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TOEFL Tip #135: The Year In Review

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on December 30, 2011

In this last post of 2011, we’re taking a look back at the year. The Strictly English blog has been busy! As you look at the topics below, and perhaps revisit some items you may have missed when they were first posted, please take a moment to leave a comment. We are always eager to hear your feedback about items that you found particularly helpful, questions about a post, or suggestions for future items on the blog.

Perhaps Strictly English’s most exciting post was one of the last of the year. Two weeks ago, we announced a university scholarship worth $8,000.

Many of our posts are about the four sections of the TOEFL exam. In particular, a four part series on speaking, reading, listening, and writing discussed Strictly English’s recent research and experience on the TOEFL. Several posts, such as using a holistic approach to the TOEFL and an example of this approach, as well as the advice to be direct and simple, addressed multiple sections of the TOEFL.

Additional topics about the Speaking section included elocution, diction, speaking with feeling, blending sounds, and news about a change to Speaking Task One. The Listening section also featured posts about using metaphoric idioms, and listening to public radio. In the Writing section, we discussed how less is more, touch typing, and why it’s important to use a QWERTY keyboard. We also spread the word about changes to the Reading section.

Another major focus of the blog this year has been on issues related to mastering English. We have discussed the difference between ESL and EFL, using translation programs, TOEFL as a test of effective communication, the “J-Curve” of learning, fossilized grammar, possibilities for rapid improvement, and how TOEFL scores correspond to a native speaker’s ability to speak English.

We had a number of posts about preparing for the TOEFL and scoring issues on the exam. We were happy to share the news of a pharmacist who received a 29 on his Speaking section. We also reported on the results when a native English speaker who is in high school took the TOEFL, discussed whether a high score on the TOEFL improves a student’s chances of admission, outlined the timeline for TOEFL preparation, discussed differences among test preparation books, noted that achieving the score you want often requires taking the test twice, and alerted students to an apparent gap in the TOEFL testing calendar. We shared the results of several students who requested rescores (here and here). We also reported that test results from the December 17 TOEFL exam have been lower than expected.

Strictly English addressed some general topics this year. We gave readers information about the TOEFL and student visas, and about how to register as a group for the TOEFL. Because the TOEFL is primarily for students who are entering college, we suggested that a familiarity with college life would be helpful on the exam. We also had a series of posts related to studying and practicing for the TOEFL. We discussed study habits, scheduling time to study, practicing with notes and with distractions, the difference between practice speed and performance speed, recognizing signs of nervousness and converting nervousness into excitement. We also did a post about Strictly English’s Critical Thinking and Analytical Writing program.

We were pleased to feature guest posts this year. Two posts from Grockit addressed the GMAT official guide and the newly formatted GRE. A post from Harriet Murdoch discussed how the TOEFL can help in business school and beyond, while Renee Hoekstra made suggestions about how to handle test taking anxiety. EqualApp.com wrote about using a U.S. admissions consultant.

Finally, Strictly English partnered with Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) this year. After reminding students about a gap in TOEFL’s testing schedule from mid-December 2011 to mid-January 2012, we discussed changes in the PTE Academic score report, ensuring authentic PTE Academic score reports, and a program called PTE Young Learners for younger students who are not yet ready to take Pearson’s more advanced tests.

As you consider your goals for the new year, resolve to make Strictly English part of your overall preparation for the TOEFL, PTE Academic, or IELTS. Read the blog every week, work through the free exercises on our site, and sign up for tutoring as your exam date draws closer.

Happy new year!

TOEFL Tip #134: Dec 17th Tests Scores Lower than Expected

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on December 29, 2011

If it’s true that misery loves company, then a lot of you can take comfort in that your lower-than-expected TOEFL scores from the Dec 17th TOEFL test are on average with many other people’s scores.

This is not only being reported from out clients at Strictly English, but also from other schools’ students.

But Why? How could the whole world bomb (see definition 5) the same test? Did TOEFL deliver a bad test that day? Did TOEFL design a new test that’s simply harder than before?

