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TOEFL Debrief

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Manager
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Joined: 03 Aug 2011
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TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2012, 00:59
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Hi guys,

as promised - here is my TOEFL debrief from my yesterday's exam. In fact, I'm not that satisfied. I think I could have done better, but let's wait another 10 days for the official score (I still hope to get between 100 and 110, but, as I have a better knowledge of the exam now, I think it's doable for me to score up to 115).

My preparation strategy:
Starting November 2011 I visited a TOEFL preparation course (3 hours twice a week in the weekends) where I worked in a small group. We completed tests from various prep resources - Delta, Cambridge, Kaplan, etc. and had a total of 15 sessions for about 2 months. This helped my preparation a lot, as I was able to train the basics - completed several tests, had someone score my speaking performance, wrote about 15 essays (Integrated & Independent tasks). Towards the end of January 2012 I started my own preparation including:
- ETS TOEFL OG - to ultimately see what the raters are looking for,
- NoteFull's Videos on YouTube - in order to boost my speaking score (I thought it to be my weakest area),
- Ouliogrooves YouTube channel, containing much materials to practice Speaking
- completed many additional complete tests from various resources - Cambridge, Kaplan, Barrons, Thomson & Longman. If you ask me, the one's, which are worth it are definitely the first three ;)

My exam day
I looked for a test date, which is in the morning, because I think I'm a kind of a morning person. The day prior to the test I went to see where the test centre was and yesterday (11th of February) arrived there about 9 am. Then completed all administrative steps - filling in of some forms, photo etc. And then the test just started. At least in my case - I wasn't allowed to take anything inside the test room, except my ID.

Reading - I got the long reading (currently max. 4 reading passages), which were ALL based on some scientific articles. I really expected them to be more diversified, but it turned out to be that it's possible to get passages from just one category, in my case - Biology. I would say all four reading texts were not difficult, but were slightly harder than OG, going towards Kaplan and Barrons level (Cambridge Reading is still harder I think). I was good on time with the first three passages and started the last one with 2 mins more on the timer. Unfortunately, I somehow struggled on some questions and started running out of time for the last 4 questions, which I just completed randomly/best guessing. Just poor time strategy. Now I hope that exactly this will be the passage, which won't be rated, but we'll see. The stupid thing is that in my entire preparation I really never ran out of time in the Reading.

Listening - the listening was OK. It included 2 conversations (Student-Student or Student-Professor) and 4 Lectures, and all questions were accepted. In my preparation, I first tried to have good notes on the Listening, but afterwards discovered that this distracts me too much from listening to the conversations. That's why I started jotting down only complicated words, or some complex lists, sometimes mentioned in scientific lectures.

Break - it was difficult to get to the WC, as all wanted to do that in the break. BUT don't bother - the test center administrator defines when the Speaking starts. By entering his/her password he activates the exam again so it can't happen that you're still waiting for the WC and the Speaking part begins.

Speaking - while it was quite distracting for me that everyone around me started the Speaking section, the Speaking turned out to be maybe the easiest part of the exam. It passes by very quickly and all reading/listening passages were more that acceptable. Have in mind that when the administrator enters his/her password in your computer and you're allowed to move on with the test you can take all the time in the world to write down some Speaking structures (e.g. NoteFull's answer structure suggestions) and, as you're ready, click on Continue and calibrate your microphone. By doing this, you'll have the advantage that you'll have heard what the other people have answered to one questions, and you'll have some idea what to say.

Writing - the Writing part began right after Speaking. Both topics were acceptable. The Listening (Integrated Essay) was well structured and easy to follow. Here I would suggest not to follow NoteFull's tips, but rather read/skim the entire reading passage (not only the thesis sentence in the first paragraph and the introductions sentences of the remaining paragraphs), write down the important information, and then focus on the information from the Listening, as it is more important. Time should be enough to write much more than 150-225 words. Regarding the Independent Essay, 30 mins are more than enough. Just think of some good arguments and provide examples (comes always good in the Writing, as well as in the Speaking section).

