My TOEFL story

I am back in Madrid after a wonderful time in the States and yesterday, at last, I received my TOEFL score. Therefore I would like to share my journey, my TOEFL story.

It all started three weeks before my trip to the US. I got myself a copy of “The Complete Guide to TOEFL IBT”, and that, audio files included, was all I used to prepare for the exam. There is a broad range of options when it comes to TOEFL training, but I would say that this is a fairly complete book, and it helped me understand what the exam asks in every question type of every section, something I considered critical, because TOEFL, as any other exam, is not only about speaking and/or understanding English, but also about knowing how to respond to, how to face each question. So I ended very happy with my choice. Of course, the fact that I usually watch a lot of movies, TV shows and sports in English, alongside with the fact that I read books or research papers in English on a regular basis, has definitely helped me improve my reading, listening, and even my speaking skills in the long term.

I waited almost a month and a half to take the exam, because I wanted to do so after I had already been in the States for a while. Since I was going to spend a little over a month in New Haven, I figured that being surrounded by an English-speaking enviroment could help me perform better on the exam day. I was not in a hurry after all.

I took the TOEFL in a test center located in Manhattan, New York, and I have to say that all the staff was really helpful. I was one of the first test-takers to enter the room, and therefore to start the exam, meaning I would not be distracted by other students for a while and that helped me relax and focus. After just 10-15 minutes after my arrival I was already in front of my computer screen, ready for the task:

  • The reading section came first, and I had no problem with it. I consider it the easiest one and anyone who is used to read English, even if from time to time, should not have any problem getting a good score.
  • The listening did not make me sweat either. Although it can be more tricky, if you do your homework, you should be okay, since the pronunciation is usually clear and slow enough. I understood every lecture and conversation perfectly and answered to all the questions very quickly, confident it was going well.
  • Speaking: this is always the scariest section. Even if you usually feel comfortable speaking English, in this exam there are tasks in which you have to think about a topic for 15 secs and then convey a clear and coherent answer in 45 secs. Sometimes that could be hard even when speaking in your own language. I have to say I was not too nervous, the topics were not hard and the room was quite enough, but when I finished the section I had the feeling that it had not been my best performance. Of course you never know, but I was sure I would not get a super score here.
  • Writing: I have to admit that having this blog has helped me to get used to writting in English and that the previous experience with the AWA in the GMAT has prepared me to do so with the added pressure of an exam situation. Therefore I faced this part of the exam confident in my skills. The integrated task went well; it took me a while to finish, almost all 20 minutes, but I was sure I had done a good job.  On the other hand, the independent task was harder: the topic was kind of tricky and I struggled to find the right arguments.  In the end I managed to finish it in time, barely, and I was certain it could be good enough for a good grade.

When I left the test center I was sure I had done a decent exam, but wasn´t so sure of how good it could be. My first goal was to achieve a 100 score, and I had almost no doubt that my exam was around that number, but I was also hoping to reach 105 or 110 in order to be able to apply to a couple of very generous scholarships.

The result

R:30 L:30 S:22 W:27    109

I am happy with my reading, listening and writing score, and with my overal 109 too. But that 22 in the sepaking section has left me a little dissapointed, since I was hoping for a 24 at least. Truth be told. that 22 is more in tune with how I felt about my performance, but you always tend to think “maybe I did better than I think”. In this case, I did not.

Should I retake to get to that 110 seeing that I am so close? This is always a hard question, because 109 is an excelent result, and I have many things to do to spend more time with something I have already succeed at; but it is also true that I don´t think I´d need to further prepare for any section but for the speaking, so it would not be that much work.

I´ll think about it…. see you soon!

P.D: coming soon the debrief of my visit to Tuck

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