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TOEFL Tip #82: Even Native Speakers Don’t Score 120 On The TOEFL

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on January 10, 2011

Strictly English has recently researched how a native speaker of English would perform on the TOEFL iBT. Many of our clients assume that native speakers will score perfect 120s on the test, but this turned out not to be true.

Because TOEFL is designed for high school seniors, we wanted our English-speaker to be 17 or 18 years old. Our most important characteristic for the native English speaker was that he had excellent high-school grades and that he had no knowledge about the TOEFL exam nor of Strictly English’s strategies. In fact, he did not even know how many sections there were on the exam.

Our native speaker scored a 105. Like so many of our clients, his worst sections were Writing (25) and Speaking (26). Granted, a 26 is a fantastic Speaking score for an international test-taker, but it’s pretty low for a native speaker. Clearly this indicates that scores of 27 and above are not just about being able to speak English. Instead, you have to speak English with a professional clarity and purpose that even the most intelligent high-school students are years away from mastering.

Our native speaker’s highest score was a 28 on the Reading, which he admitted tired him out a lot and had a significant effect on his performance as the exam went on.

After the exam, all he said was, “A little knowledge of the exam prior to would have been extremely helpful,” which suggests that even a native-born speaker could have benefited from guidance on the TOEFL.

For an American student who had previously scored in the 95th percentile for the SATs to come into the TOEFL and only get a 105 on the iBT should send a message to all those internationals who are aiming to get a similar score or higher. If a straight-A native speaker only scored a 105 without coaching, you should be prepared to need some tutoring yourself if you’re trying to get a 100 of higher.

TOEFL Tip #80: Reading Is Key To Improving All TOEFL Sections

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on October 24, 2010

You already know that reading more will improve your score on the Reading section of the TOEFL (see our March 2010 blog entry), but now you’re wondering how to improve your Speaking, Listening and Writing, too.  Surprisingly, the answer is the same: read.  Read every day, read a lot, read a wide range of topics, read different kinds of materials (poems, newspapers, magazines, novels, etc).  Study after study shows that any kind of reading improves every other aspect of language learning.

But, you might ask, what should I read?  How will I know that I’m reading the correct things?  How can I be sure that what I’m reading is at the right level for my ability?

In general, TOEFL-level reading is about the same as  the articles in The New York Times and The Guardian.  Consider reading one news story across both newspapers, and notice the differences in the way each article reports the story. Once you understand the facts of the story well in these publications, try reading about the same issue in a publication that has writing slightly above TOEFL (The New Yorker Magazine). For a real challenge, then try reading about the same topic again in The Economist, which is much harder than the TOEFL. Read articles in history, arts, culture, business, technology, science, and health because these are common TOEFL topics.

Want more?

Services such as Lexile and Bee Oasis can help target reading materials to your level.  At Lexile’s site, you can enter your current TOEFL score (or your target score!), select topics of interest to you, and they will produce a reading list that matches your reading level.  Bee Oasis is a subscription service that gives you “graded materials,” which means texts that that match your reading “grade” level.  The targeted reading from both of these sites can help support your language development by effectively focusing your reading.  You’ll have more confidence that the material is appropriate for your current level, and you can get a clearer sense of what reading level you need to reach for your desired TOEFL score.Language development takes time and consistency, but if you keep reading, you WILL get better.  Start reading today!

TOEFL Tip #79: Brazilian Testimonial

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on October 20, 2010

Antes de fazer o curso de Strictly English, já havia realizado duas vezes o Toelf. A primeira vez 93 e na segunda 94, bem abaixo dos 100 pontos que necessitava. Comecei meu curso com SE no dia 29 de setembro e no dia 9 de outubro tirei 103 de score. O diferencial do SE é que eles dominam a metodologia do exame e te dizem exatamente como deves responder cada uma das questões. Na hora da prova eu estava muito relaxado e confiante. O resultado foi que em 10 dias eu consegui o score que estava buscando fazia 3 meses. Não acredito que haja outra opção melhor que SE, nem em qualidade nem em preço. Você não vai se arrepender! RFMM, Porto Alegre – Brazil. Outubro 2010.


TRANSLATION: Before I took Strictly English’s course, I had taken the TOEFL twice. The first time I got a 93 and the second a 94, far below the 100 points I needed. I started my course with Strictly English on September 29th and on october 9th, I scored 103. The big difference between Strictly English and another courses is that they master the format and methodology of the exam, and they tell you exactly how you have to answer in which question. In the exam I was very relaxed and confident. As a result, in only ten days, I got the score I want and that I had been pursuing for three months. I really believe that Strictly English is the better choice both in quality and price. Once you`ve tried it, you will never regret it! RFMM, Porto Alegre – Brazil. October, 2010

TOEFL Tip #66: Strictly English On FaceBook!

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on March 14, 2010

Strictly English has now launched a FaceBook page called TOEFL 101.  There are a lot of great discussions on it.  Post questions about iBT Reading, Listening, Writing, Speaking, and we’ll answer those questions within 12 hours!  See you there!

TOEFL Tip #65: Find Books That Match Your TOEFL Reading Level

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on March 11, 2010

ETS has partnered with Metametrics, which created “The Lexile Framwork for Reading.”  This framework will help you find books that are at the same reading level as your TOEFL score.  That way, you can read books that are at the next level up from your level, which will help you increase your score.  To learn more go here:

http://www.lexile.com/toefl/

and put your TOEFL score into the pop-up menu on the left of the page!

