Life in the UK: Testing my knowledge

It has been more than 22 years since I first arrived in Scotland, and now it’s time to test my knowledge of this place I have called home for so many years*. That’s because I am finally ready to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain or “permanent residency” here in the UK, so to speak.

To test my knowledge, I will be taking the Life in the UK test. The 24-question test is meant to test your knowledge and understanding of the UK’s history, values, traditions, and everyday life understandings. It’s one of those things that immigrants must pass to gain settled status or citizenship – and it’s laughable because many born-and-bred Brits would struggle with many of the questions.

But still, I am an immigrant and I wish to stay on for another 22+ years. And so, I must test my knowledge.

Part of me felt that I might be able to waltz into a testing centre without a stick of “studying” and pass. But I didn’t want to risk failing and taking the bash to my ego, so I played around with several online practice tests. However, I knew they weren’t official tests and they only caused me to worry about what might be on the actual test. So, I decided to splurge for the official test books – all three, just to be sure. That included a study guide, a new resident’s guide, and a third book with 17 practice tests.

When the books arrived, I went straight to the practice tests. And, joyfully, I passed all 17 of the practice tests on the first try, before ever opening the study guides. I then used the guide to familiarise myself with the questions I missed – which were largely about sport and fashion, so no real surprise there. But doing that helped me to know which areas I needed to focus on.

And so, last night I went through the study guide to set to memory the various names related to sports and fashion, along with some of the other “popular culture” elements. Which was a real help when the one sports question came up and I knew the answer straight away because I’d set myself a little mnemonic game to help.

All of that was to prepare me for today: Test-taking day!

The booking details say you need to arrive at least 30 minutes before the test time, so I arrived a little before 9.30 am for my 10.00 am test. On arrival, I was asked to power off my phone and smartwatch with a member of staff watching – in view of the CCTV. Both needed to be placed in a locker along with my jacket and umbrella.

Once everything but my ID was secured in a locker, I was given an information sheet to read. Next, I had my identification verified with a series of questions and biometric imagining. I had to remove my glasses for inspection, which included placing them on the table in a certain way then turning them over for visual inspection. A similar process was done for my mask. (Yes, I still wear one of those.) I was then asked to place my passport in the locker, whilst keeping my biometric card out.

The next step was to be scanned and checked. This meant standing in a little privacy area where I had to do things like pull my hair up so that my ears could be checked for Bluetooth devices. I also had to turn up the collar of my sports jacket and turn out the pockets of my jacket and trousers. Other visual inspections included rolling up my sleeves to check for writing on my arms (really) and removing my rain boots so that they could see the tops of my socks – which I also needed to roll down slightly.

My glasses and mask then needed to be removed again for them to “wand over” them before they passed a wand over/near my body – looking for electronic devices and such.

Finally, I was invited to the test room. Here, I walked through the door and a young man approached and requested my biometrics card. He then proceeded to verify my name and birthdate again before inspecting my glasses and ears – and again asking me to roll up my sleeves to check for writing on my arms.

 He then set up a computer station for me and invited me to take a seat. There, I was given a sheet with instructions for the test and was invited to begin when I was ready.

The test began with 3 “practice” questions before the official test began – placing 45 minutes on the clock. The test itself was short. Just 24 questions and I was done in about 5 minutes. (Which is 40 minutes less than the allocated time.) I was immediately joyed to see that the questions were ones I knew the answers to – a couple of them thanks to my final review of my mnemonics when I woke up. I was also surprised to see that there were several Scotland-specific questions. It makes me wonder if the questions would have been specific to a different UK country had I taken the test elsewhere. But I digress…

On finishing the test, I collected my belongings from my locker – and by the time my phone powered on again, I had my results:

I passed my Life in the UK test!

OK, I don’t know that I ever really believed I wouldn’t pass. But you never know about these things, as I have a pretty bad relationship with life-related luck. (I have “find a penny” luck, not “live happily ever after” luck.) To “help” me feel a little bit of positive luck, I wore a necklace and earring set that Paul gave me – and I smiled to myself knowing that the flat he lived in when we first met (and where we lived together for about 6 months) was in viewing distance of the test centre. That made me feel almost as if Paul was there with me, cheering me on.

So. What’s next?

The next step in the process is to apply for my Indefinite Leave to Remain, or “settled status”. I was technically able to make the application yesterday, but I needed to pass this test first. And yes, I should have booked my test earlier. But life in the UK has been a little chaotic of late and I have been a little “frozen in fear” with all the Big Things happening at the moment – and the Big Things on the horizon. And that means I have procrastinated a bit. Or a lot, depending on how you measure procrastination.

But it’s done now. And I passed. Phew!

I won’t fully celebrate this little joy until I am ready for the larger celebration of the new (last!) visa. And I will be making that application this week. Which means I should get some fizz chilling for the celebration…

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in my Scottish journey over the years. Soon, I’ll be able to put the paperwork side behind me!

* (1) Whilst I have been here solid for the last 12+ years, the first of these 22 years was spent hopping back and forth. (2) I call this place home, but I also call that place home. It’s the struggle of immigrant life: One heart that has two homes.

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