Probably not.

Most likely it’s because this one test is, in many test-takers’ minds, the most important test of the year. If you’re an MBA candidate, this was the last test you could take if you wanted to apply for Round Two admissions. If you’re an undergraduate applicant or an applicant to graduate school, this was the last test you could take if you wanted your scores comfortably in advance of your application deadlines. Even if you didn’t really have an official deadline for your TOEFL, there was still that desire to finish the year with TOEFL behind you!

Simply said: everyone’s nerves got the best of them. And what Strictly English has noticed over its nearly 8 years of tutoring is that nothing kills a TOEFL score quicker than being nervous. We have had scores (see definition 11) of students who have performed wonderfully week after week in our tutoring sessions, only to come back from the test and say that they froze with panic once the test started. Only after they overcame their fear of the test were they able to deploy Strictly English’s strategies (or anyone’s strategies for that matter) successfully.

So now what?

If you’re going to take the test again in January, then the most important thing to remember is: DO NOT PANIC!!! Worrying will get you nowhere. You must remind yourself that if you worry on test day, you will fail! So what’s the point in generating all that anxiety when it’s just going to work against you anyway.

What to do?

1. Read our article about how to recognize anxiety as excitement. If you can shift your perception of your emotions, you’ll do much better!

2. Get a mild anti-anxiety pill from you doctor. There is NO SHAME in telling your doctor that you get nervous on tests and that you have a big test coming up soon. You and he can discuss if there are medical options with minimal or no side effects. Most one-time antidepressants are not habit forming.

3. Schedule two tests a week apart. We have found this strategy really relaxes people!

4. Get a relaxation tape and practice some visualizing exercises.

In short. have confidence that you’re on the right track and that your English is strong!

GOOD LUCK!

PTE Tip #5: Start Early With PTE Young Learners

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on December 23, 2011

Young students who are not yet ready to prepare for the full Pearson Test of English Academic might consider the PTE Young Learners. The program is aimed at students who are 8 – 14 years old. This could be especially helpful for non-native speakers of English who plan to enroll in high school or college in an English speaking country.

PTE Young Learners features English as it is used in realistic, day-to-day scenarios, and measures students’ ability to communicate in English. Because of this, the test is not focused on memorizing the formal structures and grammar of English. Instead, the material in PTE Young Learners centers on stories and conversations about the routines of a fictional family.

Like PTE Academic, PTE Young Learners tests students’ Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking skills. An external assessor measures students’ Speaking skills, while the rest of the exam is on paper.

In addition, PTE Young Learners is divided into four levels to reflect increasing language acquisition – Firstwords, Springboard, Quickmarch, and Breakthrough. Students move to the next level as they gain confidence and experience in communicating in English. Pearson provides students with feedback on their test performance, and successful PTE Young Learners test takers receive a certificate indicating their achievement in English.

For students who will be educated in English-speaking institutions, PTE Young Learners could be a valuable early step toward that goal. For more information about PTE Young Learners, click here

TOEFL Tip #133: Strictly English’s $8,000.00 University Scholarship

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on December 16, 2011

Strictly English is proud to announce that it will match one of ETS’s five US$8,000.00 scholarships, to be given to any Japanese student who wins ETS’s 2012 award and who studied TOEFL(R) with Strictly English anytime between December 17, 2011 and March 13, 2012.

This could amount to $16,000.00 that you’d be able to apply toward your educational expenses!

That’s a lot of money to win for the small price of some TOEFL tutoring! ^_^

Restrictions apply (For example):
1. You must meet all of ETS’s eligibility requirements. To learn more about ETS’s scholarships, read more here.

2. You must enroll in all 4 of Strictly English’s Complete Strategies Programs (one for each section of the test).

3. You much provide documented proof of having received ETS’s scholarship.

4. This is not a cash prize. The money you win will be given directly to your educational institution on your behalf and will not exceed the cost of tuition for that institution.

