My ULKCP (Malay) Experience

As I have mentioned in the first post in this series, I sat for my own ULKCP oral exam last year, in 2019, for my SPM as a private candidate. In preparation for the exam, I tried in vain to look up for help on how the exam is conducted and how to best prepare for them. Apart from a few blog posts from previous candidates, there was really not much to be found so here I hope to share both, my experiences during both the Malay and English ULKCP as well as what I think would be the things I wish I knew going into it.

So let’s get on to it, shall we?

Getting to the exam room

Again, just getting to the exam room is already a journey in of itself. We reached the school early as the other students are making their way in for the morning session. I asked a teacher where the ULKCP would be held. They pointed into the distance and said “Bangunan kat belakang ni” and I assumed that they meant the building behind the nearest building but we couldn’t find anything that would suggest that an exam would be taking place there.

After roaming around for a short while, we stopped a prefect, hoping that she would know and she pointed us to the furthest building where there indeed, was a sign at the staircase. Thankfully, unlike the huge circular building we had to navigate through for our English exam, this one was a traditional school building and once we’ve got the floor right, getting to the room itself was just a matter of spotting the sign.

Individual Component – Preparation

In the days leading up to the ULKCP exam, I tried to prepare myself as much as I could but there really is very little information out there and even my tutor, who was an examiner for SPM, had no idea. The resources I could find are for the ULBS (which is what the school candidates would sit for) and they have forums and dramas and sometimes they read aloud with stimulus material (bahan rangsangan). After rounds of general freaking out, the only real practice I did was reading the Jaket Kulit Kijang Anthology aloud to improve my enunciation.

The moment after we registered, we were separated into two groups of four. Unlike the English exam where I was simply grouped off with my sisters, they were very meticulous about who goes into which group and we believed that they purposely split initial groups (my sisters and I were separated) and balanced out the mix of ethnicity within each group (both groups had three Malay and one Indian/ Chinese)..

Before we get our tasks, I noticed some people were already having quiet and light conversations with their groupmates. I think this would ease the preparation for the group test later, as you have already broken the ice.

We were called to the front table in twos, one from each group, to be tested in different rooms with a different pair of evaluators. Upon reaching the desk, we were given 5 themes to choose from. For us, those are:

  • Perayaan
  • Pendidikan
  • Disiplin
  • Alam Sekitar
  • ICT

Immediately upon glancing at the list of choices, I crossed off alam sekitar and ICT even though I am very familiar with both, as my vocabulary around these subjects are mostly in English and I really don’t think it’s a good idea to think in English and translate my thoughts into Malay on the fly. It would definitely mess up my sentence structure and my fluency and I might not even get the words accurate. With the assumption that the discussion would be a general one, I decided not to take perayaan, just in case it would approach a festival or a concept that I am not familiar with.

The last two were harder for me to consider as I have a lot of thoughts on both disiplin and pendidikan but in the end, I decided that my opinions on disiplin are rather technical, in a way, and I don’t want to mess up with the technical terms. Pendidikan, on the other hand is something that I’ve talked about a lot in both Malay (albeit in the colloquial bahasa pasar) and English, especially with the rather unconventional education I’ve received.

After choosing your theme, you would be given an instruction. Like I said before, I was expecting a general question so “Ceritakan tentang Pendidikan yang telah anda terima” completely threw me off guard since it was rather personal.

We were each given ten minutes to prepare. We were allowed to write notes if we wish to but we could not use any reading material, and we are not allowed to use our phones. Any notes written could not be brought into the evaluation room. I saw a lot of people writing out notes but I wasn’t confident that I could write fast enough to make it worthwhile, especially since we couldn’t bring them into the room with us anyway. So I only brainstormed in my head.

I started with the backbone of my presentation. Having just done Bab 7 of Sejarah, the idea of formal and informal schooling was still strong in my head so I decided to discuss that concept. I also planned to talk about the history of my schooling: how I studied at two private schools before starting homeschooling and how I found the two to be different.

I later found out that my sister Aeshah also took Pendidikan and had received the same instructions as I did, but being in a different group, she was evaluated in a different room. Anisah chose Perayaan and her instruction was “Ceritakan tentang perayaan yang pernah anda sambut”, thus I am concluding that the questions simply evolve around you personally rather than a general discussion on the concept itself.

Individual Component – Test

As I’ve written in a more lighthearted post here (with some fun comics thrown in) the start of my presentation was a mess. Not knowing what to expect or what I was supposed to do, I walked into the room and met my rather discouraging evaluators who simply stared at me with a blank face. If they were meant to intimidate, they did a very fine job at it. For me, it added to my cluelessness as having absolutely no clue on the format, I was hoping I would be given a basic guide.

So instead, I sat at the table and announced the theme that I took and the instructions I was given. The evaluators nodded and I launched into my script but was cut off immediately and was told that I should first introduce myself. Feeling sheepish now, I gave them my name and my age. After receiving no response and feeling completely lost, I asked them what else should I tell them. The reply was “cerita apa-apa je”.

