Friday, 29 June 2012

The Mysterious Benedict Society


Have you heard about the trilogy?

I was browsing through my TBR piles when I saw a catchy review on Goodreads. I was expecting magics and potions like Harry Potter series, but oh wow, I was pleasantly surprise.

When other books jump on dystopian young adults novels or started churning more magic potions like Harry Potter, this one is really a brainer with science, mysteries and puzzles. The kids neither need magic potions nor wands to unravel the puzzles. And oh boy, the puzzles boggles my mind that I wonder how this book falls under child category. I even read one review who confesses that he had to sneak to the children's library and endure the librarian's stare, just for the sake of borrowing the books.

Now, back to the books, a short summary on it:

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children—two boys and two girls—succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

I started reading it on non stop in May back to back. That is how good it is.

The Mysterious Benedict Society consist of four kids (who had more characters than most YA novels that I read); Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance. They answered a peculiar ad in a newspaper, and come to take a mind boggling test.

The brilliance of the books lies in the kids. Trenton Lee Stewart painted such vivid characters for his minions that I wish I was in their shoes. And sir, thanks for giving us complicated puzzles, that we, as readers cannot break it, but the kids will break it for us (I feel so muddle head after I keep failing to crack the codes and puzzles).

I wonder, if I am one of the 4 kids, who would I be?

Would I be:
Reynie - who is always sensible
Sticky - who reads everything and has brilliant memory
Kate - who love adventure
Constance - who constantly complains, but is very adorable and always think out of the box?

Out of the 3 books, I love Book 2 the best since Mr. Benedict was kidnapped, and it is up to the kids to search for him :)

Kudos to one of the most underrated series outside of US.

And thank you Mr. Stewart for writing a brilliant book, that is truly enjoyed by adults.

Now, Mr Stewart had just release the prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society, entitled The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict.

And me being obsessed with the trilogy, I found out that Kinokuniya had the book!

Should I or shouldn't I? I think I want to run to Kinokuniya now!

Monday, 25 June 2012


Sempat lagi tidur anakku... ish ish ish

Friday, 22 June 2012


I didn't know that I can check online for my SPC MARA outstanding balance.

My MARA scholarship is a convertible loan. Provided that I should excel in my study, then MARA will convert it to scholarship.

Thus, talking to my superior, she said there is an online system for us to track our balance, and monitor our payment.

And the good news is, alhamdulillah, I need to pay only 18.16% of the full amount of scholarship.

So happy for it, yey!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

International English Language Testing System (or better known as IELTS)

In one of my Facebook status, Farra did mention about IELTS, or the short acronym for International English Language Testing System.

For your information, there are actually two types of IELTS exams: (1) Academic module, and (2) General Training module. For working oversea, countries like UK and Australia will require for you to take the General Training exam.

As for me, I sat for my IELTS in 2009, with the Academic module, since I was applying for UK placement to do my post graduate studies. Most universities require IELTS as the mandatory document for entrance. I did write about my experience for IELTS in this previous post: Allah works in mysterious ways.

I didn't buy any reference materials for my IELTS exams, and do bear in mind that the exam is quite expensive. I am not sure about the fees nowadays, but during 2009, it was around RM 400+, then in 2010, I did read somewhere it increased to RM 500+. I use online resources for my reference. You can just google around the word IELTS, and it can do wonders. I studied during my 1-2 p.m. break in the office, and it was a stressful experience, since I haven't taken a test for such a long time (at that point, my last test was in 2002, for my final exam in MMU).

The grading for IELTS are based on bands, and the highest band is 9, with the lowest band at 0. The scores for every 4 section of IELTS (writing, reading, listening and speaking) are different from each other. The result will be out for the 4 components, but there will be the final average score for the test. The band marks have a variation of +/- of 0.5 for each component.

The bands in IETLS are as follows (source: Wikipedia);

9Expert UserHas full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
8Very Good UserHas full operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
7Good UserHas operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
6Competent UserHas generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
5Modest userHas partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
4Limited UserBasic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in using complex language.
3Extremely Limited UserConveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations.
2Intermittent UserNo real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs.
1Non UserEssentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
0Did not attempt the testNo assessable information provided at all.

Since this is just a basic understanding of the score, and most universities require a score between 5.5 to 7.0 for university's placement.

