To improve her speaking and pronunciation, Valery subscribes to a new TOEFL course.

Valery, needing to re-take the TOEFL iBT, joined a TOEFL course so she could improve her pronunciation and speaking.  Incredibly, she had never recorded her voice and listened to it before taking her first TOEFL exam. When she saw her subtotal of 13/30 points on speaking, she burst into tears. “Something needed to change,” she thought.

After beginning her online preparation studies, she decided to complete a pronunciation pre-test after which a iBT specialist would listen to, evaluate, and recommended lessons based on her difficulties. But he very thought of having someone else listen to and evaluate her speech made her uncomfortable. What would the specialist say to her?  How much improvement did she need to make before being able to reach her goal of scoring 26/30 on the speaking section? How much practice would she have to make before making progress? What if she could not improve her  pronunciation and speaking fluency? These burning questions made her heart race faster, even to the point that she almost decided not to complete her pre-test.

Then she contemplated the alternative: her speaking score was stuck in the mud, and she needed someone to help her dig out. She needed someone to diagnose her pronunciation problems, and the only way to do that was to post a recording online to which an iBT specialist could listen.  “What have I got to lose?” she thought. “My speaking is already terrible. It can not get any worse.” So, she took a leap of faith and made her first online recording ever.

24 hours later, an iBT specialist posted comments at the Voxopop group where she recorded her pre-test. He gave her an intelligibility score of 3.5/7.0 and recommended that she study 9 lessons to help her improve. The specialist was helpful and friendly and even gave her additional ideas of how she could reduce her accent in American English. After Valery listened to comments from her speaking and pronunciation mentor, she felt a sigh of relief. “Wheeew!  That wasn’t as bad as I thought,” she contemplated.

Not only was it not as bad as she thought, but it was also actually quite helpful because she knew which vowel and consonant sounds were giving her trouble. Furthermore, she could now study lessons to familiarize herself more with these sounds.  She had a plan, and knew after her first recording at the Voxopop group that there would always be a TOEFL iBT specialist at the other end who would evaluate her pronunciation and speaking.  It wouldn’t be long until Valery reached her target score of 26/30.

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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