To get: free TOEFL Tips Emails, then Become a Free Member

TOEFL Tip #47: Good Words For Strictly English!

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 29, 2009

Here’s what one friend of Strictly English had to say about the advice we gave him:

“I’m writing you this to inform you that I have received my TOEFL score today. I got 97!

I’m really happy now and what I want to say is thank you, thank you very much for helping me during the time I prepared for my test. Your guidance made me feel more confident and believe in myself and therefore I did very well in my test. I really appreciate what you have done for me. I hope your hard work will continue to be great help for other students like me in the future. Keep up your work! We, the students, need more people like you!
Hope we can keep in touch in the future!”

TOEFL Tip #46: Want to Learn More From Strictly English?

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 25, 2009

Strictly English also has helpful TOEFL information on Twitter. Follow us on Twitter to learn even more about the TOEFL! Just click on the Blue Bird on this webpage and you’ll be taken to Twitter directly!

You can also be aware of what the admissions offices are saying by following them on Twitter. But be careful! If they follow you back, they will be able to read your Tweets, and if those Tweets are not professional or if they are too personal, then it could hurt your image at the school. It’s always best to keep TWO Twitter accounts: one professional and the other for fun!

Twitter also helps improve your Writing. YOu can only send 140 “characters” (letters) so you have to keep your sentences short. It’s a great way to practice clear direct communication!

TOEFL Tip #45: How TOEFL Scores Are Broken Down

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on

The entire TOEFL has a perfect score of 120, and although 30 points are alloted to each of the 4 sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing), these sections are not scored initially from 0-30. The Rater uses a different scoring system, called the “raw score”. No one but ETS Raters know how this raw score is exactly computed nor how it is then converted to the 0-30 score you receive.

For both the Reading and the Listening sections of the test, you only receive the final score, ranged between 0-30. Meanwhile, you receive sub-scores for both the Speaking and the Writing along with the 0-30 score.

The Speaking section is broken down into three subsections:

1. Speaking about familiar Topics (which indicates how well you did on Tasks One and Two)
2. Speaking about Campus Situations (which indicates how well you did on Tasks Three and Five)
3. Speaking about Academic Course Content (which indicates how well you did on Tasks Three and Five)

These three sections are rated as being “weak” “limited” “fair” or “good”. To receive a 26 on the speaking (which Canadian Nurses and North American Pharmacists need for their licensure), you need to score a “good” in all three subsections of the Speaking.

The Writing section is broken down into two subsections:

1. Writing Based on Reading and Listening (commonly called the 20-minute essay)
2. Independent Essay (commonly called the 30-minute essay)

These two sections are rated as being “limited” “fair” or “good”.


by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 24, 2009

I’m rather surprised that the only iPhone applications for sale are vocabulary builders. With so many sections of the test: (Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing) and with each of these sections testing a different language or reasoning skill (pronoun identification, paraphrasing, copy editing, spelling, logic, as well as the ability to infer and summarize), it shocks me that no one has taken the initiative to make applications that help improve these other skills.  TOEFL is, after all, a multiple choice test.  You would think that an iPhone app based on picking multiple choice answers wouldn’t be that hard to design.  And it isn’t.  The problem is, as usual, time and money.  Creating the content for just one application could take a team of 10 English teachers working 10 hours a day for 10 months.  Add to this the cost of developing the application itself, and you have a big hurdle to jump.

But Strictly English is not afraid to take on this challenge!  We are currently in negotiations with iPhone application developers to design a series of applications that will help strengthen your TOEFL skills.

Until Strictly English releases these applications, though, TOEFL Students will only have the small array of vocabulary applications currently on the market, which haven’t been well-received so far. Early reports indicate that the vocabulary builders are not selling very well, primarily because students would prefer to learn new English words in relation to the student’s original language.  For example, what spanish speaker person wants read “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune,” in order to understand the English word “Anxiety” when he/she could just know that “anxiety” = “ansiedad”.  Hence, these TOEFL vocabulary building apps have it wrong from the start.

But let’s look a little closer at some of these applications anyway:

1. Kaplan TOEFL Vocabulary (by TestPrepWiz): At the time of this writing, the application is not running on the new 3.0 upgrade. I’ve contacted the developer and they are working to fix this problem. In general, though, this program is nothing more than a digital set of flashcards. And with only 350 words, it doesn’t cover much vocabulary. It does have a test mode, which is probably its best function.

Kaplan Vocabulary

Kaplan Vocabulary

2. TOEFL – GMAT Vocabulary Builder (by and Unigate): This application is not helpful for TOEFL vocabulary study mainly because there is just one long list of words.  The user cannot know which vocabulary words are TOEFL words and which words are GMAT words.  Now it is true that all TOEFL words are also GMAT words, but it is NOT true that all GMAT words are also TOEFL words.  GMAT vocabulary is much harder than TOEFL vocabulary.  Using this application would be much better if you could chose a list of TOEFL vocabulary words ONLY, and not study the GMAT words.  It’s games are cute, but it’s hard to know what to do, and the “help” page doesn’t explain how to play.  Look at this screen shot of the game “Bubble”.  Since the balloons rise from the bottom of the screen, your eye focuses on the word EXPANSION, but this is not the word you’re trying to match.  Instead, you have to look at the top of the page to find the definition you’re trying to match.  It is written in small print and does not catch your eye.

