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TOEFL Tip#166: Strictly English’s YouTube Channel

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on August 24, 2012

Did you know that Strictly English has its own YouTube channel ? We do! Check out our videos on a variety of topics:

We have a number of videos which showcase a particular skill or tip for taking the TOEFL exam. Whether you want to improve your Reading, Speaking, or Writing (part 1, part 2) score, we have helpful advice.

Of course, we have information about our programs, such as the Study Hall, and a Frequently Asked Questions video made at

But don’t take just our word about how effective our programs are. Listen to what our clients say about our services.

Several students have contacted Strictly English after getting the TOEFL score they needed, and have shared their experiences in videos. We recently discussed one client’s success on the TOEFL, which she needed in order to get her nursing license. Other students have needed a particular TOEFL score for dentistry or pharmacy. As these students say, working with Strictly English made the crucial difference in their TOEFL scores.

Come back often and see what’s new on Strictly English’s YouTube channel!

TOEFL Tip #165: Answer As FEW Reading Questions As Necessary

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on August 18, 2012

So many people worry about not having enough time to answer all of the Reading questions on the TOEFL exam. Indeed: time is tight. At best, you only have about 1.5 minutes for each question, and that’s possible only if you go directly to the questions without reading any of the passages beforehand.

Of course, if you need a score of 110 for Harvard Business School, then yes: you have to try to answer *each* question in less than 1.5 minutes. But most TOEFL test takers only need a 20-25 on the exam, and therefore can go more slowly on each question. This will, in turn, increase their accuracy.

Let’s take a pharmacist, for example, who is required by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to score a 21 on the Reading section. In this situation, 21 points out of 30 is 70% accuracy. And 70% of 39 questions (which is about how many Reading questions there are on average) is only 27.3 questions. To be safe, let’s round that up to 29 questions. If you only need 29 correct questions, then you need answer only 9.6 questions correctly per passage. Let’s round up again and say a pharmacist needs only 10 correct questions per passage. This has increased the time per question to 2 minutes each. Granted, 30 seconds is not long in the real world, but on the TOEFL exam, 30 seconds is a huge increase in time.

Now, for the bad news: it is true that if a pharmacist answers only 10 questions, he or she could still get one or two wrong and fall short of the needed TOEFL score of 21. True.

But this blog article wants to use this statistical analysis for a more important point:


The bottom line is this: if you remove the pressure of being a “perfect answering machine” from test day, then you will not be as anxious. You can take pleasure in ignoring 1 or 2 questions per passage that just look too hard. Or you could just ignore, for example, all of the insertion questions if you know that you never get them right in your practice exams. Or, if you have one passage that you know a lot about from your personal life (say, a pharmacist gets a passage about biology), then you can try to answer ALL of the questions correctly for that passage, but then neglect 4-6 of the questions in the passage that you know very little about, like Native American Art.

The psychological boost to your ego that results from your taking control of the test will definitely translate into more relaxed confidence while answering questions. Let’s face it, most questions are answered incorrectly because of nerves and time pressure. Remove those two negative elements, and you have a much better chance of meeting your goal!

TOEFL Tip #164: Guest Post — Merit Scholarships For International Students

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on August 14, 2012

Today’s post is from Megan Dorsey, the founder of College Prep, LLC, and an expert in the college admissions process.

International students face additional financial challenges when applying to American universities. Before the U.S. consul will grant a visa, students must document their ability to pay tuition, room, board, and fees. While many American students are counting on money from grants, loans, scholarship, and work, international students find many financial alternatives closed.

International students are not eligible for some types of financial aid including federally subsidized student loans, grants, and some scholarships. While the opportunities are limited, there are chances to qualify for merit scholarships, awards based on talent and ability rather than need.

I recommend my international clients take two approaches to finding merit aid:

1. Research individual scholarship programs and apply for as many scholarships as you qualify.
2. Seek specific colleges and universities offering scholarships for international students and add some potential scholarship schools to your list.