Conclusions, Findings & Tips for you
- Reading - always follow the timer and if you don't know any answer within 15 secs (there appear to be some misleading questions) just go to the next one and return using "Review";
- Listening - just relax, it's all as you expect it.
- Speaking - after the break, take your time jotting down your structure and wait for the other's to begin. You all have the same exam/questions and you can benefit if you last go into the Speaking section as you'll have some ideas/arguments in hand.
- Writing - again, relax, time is enough. Structure your arguments well. In the integrated essay focus on the Listening and just mention what the reading stated. In the independent essay - take your time, structure your supporting arguments and just write what comes into mind. In both essays try to use connectors in ordero for your essays to be fluent.

Well, I hope this helps. I will be happy to answer all kinds of questions and plan to update my post once I have some hard facts regarding my score ;)

Regards,
_________________

Thank you very much for reading this post till the end! Kudos?


Last edited by bgpower on 12 Feb 2012, 10:21, edited 1 time in total.
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Senior Manager
Senior Manager
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Concentration: Operations, Strategy
GMAT 1: 730 Q50 V40
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GMAT ToolKit User GMAT Tests User Premium Member
Re: TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2012, 09:20
Thanks for the debrief, bgpower. Excellent stuff! I recollect how distracting it was having to listed/read whilist others are rattling off. :x
Which set of tests do you think are most representative of the actual test?
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Manager
Manager
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Joined: 03 Aug 2011
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GMAT 1: 640 Q44 V34
GPA: 3.7
WE: Project Management (Energy and Utilities)
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Kudos [?]: 23 [0], given: 265

GMAT ToolKit User
Re: TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2012, 10:29
Hi rasta,

regarding the noise - that's really destracting! Well, after some minutes it's possible to focus, but still not the best idea for an exam to have that many people in a single room and leave them speak. But honestly, the Speaking part was even easier and more quiet when compared with the Writing, when some of the computers turned out to be without a modern noise-reduction keyboard. That was even more challenging!

Talking about the different test sets there are two facettes, which one has to have in mind.
1. Most representative are the one by ETS - so tests in ETS OG or the Online TOEFL tests, ehich one can buy on ets.org/toefl. As they seem to me pretty expensive, I suggest you focus on point two.
2. From the remaining test sets I would definitely recommend Cambridge, Barrons & Kaplan. Cambridge have the hardest Reading passages (good to train), Kaplan's tests are very close to the real TOEFL in terms of difficulty level, and, finally, Barrons are the ones, who only have tests with the long Reading and Listening formats. I think that's important, as the long Listening section with 6 lectures and 3 conversations is very challenging, at least to me. The concentration has to be very good.

Hope that helps! Will be happy to answer more questions, so feel free to ask!

Regards,
_________________

Thank you very much for reading this post till the end! Kudos?

Manager
Manager
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Status: Retaking next month
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Joined: 05 Mar 2011
Posts: 229
Location: India
Concentration: Marketing, Entrepreneurship
GMAT 1: 570 Q42 V27
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Kudos [?]: 21 [0], given: 32

Re: TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2012, 21:03
Hi bg power. good to see your debrief.

Regarding my prep. I have just listened & memorized the speaking section structure from youtube.

My Exam is on Friday & this is what I have done Till now. Am I underestimating the TOEFL exam.

Please suggest what I can do in the remaining 4 days. I will go & buy the Official book today.

EMERGENCY. Please help
Manager
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Joined: 03 Aug 2011
Posts: 220
Location: Bulgaria
GMAT 1: 640 Q44 V34
GPA: 3.7
WE: Project Management (Energy and Utilities)
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Kudos [?]: 23 [0], given: 265

GMAT ToolKit User
Re: TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2012, 22:49
Hi GMATPASSION,

you're definitely not underestimating things. I mean - in my eyes, TOEFL is not the most difficulst English exam. It's just that it has some tricks, which you have to understand. Most of them are in the Speaking section, so the YT videos will help.

Regarding Reading, Listening and Writing - I think you should just have a look at the OG in order to get a feeling about the reading passages, which you might encounter, and the essay writing structure they expect you to use. The listening shouldn't be a problem for people with a good knowledge in English. I would propose:
- for Reading - have a look on the passages in OG, and then maybe read some scientific articles - Biology, Astronomy, Business, History, Art - those are the things which might come! You may think of buying Barrons, Cambridge or Kaplan's prep materials, but I doubt you'll have enough time do complete them.
- for Writing - just watch Notefull's videos for Writing, where he explains a good structure you might apply!