Thus, the 4 sections are divided as follows:

1. Listening section 
This is actually a basic test, the invigilators will play a CD / tape recorder and we need to listen REALLY carefully to it. Usually, there will be conversations between two peoples, and short passages, thus you need to be prepared to have your hearing aid (your ears) to be clean. The invigilator will usually play the conversation / passages twice, thus if you did miss quite a few answers on first listening, do not fret since there will be replay.

The type of questions are objectives and fill in the blanks.

The listening test has 4 sections, with 40 items. The exam lasted for 30 minutes.  

2. Reading section
There are lots of passages to be read, tonnes of it, that if you do not know how to speed read, learn now. It will be useful during the exam. Questions consist of objectives and fill in the blank sections. It was quite hard if you do not read lots of books, since the variation of words in the passages are tremendous. Sometimes, I just went 'Ehhh' at certain points, because I have to reread the passages to get the answers.

What I did was, I read the questions first, then I answer. Trust me, it was much easier that way, so you know you have to search for answers to the questions.

It consist of 3 sections, 40 questions and the exam is 60 minutes.

3. Writing section
Before entering the exam, I did read a lot on essays by other IELTS candidates, thus I also read the comments by the marker to get a better understanding on the mistakes of the essay.

There will be 2 types of questions:

(a) Graph / pie / chart / statistics - any kind of graphic visuals that correlates with numbers, that you have to try and practice writing for all types of visuals.
(b) A general opinion question, which in my revious post, I did mention that the topic was: "Should rich countries give money or services to poor countries?"

I find the writing section, even though the questions, were OK for me (yes, I read a lot of current issues), I thought I would score higher for this section. I was wrong. After getting my result, I noticed that the writing section for IELTS actually need us to know lots of variation for words.

For example: the line shown in the graph is static (thus, some of static's word variations: do not fluctuate much, maintain stagnant, does not show any movement, do not increase or decrease, not climbing, no upward or downward trends). That kind of word variations. Because, for the examiner, if you keep repeating static, and you cannot use the variation of words to describe it, thus it will be boring (that's my own opinion).

The writing section is in 60 minutes, and you have to complete the 2 tasks with count of words between 150 - 250 words for each tasks.

4. Speaking section
The speaking section will be conducted like in 2 days time after we finished sitting for our listening, reading and writing components (these 3 tests were taken in one day).

The speaking section, for Malaysia's IELTS was different than the questions that I researched for the speaking section.

The speaker will give a cue card for us to start conversation with him / her. My topic was 'Library', thus the speaker will start throwing questions on this topic. It was sort of interesting, since I was not really that prepared for this section. I was actually dumb struck, when I found the test was way different than what I found on the Internet.

Some of the questions for my cue card;

What do you think about library?
What resources you can get from library?
What is your favourite library? Can you describe the structure, layout and architecture of the building?
How to attract people to come to library?
What are some of the efforts to increase people's attendance to library?

Trust me, you have to speak fluently in this section. If you have lots of 'Errr' moments, then it will somehow affect the speaking marks, thus lower your band mark for this section.

The speaking section is between 11-14 minutes.

After you finished your exam, the result will be out in 2 weeks time.

I have never revealed my IETLS score, but I do have the certificate. Thus it was ingrained in my memory clearly, haha.

The final score:
Listening: 7.5
Reading: 8.5
Writing: 6.5
Speaking 7.0

Overall band score: Band 7.5

I was in between Band 7: Good User - Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning and Band 8: Very Good User - Has full operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.

Comparison between my friends of the famed Gang of 4: Lynn, Kak Tini and Aini, I was in between them. Lynn was the highest at band 8.5, Kak Tini was at Band 8, and Aini did score high for the IELTS, even though she did not study at all.. warghhh.

Thus, all of us, based on reading from Wikipedia, are eligible to attempt to enter Oxford University, since the requirement is Band 7. I noticed my dream college, London School of Economics, require Band 7 or Band 7.5 (aahhhh, my dream is to study in LSE).

My sister, Alyaa, who has a Degree in English Literature, did mention her friends scored between Band 8 / 8.5 / 9.0 (the requirement for her course was to score Band 8 and above). Thus, her MUET is so 'kacang putih' that she scored Band 5 out of Band 6 (again, I stress, the requirement of her course for MUET is that she has to score Band 4 and above).

