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TOEFL Tip #73: Use Earplugs When Taking TOEFL

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 23, 2010

Test centers put the test takers very close together in the testing room, which means that you can hear a lot of distracting noises when you’re trying to concentrate.  For example while you’re concentrating on your test, you might hear:

1. another test taker’s listening section (if they have their volume up all the way)
2. another test taker giving his/her Speaking responses
3. the administrator talking to a test taker who is having trouble
4. noises from outside the test center, like fire trucks or ambulances

Now the test center does suggest that you wear your headphones for the entire test, even if you’re not listening to anything at the time. They say that the headphones will help eliminate some noise, but reports from test takers say that this is not enough.

Therefore, Strictly English suggests that you wear earplugs on the day of your test. Earplugs are very good at keeping out surrounding noises, like I listed above, but still letting you hear sounds that are directed in your ear.  This means that you WILL be able to hear the sounds coming out of your headphones for the Listening section, Speaking section, and for the Integrated Essay, but you will not hear any of the distractions in the room.

So be sure to buy some earplugs. These combined with wearing the headphones should give you a much quieter testing environment!

TOEFL Tip #72: Admissions Offices Prefer TOEFL Over IELTS

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 11, 2010

Not surprisingly, many admissions offices prefer TOEFL over IELTS, and why not? TOEFL is more academically focused and it is more objective in its assessment of Speaking. (Entry continues below picture.)

On the TOEFL, six different  raters evaluate your Speaking responses, and they cannot be swayed by your smile or your tears to give you a higher grade because they feel bad for you.  I know IELTS says that they train their raters to be objective, but I just don’t see how you can coldly grade someone very low who is clearly nervous or afraid.  I would hope people are more compassionate than that, but I would also hope that a test taker doesn’t get a higher grade than their ability just because a rater feels sorry for them.