Laura begins a TOEFL course in her epic battle to beat the TOEFL.

Laura subscribed to a TOEFL course called “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT” because she needed to score high on the exam so that she could meet the board requirements to become a registered nurse in the United States. She had wanted to become a nurse all her life, and she was willing to do whatever it took to realize her life-long ambition.  After all, becoming a nurse for Laura was a calling not just a job.

So, when it came time to study vocabulary, she quickly began learning the 1,700 basic and advanced vocabulary by creating a note-card system and downloading the audio files onto her iPOD so she could listen to the pronunciation of the words at her convenience. It was hard work to learn the words, but she did because she wanted to become a nurse more than anything.

Without hesitation, she completed two diagnostic pre-tests so that an iBT specialist could evaluate her pronunciation.  It was hard having someone point out all her intelligibility problems, but she knew that she needed feedback to speak more clearly. Then, based on the diagnostic feedback from iBT specialists, she completed more than 48 video lessons plus practice exercises.  Gradually, one lesson at a time, her speech become more and more native-speaker like.  She knew that she would need to speak clearly when she was talking to her patients in a hospital.

Even though Laura would have rather gone to the dentist to have surgery on her teeth than study grammar, a most unpleasant prospect to be sure, she, at the recommendations of her mentor, began studying grammar lessons and practice exercises in all its complexities. She knew that learning to use basic and complex grammar in her speech and her writing with a minimum number of errors would help her to score higher, ultimately leading her closer to her dream of becoming a nurse.

As Laura progressed through her new lessons, she knew that she was making progress, which meant that it would not be long until she passed the exam. Therefore, she tackled the listening and reading lessons head-on by completing 40 listening practice tests, 70 speed reading practice tests, and learning an additional 50 listening and reading lessons teaching her tips and tricks to pass the TOEFL iBT.  Upon completing these two sections, she had achieved 85% listening comprehension and 80% reading comprehension with a speed of 325 words per minute.  Her confidence grew, and she knew that it was time for her to tackle the last two parts of her online course: writing and speaking. She knew that jumping through these last two hurdles would bring her ever so closer to her becoming a nurse.  She could taste her dream it was so  close!

Her motivation never faltered during her studies even when she scored low scores of 20 and 22 points on the writing and speaking practice tests. At least, based on the feedback from her TOEFL mentor, she knew what lessons she needed to review to improve her writing and speaking. She struggled for a while while completing practice tests, getting feedback, reviewing lessons, and completing practice tests yet again. In total, she completed 9 independent and 10 integrated writing tasks and 30 independent and 20 integrated speaking tasks.  After a two-month epic battle to improve her writing and speaking, she began to regularly score 24-25  and 26-27 points on the writing and speaking practice tests.  She was ready to re-take the TOEFL iBT.

She registered, took the test, and a few weeks later got back her results: Reading = 24, Listening = 24, Writing = 24, and Speaking 27 for a total of 99/120. She reached her goal.  For a moment, she reflected on her journey to beat the TOEFL, and then she thought about her new calling to become a nurse. Her crooked smile never left her lips.

This article was written by Michael Buckhoff–co-founder and materials writer for Better TOEFL Scores and The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT, Composition and Linguistics Professor, TOEFL Specialist, ESL Master Instructor, and Placement and Testing Coordinator for California State University, San Bernardino.Follow more posts and videos from Michael at Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.


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