Meet Hilda! She's a bilingual teacher from Mexico who now lives in Texas.
She worked as a teacher's assistant for many years but she needed TOEFL so that she could study for her teacher's license and have her own classes.
She started studying for TOEFL by herself at first. She attempted the exam and didn't get her target scores. She realised that she needed help from a tutor, not just to learn about the specific requirements for the exam, but also to help with exam strategy and organizing her study schedule.
After several months of studying, interrupted by Covid, she finally took the exam.
She exceeded her target TOEFL scores and achieved R22 L23 S28 W24.
This is Hilda's story, told in her own words.
Hilda's Background in English
I started learning English at school and continued in college. Then, I went to work for American Airlines, so I've been around English for a long time.
I got married and moved to the United States and I knew decent English. When my kids started school, I had several jobs. I translated manuals for light fixtures and ceiling fans. I worked in a pre-school and also, I taught adults in Spanish. I knew about TOEFL and just the word scared me. I thought, “Yeah, thankfully, I don't need to deal with that!”
Then, I worked as a teacher’s assistant. I helped students pass the standardized tests and I did reading recovery with them. That made me realise I wanted to be a teacher and have my own classroom. Then I discovered I needed to do TOEFL to be able to get my certification.
So, I started my journey with TOEFL.
Hilda's First Studying Attempts
First, I started studying for TOEFL on my own.
I studied for one month because I thought, you know, I’ve been in this country for 21 years. I've been speaking English at work. My husband speaks English and my kids speak English. I thought I knew decent English and I wouldn’t have a problem.
I got some TOEFL books and I practiced on paper. I didn't realize it was different from doing the test on a computer. I wasn't timing myself either. I would get 85% or 90% for reading, and I thought, “Yeah, I'm super good”, but I didn't realize that I was taking a long time.
I went to the exam and I got R17, L17 and I was a couple of points away in speaking and writing.
So I realized, TOEFL was not at all what I expected.
I was stuck. I really didn’t know how to learn. I knew how to read, write, listen and speak, but I didn’t know how to do it on the computer for TOEFL. I didn't know the strategies.
So, I needed a tutor to help me.
That's why it's worth investing in a tutor like you because you have the tools. If I said, "I'm struggling with this", you would have a document with explanations and practice, and I didn't have to go all over the internet to find just one little thing.
Ready for lessons?
My first tutor was extremely expensive and didn’t know TOEFL. I pretty much taught him TOEFL in my lessons. That was my tutoring - me tutoring him on TOEFL!
I did an ETS course and also some ETS practice tests but they didn't help me because I needed to learn so many new things for TOEFL. I didn't know about the different skills I needed for reading. I had never done multiple-choice testing in my life. We didn’t do timed tests in our school system, so that aspect of TOEFL was horrible for me. I would get so nervous.
I found a place locally where they tutor for SATs and college entry. That was in a classroom so I liked that idea. We practiced reading a lot. My tutor would put a timer on and she made me read then answer the questions in a certain time. She helped me with the timing and comprehension but she wasn’t a TOEFL tutor.
I was going to do the exam again but then Covid came and my exam was canceled. So, I went on the adventure of doing the TOEFL Home Edition of the exam. I didn't pass and got the same 17 points for reading.
I was so devastated.
I told my husband, “I'm going to be a teacher's assistant for the rest of my life, getting this little salary and not advancing because of TOEFL”. He said, “We’ll find another tutor. We’ll do whatever it takes.” So, I started teaching myself again and then I found you because of the Masterclass course.
And you were amazing!
What I love about you, well, I have a list that's never ending…
I really like you because you're personable and you worry about your students.
You are so clear and patient and you thought about my needs.
Not just in the time that we were together but you would keep on thinking. You weren't just, “OK, she paid me for an hour now, that's it, she's on her own.” No, you were with me all the way until the very end and you don't find that every day.
You've got to be so proud of yourself, seriously because you help people with their lives. You're not just a tutor.
I could meet you in a video chat before deciding about lessons.
I love that you take time to get to know your students and understand their needs. That’s wonderful.
I love how organized you are, how prepared and how very professional.
I was never anxious thinking, “Oh my gosh, what's it going to happen?” I knew every lesson, at our time, you would be there. And we students need that because we have a lot of stress already going on.
You helped me to make a study plan.
It made everything a lot clearer for me because I was losing interest. I was down and I didn't want to study anymore but, with my study plan, I had goals that I could accomplish every day.
You taught me to take breaks.
That was important. Before I sat and studied non-stop maybe for 4 hours without getting up but you taught me that my brain needs a break. So, I started doing that and I realized when I came back, I was fresh again and could focus.
You really helped me with study resources.
I would spend hours trying to find things but you sent me a few links that I was able to go straight to and read all I needed. That's why it's worth investing in a tutor like you because you have the tools. If I said, "I'm struggling with this", you would have a document with explanations and practice, and I didn't have to go all over the internet to find just one little thing. So, you have all the resources together for everything.
So all of those things were amazing. I really want people to discover you so they don't have to struggle. I kept telling my husband, “If I had met her a year ago, we would not have stressed over time.”
You gave me a little bit of psychology, a little bit of a pep talk and I needed that boost. Sometimes I tend to not believe in myself. But you said, “You can do it” and I believed you.
I thought, “I'm just going to pass the exam because she said I'm ready.”
I went with that confidence and that helped me.
One thing I learned is you have to invest in a TOEFL tutor because this is your career. I thought I could teach myself but I realized I couldn’t.
I'm sure there are a lot of people that want to save money like me. And they think, “I can't afford a tutor” but in the long run, it’s better to spend money on a tutor.
Most TOEFL tutors are extremely affordable. So, invest a little bit of money on tutors that are specific for TOEFL and once you get your dream job, you’ll earn it back.
Learn as many new words as you can.
You need a method, so use flashcards or whatever works for you. Get familiar with those words that you encounter on TOEFL because you’ll need them for all of the sections.
I used to read so slowly but I practiced reading faster until it felt comfortable. First, read without timing because timing adds pressure, so just read for confidence.
Sometimes we get so focused on, “I’ve got to pass TOEFL” and you practice and get so many questions wrong and get disheartened.
But read for confidence and you’ll feel good again. You’ll get that boost.
1. Get a TOEFL Tutor
2. Learn Vocabulary
3. Learn to Read Faster
TOEFL wasn't allowing me to move forward. Now that I don't have to spend time on learning strategies for TOEFL, I can really start working on my teacher certification.
That's why I’m relieved and happy. I'm going to be working on what I actually want to do.
I have to do a test in Spanish and then take online courses. Then I can start looking for a job.