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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Homework

Now that I have some spare time (not much), I will take the chance to write my first post in english, so I can practice a little bit and make it a habit.

These last few weeks I´ve been (I still am) loaded with work. I am trying to finish the final project for my Masters in Pharmaceutical Sciences, which is about anti-TNF drugs and their toxicity when used to treat rheumatologic disorders, and that will take me until late june to fully complete. Besides that, I am also doing a another small research project about hemorrhagic strokes suffered by haemophiliac patients and how they were treated, which I intend to present to the Annual Congress of the Spanish Society of Hospital Pharmacy. Given the fact that, because of all this, I spend almost 12 hours everyday at the hospital (without taking into account the days I am actually on call), there is not much time left for any other thing right now.

Fortunately, last week I did have enough time  to continue my research on MBA-related subjects.  Everyone who I have talked to about have made a very clear point that a deep knowledge about every school I intend to apply is essential. You have to know what they offer (curriculum, career services, clubs…) and the philosophy of the school (is it competitive/collaborative?, is it a tight-knit community?…). It is also recommended to get to talk with students or alumni so they can provide first-hand opinions, information about student life, how classes are taught and graded …  Of course, you must also look into recent employment reports (the schools release them) for you to know  which companies recruit at that particular school, and which are the top-hiring companies or industries (there may be schools with a very clear orientation towards a certain industry). It is also important to consider the geografical area you may want to work after you finish the MBA, because if you want to work in the US, you will more likely secure a job there coming from an american school.

Given all this, I´ve started to gather all the information I find about some schools I am interested in. Of course the first source of information is always their website, where you can find everything regarding the program, curriculum, fees & financial aid, application process… Another good source is the student blog (many of the schools have one), where current student share their experiences on the program and outside the classroom. I would also strongly recommend to read the blog of an actual student of one of those schools (ridworld – MBA en Chicago Booth) that I´ve found to be very useful, since many questions I wanted to ask have already been answered through reading it (in fact, I am starting my research with Booth because of what I have already learned there and given the fact that it is the school that I know more about right now, which is still little).

Another matter I will focus in while I´m trying to learn a little bit more about those business schools are the different scholarship programs available to study an MBA. Of course the schools have their own scholarship and loan programs, but it is a must to investigate what other organizations offer this kind of aid, since an MBA is very expensive and getting the funds to pay can be difficult. As there are many different kind of scholarships offered by many institutions under also different conditions, It will take time to get to know many of them and select at least a few to apply to when the time comes (and also meet some of their conditions since, for example, you have to submit your GMAT and TOEFL scores when applying), so it is a good idea to start looking into it soon, the same as with the schools.

Finally, at the same time, I have to start preparing myself to the GMAT course I intend to take next august. I need to refresh my basic high school math, because although I have always been very good at math, there are many concepts I have not used for years. I also need to get my english ready (reading, listening…) since the classes are taught in english.

Let´s hope I can get everything done on time!