TOEFL Tip #61: 3 Questions Every TOEFL Tutor Should Be Able to Answer

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on October 23, 2009

Strictly English has a list of 21 questions about the TOEFL iBT exam that we use when interviewing TOEFL tutors. If they cannot answer these questions correctly, then they don’t get the job!

If you’re looking for an iBT tutor, make sure he or she can answer at least these three questions below. If your tutor cannot answer these questions, then you might want someone who knows more about the test to be teaching you!

QUESTIONS:
1. Can I get a 25 out of 30 on the Speaking section of the iBT?
2. What section of the TOEFL iBT asks you questions that directly test your knowledge of Grammar?
3. On what part of the iBT are you most likely to use modals?

ANSWERS:
1. NO. TOEFL does not give a score of 25 on the Speaking.
2. NONE: There are NO grammar questions on the iBT.
3. Speaking Task 5. It is the only place where you talk about offering suggestions.

EXTRA NOTE: Make sure you see the tutor’s TOEFL SCORE. Even if he/she is a native English speaker, your tutor should have taken the TOEFL so that he/she knows exactly what you’ll experience on test day. Every Strictly English tutor has taken the TOEFL. This also means that we know exactly how the real test is different from what is taught in the books. Much of the information in the books is out of date because the books were published 3-5 years ago. TOEFL books should be updated at least every 2 years if not every year. If your tutor is not taking the test regularly, then he/she is relying on information in the books, which is usually old and out-of-date information.

TOEFL Tip #57: Study For TOEFL Topics In Your Native Language

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on August 23, 2009

Here is a Tweet from Twitter that I thought was interesting:

my TOEFL textbook is totally brutal. lotta words even I can’t understand in my mother tongue lol

Now, because TOEFL is a test of ENGLISH, I usually do not suggest that people study for it in their own language. You should immerse yourself in English as much as possible. But there is one time when I think using your own language is a good idea: to learn about common TOEFL topics.

This student above is finding it hard to understand the topics in his TOEFL book even in his own language. Therefore, studying the basics of biology, chemistry, American history, geology, art, psychology, etc. in your own language will make it easier for you to understand these topics in English. Once you are familiar with the idea of, for example, symbiosis in your native tongue, then reading and listening about it in English will be much easier.

GOOD LUCK!

TOEFL Tip # 53: Improving TOEFL Comprehension Via 360 Research

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on July 30, 2009

Since TOEFL is a Test of ENGLISH as a Second Language, you can greatly improve your TOEFL score by improving your English comprehension. One way to do that is to initiate a 360-review of an academically-oriented or politically-focused news story. 360-Research means looking at the story from all possible angles. For example, you could:

1. Read about the story in respected American news papers such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Huffington Post.

2. Read about the story in respected English-Language magazines, such as The Economist, The New Yorker, and Slate.com.

3. Listen to radio reports about the story on NPR.org or on respected radio shows like On Point, Talk of the Nation, Here and Now, or The Diane Rehm Show.

4. Watch videos about the story on youtube.com or on your local Public Television station.

5. Look up key ideas relevant to the story

6. Follow the story on Twitter.com

7. Read about the story in your own language.

This last point is very helpful. Because it is hard to understand the more subtle ideas in news stories, it is often good to read about the story first in your own language. That way you’ll understand the story, which will improve your comprehension of the story in English. Once you understand the story in your own language, then you’ll be able to focus on how the English is conveying the same idea. This is particularly helpful when the entire story focuses on one central idea or quotation. For example, do a search in your own language for Judge Sotomayor’s statement that “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” In Spanish, one blogger translated this as una latina inteligente podría tomar mejores decisiones que un hombre blanco que no ha tenido las mismas experiencias vitales”, and if you search the web in Spanish for “Sotomayor,” you’ll find every hit mentions “latina inteligente”. So when you read “wise latina” in English, you’ll quickly figure out that WISE must mean INTELIGENTE, since you’ve seen “latina inteligente” 20-30 times already.

Here are some links to get you started for a more recent story: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

NEW YORK TIMES

BOSTON GLOBE

THE HUFFINGTON POST

THE NEW YORKER

Slate.com

Talk of the Nation

PBS: (click on the STREAMING VIDEO link)

Youtube

RELEVANT LINKS:

Definition of racial profiling.

article about racial profiling.

Definition of 911 calls.

Definition of sensitivity training.

Article on how diversity training doesn’t work.

JAPANESE ARTICLES

Do this once a week on a new topic, and your English will improve much more quickly!

GOOD LUCK!

TOEFL Tip #52: Praise For Online Tutoring

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on July 23, 2009

The following two quotations come from this article:

The Sloan report, based on a poll of academic leaders, says that students generally appear to be at least as satisfied with their on-line classes as they are with traditional ones. In fact, the comprehension is better in a virtual class than in an in-person class.

Test preps like GRE and GMAT are intensive studies. In such deep studies, a wholesale classroom treatment can not be as effective as the one-to-one online tutoring. Many who have been gullible victims of the public-meeting type of classroom tutorials with over fifty students and  with no chance to clarify their doubts, will understand the difference between mass teaching and private coaching.

So don’t be afraid to sign up for online tutoring!

TOEFL Tip #49: Strictly English Will Launch TOEFL Videos July 15th!

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on July 8, 2009

Strictly English has been working on a series of HOW TO videos about the TOEFL test. For example:
How to sign up at ETS.
How to register for the TOEFL.
How to View your TOEFL results online.

We will also be making videos that will help you improve your TOEFL English!

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