Interview with student, Austin Li, who scored 102/120 on the TOEFL iBT
Michael: Thanks for agreeing to do a short interview about TOEFL. Could you tell me about yourself?
Austin: I am a freshman in North Carolina. I took the paper Toefl when I was a first year in High school in Shanghai basically for fun. I guess I was around 580/677 on TOEFL PBT (TOEFL iBT 83) at that time. It was a really a long time ago, and I have a bad memory. And I took my second toefl the winter before I came to the US (sometime around Dec. or Nov. 2007). As far as I can remember, I had a 29 on reading and 27 on listening. I bombed [scored poorly] the speaking section because I was not quite familiar with the format of the test. The oral part was 20/30, and I got 26 on the writing section.
Michael: So, your total score was 102/120, a respectable score by any standard. How long did you have to prepare for the test?
Austin: I only had two months before the college application to prepare for all the tests. As the sat is much harder than Toefl, I spent most my time in Sat rather than toefl. Though I was not too engaged in toefl, I do have some tips that I think can be helpful to other people.
Michael: Essentially, by preparing for the SAT (Scholastic Admissions Test in the US), you were also preparing for the TOEFL iBT. Furthermore, since the SAT tests much higher level language skills than the TOEFL iBT, the TOEFL iBT was a relatively easy test for you. So, what are some tips that you think would help others who have to take the TOEFL iBT?
Austin: First, remember as many words as possible. It’s the basis for this test. I felt the reading and listening was really easy after I had memorized most of the SAT words in a Baron book(I can not remember the book’s name). It’s a list around 3000 words. I think that book is still quite popular now.
Second, Do the practice test before the actual TOEFL iBT. There is a free online practice test on the ETS website, which I discovered after I bombed the TOEFL iBT speakings section. Direct information will always be helpful. A lot of people I know did not take the Online test either?
Michael: I agree with that as well. The only condition ETS stipulates is that you must register and pay the $150.00 for the official TOEFL iBT. Then they allow you access to the practice test. And, students who wish to take the free Online test should make sure that they advance register for the TOEFL iBT so that they have enough time to take the practice TOEFL iBT beforehand. What other advice would you give students?
Austin: Third, don’t put your life only on learning TOEFL iBT test-taking strategies. Well, a lot of test skills are indeed helpful to the test. But take it like this: these skills are summarized by past tests, and you are going to have a completely new test. What if the test changes just when you take it? Just learn from the tests but do not try to summarize anything. There is definitely no common rule in this test except that the right answer is based on a good command of the language.
Michael: You took the words right out of my mouth. While it is important for test-takers to be familiar with how to take the TOEFL iBT, they should not try to memorize vocabulary, reading passages or anything else from previous TOEFL iBT tests. The real purpose for most test-takers to to develop the kind of academic English proficiency expected at English-speaking universities. Do you have any tips of what to do the day before the test?
Austin: Fourth, get a good sleep the night before the test. VERYVERY important for most people. Keep awake and do your best during a test weighs more than any last minute memorizing. I think I was trying to writing my college application essay the night before the test, and I fell asleep in the middle of the writing part. Though I finished it, I did not have anytime to review my writing, which made me worry a lot.
Michael: It is amazing how many students tell me that they fell asleep during the TOEFL iBT. I mean here you are, taking the one of the most important tests in your life, a test that will detemine your academic future. And you fall asleep!? Like you said, it is important not to TOEFL cram the night before taking TOEFL iBT. There is no way to prepare for the TOEFL iBT in one day. Following a step by step regular study routine over an extended period of time, you can adequately prepare yourself for taking the TOEFL iBT. We have a saying in American culture: “Rome was not built in a day.”
Austin: Finally, don’t regard toefl the final boss for the college life. Basically it’s just a start. The reading in Toefl seems to be quite stereotypical. (I think the ibt reading itself didn’t change much from the last paper toefl I took.) College reading needs deeper understanding. And the TOEFL writing is really formatted. Good college-level writers will not be restricted by these formats. I think this tip can be quite helpful at least to me. If someone had told me this, I would have been more serious about English, and likely would have felt much better in my college right now.
Michael: Far too many students study English just so they can pass the TOEFL, but they still do NOT have the reading and writing skills needed when taking university courses. Like you said, the TOEFL reading passages have a very predictable organization, and there is a predictable way to organize TOEFL iBT writing tasks. However, actual university reading and writing assignments are far more complex than that. Even during TOEFL iBT listening, the speakers use pronunciation which is too perfect and is in no way representative of the kind of English students will listen to at college campuses in the US. Austin, thank you very much for taking the time to share your story. Good luck to you in your university studies!
http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/index.html (TOEFL iBT)
http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page31.html (TOEFL iBT Speaking)
http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page28.html (TOEFL iBT Writing)
http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page23.html (TOEFL iBT Reading)
http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page20.html (TOEFL iBT Listening)
http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page14.html (TOEFL iBT Pronunciation)
http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page17.html (TOEFL iBT Grammar)
http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page10.html (TOEFL iBT Vocabulary)