Quirenia

Imagine getting your TOEFL results early in the morning when you’re on vacation in Spain!

Imagine finding out you passed and that you can spend the whole day celebrating!

This was Quirenia’s experience.

She’s a pharmacist from Cuba and she now lives in Florida. When she first started studying for TOEFL, she had very little knowledge of English. It took her 3 years, but with hard work and dedication, she achieved her target scores.

Background

When Quirenia first started studying for TOEFL, she realised she had a lot of work to do. Her English level was quite low at the time so, very sensibly, she started at the beginning and worked out a studying strategy. She gave up her job so that she could concentrate fully on her studying but also, because she was surrounded by Spanish speakers at work, she realised that wasn’t helping her to improve her English.

Her incredibly organized and methodical approach to studying really worked. She was able to absorb all the information she needed to know for TOEFL and then practice over and over again. Once, she repeated a speaking response 37 times to get it right!

As a result, she took the TOEFL exam only twice. She had 9 months between those 2 attempts. During that time, she had lessons twice a week with Jane and worked on all the skills she needed to improve her listening, speaking and writing. She never missed a lesson!

This is Quirenia's story, told in her own words.

TOEFL studying strategies

The first thing that I did, when I started to study for TOEFL, was to try to figure out what the exam is like.

Then I started to think how to pass every obstacle in my way. I started with the reading, then moved on to listening and then speaking.

I realised that I needed to improve my pronunciation and I started to learn about that and about phonetics. So many times, people think that this is not important but this helped me a lot. It really matters for the exam to pronounce the words well.

I think that in order to get an advanced score, you need to learn something about phonetics because this helps you to pronounce the words better and it helps with that whole process.

"For the first time in my years studying for this exam, I’ve not thought whether it is worth it to continue or pay more money. Yes, it’s worth it!!

I feel like I’m learning and I’m improving because your patience and your way of teaching is helping me to take the English language to another level.”

Ready for lessons?

The Exam

I am the kind of person, that I work well under pressure and under strain. I don’t get so nervous in an exam. I get more nervous in the months before the exam.

On the exam day, I did everything that I needed to to. I had done my work and I put in the time studying and the only thing that I needed to do, was to go to the exam and take it. It was in that way. I sat there and I took the exam.

And in the two times that I’ve taken the exam, I’ve felt that the exam is easier than the TPO practices. I’ve always had that kind of feeling with that. The exam is clearer. For example in the speaking section when they speak, it’s more organized than so many of the TPO questions.

Speaking question 1 made me nervous and got me by surprise. It was something related to the environment. It started then I had to read it again before I started to answer the question. Just like we had practiced, I tried to be spontaneous and to say the first thing that came to my mind.

Also the independent writing was really long and I had to spend time to read the question again in order to figure out what to write about that and what exactly what they were asking me. It’s definitely more complicated now.

 

How Jane helped

Having a coach is very important because they are the person who will help you improve and give you the next steps to move in the right direction. In order to improve in English, a person needs feedback and then they need to listen to that feedback and work on their weaknesses.

Also, to have a coach that encourages you is very important and I found this in you. Every time that I was down, you appeared on my screen with your big smile, saying that everything will be okay and you know how to fix that problem. And that gave me a lot of confidence.

I think that a coach that gives confidence to students is very important in this process because it’s a long way. It’s hard, and some days are better than others, but people need someone else who helps them, who encourages them, and who gives them confidence to move forward.

The results

The day that I got the results, I woke up early and I checked my email and it said that the results were posted on the website. I woke up my husband and I said, “the results are ready, but I don’t dare to check them.”

He told me, “Give me your phone” and he started to read and he said the total score was 100. And I said, “Oh my God, it’s high!”

And he started and said, “Okay, tell me what is the requirement for the reading?” I said 21, and he said, “Ok, you’ve passed the reading section. Now give me the listening requirement. Ok 21.” And he looked at me and said, “You passed that requirement!”

Then he said, “Don’t tell me the speaking because I know what the requirements are for the speaking.” And he looked at me with his eyes so close and so wide open and I said, “Did I?” And he told me “You did it baby!!! You did it!!!” Then I said “Tell me about the writing because I have a lot of problems with writing” and he told me, “You did it too!!”

Then I started to scream and to jump and I started to cry for about 5 minutes without stopping.

The celebrations

We felt very happy and started to send emails to all my friends and my family because everybody was waiting for the results.

And I told my husband, “Ok, this is going to be a surprise for them because right now, it’s 7 o’clock in Spain but in the US, everyone is still sleeping. And by the time that we get lunch, it’s the time that everybody is going to be waking up.”

And it was that way. By the time we were having lunch, everybody started to send emails and send messages and everybody was crazy.

My husband was so happy. He was so happy the whole day. We did “cheers” with everything. We celebrated with ice cream, with cappuccinos, with wine…

Now I’m trying to take a break in my brain and to think about the next step.

I need to find a job because I need to do an internship. I started to call some people that I know, my contacts and the contacts of my friends, and I’m waiting to hear from them. Here in Florida it’s very hard because there are many pharmacists and they don’t want to pay people for the job and so many people have to do that internship for free and if you want to be paid you are not going to find a job.

It has been a long journey but I think that the hardest part is past because TOEFL took me almost 3 years. I didn’t know English and I had to start learning English.

I’m very grateful for meeting you and every time that I think about this, I’m very happy that I picked you.

In order to do that I took a couple of days to think about different coaches. I know that they were good but something in my heart told me, “Pick Jane, pick Jane!” And I did. And it was the best thing that I did for this.

Because you are amazing, not only as a coach but as a human being and it was very important for me that every time that I opened the Zoom that you popped up there with your big smile and gave me confidence and everything.

You have been very important in this way. I won’t forget everything you have done for me and my family and my friends.

The next steps