Hi All !
I’d like to give you a debrief about my toefl. I toook the test on the 24th of April. And I got this awesome result last Friday (7th of May): 113 !
Reading : 30
Listening : 29
Speaking : 27
Writing : 27
So, thanks for your help because you have your part of responsibility in this score. And here’s my debrief for the test day :
The building where I took the test was awful, but when you get in, it is brand new so it’s okay. There were a lot of people taking the test at the same time as me (9am): I think we were around 60 in the same room; I let you imagine what a mess it was when everybody was speaking.
For sure this was my best part. Everything went well for all questions. I generally even had 30 seconds to look at the review screen at the end of each section. All questions but the very last one which was a 3 points questions where I had to choose 9 sentences out of 11 and fill the right boxes, something like that. But the thing is, I had 5 texts, so I guess any mistake in this question didn’t impact my score because it’s 30. When I read the 1st text I had the feeling that it wouldn’t be graded because it seemed a bit tough. Maybe I was right as I had 5 texts. The timing was as follow: 20min – 40 min – 40 min
My technique for the reading was the following: I didn’t read texts first. I looked at the final question to have an idea of what I would have to look for and then jumped into the first question without reading. I was always reading the question first, then reading the appropriate paragraph(s), and then answering the question. This worked pretty fine for me and I guess I would recommend this (even though some guys may prefer to read first). My point is: for texts number 4 and number 5, I wouldn’t have understood anything of the meaning if I had taken 5 minutes to read it because I was too tired; plus the majority of the people in the room began their listening section when I began reading passage 4 and I could hear the noise from their headsets; so there was no point in wasting that time reading; I kept a lot more focus by knowing what I had to look for and reading specific paragraphs and sentences. It worked, so that was the right strategy for me.
I was expecting 29 in this section and I got better.
When I finished the 5th text after 1h and 40 min I was already tired and my attention was really bad. I was almost hallucinating in front of my screen because I was exhausted. I didn’t really eat in the morning but I had brought some sugar in the test room so I fed my brain with that. I really had the feeling that I had failed this section because sometimes even for easy questions, I was hesitating and kind of guessing.
My main problem during my preparation was that I was taking too many notes. After my preparation at home, I began taking less and less notes to focus only on essential points. I listened to plenty of podcasts from “Stuff you should know” (cf itunes); I never had any difficulty understanding what they were saying. I guess my real preparation in this section was the fact that I have been watching American movies and series for the past 5 years without any subtitles.
The difficulty of this section for me was only the note taking process: knowing what to write and what not to write to get descent notes and be efficient to answer.
Plus of course everybody in the room was speaking loudly while I was still listening (thanks to my 5 texts).
In the end I was really unhappy with that section and I was expecting/hoping for a 25. Apparently it went better.
During my preparation, I bought one of the official training tests from ETS. The software gave me a nice 22 for the speaking section. So from that point I was really worried about it and I tried to train myself. It was quite tough to find clever things to say in proper English and sometimes my mouth was freezing because I had no ideas. Hence this section was supposed to be my weakest one. When I finished this part in the real test, I thought that it went better than usual at home in front of my computer. So considering the 22 I got from the practice test, I was hoping for 25 here. And it went better also.
I didn’t really prepare this section until the day before the test. I didn’t study any book for this. I only followed some nice templates I found on web forums. So I learnt every single word from these templates and used these to build my texts. This helped because I only had to find my 3 ideas and fill the blanks in my templates.
So my resources are attached to this post. (thanks to Chineseburned, triple5soul and DanaJ)
I had time to review my texts after writing (I mean, very quickly so I may have left some mistakes, I even found one at the last second, and I couldn’t correct it). Note that I messed up with the keyboard because while trying to find the inverted comma I hit several keys at the same time and must have done a special combination which made the space bar plus the erase button not work. So I called the guy and he rebooted the computer. I think I lost 1.30 min thanks to that and some focus.
I was expecting 29 in this section and I’m unpleased to get a 27.
When I got out of the building, it was 1.30 pm and I had arrived at 8 am so it was really long. I was really disappointed of my test and I was only hoping for 105 (which was my goal before the test). I was almost sure I was below 105 and was ready to take it again and at the same time really angry at myself. So seeing 113 was surprising and I was really happy. I was unsure of the listening section and the speaking one so that’s why I feared a 103 or 104.
So thanks again for the advices and tips I could read here. They worked well for me. This grade is motivating me for the gmat now.