IELTS should never be underestimated. Since my friends, love to read, thus we did learn a lot of new and complex words. My youngest sister, Afiqah, improved her English by reading Harry Potter series, which is fiction, thus never ever underestimate the power of reading fiction books.

Some of the interesting facts that I also found on Wikipedia:

Countries with highest averages

In 2007, the top five countries of residence with the highest average scores for the Academic Strand of the IELTS test were:[3]
  1. Germany
  2. Malaysia
  3. Philippines
  4. Russia
  5. Hong Kong

[edit]Results by first language of candidate

The top 5 language-speaking (or nationality) groups that achieved the best results in 2007 for the Academic Strand of the IELTS test were:[3]
  1. Tagalog
  2. Spanish
  3. Malay
  4. Hindi
  5. Telugu

Isn't it nice to know Malaysia has a high command of English language? *wink*
P/S: I hope this long post will help people out there to get a better view on the test, from my perspective as an IELTS candidate in 2009.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Buruh percuma di hujung minggu

Dia sendiri yang offer diri untuk tolong sapu lantai

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Red is my favourite colour

I think I have pass the phase that all those pastel colours or just plain soothing colour are not my taste anymore.

I use to love light blue so much, but now, when I try to pick a thing within that colour, I found other colours such as red much more lively and vibrant.

As for my baju kurungs, I have passed the phase where I need flowery patterns on my kain. I prefer much more abstract patterns and more vibrant colours. Let say, I prefer the vibrant colours when I hit 27. Thus, the kids' wardrobe also consist of more strong colours.

Eh mengarut pula sampai wardrobe colour choice kan? The point is, I got a red purse from my mom & Aini yesterday. They just came back from Perth. And oh wow, it seemed that they hit the nail when they gave me a red colour purse. My old one just went to the dustbin, due to the usual tear and wear (where the tear was more prominent in my case, that my hubby did give me some money to buy a new purse).

And I love it, love it, love it! They told me that the purse is very cheap, though I am liking more the fact that I got a new red purse to match with my red handbag and red laptop backpack.

Anyway, just uploading the kids picture (sekadar selingan), since we went to Mines to watch Madagascar 3 last Saturday. BTW, Fateh wore a t-shirt with Cars cartoon characters based on his own request. The kids enjoyed the movie very much ^_^

Gambar selingan...

Monday, 11 June 2012

Aurat wanita

I found this chart (through Facebook) to explain about our aurat as a Muslim lady. Quite useful, I must say.

Usually, the aurat is explained through readings, thus I find it quite hard to explain to others about the aurat. Especially when it come to complicated cases such as explaining that your uncle by marriage is an ajnabi, not a mahram.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Long holiday

Went back to Melaka. Attended training. Long journey to Kelantan last Friday.

My cousin was getting married, and the kenduri was held last Saturday. Of course, driving 7 hours to Kelantan, I had stiff neck and my body was aching badly (though I was a co-pilot).

My kids enjoyed Kelantan tremendously. Mok's village was laidback as usual, Fateh learned that goats do exist (being a town boy, he never saw a live goat before, even though we did come back for our Raya holidays last year). I think he forgot about the goats after we were back in KL. We played badminton in the late afternoons (badminton is the craze with the kids nowadays) and Fateh & Fahri were usually found looking at the fish pond, or picking some small stones at Mok's front yard.

Once in a while, I just wished that KL is more like Kelantan. The serenity and peace is wonderful for relaxing. Even though there were lots of people, it was much more laidback and people greeted each other (in my grandma's kampung).

I had nasi berlauk (a must have Kelantan delicacies) for breakfast. My kids preferred nasi lemak,  but they switched their tastebuds to nasi berlauk.

I did cook for my grandma, even though it was just fried egg, grandma has been complaining non stop that it was tasteless. Haha.. I did put just a little bit of salt, and my grandma prefer much more salt than usual. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were accompanied with some sort drinks such as cordials or tea. Since my family prefer air kosong / sky juice, it was kind of new to us to take sweet drinks. But we have been eating non stop since we attended bekwoh (kenduri in Kelantanese) and my aunts and cousin did some makan-makan sessions.

We came back here on Monday.
I just wish my Kelantan holiday was longer *_*