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TOEFL Tip #217: Any Digitized Text Can Be a Spoken Lecture

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on November 11, 2014

Some of our previous blog articles have taught you great note-taking techniques. But you have to practice them, and this requires that you to have a lot of lecture material on hand. But every TOEFL book and TOEFL website (yes, even ours!) has a limited number of lectures.

So where are you going to find more?

If you have already blown through all of Strictly English’s Listening Exercises and are searching low and high for more material to use, then look no further than that chunk of technology in your pocket because your smartphone (and your PC) can become a one stop shop for all of your listening material needs!

The secret is that all computers and mobile devices can read text to you! This function can usually be found in the ACCESSIBILITIES SECTION of your SETTINGS. We have included a list of helpful how-to guides and videos for the most popular pcs and smartphones at the bottom of this blog article.

So once you figure out how to turn on this feature for your particular device, have your computer become a lecturer! Not only can this make a variety of public websites (one great one is Wikipedia) into a treasure trove of interesting lectures but it provides you with the added benefit of being able to read along while it talks to you! With this, you can strengthen the connection between the sound of a word and the word itself.

Furthermore, considering that most TOEFL lectures are often not on the most interesting of topics, when the lecture if in your hands, you can decide the content that you find interesting to note-take on.

The good part about computers reading to you is that you can often change the speed of the voice. So you can start slow and, as you get better, you can speed up the voice until you’re listening at top speed!

But the benefits extend beyond your listening comprehension.

Having your pc or smartphone talk to you is that you can also use this feature to edit your writing. Often when you hear things read back to you, you can hear mistakes that you overlook when you read it to yourself in your head since listening comprehension usually develops far earlier in language than written reflective comprehension.

For example, You might write:
“I like flower.” and when you read it back to yourself, you say in your mind, “I like THE flower”. Your mind is making the correction and you’re not noticing the mistake. But if the computer reads:


You’ll hear the missing THE immediately and you can go back and correct it.

Speaking device links:

PC: or


So, go ahead, have your computer read this blog article back to you now!

TOEFL Tip #155: Managing Your Note Paper

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on May 18, 2012

Understandably, ETS wants to make sure that no information about the TOEFL exam leaves the test center. This ensures that the test’s answers cannot be given to a future test taker.

One way that ETS promotes security is to limit the amount of paper you receive. If everyone in the test center is given the same quantity of paper, then the monitor (first definition) will know to collect that number of pages from you. If you give the monitor only three sheets of paper when she knows everyone got four sheets, she will ask you for that fourth sheet. This means you cannot hide that fourth paper in your pocket with all the answers on it.

But this security measure poses a risk to your TOEFL score! You can easily imagine how this might happen: you need more paper, but the monitor is busy with someone else, or she is looking somewhere else and doesn’t see that your hand is up. You’re wasting valuable waiting to catch her attention – time that you can’t afford.

So here’s what we suggest to help you manage your paper:

1. You will be given three or four pieces of paper at the beginning of the test. Even if you think you don’t need the paper, take it anyway. It’s better to be prepared!

2. Stack the sheets together, and lay them in front of you so that the pile is longer from left to right (the same as “landscape layout” for a printer). Fold all the sheets in half. This makes every sheet into a little book with four pages. Now you have four “pages” per sheet of paper instead of only two (front and back of an unfolded sheet).

3. Use only one of these “pages” for each Reading passage and each Listening passage. If you have large handwriting or tend to scrawl your notes, you will need to practice writing a bit smaller and/or more neatly to use your paper more effectively.

4. On the break, ASK FOR MORE PAPER. Do this even if you’ve got some sheets left over! It’s better to start with four new sheets instead of having only one or two sheets when you start the Speaking section. You will have to surrender any pieces of paper that you’ve used.

5. Fold your sheets again and use one “page” for each of the Speaking tasks.

When you manage your paper this way, you will not run out of space for notes during the second half of the test. You really do not want to have to raise your hand, and wait for the attendant to see you.

Not only will you never run out of paper if you follow these steps, but you’ll also keep your notes more clearly organized. Besides having to wait for more paper while the timer keeps running, you don’t want to get confused because you crammed all of your notes from multiple lectures or passages onto the same page!