Jane So what have you been doing since you passed TOEFL?
Adriana I’ve been celebrating! After the test, when I left the centre, I was feeling good because I didn’t know for sure I got the score or not, but at least I just said everything that I wanted. And I didn’t blank like sometimes I did in the practice.
1. 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 everything around.
2. One 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.
3. 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 it made a lot of difference in the last weeks before my TOEFL.
Jane How does the exam change things in your everyday life?
Adriana My gosh, 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.” And now I know. And everybody understands me better. So I think that life in general is just a great improvement.
And now that I got my score, I applied for my physical therapy course and I’m going to just wait for the next step. But I’m very happy.
Jane I love that you feel a difference when you talk to the patients.
Adriana Oh yeah it’s way better. And everybody asks because all my co-workers are studying to become physical therapists here. So, patients will say, “Oh, and you want to become a physical therapist? What are you going to do?” And I’d say, “Yeah I’m studying.” “Oh studying what?” “English…..” 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 a high 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 say, “I’m studying to get my license here too.”
Jane Can you explain a little bit about your TOEFL journey - how you started to study for it and what challenges you had?
Adriana I started studying for TOEFL, I think, 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.
But 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 try, and I got 24 on speaking instead of 26. And then, I was totally lost because I already had everything - the books and I did the practices online that I found. So then I found Jaime’s video on YouTube and that made sense because S24 is very different from S26 so I decided to study with English Success Academy and you.
Jane And what did we do in lessons that was different from what you had been studying by yourself?
Adriana It was more like knowing what I needed to change. So the feedback I think was very important and to know my mispronunciation. You told me it’s confusing because you didn’t know if I said “they” or “the”. So this kind of thing makes the whole difference.
So it was specifics.
I think my biggest problem was with the speaking that I needed for the higher score. So I focused more on my speaking and how it’s really important to prepare for the practice. So how to cope with the stress and how to do the whole preparation.
And 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 the practices that we did together.
Jane Let me ask you a few questions so you can tell your story. Let’s start with where you’re from, where you live now and what your native language is.
Adriana Okay, so I’m from Brazil and I’ve lived in California since 2012. So six years already and my first language is Portuguese.
Jane Why did you have to do TOEFL?
Adriana Because I’m a physical therapist in Brazil. I want to be licensed here in the US. So to get the board approval and everything I should get the TOEFL done. And so 26 on speaking and everything else had to be 63.
Adriana is a physical therapist from Brazil. She needed to get S26 and W24 in TOEFL to be able to practice physical therapy in the United States. She got a fantastic T103 with S27 and W25! We chatted after she received her results.
On Thursday, I freaked out and then I called my sister about my freaking out and she said, “You know what? Just forget about everybody! Just press your headphones and speak.”
But in the test I was so crazy. The girl next to me started reading out loud the instructions and I was like, “No kidding!” Because I was in my listening test and she was doing that! And started reading out loud my questions because I was thinking, “No! This girl will not screw my test! Oh no, no, no!” So, I was like the crazy one!
Jane I think being the crazy one is absolutely fine if that is what gets you through the exam!
I had a panic attack on Thursday before the exam. I watched a video where it said okay, one week before TOEFL just postpone all the discussions and all the trouble that you have so you can be nice and calm. So I texted my boss and said, “Oh hey, I’m going to have a test. Don’t give me any trouble. Just wait until next week then I can do whatever you want!”