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by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on April 15, 2013
Are you a student currently living in Japan who will be starting an undergraduate or graduate program in the 2013 academic school year? You may be eligible for a new scholarship!
ETS, the company which administers the TOEFL exam, has announced that it will be awarding a total of US $42,000 to 14 students; each award will be US $3,000. The awards will honor students’ outstanding academic achievement.
According to the announcement from ETS, some criteria for the scholarship include:
• currently live in Japan
• complete the online scholarship application and upload academic transcripts
• hold a grade point average of 80 or higher on a 100-point scale, or a 3.0 grade point average or higher on a 4-point scale
• begin an undergraduate or graduate degree in 2013 at a college or university listed in the TOEFL® Destinations Directory (PDF)
• have a valid TOEFL test score used as a requirement for admission into an undergraduate or graduate program
• demonstrate effective leadership skills and an overall well-rounded portfolio with extracurricular activities, including community service
Click here for additional information and requirements.
If you’re interested, don’t delay. Applications are due by April 30th, and notifications will be made in May 2013. Good luck!
by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on April 8, 2013
Two recent proposals being considered in Japan suggest that the TOEFL exam may become a very important measure of English proficiency in that country.
One proposal is to use TOEFL exam scores as part of the criteria in the university admission process. A different test of English is currently used, but it has often been criticized for focusing too much on the rules of grammar and content that can be memorized. Although news of this proposal has not been confirmed by the majority political party, it is being widely reported in local newspapers.
The other proposal concerning the TOEFL exam would make TOEFL scores necessary for applying for government ministry positions, starting in 2015. A spokesperson for the National Personnel Authority has confirmed that his agency is seriously considering this proposal, to better prepare Japan’s bureaucrats for the increasingly international aspect of their work. The decision about whether to use the TOEFL exam, or another exam such as the Test of English for International Communication (also administered by ETS), is expected to be made by the end of the year.
Both of these proposals point to the importance of communicating well in English, beyond memorizing the language’s rules.
Categories: Industry Issues,TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University,TOEFL Preparation
by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on January 18, 2013
We love getting comments on the Strictly English blog! We want to hear how your experience compares with a situation described in a post, or suggestions for future posts. Did you find a particular post especially helpful? Let us know!
Lately, readers have also asked a number of questions in the comment section. Because these are questions that we think a lot of people might have, we wanted to answer them in a post, rather than just respond directly to the original question.
Question #1: Scheduled exams and the new 21 day policy
ETS’s new policy requiring a 21 day wait between exams is causing some anxiety. One reader said that he has two TOEFL exams scheduled within 21 days of each other in January. He scheduled the exams in 2012, but is worried that he won’t be allowed to take the second exam because of the new policy. He asked whether these two test dates are a problem, and what he can do about it.
The new policy started as of January 1, 2013, regarding scheduling exams after that date. As far as we know, this does not affect close-together exams that were scheduled in 2012, but which now violate the new policy. If you are in this position and want to make sure that you can still take the second-scheduled exam, contact ETS and ask for clarification.
Question #2: How to answer the Speaking section questions
Another question asked what format to use when answering the prompts for the Speaking section. The reader wanted to know if Speaking Section answers were more like a response to a teacher’s question in a classroom, or more like a spoken essay with a thesis, support, and a conclusion.
The answer is – some of both (depending on what your classroom is like, of course!). There are 6 Speaking tasks. Some of them ask for your opinion on a topic, and those answers should have a main idea that answers the question, and supporting details for that main idea. Other sections will require you to read and/or listen to a passage, and answer a question based on information from the passage. That might be more like a classroom answer, where you are repeating key points from the passage rather than giving your own opinion. There are lots of resources for practicing the speaking section and getting a better feel for how to answer the prompts. For a quick example, see this page.
Question #3: Retaking the TOEFL to get the score you need
A reader has the total score that he or she needs, but the score in one section does not meet the minimum required by the program to which he or she is applying. The question is, does the reader need to retake the TOEFL to boost his or her score in the section that is too low, knowing that he or she would miss the application deadline by taking the exam again?
We don’t know – this depends on the policy at each school or program to which you are applying. We have found that policies vary quite a lot, so it is not wise to assume anything about a program’s requirements. Call the program, ask to speak to an admissions counselor (or other staff person who knows the school’s policies well), and explain your situation. Do this as soon as possible in order to have the greatest number of options for addressing your issue.
Got a question? Leave it in the comments!