Hope this helps! Feel free to ask more questions!

Regards,
_________________

Thank you very much for reading this post till the end! Kudos?

Manager
Manager
avatar
Status: Retaking next month
Affiliations: None
Joined: 05 Mar 2011
Posts: 229
Location: India
Concentration: Marketing, Entrepreneurship
GMAT 1: 570 Q42 V27
GPA: 3.01
WE: Sales (Manufacturing)
Followers: 4

Kudos [?]: 21 [0], given: 32

Re: TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2012, 23:08
bgpower wrote:
Hi GMATPASSION,

you're definitely not underestimating things. I mean - in my eyes, TOEFL is not the most difficulst English exam. It's just that it has some tricks, which you have to understand. Most of them are in the Speaking section, so the YT videos will help.

Regarding Reading, Listening and Writing - I think you should just have a look at the OG in order to get a feeling about the reading passages, which you might encounter, and the essay writing structure they expect you to use. The listening shouldn't be a problem for people with a good knowledge in English. I would propose:
- for Reading - have a look on the passages in OG, and then maybe read some scientific articles - Biology, Astronomy, Business, History, Art - those are the things which might come! You may think of buying Barrons, Cambridge or Kaplan's prep materials, but I doubt you'll have enough time do complete them.
- for Writing - just watch Notefull's videos for Writing, where he explains a good structure you might apply!

Hope this helps! Feel free to ask more questions!

Regards,


Thanks for the feedback bgpower. Lets hope everything goes well .Thanks.
Manager
Manager
User avatar
Joined: 03 Aug 2011
Posts: 220
Location: Bulgaria
GMAT 1: 640 Q44 V34
GPA: 3.7
WE: Project Management (Energy and Utilities)
Followers: 8

Kudos [?]: 23 [0], given: 265

GMAT ToolKit User
Re: TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 13 Feb 2012, 09:39
Just relax! It's not complicated! Be quick and motivated and the outcome will be a positive one!

Regards,
_________________

Thank you very much for reading this post till the end! Kudos?

Manager
Manager
User avatar
Joined: 03 Aug 2011
Posts: 220
Location: Bulgaria
GMAT 1: 640 Q44 V34
GPA: 3.7
WE: Project Management (Energy and Utilities)
Followers: 8

Kudos [?]: 23 [0], given: 265

GMAT ToolKit User
Re: TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 28 Feb 2012, 07:47
Just to update... I got a meager 103 (R 20/ L 28 / S 27 / W 28), which I am particularly unhappy about! I think, by the time, I'm ready with my applications this or next year, I'll definitely sit again for the TOEFL.

While I'm happy with my scores of Listening, Speaking and Writing, I'm extremely unhappy with my Reading score. In fact, Reading was my strongest area, where I constantly scored around 28-29 and with such a score, I would have got a fantastic 111-112, which would have met my future MBA aspirations resp. the requirements. I do believe that in a second attempt I could increase my other scores as well, as particularly in Speaking, my answeres where not the best I could do.
Additionally, I think Speaking and Writing both are much more difficult that Reading. My high scores in those sections underline my ability to score higher in Reading as well. As you see from my initial post - the result was somehow expected, because while running out of time, I randomly answered about 4-5 questions in my 4th reading passage.

What would be your suggestion? Re-take it in the near future while studying for the GMAT (next month) or first crack the GMAT and the come back to the TOEFL?

Regards,
_________________

Thank you very much for reading this post till the end! Kudos?

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Re: TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 28 Feb 2012, 12:42
Manager
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Joined: 03 Aug 2011
Posts: 220
Location: Bulgaria
GMAT 1: 640 Q44 V34
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WE: Project Management (Energy and Utilities)
Followers: 8

Kudos [?]: 23 [0], given: 265

GMAT ToolKit User
Re: TOEFL Debrief [#permalink] New post 02 Mar 2012, 06:50
Thanks, WantGMAT800!

Anyone with an opinion onto when to take TOEFL again?

Regards,
_________________

Thank you very much for reading this post till the end! Kudos?

Re: TOEFL Debrief   [#permalink] 02 Mar 2012, 06:50
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