me, myself & andrei

12 Apr 2008
TOEFL

Upon taking the test you actually give you’re consent never to spread out the contents of your test, but make no mistake! The following is only a step-by-step guide and a feeling description.

This is like “holding your hand” or head, if you will, before you take the TOEFL examination :)

Introduction

First of all… TOEFL = Test Of English as a Foreign Language! :D Bingo!

Now that we had that all sorted out, you need to know that there are multiple types of Toefl. It is just an evolution of things: PBT - paper based test, CBT - computer based test and iBT - Internet based test.

If you are going to have the test in a fairly big city, you have high changes to work on the iBT version of it. iBT simply means that not only you will work with a computer and your input will be digitized, but your work will also automatically go to TOEFL authenticated servers through a secure communication.

Every version has different standards for grading, but I’m going to talk about just the iBT version. This one has a maximum of 120! At average universities you will need a minimum of 80 iBT points in order for your level of English to be alright with the course needs.

The test is divided as the Cambridge, and mostly any other language test, may it be English or not, into 4 sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.

Reading

Reading is nothing more than reading a piece of text within a time span, then answering questions showing that you understood what you’ve just read. The peculiar thing is that although the reading and answering parts are timed, while you are answering you have multiple choices to pick from, and also you have the paragraph/sentence that is referenced by the question highlighted. Almost no memory, nor logic skills involved.

Listening

Listening provides short speeches and then you need to answer quite simple questions.

Speaking

Speaking is made up of different questions that you need to answer orally. What’s peculiar about this section is that you have about 30 seconds to think about your answer, and then 30 seconds to talk.

Writing

Writing is all about two pieces of text that you need to formulate. While one is a bit more static, because you need to reference another static text, and sum it up with your own words, the other is more dynamic by making you provide your own perspective.

Now, it all sounds crispy clear, right? But it’s not that easy!

Opinions

Both the Reading and Listening are tricky, or at least I found them to be. While they seem to be so helpful (providing the text, highlighting the paragraph that the question references, multiple choice, etc), the right answer is a bit tricky to find. I mean it’s like having that angel and devil on each of your shoulder… which one to choose, flip a coin.. The multiple choices are really really close sometimes, and you basically need a lot of… English spirit, I would call it. Lots of reading, lots of movies, lots of socializing to get to know all the right nuances and synonyms.

Now don’t worry, ya! There’s plenty of that during Speaking. Now how the hell are you supposed to answer to some quite complex questions in 30 seconds. I personally found myself really cornered! During those 30 seconds of thinking before each answer, I was only jogging down words… not day-to-day words, but a bit over-the-hand words just so I can say what’s on my mind, the way I want it, while still being correct and exact in only 30 seconds.

Writing was the easiest part. All you had to do was to follow the guidelines that you can find out in the online demo. Just follow that specific structure, and you’re ok.

So basically, I think TOEFL was a course with obstacles. It was not the regular.. lets see what you know. Instead it felt more like… lets see how tough you are.

I got 108 out of 120, a score of which I’m quite proud. But what was weird was that I lost points at Speaking and Writing because… wait to hear this.. because I used phrases or words that were too colloquial. Well, blow me for trying to do the best I could!

Anyway… my advice for TOEFL, just hold still and treat it as if you were the best English speaker ever. Just prepare your mind to think that you’ve got 150 points at your disposal, and you only need half of them.

Before, during and after

Concerning the procedures… well, you need to register online at least two weeks before the test date. Otherwise you will pay more. But you should register even earlier anyway, so that you can assure you have a seat, if you are cramped and eager to get your results. At the test center you will have a photo taken, so you might want to go for something casual but decent, no matter how hot or cold it is outside.

Be prepared - there’s only a 10 minutes break after 2 hours, and you’ll have two more hours. While theoretically you can use that time to take a piss, imagine that all the others being tested will want to take a piss, so you might want to cut down on liquids two hours before the test. And also you can use those 10 minutes to flirt - I can’t say that I flirted, but I did have a small talk with a nice curly brunette. I have to say that I’m really sorry I didn’t get her name, nor her phone number. She seemed nice, although she was targeting the US :(

When you finish your last section, pay attention to what you’re doing. You will be asked if you want to send your input for analysis, or if you want to cancel it - most probably because you it didn’t go as you expected and because there’s a minimum period of time between tests (I am only assuming here, so you figure it out). It is also a way to stop having your results being sent to the institutions that you marked upon registering to the exam.

Results will be available online after 15 working days. In the meantime you will have no other results. Be aware that 15 working days means 3 full weeks. Online you can see a list of dates when they will also mail you the certificate through regular post. Mine got to me earlier, but don’t count on that. So whenever you have the deadline, leave 3 weeks for results and another 3 weeks for receiving the paper certificate, in case you also need to have an original paper with you. Most institutions require that you submit your score directly from TOEFL.

That’s it! Break a leg! Hope this was useful!


Andrei