Categories: Industry Issues,Speaking,TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University,TOEFL Materials,TOEFL Preparation
by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on January 11, 2013
Last week, we suggested making New Year resolutions to help you reach the TOEFL score you need in 2013. In light of the new restriction from ETS requiring a 21-day wait between exams, perhaps you have resolved to be more organized this year. Your application deadlines are already on your calendar, you’ve registered to take the TOEFL weeks before the deadline, and you are already studying. Congratulations! You are well on your way to reaching your TOEFL goal!
But sometimes, even the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Maybe you are sick on the day you take the TOEFL, and your score is lower than you need it to be. Maybe you need tutoring for the exam (sign up with Strictly English!), but those classes will not be finished before your scheduled TOEFL date. Maybe you have only recently decided to apply to a program, and their deadline is only a few weeks away.
What can you do?
Take the PTE Academic, instead!
Many institutions accept both PTE Academic and TOEFL test reports. Be sure to double check if the institutions you’re applying to are among those that accept both scores!
With their fast turn-around time, you will know very quickly if you have reached the score you need. While PTE Academic’s website says that the turn-around on test results is typically 5 business days, our contact at the company reports that scores were ready in 2 days, on average, in 2012. As soon as students get a set of test results, they can take the PTE Academic exam again.
As you look ahead to your application deadlines, remember that PTE Academic’s substantially shorter turn-around time can make a big difference.
Categories: Industry Issues,Non-TOEFL English Proficiency Exams,PTE Academic,TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University
by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on December 21, 2012
When Apple launched its Lion operating system in July 2011, Mac users were instantly crippled in their TOEFL study. This is because the CDs that came with two of the best study guides for TOEFL no longer worked in this new operating system. Unfortunately, this problem persists with Apple’s newest operating system, Mountain Lion.
If you put your Cambridge CD or your Barrons CD into an Apple computer, it just wouldn’t work.
So Strictly English called up Cambridge and Barrons to ask them when they would release CDs that would work for Mac users. We got an update from Cambridge, but have not heard from Barrons.
Cambridge says it will have a Mac-friendly CD by early 2013. Of course, we’re very glad to hear this, but we have to admit that this is a bit slow. Lion came out a year and a half ago, which means that all new Mac owners have not been able to use the Cambridge CD for all of that time.
Publishers of educational material need to remember that Apple computers are far more popular in educational institutions than PCs are. Perhaps this is too much of a generalization, but the basic trend is that PCs are found in businesses and Macs are found in schools.
Therefore, educational companies can’t afford to put their Mac users on the back burner for so long, especially since Apple products continue to take a larger share of the computer market.
THANK YOU, CAMBRIDGE for getting a CD ready for release. But please BE QUICKER next time so all of us Mac users can enjoy your fantastic products without interruption.
Categories: Industry Issues,TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University,TOEFL Materials,TOEFL Preparation
by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on December 16, 2012
On Friday, December 14, 2012, ETS announced a new policy regarding retaking the TOEFL exam. Here is the announcement in full:
Beginning in January 2013, there will be a change in the Repeat Policy for the TOEFL iBT® test. Test takers can still take the test as many times as they wish, but only once within a 21-day period. If a test taker has an existing test appointment, he or she cannot register for another test date that is within 21 days of the existing appointment.
This policy change will have serious, immediate repercussions for students with upcoming deadlines. Many students register to take the TOEFL 3or 4 times in the two months preceding an application deadline. That won’t be possible starting in January 2013. First, you have to wait 10 days to get your scores to decide if you want to take the exam again. If you do want to retake it, you have to choose a date that is 21 days after your most recent exam. These two factors significantly cut down a student’s opportunities to take the exam just before a deadline. For example, if your deadline is January 13, 2013, you have to take your last TOEFL by January 3rd, and you cannot have taken a previous test any closer to that January 3rd date than December 13th.
Even for those test-takers without deadlines in the next few weeks, this new policy is going to drastically change how almost every TOEFL student approaches studying and preparing for the exam. You will NO longer be able to CRAM in multiple exams and hoping for the best. Students are going to have to plan much further ahead, and pay very close attention to schedules and deadlines.
Another issue is that many professionals, like pharmacists, are being given a deadline for when their licensing application expires. This year, we had a lot of students at Strictly English who knew in FEBRUARY that they had to pass TOEFL before December 15th. Many of these professionals planned on taking the exam every week until they passed. However, this new policy will dramatically reduce their chances to take the TOEFL. If, for example, they found out on February 1st that they had until December 31st to pass the exam, that’s 48 weeks – 48 chances to pass under the previous policy. With the new policy, they will only be able to take the exam 16 times – cutting their chances in thirds.