By applying both strategies, you can maximize your chances of receiving merit aid.

Individual Scholarships
There are a number of independent programs offering scholarships to international students. Corporations sponsor some of these scholarships to support students from a particular region or to encourage study in a specific field. There is no single source for finding this type of sholarship, but you may try using the search features provided by organizations such as IEFA and

Before you spend hours working on an application, check with the program directly to make sure they are still offering awards. In the past, some groups have discontinued scholarships due to lack of funds.

Additionally, take care to avoid fraudulent businesses that guarantee to help you find scholarships – for a fee. You should never have to pay to apply or accept scholarships and no organization can guarantee results.

School-based Scholarships
Often the best sources of scholarships for international students are the colleges and universities themselves. First, school-based scholarships can cover a large portion of annual tuition and are often renewable each year providing students meet the set academic standards (often a set GPA and number of hours completed.) Second, aid from your college or university is automatically added to the calculations of your financial status, making it one less thing you need to provide as documentation. Finally, competition for school-based merit aid can be less competitive than that for large, independent scholarships, which draw applicants from around the world.

Some international students initially become discouraged when they see how many scholarships for which they cannot apply. Understand you will not be considered for National Merit, ROTC, and a variety of other programs, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t scholarships specifically for international students.

Many colleges and universities offer a limited number of scholarships for highly qualified or talented international applicants. In some cases you will need to demonstrate your talent in athletics, music, or art, but most often your academic abilities will be evaluated based on the information you submitted for admission.

Schools Offering Scholarships for International Students
Not every school offers money for international applicants, but many do. Here is a preliminary list to show you the range of school-based scholarships available. This is by no means a complete list. It is meant to illustrate the variety of schools offering merit scholarships.

Boston University
California State Long Beach
Iowa State
Johnson & Wales
St. Edwards
University of Chicago
University of Houston
University of Richmond
University of Vermont

Start with the schools you’ve already considered and see what scholarships are offered. Often you can find information on the admissions websites under the “international applicants” page.

Private Schools Versus State Universities
In many ways international applicants will find private colleges and universities offer more scholarship opportunities. But this doesn’t mean you should overlook state universities if you are currently living in the U.S. If you meet requirements for in-state tuition where you live, a state-university could be your least expensive option.

I live in Texas where it is possible for some non-citizens to qualify as in-state residents. Residency is significant in admissions because the state legislature limits the number of non-residents to 11% of the student body, so international and out-of-state applicants are competing for a restricted number of spaces.

Beyond the issue of competitive admission, you should learn more about your residency status because it will affect your tuition. Most international students are charged the out-of-state tuition rate, which can be double or triple what residents are asked to pay. You may find some schools will offer in-state tuition to non-citizens based on the domicile requirements of that state. In Texas, undocumented students can qualify as residents; the University of Vermont distinguishes between resident and non-resident international applicants. If you can qualify for in-state tuition where you live, it is effectively the same as earning a tuition scholarship from that school.

Level of Competition
Because international applicants have fewer options for financial assistance, competition for available scholarships is fierce. Don’t let this deter you, but do set realistic expectations. If it is a reach for you to simply gain admission to Rice or Vanderbilt, you are unlikely to meet scholarship consideration. However, you may be more competitive at a school such as St. Edward’s or University of Rochester. To improve your odds of earning scholarships, look for schools where your qualifications are above average and you will stand out as a top applicant.

Merit scholarships for international students may be limited, but they are available. Take time to research your options, improve your credentials (TOEFL, SAT, etc.), and apply for a variety of scholarships.

It is more competitive than ever to gain college admission and earn scholarships. Get help from a former high school counselor and independent college advisor who knows the system. Megan Dorsey is a nationally recognized expert in test preparation and college admissions who has helped thousands of students earn the test scores and scholarships they need and get into the schools of their dreams. To receive free college planning and test prep resources visit