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TOEFL Debrief 108/120. 2 Weeks Preparation.

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TOEFL Debrief 108/120. 2 Weeks Preparation.  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Jan 2015, 05:57
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Hello everyone !

Since surfing on this forum helped me find speaking partners and lower my stress before the exam, I thought I would share my experience with you.

I signed up to take the test on a whim. I had thus only two weeks before the exam, and I was not aware of the specificity of the iBT exam. (I discovered you could postpone the test too late). And, because I'm a bit of an air-head, I signed up at the end of the semester, exactly when I had a bunch of essays to hand in at school. As a consequence, I did not have much time to prepare. I decided to focus on my weak points. I'm used to reading and listening tasks since I already passed Cambridge ESOL certification a few years back. The different format for the writing, and especially the speaking really unsettled me. That is why I decided to really work on those two tasks. I do not have the possibility to practice, as nobody around me speaks the language fluently. I'm very self-conscious about my accent, and lose almost all my abilities when I have to speak
Since I lacked adequate ressources (all the iBT prep book and CDs of my library were borrowed), I practiced with type questions I found, and videos on youtube. I tried different channels, to see all the different propositions. The most useful to me were not the one with templates (that I find quite unnatural for the speaking part), but the one with the note-taking tips. They basically tell you what information you should look for in priority in the text or dialog extract.
So I watched a few videos, just after signing up, and rewatched the note-taking ones the day before the test.

The day of the test :

It felt like quite an adventure. I planned to get there almost an hour in advance just to be sure (not a lot of public transportation, and the few ones that are there are unreliable).
It was a good thing since the exam taking place was not well indicated. Luckily, other test-takers were present and we eventually found our way. To make matters better, I had the flu that day, with all the great things that that entails : sore throat, running nose headache. Security against cheating is very high, they check your pockets, see if you have any electronical devices, and only allow two tissues (I had brought three packs full of them as a precaution ).

Anyway, after they checked me in, I was seated to my computer for the test. The room was quite small (don't remember exactly, but around 13 places), but bright because of the big windows.
We were 11 to take the exam that day.

I was the fourth to start.

Reading : Though I'm used to that kind of exam, I thought it was difficult. It may be due to the fact that I didn't study that part at all.
There was a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo I was not familiar with. Also, sometimes I felt there was no good answer, so I trusted my instinct, and went with the one that was closer to what I would have answered (if we had to type them ).

Listening : Just like the reading, I found this part quite difficult. I learned English watching movies, so my listening skills are OK. Yet, I sometimes felt the propositions for the answer to be far-fetched, or worded in a very strange manner.

I don't have much tips for those parts, as I feel it really depends on the subject. You can prepare by improving your vocabulary, and try practicing on mock test. (Haven't had the time so don't know how effective it is)

I know that, when I think too much about something, I will start to doubt.
That is why I went with my gut, when I was not sure of an answer.
And in case of doubt, the first intuition is usually right.

Anyway, after the first two parts, I was the first to finish. During the break, I took a much needed snack: the part I dreaded the most was about to come, I needed energy.

Speaking : After seating down, I had a few minutes to myself. Rather than writing down templates, I draw a few tables to help me organize my notes. That is very useful for the integrated tasks.
Surprisingly, I found it relatively easy compared to what I was expecting. Maybe it is because the first two parts were harder, or maybe because I studied it the most.
Anyway, if you know how to take and organize your notes, the task is not that scary.
I was not really satisfied of my answers because the stress made me lose some of my abilities. Also, I completely failed one question.
In this case, the best thing to do is not to panic. Remember you are not graded on one question only.
Take a deep breath, clam down, and get ready for the next question. That is my advice.

Writing: Once again, I found that part easier than expected. The videos I watched for the integrated writing. really help me take notes. I knew what to look for : Argument - counter Argument. The notes were good, so I just had to word it.
Be careful to vary your vocabulary, especially verbs of opinion.
The independant task subject was interesting. It's good to be enthusiast, but remember to organize your thought in a logical and hierarchical manner.
Also, be very careful of the time ! It flies by quickly, and it is essential to keep a few minutes for spell check.

Once I was done, I was relieved. I also felt conflicted. I was not completely satisfied of my answers, but since I did the best in my condition (flu), I decided to validate my answer.

Because of the end of the year celebration, I only got my results recently. I was pleasantly surprised of the grades I got, here are the details :

R: 28
L: 27
S: 26
W: 27

Anyway, my advice to other would be :
- Focus on your weak points
- Learn about the exam format
- Learn how to organize your notes efficiently
- Work on your vocabulary (verbs of opinion/expression, phrasal verbs, idioms)
- For the first two parts: read the news in english, listen to the radio, watch movies
- For the last two parts: get familiar with the format; practice
- Don't dramatize, don't panic if you fail one question. Besides, it's just a test, you can retake it later
- Don't sign up until you feel ready

I personally thinks the templates are useful if you get stressed, but you should try to vary and express your thoughts in an organized manner without relying to heavily on them.


Good luck to all of you ! Hope you all get the score you want !
GMAT Club Bot
TOEFL Debrief 108/120. 2 Weeks Preparation.   [#permalink] 06 Jan 2015, 05:57
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