Perhaps the most important complication regarding the new policy is the subtle difference between 21 days and 3 weeks. What if you take a test on a SATURDAY, and “three weeks” later you want to take a test again, but that weekend only has a FRIDAY date available. This is only 20 days later, and you would have to sign up for the following week, instead. This is effectively 27 days before you can take the next test, a significant delay if your deadline is coming up soon.
Strictly English believes that this is a terrible decision by ETS. It will reduce their income significantly and give PTE Academic a huge advantage in the English proficiency testing market. By making it possible to register for an exam 48 hours before taking it, PTE Academic offers nearly on-demand testing, and results are typically ready within 5 working days. For students applying to institutions which accept both the TOEFL and PTE Academic, the flexibility of PTE Academic may be more appealing.
Categories: Industry Issues,Non-TOEFL English Proficiency Exams,PTE Academic,TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University,TOEFL Preparation
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.
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 InternationalStudent.com.
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.
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.
California State Long Beach
Johnson & Wales
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 CollegePrepResults.com
by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on April 6, 2012
The issue of cheating on standardized tests has been in the news several times in the past few weeks. Substantial cheating has been found in circumstances as diverse as the TOEFL exam in Vietnam and the ACT and SAT in the United States .
While these are just two examples, they are part of a growing trend to enhance security measures to ensure that the person whose name is on the test registration is indeed the person who takes the test. Strictly English has heard of several developments designed to ensure the integrity of the TOEFL exam.
Some new measures limit where students can take the exam. One Boarding School admissions councilor found that one of her seniors used the opportunity of attending a TOEFL cram-school in China over winter break to hire a proxy to take the TOEFL exam for him. This is causing more and more institutions to demand that the test be taken State-side.
Another example comes from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), whose website now states, “You must take the TOEFL iBT at an Educational Testing Service (ETS) test center located within one of the NABP member and associate member jurisdictions including the 50 United States, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Australia, eight Canadian provinces, and New Zealand. The FPGEC will no longer accept TOEFL iBT score reports from international ETS test site locations. Check with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) for dates and locations.”
Strictly English has seen an additional approach taken by many of the boarding schools that now rely on us for their TOEFL preparation classes. Because such institutions know their students personally, some administrators have begun requiring that their students take the test on a day arranged by the school. The school also provides transportation to and from the test center to ensure that no proxy steps in.
Because the issue of cheating links directly to the integrity of all standardized test scores, it’s understandable that all of the involved institutions want to have as many safeguards as possible. It gets tricky, though, for two reasons. One, as shown above, there are proxy test takers in the U.S.A. also, although they are harder to come by. Two, not every institution can request a State-side test. It’s easy for boarding schools and the NABP to require this since their students / members are already in the U.S. Although Strictly English has had two international students who took our online tutoring course from their home country and then flew over to America specifically to take the exam, this is not a feasible option for most TOEFL test takers. Since the majority of people who take the TOEFL already live overseas – for example, most international applicants to U.S. colleges and graduate programs – it is not possible to request all of these people to schedule their tests in America.
However, if you are an institution that already has most of your test takers residing in the U.S.A., it probably is best to require them to take the TOEFL with as much of your oversight as possible. Additionally, ETS needs to inspect rigorously the test centers and the companies that run those centers.
In light of the increasing focus on preventing cheating, make sure that you have the most up-to-date information about registration and day-of-exam requirements.
UPDATE: Since we first posted this item, we’ve received a press release from Eileen Tyson, Executive Director, Global Client Relations, ETS on the topic of security on the TOEFL exam. Her email reads in part, “I am writing today to share news of a recent event where ETS’s test security measures played a vital role in identifying and stopping individuals who attempted to take the TOEFL and GRE tests dishonestly. On February 25, three individuals in Hong Kong who were attempting to take the TOEFL test on behalf of others were arrested. ETS’s Office of Testing Integrity identified these individuals and their planned impersonation in advance and alerted test center personnel and local law enforcement.
On the day of the test, the individuals were arrested during a break in testing. They subsequently admitted their scheme to authorities, which involved attempts to test for others on both the TOEFL and GRE tests. These individuals have since been sentenced, and the culmination of this case has led to consequences for both the impersonators and those for whom they were testing. ETS is taking steps to alert institutions of TOEFL and GRE scores canceled in association with this case. Those institutions affected will be receiving notification from ETS this week.”
Ms. Tyson’s message directs readers interested in more information to ETS’s webpage on TOEFL security.
Categories: Admissions Advice,Industry Issues,Test day,TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University
by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on February 17, 2012
If you are planning to study abroad at an English-speaking institution, you know that the process encompasses (see definition 2b) a lot more than taking the TOEFL exam. You have to do research on the program – or several programs – you’re interested in, apply for a visa, research sources of financial support, and so on. Tracking the different pieces of information, and the many steps along the way, can be a challenge.