The thing about being told to introduce yourself is that it as vague as being told to say something in a certain language. Everything seems like a potential topic and nothing feels relevant. “Apa-apa je” is so vast that it is unlikely they would let me talk about simply anything. I tried to think of those ice breaking sessions I did back in primary school, nearly two decades ago when I first join a new class so I talked about my family, my hobby and where I was from.

Again, silence.

“Ada apa-apa lagi?”

“Kalau tak ada apa-apa lagi nak tambah, okey”

I took a, what I hoped to be a subtle deep breath, and started again but unfortunately, that little hiccup had messed up my mindset a little. I was planning to give a good first impression by making a strong opening by stating that my informal education began the moment I was born and making a point that education is not simply about school but I felt like I lost a bit of my cool, the sense of structure in my head and forgot a few points I would have liked to mention. I didn’t even talk about the whole informal education aspect until the very end.

For my formal education, I briefly explained my experiences in primary school but mostly focus on homeschooling and how it differs from conventional schooling, especially with the fluidity between academic studies and what would have been considered co-curricular activities that isn’t too apparent in general schools. I mentioned my interest in other languages, creative writing and brief stints into subjects like nutrition and visual art and how these subjects often don’t even feel like studying for me as I saw it as a casual or creative pursuit.

I also talked about the other general houseworking skills. I don’t remember the specific details but what I had in mind before I went in were cooking, baking, knitting and crochet and simple sewing or even odd jobs like very basic carpentry or fixing broken locks. I talked about how all of these encompasses this very fluid and ever changing nature of the education I received.

Only at the end did I talk about how my informal schooling took place in the interactions between my parents and me since my birth and how it encompasses cognitive skills, moral and religious teachings. I talked about how my father did science experiments with me, how my mother taught me to read and how they gave me games and TV shows that introduced me to various skills and interests.

Throughout this whole time, I paused several times just to see if I had spoken enough or if time was up but they never broke from their emotionless stare so I kept going back and adding more and more details that I hoped would help. Eventually, I ran out of ideas and decided to take the initiative and just say something outright.

“Rasanya, itu sahaja.” And I pulled my shoulders back, giving the signal that I am done.

Finally, they nodded and one of them asked me several questions regarding the topic. I believe the first questions are about my plans and ambitions (which also threw me off a little as that didn’t seem to me in the moment to be part of the education I received). I mentioned briefly about my study plans and what area of study I hope to pursue for my tertiary education.

The next question was a trickier one, as they asked me about my opinions on education.

I am not strictly all for homeschooling or am I completely against schools in general. I think they’re both unique in what they offer as well and they have their own separate challenges. I personally believe that there’s a situation for both and that one could not completely imitate the other, nor should they. However, I also understand that these teachers are from public schooling system and I have probably decorated my experience a little too dazzlingly despite having never been to a public school all my life.

So my answer here focused my opinions on the pros and cons of the different education and mentioned the things I missed about going to school (such as team sports or just huge team events in general. I was a huge fan of them) with a stronger focus on the benefits of general school (including having a syllabus and structure arranged by a wide range of experts after lots of research).

I had tried to speak very formal Malay, just in case, and in my attempt to be as clear in my enunciation, I felt as stiff as an overstarched shirt by the end of it. As I made my way out of the door, I heard one of the evaluators casually suggesting to the other “Budak BI”.

Until now, I still don’t know if they were simply referring to my possibly inappropriately formal register or if I blew my individual test completely.

Group Component – Preparation

As I have mentioned earlier, we were already separated into two groups and after all of the members of both groups had completed their individual tests, they placed the individual tests on hold (there had been people who had been arriving since the first two group started) and they began giving the instruction to the second part of the exam, the group component.

For this part, we weren’t given a choice but we were given the theme of ‘Pertanian’. I don’t remember what the actual instruction was but I think it was around the lines of ‘bagaimana cara kerajaan boleh memajukan sektor pertanian negara’. And as I don’t remember the exact thoughts that I had regarding this and unfortunately, I don’t think I kept any record on our specific discussions (most of what I wrote and kept are more on the technicalities of how the exam was conducted and how I think we did) but I’ll try to extract what memory I have on it.

We were given 10 minutes to prepare. As soon as we received the instructions, the four of us sat around a table. One of our teammates, pulled out a piece of paper and started asking for points and suggestions. We gave various specific suggestions and separated them into crude categories. At one point there was an argument over what encompasses pertanian and after a minute of debate, we still weren’t sure so just to be on the safe side, we didn’t include livestock.

Having an organiser who leads the direction of the presentation helped immensely. Personally, I would have structured my organization in a different manner, with focuses on turn taking as well as structuring but I was still recovering from the intense individual test and I was just happy to have someone else take the lead and didn’t think much about it.

