Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Cracking the TOEFL IBT :)

Sorry for being missing for almost a week. Well, it was Easter long weekend and we were off on yet another of our adventures, but that will be for the upcoming post...

TOEFL. Test of English as a Foreign Language. When I started studying for it somewhere around the end of January 2007, I thought it would be easy. After all like Amitabh Bachchan says in "Namak Halaal",

I know such English that I will leave the British behind. You see sir, I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English, I can run English, because English is such a funny language.

Hehehe. But there were problems in queue. The format of TOEFL had changed and there was a new terrifying "Speaking" section introduced. I am a good speaker, in front of friends that is :-p. Put me on a stage and I start blabbering (though I do sing on stage). Singing seems like a lesser evil compared to speaking on stage anytime :-p. Though the speaking section in TOEFL would be just recording on a computer, it was still enough to make me nervous.

Let me start at the beginning. The new TOEFL IBT (Internet based test) is for 120 marks and consists of 4 sections carrying 30 marks each:

  • Reading: The regular comprehension. A passage is given, you have to read through and answer the questions listed about it later. The advantage is that you can refer to the passage whenever you want (it doesn't go away). But there are some questions which might prove to be a pain. Like the one worth 2 points which asks you to choose 3 options to summarize the passage out of 6 very-similar-points. I was not very worried about this one.

  • Listening: In this one, you have to listen to lectures/conversations etc and answer questions. The audio would be played only once, so you cannot really refer to it again, but you are allowed to take notes. Here again, I wasn't very worried as I had the Barron's TOEFL iBT Internet-Based Test 2006-2007 12th Edition with CD-ROM book from the library and practiced the taking notes part very well.

  • Speaking: Now this was a pain. There are 6 questions in the Speaking section of TOEFL. First 2 deal with your favourites/opinion. Next 2 are integrated questions, you have to read a passage, listen to a conversation/lecture and speak stating the summary. The last 2 are listening questions, where you listen to conversation/lecture and speak summarizing the topic. Man, I practiced about 7 model tests totally, yet my answers would come out stilted. I pulled Sri into listening to some of my responses and he gave some suggestions. Though I improved, I was just not comfortable with the section :(.

  • Writing: You have to write 2 essays for this section. One is an integrated essay where you need to read a passage, listen to a lecture and then summarize (again the passage would be available for reference but the lecture was played only once) and the other an independent essay where you have to write on a topic arguing for a position. I didn't even practice this one. I consider my blogging enough practice :-D. I did look through the sample essays provided in the book. But didn't really bother too much.
The previous TOEFL CBT is considered "intelligent" in which how you answer the first section determines the type of questions you get in other sections (this is still used in countries where IBT hasn't been introduced yet). But thankfully, the new IBT doesn't have that. Anyways after studying the Barron's TOEFL book I mentioned, I was ready to take up the test. I wanted to take it on 10th March 2007, but when I tried to book in on 6th, I found out that there would be a late fee for that date :-p. So I booked it for 17th March 2007 (for $150!) and finally took it up then.

The test was at 8 AM in the morning and Sri drove me to the test centre. I noticed that there were a lot of Oriental people taking up the test. After showing my passport for identification, I was taken to my seat which had a computer and a headset (with headphones and a microphone). After making myself comfortable in terms of volumes etc, I started off. The total test would be for 4.5 hours! The reading and listening sections were comfortable and I completed them within the allotted time. I didn't even check my answers, I didn't really want to waver, so with complete concentration read the passages, listened to the lectures and answered the questions.

There is a break of 10 minutes between the listening and speaking sections and this is mandatory. So went out and made myself relax for the upcoming difficult task. While there I met a oriental student, who gushed that the test was very difficult and he thought that he wouldn't be doing well. The fact surprised me (maybe I had taken too many model tests and was well-versed with the reading and listening) and kind of made me more confident :-D. Then I returned to my table for the Speaking section. I tried to speak as clearly as possible and though I made a couple of mistakes (like forgetting to look at the time and not completing one of the answers in time, a couple of grammatical errors), I felt good. I think now that I could not have done any better :).

The last section was the writing section. The integrated essay came out wonderful (I'm not really supposed to mention the topics as I signed a copyright agreement while taking the test :-D), the only problem was that just as I was correcting a final grammatical error, the time was up and the essay auto-saved itself :-\. The independent essay came out even better :-D. I thought out points and hammered (suththi-hodiyodu :-D) them nicely into the essay. I had done well :).

The results were supposed to be after 15 days or so I thought. So on April 2nd, when I panicked and looked at the registration site, I found out that it was 15 "business" days. Oh well. I was confident yet had doubts.

Confident me: "I'm sure I'll get above 100 :)."
Not-so-confident me: "What if I don't even cross 79? :(."

(79 is the minimum score stipulated by the university I want to apply to).

Well, today is the 16th "business" day. Morning as soon as I got up, I checked whether I had any mails and didn't find any from the TOEFL people. So I logged onto the registration site to see that the scores were "available". I took a deep breath and clicked on the link.



They also had paragraphs describing how "High" my scores were and indivudual sectional summaries. God! I am so ecstatic! I have been jumping up and down ever since. I knew that I wouldn't score well in Speaking, so am really surprised at the 27. I was sure that I'd score something around "20-22". Well, with all the weird accents around, maybe mine was pretty clear for the examiner and he/she must have given the marks just because they understood what the heck I was talking about :-D. I'm happy and I'm grateful :). I guess you must have guessed it'd be a positive result from the title of the post and the smile there ;-). If it had been bad, I don't know whether I'd have been able to write a post on it :-\.

Well, one down, another to go! GMAT, here I come!


Thanu retorted...

For 3 yrs now I have been planning to take GMAT and it has never happened. Hope u take it soon...

Soumya retorted...

Way to go girl! Congratulations! These're outstanding scores..Wonderful job!
Good luck for the GMAT..

Deeps retorted...

Thanu, hmm, I have been planning to take GMAT for the past 2 years, so i guess its high time :-D.

Soum, thanku, thanku and thanku :).

Orchid retorted...

COngrats...i did toefl a few yrs back..didn't have to do the speaking section...tht must've been fun.
Good luck on the GMAT!

Harish Suryanarayana retorted...

Brilliant Score ! Way to go ! I have booked my GRE for the 23rd July . Lets see what happens . I might have to write TOEFL too may be. Ill come to you for tips :)

Deeps retorted...

Orchid, yeah speaking section was fun alright :-p. Thanks :).

Harish, anytime. The test wasn't that difficult if you ask me. But the practice I did helped a lot :).

Chickoo retorted...

Awesome!! It is great that you decided to study further. Believe me this is a very good decision that you have taken. Good luck for your GMAT, it is much easier compared to GRE, so you will be able to ace it.


WordPower retorted...


Thanks so much, your post helped me a lot in preparing for TOEFL. I scored 112/120. I am happy!

- Prathibha

apac retorted...

hello ms.deepthi
i would like to know whether it is mandatory that a passport is necessary to register for the toefl exam