5. You must be enrolled with Strictly English before January 10, 2012.

Please Note: Strictly English’s scholarship award is in no way endorsed by ETS or TOEFL. Strictly English is a wholly separate entity from TOEFL and ETS.

For more information, please contact Strictly English.

GOOD LUCK!

PTE Tip #4: Make Sure Your PTE Academic Score Reports Are Authentic

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on

Strictly English has heard reports from PTE Academic that some institutions are accepting PTE Academic score reports that may not be authentic. Programs might be accepting printed or scanned score reports, or score reports that claim to be authenticated by a third part agent or company. Programs may also be checking students’ scores through links provided by the students – links which might be to fake sites which mimic PTE Academic’s actual Score Reporting Website .

Accepting these questionable score reports is serious mistake. PTE Academic uses its secure Score Reporting Website as one of the key ways to ensure the authenticity of its reports. Because paper documents are much more susceptible to fraud, PTE Academic does not issue paper score reports.

PTE Academic has the following suggestions that institutions can take to make sure they are receiving authentic score reports:

• Ensure that your institution has access to the PTE Academic Score Report Website (SRW) by filling in the form here

• Ensure that you only access the SRW via: pearsonvue.com/ptescores

• Ensure all staff that require access, have access to the SRW

• Remind students to send you their PTE Academic score report through their Pearson account

• Contact PTE Academic at pltsupport@pearson.com with any questions or concerns

PTE Tip #3: PTE Academic Has Changed Its Score Reports

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on December 9, 2011

PTE Academic has updated its score reports in order to identify test takers more easily and to make the score reports easier to read. This new format will apply to all scores accessed on the score report website, no matter when someone took a particular PTE Academic exam.

PTE Academic notes the following changes in its score reports:
• Addition of test taker ID, country of residence and testing location
• Removal of test taker address
• New branding

An important element of the redesign is the new test taker ID. This new ID is a unique number associated with each test taker, and will appear on every set of PTE Academic score results. This will help ensure that the correct scores are reported for each test taker. If someone takes PTE Academic more than once, each set of scores will have a different registration number, to identify the particular day, time, and place of each exam.

Make sure you are familiar with the new score report. Even if you have copies of previous PTE Academic score reports, log in today and review the changes. That way, you won’t have any surprises if you need to discuss your PTE Academic score with an institution’s Admission office.

PTE Tip #2: Take The PTE While TOEFL Is Closed From December 17th To January 13th

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on December 2, 2011

As you may have read earlier this week , Strictly English has learned that ETS has no scheduled TOEFL exams between December 17th and January 13th. Such a long period without exams seems to us like a strange gap in ETS’s testing calendar. The next several weeks are the busiest peak in many students’ application process. Perhaps the score from a recent TOEFL exam was just a little bit lower than you need, or perhaps you’ve made a recent decision to apply to a program with an upcoming deadline. Maybe you just took the TOEFL and don’t have your scores yet, but want to schedule another one in case you need to take it again. This would seem to be a time to ramp up exam availability, not shut it down.

For whatever reason, if you need to take a TOEFL exam between December 17th and January 13th, you won’t be able to.

There is another option!

Although the TOEFL will be unavailable for a few weeks, the Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic will be offering exams throughout this period. As PTE Academic has told Strictly English:

PTE Academic tests are available throughout the US through December and January by request. If you wish to book a test simply contact 1-800-901-0229 and make a request for a test booking and Pearson’s customer services team will try to identify an available seat in your chosen location. For a list of locations please visit http://www.pearsonpte.com/TESTME/TAKING/Pages/TestCentersandFees.aspx

Be sure to check directly with the Admissions Office to find out if an institution accepts PTE Academic, and what score you need. Their Admissions webpage may not be fully up to date.

Strictly English offers classes to prepare students for PTE Academic. Whether you need to take the TOEFL before December 17th, or PTE Academic later in the month, contact us today!