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by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 21, 2009

The most interesting advice I received from the AIGAC conference is that International Applicants to American Educational Institutions should be WORKING at the time that they apply to college, university, or graduate school. Schools do NOT like to hear that you’re spending all your time studying English or preparing your applications. It makes you look like you can only handle one task at a time. In college, you’ll have to constantly multi-task. So prove to the admissions office that you can do more than one thing at once.

Now, many of you cannot legally “work” in America, but anyone can volunteer! This is a great way to prove to an admissions board that you are serious about your career choice! It is also a great opportunity to meet English speakers and practice your English in real-life situations. You might also be able to ask the person who manages you at your volunteer job to write you a letter of support for your application!

In sum, by volunteering, you’ll be strengthening your English, making English-speaking friends, developing professional connections, and impressing admissions offices. Oh, yeah: and you’ll be doing a great thing for the community, too!

TOEFL Tip #40: The Statistics On Getting A 26 On The Speaking

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 14, 2009

One website reports that people who need a 26 on the Speaking Section of the TOEFL take the exam an average of 10 times before passing. In 2008, only 10% of all test takers scored 26 or higher on the test.

Therefore, do not get discouraged if you’ve taken the test multiple times and are still having trouble achieving the score you need/want. You will get there! It just takes much more time than what people initially expect.


TOEFL Tip #39: Test Taker’s Feedback

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on

Hi Jon!
Sorry for taking so long to get back to you!

I did my exam ok and I feel quite comfortable with what I have done!

To be honest, the it was a little bit tougher than I thought. The reading I did well. I knew most of the words so I’m quite happy with that! The listening was faster and longer than I expected! The speaking section, I think I did better than ever, I tried to remember what you told me about “pace myself, take a short breath between sentences ..” I felt really calm and seemed not to be nervous at all. So, I answered all the 6 questions quite well. Thank you for that.

Writing was a little bit rushed, I was running out of time but still finished everything, including proof-reading! I wrote quite a lot, about > 350 words for the second essay.

Again, thanks for your help during the time I practiced. you have been a great help for me.! God blesses you!
Hope you are having a nice weekend!

TOEFL Tip #38: Grammar vs. Essay Structure

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 10, 2009

It is hard to say definitively if your Grammar or your Essay’s Structure will count more toward your TOEFL score.  Officially, ETS says that the score is “integrated”, which means that it counts all aspects of communication equally. Yet, if you make really basic grammar errors, then it won’t matter how great your essay’s structure is.  Here’s what I do know: an essay with perfect structure, and perfect **Intermediate-Level English** can score 29 (you don’t need Advanced English grammar to get a high score), but an essay with perfect structure and Intermediate-Level English that has consistent Subject-Verb agreement errors will drop down to a 22. That’s a loss of 7 points just because you repeatedly wrote sentences like, “he go”, “it give”, “she have” instead of “he goES”, “it giveS”, “she haS”.  So be very careful with grammar. It Counts!

TOEFL Tip #37: Time To Use iBT Scores Only

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 8, 2009

It has been over 5 years since the iBT (Internet-Based TOEFL) was introduced and at least 3 years since it was the only version of the TOEFL accepted by most reputable and desirable universities. Why then do universities continue to publish required PBT (Paper-Based TOEFL) scores for admission to their institutions?

When universities publish a PBT score in their admissions materials, it conveys that they are not up-to-date on industry standards and that they are out-of-touch with the hurdles their applicants face. This suggests to the international applicants that these universities might not be aware of other concerns internationals might have.

I strongly urge every admissions office to use the iBT scoring system when publishing their TOEFL requirements.

To help you with this transition to the iBT scoring, here is a link to the official ETS comparison charts.  Be careful though, these charts do not account for the SPEAKING section of the test since the PBT did not have this section. Read the documentation carefully before making the transition to the iBT scoring system.  It’s not hard, but it does require care when reading over the charts.

TOEFL Tip #36: Scrap Paper On Test Day

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 4, 2009

TOEFL Test Centers give you as much paper as you need for taking notes, but they only give you 3 or 4 pieces of paper at a time. Therefore, it is crucial to use your paper carefully. Here are some helpful tips:

1. You do not need to take notes on the reading.
2. Try to use only HALF a sheet of paper for each Listening Passage
(You have to give back the paper you’ve already used before they will give you more)
4. Use only HALF a sheet of paper for each Speaking Task
5. Use the front of your last sheet of paper to take notes for the 20-Minute essay
6. Use the back of your last sheet of paper to take notes for the 30-Minute essay.

TOEFL Tip #35: Timing Your Bathroom Visits

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on May 16, 2009

Strictly English has had many students say that they missed valuable time on the test because they had to use the bathroom during the TOEFL exam.  THe test DOES NOT stop if you have to use the bathroom.  Therefore, you should be sure to use the bathroom BEFORE the test begins and then again on your 10-minute break.

Strictly English is not the only company that has noticed this as a problem. Watch the following video:

TOEFL Tip #34: GUEST TIP: The College Admissions Essay

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on May 6, 2009

Although Strictly English works exclusively with TOEFL preparation, we often get questions about how to write the College Admissions Essay.  Here’s a good blog entry sent to us from Adam R. Goldberg, Educational Consultant.

TOEFL Tip #33: Another Institution Requires A 26 On Speaking Section!

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on April 24, 2009

This article ( explains how another institution (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ accreditation agency) has now made a 26 on the Speaking Section of the TOEFL a requirement that all graduate students who are teaching assistants.  Getting a 26 is really hard to do! Please read through Strictly English’s blog entries on the TOEFL Speaking Section to learn good tips that will help you improve.  They work.  Last month, Strictly English had a student improve her speaking score from a 24 to a 27 in only 16 hours of tutoring!

TOEFL Tip #32: Talk Slowly

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on April 10, 2009

You’d be surprised how slowly you can talk on the TOEFL speaking section and still get a good grade. One way to slow down is take a deep inhale between each sentence. One deep inhale is only about 2 or 3 seconds long. Taking deep inhales  does the following:

1. It helps the test grader keep up with you.
2. It gives you a chance to think about what you want to say next.
3. It calms you down.

Try it!
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