3. TOEFL Vocabulary (AudioLearn): By far, this is the least dynamic of the three programs. As you can see form the screenshot, it is a solid stream of text, which just blurs together. In addition, all the text is read aloud in a monotonous stream. Click here download and to listen.

TOEFL Tip #43: Improve Your Subject-Verb Agreement When Speaking

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 22, 2009

Many people—-even the most advanced non-native English speakers—-drop the “S” at the ends of words. And, in all honesty, it is very hard to train yourself to stop doing it. So, here is one trick that will help you a lot: read documents that have every “S” highlighted.  This highlighting will draw your attention to each “S” as you read the document aloud. Repeating this every day for one month should completely eliminate the dropped “S”.  Here is an example:

Highlighted "S"s

Now you can either take the time to highlight the “S”s yourself or you can have your computer do it.  I use my computer, and here’s how:

1. Import any text into a word processor of your choice. I usually take my articles  from

2. Initiate a FIND AND REPLACE.

3. In the FIND box, put in “s” [space] (if you don’t put a SPACE after the “S”, then you’ll highlight “S”s in the middle of words, which you don’t want.)

4. In the REPLACE box, put in “s” [space]

5. With your cursor still in the REPLCE box, Select HIGHLIGHT in the FORMAT pop-up menu. (The FORMAT pop-up menu might be hard to find depending on the word processor you use.)


7. Repeat steps 2-7 but this time, put “s.” [space] into both the FIND and REPLCE boxes (notice the PERIOD after the “s”)

8. Repeat steps 2-7 but this time, put “s,” [space] into both the FIND and REPLCE boxes (notice the COMMA after the “s”)

TOEFL Tip #42: The Dangers Of Self-Study

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 21, 2009

Practicing language production (in other words, Writing and Speaking) on your own can lead to big setbacks because you have a high likelihood of reinforcing bad English instead of reinforcing correct English. Read more here.

For example, if you write a 300 word essay, and in it you made the same grammar error 10-15 times, then you just memorized the incorrect English. This commonly happens with Subject-Verb agreement errors. Students make them so often that they memorize the incorrect grammar.

What you need is a professional ESL instructor sitting with you as your write who can correct your errors as soon as they happen! This maximizes your learning potential and minimizes your study time!


by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on

The most interesting advice I received from the AIGAC conference is that International Applicants to American Educational Institutions should be WORKING at the time that they apply to college, university, or graduate school. Schools do NOT like to hear that you’re spending all your time studying English or preparing your applications. It makes you look like you can only handle one task at a time. In college, you’ll have to constantly multi-task. So prove to the admissions office that you can do more than one thing at once.

Now, many of you cannot legally “work” in America, but anyone can volunteer! This is a great way to prove to an admissions board that you are serious about your career choice! It is also a great opportunity to meet English speakers and practice your English in real-life situations. You might also be able to ask the person who manages you at your volunteer job to write you a letter of support for your application!

In sum, by volunteering, you’ll be strengthening your English, making English-speaking friends, developing professional connections, and impressing admissions offices. Oh, yeah: and you’ll be doing a great thing for the community, too!

TOEFL Tip #40: The Statistics On Getting A 26 On The Speaking

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 14, 2009

One website reports that people who need a 26 on the Speaking Section of the TOEFL take the exam an average of 10 times before passing. In 2008, only 10% of all test takers scored 26 or higher on the test.

Therefore, do not get discouraged if you’ve taken the test multiple times and are still having trouble achieving the score you need/want. You will get there! It just takes much more time than what people initially expect.


TOEFL Tip #39: Test Taker’s Feedback

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on

Hi Jon!
Sorry for taking so long to get back to you!

I did my exam ok and I feel quite comfortable with what I have done!

To be honest, the it was a little bit tougher than I thought. The reading I did well. I knew most of the words so I’m quite happy with that! The listening was faster and longer than I expected! The speaking section, I think I did better than ever, I tried to remember what you told me about “pace myself, take a short breath between sentences ..” I felt really calm and seemed not to be nervous at all. So, I answered all the 6 questions quite well. Thank you for that.

Writing was a little bit rushed, I was running out of time but still finished everything, including proof-reading! I wrote quite a lot, about > 350 words for the second essay.

Again, thanks for your help during the time I practiced. you have been a great help for me.! God blesses you!
Hope you are having a nice weekend!

TOEFL Tip #38: Grammar vs. Essay Structure

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 10, 2009

It is hard to say definitively if your Grammar or your Essay’s Structure will count more toward your TOEFL score.  Officially, ETS says that the score is “integrated”, which means that it counts all aspects of communication equally. Yet, if you make really basic grammar errors, then it won’t matter how great your essay’s structure is.  Here’s what I do know: an essay with perfect structure, and perfect **Intermediate-Level English** can score 29 (you don’t need Advanced English grammar to get a high score), but an essay with perfect structure and Intermediate-Level English that has consistent Subject-Verb agreement errors will drop down to a 22. That’s a loss of 7 points just because you repeatedly wrote sentences like, “he go”, “it give”, “she have” instead of “he goES”, “it giveS”, “she haS”.  So be very careful with grammar. It Counts!

« Older Posts