I'd like to quickly share my recent TOEFL experience with you, since I got my results online earlier this week. I took the exam at a test center in Germany at the end of October. On that day I woke up early and, despite feeling rather tired, I decided to get out of bed and get ready for the test. I probably should mention that I had taken the GMAT on the day before due to a tight schedule, so I was a bit afraid whether two tests within two days would turn out to be too much for me. Anyway, I arrived at the test center almost one hour early. Since I knew close to nothing about the TOEFL, I had initially hoped I would be allowed to begin early as well, but that was not the case. So I had to wait for the other test takers to arrive etc. When the test was finally to begin, the test takers were led to the computer room in groups of two. Considering that we were about 30 test takers, this was a lengthy procedure. On top of that, there was a technical glitch on the side of ETS, which caused another 20-minute delay. Understandably, I was not satisfied with all that, but I tried to relax, since there really is nothing you can do. Also, the server downtime was not the test center's fault but a global issue with ETS.
Then, finally, I was granted access to the sacred test room and seated at the computer. Some of the other test takers were already answering questions in the reading section, so I tried to be as silent as possible.
Reading Section 27/30
They were still bringing in test takers for another 20 minutes or so, which was distracting and not comparable to my GMAT experience at all. Sometimes others were speaking to adjust their mikes, which added to the overall high noise level. Luckily, I managed to concentrate with the earphones on. In total, I got five reading passages. That was more than I had expected, but after having already taken the GMAT the questions were really easy. If you know nothing about the TOEFL yet, let me tell you that there is no reason to be afraid of the reading section. The questions go through the text in an orderly fashion, e.g. the first few questions are concerned with the first paragraph and so on. There are no tricky GMAT-like traps on the TOEFL, either. If you have difficulties reading long texts in English, the only problem you might have could be the time limit. I advise you to first click on "Next" before reading the passage, because this will bring up the first question and the passage will always be displayed on the left of the questions. Otherwise, you might run out of time if you spend five or ten minutes reading the text before getting to the first question. By the way, it isn't really necessary to read the passage as a whole before answering the questions, because, as said, they follow the passage from start to finish. If it makes you feel more comfortable, skim the passage first, but do not try to read it all and memorize the facts. There is no need for that. Aside from that I cannot really give any tips for the reading section. Try to have a little more time for the last question of each passage, because these are concerned with the overall text and might require a little more time to answer. The last question also gives two points instead of one, so you will want to get these right.
This was my worst section, although I usually have no difficulty understanding others talk English at all. There were two or three instances when I was distracted, because other test takers were going into their breaks while I was in the middle of listening to a lecture. Unfortunately for me, I ended up getting a question on that specific part and could only make an educated guess. Overall, I attribute my relatively low listening score to that (together with an odd mistake or two I might have made along the way). It is very important to keep your level of concentration high during the listening section. Also make notes and already structure them in a logical way, e.g. use arrows etc. Aside from that, no real difficulties here, either. If you do have difficulties understanding spoken English, however, you should practice before the test by talking to English-speaking friends and perhaps watching movies in English.
To be honest, I thought this would be my worst section and so I was quite surprised when I got a 27. I do not like the speaking section, because I believe it is not really representative of a test taker's English speaking abilities. After all, they not only give scores for your pronounciation but also for your ability to structure answers within a relatively short time frame of 15 to 30 seconds. I chose not to learn any templates, because I thought I wouldn't need them to be frank. As it turned out, I was right. I did screw up one answer though, because I had to start over after having lost the thread. So if I can give one tip it is to already begin writing things down while listening or reading. Then use the preparation time to organize your thoughts. Already lay your notes out in an order that you think might help you answer the question. The other questions went fine for me, I guess.
Interestingly, going out of the test I also thought the writing section had not gone too well for me. Again, I did not use any template, because I was under the impression that I would be able to organize my thoughts spontaneously. However, I did not spend any time on preparing for the answer, either. Instead, I just started writing. I have a little practice in writing articles or commentaries in English, so maybe that helped. I was surprised to get 30 points, because I had been afraid they would deduct points for non-optimal arguments and the like. As it turned out, I might have been too self-critical, but that often helps, doesn't it?
In total, this adds up to my TOEFL score of 110. At the end of this post I should confess that I had not prepared for the TOEFL at all, because I had only been learning for the GMAT I sat one day before. I did go through the example questions on the ETS website, though, and I can only recommend that you do the same. This will tell you how the computer screen will look during the test and you have a chance to read the instructions beforehand so you won't have to reread them during the actual test.
I wish all of my fellow test takers best of luck with their TOEFL. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to post them here. I will be preparing for my second GMAT attempt for another two weeks, thus I will continue to be a regular visitor of this forum and answer all questions you might have. (I've also been going to share my GMAT experience, but I'm afraid I will only have the time to do so after my second try. I work full-time and so I must use my spare time wisely.)
GMAT 720 Q47 V42 AWA 6.0, TOEFL 110.