However, by the end of it, seeing that we ended up with four general categories, we did mention briefly that each of us would take a part but whether of not it was miscommunication (as we didn’t properly discussed it) or if it was a mistake in the heat of the moment, it did not exactly go as according to plan.

Group Component – Test

For the group component, we switched evaluators. Meaning, if you were evaluated in the first room, you would now be evaluated in the second room by a different pair of evaluators. I was most relieved when our second evaluators smiled as we walked in. It gave me a healthy dose of confident boost now that I know that I could get some body language clues. Indeed, they were encouraging, helpful and they nod a lot so we had an indicator that could tell us that we’ve hit the mark.

Unlike for the English group test where we were arranged in a circle, our tables were simply arranged in a line, facing the evaluators table on the other side. We introduced ourselves briefly by simply giving our names so they could assign us to their forms. They asked us if we had a ‘pengurusi majlis’, to which we said no and explained that we didn’t know that we had to, but they told us that it was fine.

Since I was third in the initial round, I noticed that some of the others spoke Malay bordering on bahasa pasar so I cast off my Melayu baku for a more natural everyday but gramatically correct Malay. We each took turns presenting our points in the order in which we were seated. If I remember correctly, mine was focused on the tourism aspect, making a mention on the agritourism. However, due to the lack of proper planning, by the time it got my sister, Anisah, who was last, we had accidentally talked about all of the four points. As the introverted Anisah took her turn, I was getting very worried especially since she was very quiet during the planning phase

Anisah, however, impressed us all by wrapping our presentation up with a smooth and very well written conclusion, readdressing all that we said and adding one of those ‘this is why’ statements that teachers love so much in conclusions. I honestly don’t know if I could do a better job myself, especially when placed on the spot.

For the questions and answer section, the evaluators asked questions either openly or directed to a specific person within the group. For some of the questions, they wanted to hear the opinions from all four of us and, as the others take their turns, I’m wracking my brains, trying to find a unique answer that doesn’t simply echo the people before me and wouldn’t take the chance of those who would be speaking after me.

Indeed, answering first would give you the advantage of saying anything since nothing has yet been said so if you have problems with trying to find ideas, I’d suggest taking the initiative. I wasn’t too worried about looking for ideas or re-elaborating ideas from a different point of view (I was more worried about my tatabahasa and messing up a format, whatever that my be) so I let others take their turn first most of the time.

There is also that funny moment where Aeshah and I both, in separate rooms, forgot what a mangosteen is in Malay (she was considering manggasteen and I had buoh smete in my head, which is from the Terengganu dialect) but that is neither here nor there.

Group Component – Discussion

My group finished before Aeshah’s group did so we waited in the waiting room for a while before they joined us. In the following discussion, we did confirm that the other evaluator was rather discouraging and there seems to be a flexibility when it comes to the format.

For example, in our group, we simply spoke when our turn came while in Aeshah’s group, they each stood up when it’s their turn to speak (Aeshah did suggested that it may be because was first and she stood up so the others followed her lead). Aeshah’s group were also asked less questions than we were, perhaps because they talked more about each of their points.

Another major difference is in the presentation style and this may reflect the difference in planning and possibly makes a difference in score (though I have no way to verify this). In my group, we tend to each present our points separately. I remember re-elaborating one or two points that others had made but it was still presented as if it was a separate point. In Aeshah’s group, there was a lot more build up on each other’s responses which for me, suggested better planning and a better understanding of the topics discussed. And she did say that in their planning, they did assign clear roles to each other which I thought was wise.

Final takes

If you’ve read my post on my English ULKCP experience, you can tell that there is a bit of a difference between the two and if you’ve read posts from various other candidates in the past, you can tell there there is a huge range of difference in the particulars (like whether you could use your phone or how you work with your group, etc). It is unlikely that my experience would be exactly the same as yours but I hope that my experiences could help you a little with your own preparations and that you wouldn’t be too at lost.

As I mentioned in my English experience, what is important for you is that you should try to show your best based on your level of proficiency.

However, with Malay being our mother tongue, there is that added complication of bahasa pasar. Please, please, please try to speak in grammatically correct Malay, the kind of Malay that you would use for your karangan. It would be such a waste if you have great ideas and coherent answers but you get your marks redacted because of your messy sentence structure, your casual and inappropriate imbuhans or words that don’t exist in proper Malay.

From my understanding of it, there will be marks for grammar, for fluency and for vocabulary and the correct use of words (on top of other things) so try to keep this at the back of your head when planning out your answer.

And again, if you mess up one component, don’t think too much about it. Each components are judged separately and your highest score would be taken as your final oral score so you basically have two chance at scoring it.

I would try to write a third part to this series before the start of September, Insya Allah, where I list out tips or things that I wished I knew and had in mind when I went in for my ULKCP. I know that the 2020 session has already started for some of you so you might already have some ideas in mind but I hope that this mess of words would help you feel a little more assured than you were before. Good luck in your exams!

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