Dalal is a pharmacist from Iraq who now lives in Minnesota, USA.
She had already achieved 26 in TOEFL speaking, and her listening skills were strong, but she was struggling with the reading and writing sections in the TOEFL exam.
In lessons, Jane focused on building Dalal’s reading and writing skills as well as practicing specific exam strategies for both those sections.
Dalal’s exam was delayed by Covid, but when test centres reopened, she achieved her target scores at her first exam attempt after her lessons with Jane.
She raised her reading score from 15 to 22, and her writing score from 19 to 24!
This is Dalal’s story, told in her own words.
I'm from Iraq. I lived in Jordan for 10 years which is where I got my bachelor’s degree, and I moved to the United States 5 years ago.
TOEFL Studying Strategies
When I did my first TOEFL exam, I didn’t really study for it. I just took it to see the exam format and to find out my strengths and weaknesses.
It was challenging, especially the writing section because I got 13. Listening and speaking weren’t too bad but the huge problem was with writing. I knew I would need to spend most of my time preparing for the writing section.
Practicing English at Work
and at Home
I feel like my listening and speaking skills were strong because of my work experience in the United States.
I spent eight hours every day in a pharmacy and you need a lot of communication skills to work there. You have to communicate with other coworkers, then with the patients. I had maybe more than 45 patients a day because it was a busy pharmacy. Also, you have to talk to the doctors over the phone and then insurance companies.
I had a lot of contact with Americans so that made me more confident to speak in English. I learned from them when I listened to them. For example, I learned a lot of phrases from people when they were speaking. I liked to copy them and then keep memorizing those things.
The other thing that I feel helped me with listening and speaking is that I like to watch Netflix a lot. I like watching movies, series and TV shows so that helped with my speaking and listening skills.
When I went to the test, even for the first time, I didn’t stress out for the speaking section. I felt just like I was speaking to one of my patients or one of my friends so I was very natural and relaxed.
"It’s like you have a solution for every problem! You gave me everything to help me be more confident."
Ready for lessons?
We had to wear masks in the exam for the whole time and I think it is one of the hardest things to wear a mask when you're speaking.
Also, it was my first experience of getting the reading and listening scores in the exam. They just pop up after you finish the listening section. So, for the reading section, I thought wasn’t going to get my target score because I felt like I didn't do well, but the scores popped up on the screen. And I got R22 L22 and I was so happy! It was a big motivation to continue!
"Hi Jane, How are you? Hope you and your family are doing well and staying healthy.
Just wanted to let you know that I got my TOEFL scores yesterday and I passed finally:).
Reading 22 Listening 22 Speaking 27 Writing 24
Thank you so much for all the support, help, and the great lessons. Appreciate it. Have a great weekend :) "
For reading, my problem was with the passage summary question and with the insert text question, so you gave me a lot of examples to practice on and all the information I needed. That was very helpful.
For the writing section, you gave me all the instructions that I needed for the exam.
Before, I used to think, "I don’t know what to write" but after lessons with you, I knew what I was going to write. I had a strategy that saved me a lot of time and that made me more confident with the writing section.
Two days before the exam, I went through all of your feedback for my essays. I checked everything you said about grammar, vocabulary, commas – everything. It was a lot but it was really helpful.
It’s like you have a solution for every problem! You gave me everything to help me be more confident.
You need to practice a lot but, at the same time, don't waste time studying by yourself. Sometimes, for some sections, you just need help from a professional teacher and that will save you a lot of time.
I spent 2 years studying and practicing by myself and my scores were really different. I didn't know how sometimes I got 13, then 21, and then 19 and then 18. But having a teacher helped me to understand this.
I think there is some benefit to trying to do things by yourself and I think you can give yourself a certain amount of feedback but it is quicker to talk to someone who's got experience of doing it.
Sometimes we don't pay attention to small details but a professional teacher will notice them. I don't remember that I cared about capital letters or things like that before our lessons, but you gave me a lot of feedback about those things so in the last exam, I applied all those instructions and I think that was one of the reasons that I got a higher score.
When you study by yourself, you don't have a strategy and so you don't know what to do when you go to the exam.
When I took the lessons with you, I did have a strategy and everything I needed for the writing section and the reading section. So when I went to the test, I was confident because I had all the instructions that I needed, so it was easier.
I saved a lot of time because for the first exam I did after our lessons, I got my target scores. That was after two years of studying.
1. Get help from a professional teacher
2. A teacher will give you detailed feedback
3. Have a strategy
So now I'm preparing for licensing test and I’m going to start my internship. I'm excited that I'm going to finally work as a pharmacy intern because I’ve been working as a pharmacy technician for 2 years.
I studied a lot in pharmacy school and I did everything in my country but when I came to the United States I had to start from the beginning again.
Now I've got my TOEFL scores I can move on to the next step with my internship and then hopefully the licence.