My TOEFL® Story: Eun Joo An
In this issue we are featuring a successful TOEFL® test taker, Eun Joo An, from Jakarta, Indonesia, studying in South Korea. This is her story and advice to TOEFL test takers everywhere.*
Two days before the deadline, I started to panic. On the following day, I was supposed to send all my documents to ETS to meet the deadline for the ETS TOEFL Scholarship application. It was around 11 o'clock at night, when I started to lose all my confidence. I felt that my essay did not seem extraordinary and my goals did not look that special. I thought about moving my application file to the trash can on my computer and giving up. But I told myself that it would be okay even if I was rejected. There was nothing to lose. I decided to take a lighter approach towards my application. Instead of being obsessed with winning, I decided to answer my essay questions truthfully and patiently. Having done that, I sent in my application on the next day.
Thankfully, I was accepted. People usually say a person needs a perfect score on the TOEFL test, a nearly perfect GPA, outstanding list of past activities, overflowing list of awards, and impeccable linguistic skills in English to be eligible for an ETS TOEFL Scholarship. I am a living counterargument. Of course, this by no means says that my qualifications were disappointing. As for the TOEFL score, I just needed a decent score to prove my English proficiency. Regardless of your current skills in English, I believe that it is critical to become familiar with the structure of the questions in the Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing sections of the TOEFL test by going through numerous preparation books. At least that is how I have prepared for my test. Regarding my application and interview, I think that my truthfulness, creative approach to looking at the world and optimistic outlook for my future were effectively conveyed to the judges.
As a student in my early twenties, I still have a long way ahead to plan my career, future and life. I have learned through the ETS TOEFL Scholarship Program that everything I want to do is worthy of a try. I would be very glad if I can discover even one great passion of my life by trying a hundred activities. I am not a genius or gifted in any way, but I do know that whatever I set my heart to, I will achieve. Courage and self-value propel me forward every day. Really, I am more than willing to devote my twenties into creating a clear blueprint of my life and discovering my true passions.
How I have prepared for my TOEFL test:
Reading: I solved a lot of practice Reading questions in TOEFL test preparation books. This trained me to accurately grasp the main points of the reading passages. I prepared separately for the questions that ask for the meaning of certain words. When I studied vocabulary, I memorized at least three synonyms of words that frequently appear on TOEFL tests along with their definitions. This greatly helped me to correctly answer vocabulary questions in the test, because the multiple choices usually come up as synonyms.
Listening: The Listening section became much easier when I concentrated hard on the speaker and took down brief notes along the way. Notes became very important in answering technical or detailed questions. Many TOEFL test preparation books have tips for taking down notes by efficiently using symbols and shortcuts. Also, it is vital to stay focused from the beginning to the end of this section. If you are not focused, you could easily miss critical information.
Speaking: When practicing the Speaking section by myself, I answered the questions just like I would in the real test. I strictly followed the preparation time and speaking time limits, so that time restraint does not become a problem in the real test. This helped me to think of examples faster and develop my ideas within the time limit.
Writing: When I studied the Writing section, I referred to several essay templates that are in many TOEFL test preparation books. Following a concrete template made my essays more coherent. In the Writing section, I believe that an effective use of transitions and development of ideas is crucial. Therefore, I memorized a list of transition words that I could use when writing an essay.
* The test taking tips and/or strategies expressed in this article are those of the test taker and are not necessarily ETS's.
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