Jeressy is originally from Mexico and she now lives in Texas. She needed TOEFL to get her teacher's certification to become a bilingual teacher. All the time she was studying for TOEFL she was incredibly busy, working as a nanny and a fashion designer.
She did the exam 6 times before she started lessons with Jane. She then had two more attempts at the exam, and on her second attempt she exceeded her target scores and achieved R23, L23, S27 and W24.
This is Jeressy’s story, told in her own words.
Before I had lessons with you, I spent one year studying for TOEFL. I attempted the exam six times and did many tests but it was really difficult. The university, where my teacher’s course is, gave me some classes but it was just for three weeks. The teacher was Hispanic and her English was pretty good but she didn’t know about TOEFL. I took the exam but I didn’t get the score that I needed.
Then I went to look for some stuff online. I found some videos and I started to practice the things the teacher said but they didn’t work either. I found a teacher in my city, but again it was general English and not specifically for TOEFL, so it didn’t help.
Lessons with Jane
When I started working with you, the main thing was you noticed some of the struggles that I had - like pronunciation, vocabulary and other details that no one ever told me before.
My other teachers didn’t dig into the real problem like you did. You told me my real struggles. You told me what kind of things I needed to work on and I was very surprised about that and I feel like I was walking with a blindfold on my eyes.
It’s like I was trying to take TOEFL but not addressing the problem properly.
We’d been studying together for a few months and I was preparing to take the exam. But then I had a major shock.
We had been focusing on the speaking section because I just needed S26. All the other sections - reading, listening and writing - didn’t matter.
And then a week before I took the exam, they changed the requirements! They told me that I needed to get a specific score for the reading section, the listening and the writing too, as well as the speaking section.
So I kind of freaked out because we prepared for 4 months only for the speaking section and in a week I had to prepare for the entire test. That was very overwhelming.
I did the exam but I didn’t get my target scores. But the experience made me very motivated to continue. Honestly, I wasn’t sad. I was very surprised that I didn’t get the scores that I wanted because I was working very hard - waking up every day at 5am to get ready for work and then study and everything.
But after that I was like, "Something’s wrong" because I feel like I did everything right and I didn’t get the scores. But I knew that I could get the scores that I needed because I’d done many sample tests and I’d got very high scores. So, I was motivated because I knew that I could do better.
When I went to do the exam again, I was feeling confident because I had the previous experience. The thing that maybe really worked was that I knew the test centre already and the people that were working there. I knew where all the computers were and everything, so that maybe gave me a little bit more confidence. So that was definitely a huge help.
Also I did more sample tests than the previous time. I really wanted to do more practice tests in order to feel more prepared for the test, like having those 4 long hours. I feel like I needed to do that in order to feel comfortable sitting for long hours and taking a long test, so maybe that helped too.
"What really helped me was knowing that fluency at phrase level was important.
I thought I needed to be perfect for 60 seconds."
Ready for lessons?
You know what, because I had done the exam so many times - it was my eighth time - and I feel like I was so used to feeling sad and not getting the scores every time. And that’s not good - getting used to NOT passing TOEFL. That’s not good, and I thought this is just another time that I’m just not going get the scores that I want. That’s the feeling that you get when you fail so many times.
But when I saw the scores I was like OMG! This is possible! Yes, I finally made it! I still can’t believe it to be honest. Because also I took the test in a season when I was very busy and it was almost Christmas and all the holidays and everything and it was just a weird time.
So seeing the scores after Christmas and before the new year started, I was shocked. It was a great way to close the year and a great Christmas gift and it’s just amazing! It was pretty shocking!
Now that I’ve got the scores, I’m going to take the next step to get my teacher certification.
The next semester is about the psychology of kids and how you work with kids in a classroom. It’s going to be interesting.
1. Don’t give up. When I got my scores, everyone told me “We’re so proud of you, you never gave up”. A lot of people say “Oh no, I’m not going to take the test anymore.” The test is awful, which I agree. It’s a very difficult test but I kept thinking, “No, this test is not going to break me. I’m bigger than that. I can do this”.
2. Keep studying. Obviously study with the right teacher. Keep working hard to get the scores you need.
3. Practice. Do a sample test. Not just specific areas or specific tasks because you can’t just study for 20 minutes and then say, “Ah yeah, I got this”. That’s not what’s going to help you at the test. It honestly isn’t just 4 hours. It’s more than that. it’s a long exam and you’ve got to be prepared.
4. And then, if you do fail, I know a lot of people don’t like to go back. They just find it very stressful and very overwhelming so they don’t want to go back. But if you have to go back like me. I had to take the TOEFL again and I had to find a different approach. I needed to find more motivation and to feel more positive.I watched many videos about how to keep motivation in your daily life and that helped too.