To help manage the application process, you might consider using ETS’s TOEFL Journey Program (). TOEFL Journey is a free, personalized program that delivers timely information to students on a wide variety of topics related to studying abroad at English-speaking institutions. Wherever you are in the application cycle, from just beginning to research options and study for the TOEFL through submitting applications, the TOEFL Journey Program provides information and online tools specific to each student’s needs.
If you do sign up for the TOEFL Journey Program – or are already participating in it – we’d love to hear from you about your experience. Leave us a comment and tell us how the TOEFL Journey Program helped you!
by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on January 6, 2012
It has long been a complaint lobbed at standardized tests (like the SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and TOEFL) that they are culturally biased. Historically, this discussion has typically focused mostly on how the SAT inadvertently favors middle and upper class test takers by presenting reading passages about topics more familiar to them than to economically disadvantaged youth.
To date, we do not think that TOEFL has come under the same scrutiny. But we have noticed that there may be one part of the test that is causing everyone a lot of headache (and heartache) mainly because it favors a particularly American insensitivity regarding personal privacy.
In a nutshell, Americans are – generally speaking – more willing than almost any other country’s citizenry to share their lives with strangers.
You might be asking, “Okay. But what does this have to do with TOEFL?”
The answer is a bit complicated, so follow carefully:
1. Tasks 1 and 2 on the Speaking section of the test ask you to talk about a familiar topic, so these are topics that you should know something about because they come from daily life.
2. TOEFL wants DETAILS in your answer.
3. Put 1 and 2 together and it seems that you should give DETAILS from EVERYDAY LIFE. And, in fact, this video from ETS showing an example of a 4 out of 4 response does exactly this: the man talks about himself as the source of his details.
In contrast to this correct way of answering, many students answer Tasks 1 and 2 from a theoretical point of view. For example, they might say, “Many children should play a musical instrument because it will make them more social. If children play an instrument, then they will know how to interact with others better. Children should be more confident if they play an instrument.”
This answer is theoretical because it’s talking about a general population of “children” as if all “children” were anthropologically and sociologically the same.
But notice that when an answer is theoretical, it lacks details. And because the speaker doesn’t have details, she ends up saying the same thing over and over again. (“Instrument” is repeated in every sentence.)
When Strictly English tries to get students to tell a detailed story, we give examples to help the student see what we mean. For example, “Many children should play a musical instrument because it will make them more social. For example, the 12-year-old girl next door to me used to have no friends to play with. She was very lonely all the time. But then she learned how to play guitar and joined a band. Now she has boys and girls over at her house every day of the week.”
This is FULL of details (“12-year-old,” “guitar,” “every day,” “joined a band”)! The story really comes alive in the listener’s mind. Sadly, our students then say, “But I can’t invent a story like that so quickly.” True: not everyone is a gifted storyteller who can make up imaginary lives quickly. But that’s not the point of our sample answer. The only point we’re trying to get across is that you should have DETAILS. . . . . ANY DETAILS.
So if they can’t invent details out of thin air, then we should they find these details?
We tell them to use ideas from their own life. In my life there is a 12-year-old girl who lives next to me. So I’m not inventing a story. I’m talking about my real life. If the student talks about her own life, then Task 1 and Task 2 should be very easy to answer, right? Yet, our students still struggle, regardless of how often we tell them, “But you tell stories all day long. You tell stories to your family, your co-workers, your neighbors. Humans are story-telling machines!” Just do for TOEFL what you do all the time in your daily life.
AH HA! And here we return to the cultural bias. Most of the world is not comfortable talking about themselves. For some cultures, it’s rude to talk in detail about your life. For others, it is embarrassing. And for still others, it is just nobody’s business. Did you feel uncomfortable hearing the man in ETS’s sample answer say that his apartment was small? Would you be willing to say that to a stranger? Would you be afraid that the listener would think you’re poor because your house isn’t bigger?
So even though a test-taker will tell her husband or best friend stories all night long, she would never dream of being as open with, say, a person she has just met on an airplane.
For better or for worse, Americans will.
Of course, not ALL Americans will. Even in the USA, there are shy people. But generally speaking, an American will be more willing to talk about his or her life to strangers.
This means that TOEFL is not only a test of English, but it is also – accidentally, I’m sure – relying on an assumption that everyone can talk as easily about themselves as an American can. This is not surprising when you remember that ETS is an American company.
Want to score high? You’ll have to confront this issue directly in your own life, by asking how willing you are to tell a stranger anything about you.
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