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TOEFL Tip #69: Video Testimonial: Score 104. Speaking 27

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on March 15, 2010

He did it, so can you!  Sign up today!

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 #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!

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?

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 Much of the information in the books is out of date because the books were published 3-5 years ago.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tutor is not taking the test regularly, then he/she is relying on information in the books, which is usually old and out-of-date information.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 #60: TOEFL Speaking Task 1: Describe A PERSON

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on October 22, 2009

When TOEFL asks you to describe a PERSON in Speaking Task 1, you can talk about that person’s:


EX: “I really respected my chemistry teacher because he was SMART (mind) and PATIENT (emotion)”

You can also:

1. Talk about the effect this person has had on you (for example, this person made you more interested in volunteer work, or this person introduced you to jazz music)

Or: 2. talk about why you respect this person (for example, you really respect their work ethic, or you admire their sense of humor).

For more tips on how to generate speaking ideas, come back and read more on our blog!

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

3. Listen to radio reports about the story on 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 or on your local Public Television station.

5. Look up key ideas relevant to the story

6. Follow the story on

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.





Talk of the Nation

PBS: (click on the STREAMING VIDEO link)



Definition of racial profiling.

article about racial profiling.

Definition of 911 calls.

Definition of sensitivity training.

Article on how diversity training doesn’t work.


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


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 #50: Kind Words From A Friend Of Strictly English

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on July 10, 2009

I would like to thank you for the tips on the speaking section, and also for leting me know that the integrated writing had changed. I did not have a lot of time for studying these changes, but I did have some time to search the ETS website for some examples of level 5 essays.

Again, thanks a lot for helping me achieve this score.

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!

TOEFL Tip #43: Improve Your Subject-Verb Agreement When Speaking

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 22, 2009

Many people—-even the most advanced non-native English speakers—-drop the “S” at the ends of words. And, in all honesty, it is very hard to train yourself to stop doing it. So, here is one trick that will help you a lot: read documents that have every “S” highlighted.  This highlighting will draw your attention to each “S” as you read the document aloud. Repeating this every day for one month should completely eliminate the dropped “S”.  Here is an example:

Highlighted "S"s

Now you can either take the time to highlight the “S”s yourself or you can have your computer do it.  I use my computer, and here’s how:

1. Import any text into a word processor of your choice. I usually take my articles  from

2. Initiate a FIND AND REPLACE.

3. In the FIND box, put in “s” [space] (if you don’t put a SPACE after the “S”, then you’ll highlight “S”s in the middle of words, which you don’t want.)

4. In the REPLACE box, put in “s” [space]

5. With your cursor still in the REPLCE box, Select HIGHLIGHT in the FORMAT pop-up menu. (The FORMAT pop-up menu might be hard to find depending on the word processor you use.)


7. Repeat steps 2-7 but this time, put “s.” [space] into both the FIND and REPLCE boxes (notice the PERIOD after the “s”)

8. Repeat steps 2-7 but this time, put “s,” [space] into both the FIND and REPLCE boxes (notice the COMMA after the “s”)

TOEFL Tip #42: The Dangers Of Self-Study

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 21, 2009

Practicing language production (in other words, Writing and Speaking) on your own can lead to big setbacks because you have a high likelihood of reinforcing bad English instead of reinforcing correct English. Read more here.

For example, if you write a 300 word essay, and in it you made the same grammar error 10-15 times, then you just memorized the incorrect English. This commonly happens with Subject-Verb agreement errors. Students make them so often that they memorize the incorrect grammar.

What you need is a professional ESL instructor sitting with you as your write who can correct your errors as soon as they happen! This maximizes your learning potential and minimizes your study time!

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