Adriana is a physical therapist from Brazil.

She needed to raise her TOEFL speaking score from S24 to S26 and her TOEFL writing score from W21 to W24 to be able to apply for her physical therapy licence in the United States.

After several months of lessons, she took TEOFL and scored a total of 103 with S27 and W25.

This is Adriana’s story, told in her own words.


I’m from Brazil and I’ve lived in California for six years. My first language is Portuguese.

I’m a qualified physical therapist in Brazil but I want to be licensed here in the US, so to get board approval and everything, I needed TOEFL.

TOEFL studying strategies

I started studying properly for TOEFL about 6 months ago. I tried to start before but I couldn’t keep up because I was just not focusing on it, and then I started good study 6 months ago.

I just got a bunch of books from friends and English ESL teachers. I was studying by myself and I read everything. Particularly, I was copying everything and trying to get tips and watching a lot of YouTube videos.

Then 4 months ago, I did my first attempt of TOEFL, and I got 24 on speaking instead of 26. I was totally lost because I already had everything. I had all the books and I did the practices that I found online.

Then I found a video explaining how S24 is very different from S26 so I decided to study with a teacher to help me.

In lessons, you helped me to understand what I needed to change.

So the feedback you gave me was very important and explained my mispronunciations. You told me it was confusing because you didn’t know if I was saying “they” or “the”. So this kind of thing makes a big difference. So it was very specific things you helped with me with.

I think my biggest problem was that I needed a high speaking score. So I focused most on my speaking and being accurate and how it’s really important to practice properly.

How Jane helped

And you helped me with how to cope with the stress and how to do the whole preparation.

Before I would just study for hours and then you taught me that you have to do it little by little because language is not just straight like a 3-hours study. So that helped me a lot.

And also all the practices that we did together helped me to be more confident.

Ready for lessons?

The Exam

I had a panic attack two days before the exam.

I freaked out and then I called my sister about my freaking out and she said, “You know what? Just forget about everybody else in the exam! Just concentrate on your own speaking.”

But in the test I was so crazy. The girl next to me started reading the instructions out loud and I was like, “No kidding!” Because I was in the listening section and she was doing that! And started reading my questions out loud because I was thinking, “No! This girl will not screw my test! Oh no, no, no!” So, I was like the crazy one!

After the test, when I left the centre, I was feeling good because I didn’t know for sure I’d got the scores or not, but at least I just said everything that I wanted. And I didn’t blank and say nothing like I sometimes did during practices.

Now I’ve got my TOEFL scores, it changes everything.

I work in a physical therapy clinic and the patients sometimes didn’t understand me. And I would think, “But I’m not that bad.” But now, everybody understands me better. So I think that life in general is just a great improvement.

And in the clinic, all my co-workers are studying to become physical therapists. So, patients will say, “Oh, and you want to become a physical therapist? And I’d say, “Yeah I’m studying.” “Oh studying what?” And I’d say “English…..” And you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, English, really.” Because nobody knows how hard TOEFL is.

Everybody says, “Okay you can do it. You speak fine.” But, no, it’s like an advanced English, an academic English. I tried to make it look harder, but deep inside I knew everybody was thinking, “Poor foreigner. Poor foreign person studying English.”

But now, I can hold my head up and say, “I’m studying to get my license here too.”

I’ve been celebrating since the results came out and I’ve applied for my physical therapy course. I’m going to just wait for the next step but I’m very happy.

The results

The most important thing is stress control. Just getting into a ritual. Whatever makes you calm down and focus only on yourself in the TOEFL centre on the day of the TOEFL. Because it’s messy and it’s just everybody talking at the same time. So you have to kind of block out everything around you.

Another thing that I changed a lot is, I started to think in English. I taught myself to think in English instead of thinking in Portuguese and then translating to English. My whole life here I was doing that - I was just translating and that’s terrible.

And I started to speak. So I would drive to work and I would repeat what I heard on the radio out loud because I think it’s different when you just say the phrase in your head and when you speak it out loud. So these strategies made a lot of difference in the last weeks before my TOEFL.

Advice for other TOEFL students