This is actually my first post. Guess I got more from this forum than I contributed till now, So Here is my first contribution. I studied for the exam two full days before the exam date, and some random trial here and there but not more than a few hours. This is mainly because I study toward the GMAT now and I want to make it for the first round of applications. Another reason is that I assumed that writing/reading is already something I practice every day when learning to the GMAT so all I have left was listening/speaking. I am not a native speaker and my use of the English language is not too often. I traveled from work several times and used my speaking skills for a few days here and there. I didn't live in a foreign country and I didn't study for my first degree in an institute where only English is used.
I took the exam two weeks ago, and received my scores today. This is my take on each section:
If I could predict anything is that I'll probably get the 2 reading comprehensions pilot, and for my disappointment I did. This 2 additional reading comprehensions pilot would be more tolerable if I had ear plugs with me. One of the few solid advices I can give you is bring ear plugs. I read in some forum (I don't remember where) that there are ear plugs given in the class room, and you cannot bring your own. The supervisor in the exam told me to use the headphones as ear plugs. It is quite obvious that if I'm telling you that these headphones are far from being helpful when used as ear plugs. So bring ear plugs, if there are in there will be ear plugs given in the class room just don't use them. Regarding the reading comprehensions themselves I was quite surprised to find out that they are a lot more difficult than the ones in the free sampler I got. Luckily I am currently studying for the GMAT so I could handle them any way. The first reading comprehension (that I guess wasn't a part of the pilot) was easier than the following 2 sets of 2 reading comprehensions. In the last reading comprehension I guessed a questions and didn't manage to answer 2 at all. So either the last one was part of the pilot or it is not too bad to do so. I was really afraid to score low on this part since it was really hard to concentrate when people around you made any sort of noise ( I kept hearing someone clicking on something..). My advice is time yourself doing 5 reading comprehensions and not just 3 or less. Another thing is do harder reading comprehensions than those from the sampler. I think that I practiced from Kaplan
's TOEFL CD and they were more close in their difficulty level than the sampler did. I also used Barron's TOEFL CD to practice some reading comprehensions, yet I never did 5 consecutive reading comprehensions.
Again I was surprised here from the difficulty level. When I practiced at home with the sampler I didn't encounter this difficulty level. Again the Kaplan
/Barron CDs are closer to the level in the exam itself. The most annoying thing was again to lose concentration due to the fact that some people already finished there's first part, since they did not receive the pilot as I did. Some of them even started there speaking part, this was again frustrating. I don't know if you can use ear plugs and listen at the same time, but I bet it's better than hearing others speak while you try to listen. Some of the questions regarding the listening parts were really specific, and contained small details. I recommend to write names, events, dates and etc. to avoid guessing as I did. On the other hand I still managed to score well so don't get too stressed if you have no idea what was that detail. I guess must of you are costumed to hear English from music or television. This will certainly help you, yet practice some listening to see that you manage to listen and write down some details when you need to. This is not trivial as I found out when I practiced.
This was my must dreaded section of the exam. I think I spent the most time to practice for this part ( I guess this is why it is my highest score of all sections
). I got really intimidated when I first tried to practice this part, since I found out you don't get a lot of time to think you have to speak in almost no time. My advice for this part is that beside practicing with as much test demos as you can get, there is a very fixed pattern to the questions in this part. You can't guess ahead what are the 2 first questions but keep in mind some people and places you can talk about in the first question and practice it out loud (I even recorded myself). In the second question be ready to write down some ideas for one side and the other (very shortly) and take a side quickly (it doesn't really matter which one) and speak about it. the rest of the questions in this part are always about the same things (lecture, argument about university decision, a problem of a student and solutions to it and so on..). I used these excellent templates:
Question 1: Personal Preference
Describe something (favorite thing/person/etc.). Present/past tenses, or conditional situation. 15 seconds preparation, 45 speaking.
Personally, I would have to say that ...
my favorite X is/was ...
if I got the opportunity to ...
First of all, ...
So, that's why ... [restate]
Question 2: Choice between two.
15 seconds preparation, 45 speaking.
prefer X rather than Y
agree that X rather than Y
because of many reasons:
So that's why I prefer/agree that.
Question 3: Campus situation: fit and explain.
Short passage explaining a new policy/proposal/etc in campus + conversation.
30 seconds preparation, 60 speaking.
On the one hand, in the reading, there is a ... about ...
In fact, the University/College/School is ... The main reasons are...
On the other hand, the student/man/woman agrees/disagrees with the policy/proposal.
His/Hers/Theirs reasons are:
Question 4: Academic course: General/Specific.
Short passage + lecture. The passage explains something in general terms, and the professors usually gives examples or applications of the concept.
30 seconds preparation, 60 speaking.
Based on the passage, the X is ...
During the lecture, the professor explains further the topic by giving two examples/applications.
The first example he/she gives is...
The second ...
These examples are useful to understand the concept of X.
Question 5: Campus situation: Problem/Solution.
Conversation between two students about some problem in campus.
20 seconds preparation, 60 speaking.
According to the conversation, the woman/man has a problem about ...
His/her friend, gives him/her two suggestions.
In my opinion, he/she should do ... because ...
Here it is VERY important that you give your opinion. Therefore, don't spend too much time describing the situation.
Try to choose which option do you prefer while listening the conversation, and start thinking why is better that solution. Do not restate the SAME arguments of the adviser, so try to find any other advantage of that solution from your personal experience.
Question 6: Academic course: Summary.
20 seconds preparation, 60 speaking.
The lecturer is talking about ... in the scope of a ... class.
According to him, the X is ...
Here there isn't an easy template to use.
Usually, the speaker explains something by giving examples, steps in a process or facts in chronological order. The key here is to pick the dates/steps of the process/etc during the speech. Forget about other details.
You have to paraphrase the explanation by giving the most important ideas, not the details.
(credit for these templates is to rid around the world blog
I did not memorize these templates, I rather used them as a guide to what are the questions about, and get a general idea of how I should respond. After you'll practice more and more parts the time allotted will seem more reasonable than in you're first trials.
For this part i used chineseburned (http://gmatclub.com/forum/how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-guide-64327.html
) templates. The second template is extremely helpful, so my advice is to memorize it. This will definitely help you when you tackle the second question in the exam. For the first question I drew a table and wrote down the reading passage argument in short and than when I listened I tried to find a counter argument for each one. In my opinion it is more important to listen carefully, because the reading passage will reappear when you'll have to write you're response. You can take the general idea of how to write this part from the first template. (it will probably not fit exactly , I think..).
You can freely ask me any questions
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My TOEFL Debrief: http://gmatclub.com/forum/my-toefl-experience-99884.html
My GMAT Debrief: http://gmatclub.com/forum/670-730-10-luck-20-skill-15-concentrated-power-of-will-104473.html