Jane Can you start by telling me a little bit about your background and why you had to do TOEFL?
Jeressy I’m a student. I’m going to be a Spanish teacher hopefully this year. But I needed to take TOEFL because that’s one of the things that the university asked me to have in order to get my teacher’s certificate. So actually, I spent one year studying for TOEFL and I did many tests but just at the beginning it was really difficult.
Jane How was it difficult?
Jane So what advice would you give to other students who are still studying for TOEFL?
Jeressy 1. I would say don’t give up. I told my family and I told my friends I passed TOEFL and I’m so happy.
Everyone told me that 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 maybe because I was thinking, “No, this test is not going to break me. I’m bigger than that. I can do this”.
2. And keep studying. And studying obviously with the right teacher. But, not giving up and keep working hard to get what you need. I think that’s advice I can give.
3. And practice. Practice a practice 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. One day I was thinking like studying for TOEFL it’s like it feels like you’re preparing for going to war. Like the military they just train so much for it!
And if you are actually in that moment, you can’t just freak out. Like if your knowledge at the time disappears or your mind just goes completely blank.
But if you practice, and if you train maybe you are going to be able to do something.
Jane Right, so your training will kick in when you start feeling stressed and nervous because you know that you’ve done all of that practice. That’s really good advice!
Jeressy 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 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. I needed to feel more positive.
Jane And finding those things helped?
Jeressy Yes. I watched many videos about how to keep motivation in your daily life and that helped too.
Jane And how did you feel when you actually saw your result and saw that you got the scores?
Jeressy You know what, because I had done the test so many times - it was my eighth time, number 8 -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 ah, this is 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 also 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 year started I was shocked. I was like this is a great way to close 2017 and this is a great Christmas gift and it’s just amazing! It was pretty shocking!
Jane It was perfect timing really wasn’t it?
Jeressy It was, yes!
Jane So what are you going to do now?
Jeressy Well now that I’ve got the scores, I’m going to take the next step to get my teacher certification. The next semester is just about the psychology of kids and how you work with kids in a classroom.
Jane So it really was the detail. Finding your weaker areas and then focusing on those to make them much much stronger.
Tell me a little bit about what happened with your exam experience because you’re a teacher in Texas and the requirements changed just before you did the first exam.
Jeressy At the beginning I only needed 26 on the speaking section and they didn’t care about the other sections - reading and listening and writing. And then a week before taking the test 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. 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.
Jane Right. That was a huge change to have that given to you in 2 weeks. So your result from that exam wasn’t what you wanted it to be. You didn’t get your target scores but you were really impressive after that because you became so motivated. Can you explain what changed?
Jeressy Well 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 to 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 know that I can get the scores that I need because I’d done many sample tests and I’d got very high scores. So yeah, maybe I was motivated because I knew that I could do it better.
Jane So, then you went to do the exam again. What was your feeling as you were doing the exam? Were you confident?
Jeressy Yeah, I was feeling confident. I was because I had the previous experience. The thing that maybe really worked was that I knew the test center already - 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.
But also because mainly I practiced more sample tests than the previous time. I really wanted to practice 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.
Jane Right. And that’s a really good point as well because in lessons and in study sessions if you’re just practicing individual parts you don’t get the feeling of how 4 hours really lasts a long time and how you have to keep concentrating and how you have to keep focused.
Jeressy The university gave me some classes but it was just 3 weeks. Actually the teacher was Hispanic. Her English wasn’t bad but I don’t think she was pretty good at the TOEFL classes. I took the test and I didn’t get the score that I needed.
Then I went to look for some stuff online. I found some videos on YouTube and I started to practice the things that the teacher on YouTube said and then it didn’t work either. And then I tried to find a teacher here in my city and then I went to the school and the teacher was okay but it was still pretty generic.
Jane So then we started working together and what changed? What did you feel was different about the way you were studying?
Jeressy Well I think the main thing, I mentioned some struggles that I have or that I used to have - like pronunciation, vocabulary and details that no one ever told me before. Like I couldn’t ask the teacher on the YouTube videos. I couldn’t ask her because I mean it was impossible! But the other teacher, he did some stuff but he didn’t dig into the real problem that I had.
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 mask on my eyes.
Like trying to take TOEFL but not addressing the problem properly.