 hours.
I needed/wanted to score at least 3 in speaking and 2 in reading. I scored 3 across the board, which will give me the maximum boost points, and will greatly increase my chances of getting The Call. The staff said that the scores are sent in every Monday. Probably too late to make this round of offers, but miracles happen, right? Right?!
As I was checking out, an administrative staff member mentioned that I was the “first” person to take the in-person test since the implementation of the new boost point rule. I don’t know if that was true, but it wouldn’t surprise me if many people are intimidated by the risk of losing the telephone points if they don’t perform high enough on the in-person test. My OA score was low enough at 5.4 that I really needed the boost if I wanted to get The Call, so it made sense for me to take Mark Twain’s advice: put all your eggs in one basket, then guard that basket!