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December 2018

March Shares Her Experience on the Speaking Section of the TOEFL iBT

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Recently my lovely student March got a 27 on the Speaking section of the TOEFL iBT

When my students finally finish TOEFL I ask them to share their experience so that other pharmacists, dentists, physical therapists and working professionals can see that they are not alone. The questions I ask them are very specific – the goal is to motivate people who are still struggling and also to explain a little more about my teaching method.

I could tell you about my classes, but somehow my students always do a better job!

I have been a teacher for almost 15 years now, I have learned how to provide guidance, knowledge and information specific to my field. For TOEFL, I motivate my students, organize their study schedules, their study areas and sometimes, their lives. Over the years I have laughed and cried with my students aged 3 to 63 and I am proud to say that in every teaching experience that I have had, I too have learned something. That is the greatest joy in teaching.

March has a lot to say about her lessons with me. I will post more after the New Year because now she is going to take a well deserved holiday with her family.

Here’s what she said when I asked her specifically how I helped her on the Speaking section of the TOEFL iBT.
“First of all, Sierra helped me to feel more comfortable during speaking practice so that way I could speak more naturally. For each task she had a specific exercise or protocol to help me with my specific issues.
For example with Tasks 1&2 I used her “Think Fast” protocol to improve my topic development and get familiar how to answer questions within the time limit. This helped me answer questions faster with good examples.
Tasks 4&6 were the tasks that I had problems with the most. I used to hate them, but now I love them! Before I studied with Sierra I didn’t know to study them correctly, but after Sierra helped me study them the right way, and taught me to look for keywords and try to understand the readings and paraphrase them using my own words, I could do them so easily.
For every task, Sierra helped me by fixing my grammar or helped me find better words or create more natural sentences that were more suitable for speaking, she gave me choices to choose from. I like when she didn’t tell me what I did wrong in the first place. She left it blank and I had to think what I did wrong and fix it myself. It helped me recognize my mistakes and remember not to do it again. If I didn’t know how to fix it, she’ll always be there to help me.
During classes, we practiced speaking together. She helped me to pause in the right place, where to link words and how to say them correctly all together. She also recorded my responses speaking them for me so I could practice them and imitate her intonation, her word stress and linking and I improved a lot by doing that.”

March’s Reaction to her S27 and W27 on the TOEFL Exam

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Last week my student March texted me to let me know that she finally achieved her target scores on the TOEFL iBT. This week I will ask her some more specific questions about her TOEFL journey so that you can learn more about what we did in our classes. Today’s post is about how she felt when she got her scores! It is an emotional story that captures her excitement and energy and that I hope will inspire other students to stay focused and continue to strive for their goals. Enjoy!

This is what I wrote about what happened when I found out that I passed the test. It’s super long, but I want to share it with you. You helped me to be done with the test and move on to the next part of my life. It means the world to me. Without you, I might be stuck with this test for who knows how long. I can’t thank you enough. I just want to say that doctors might save patients’ lives, but you give a new life to me and your students!!!  Have a great day Sierra!

March’s reaction to her S27 and W27 on the TOEFL exam

After I got an email saying that my TOEFL scores were available online. I jumped and my head started to spin. I took the test in November 17th. It usually takes about 10 days for me to get the result, but because of the holidays it took a little longer. I’d been waiting and waiting and I wasn’t sure what I should expect. I was excited and scared at the same time because I was disappointed before and I didn’t like that feeling. Even though this time I didn’t expect that I would get the score I needed it because I thought that this time I would go in to take the test as my practice test before the real test that Sierra and I planned that I would take it in December. Now,the moment of truth!!!! I opened my laptop with my shaky hands and logged in to see the result. When I saw the result, I couldn’t believe what I just saw because I am nearsighted and my eyes are really poor.

So I squeezed my eyes and looked at it closely, and yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I got it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! R23 L28 S27 W27 OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I did it!!!!!!!!!!!


I was screaming like a crazy person, my heart was pounding and my body was shaking. I emailed my husband and called Sanky. Sanky and I have been through a lot together and the amazing thing  is that this time we went to take the test on the same day and we both passed!!!!!!! I’m so happy right now. I told my family over facebook but they didn’t respond  because it was late there. My head hurts right now, I think it’s because I’m so so happy….

I couldn’t have done it without the help of Sierra. She is very organized which I really like. I’m a kind of person who like to see what I have to do step by step so I can do it correctly and she gives me that. We mainly focused on Speaking because it was the part that I had a lot of problems with. First, we started by making a schedule so I could manage my time wisely and knew exactly what I should do and when. In order to improve my speaking, I had to follow it intensively. Then, we started the classes. I liked how she approached them. I always get nervous when I have to speaking in front of other people. So she helped me starting with baby steps and told me to think that I was talking to my friends nothing to be afraid of and it helped. (I’m still nervous when I have to speak on the test but feel so much better than before). We practiced and practiced and practiced.

Sierra made a speaking protocol for me to follow in each task which was very helpful. We practiced “delivery” in class which I really liked because I had problems with intonation, pronunciation, and linking and I recorded video in class and I used them to practice after class. It was really useful. Also, I liked that she created a “skill building” plan for me to improve my confidence to do task 4&6. I really appreciated it. When we practiced Sierra really paid attention in detail when she listened to my responses or when she edited my transcripts and she would point out everything that I needed to improve, pronunciation, language use, grammar and vocabulary. I learned a lot from my mistakes.

She also introduced me to Spaced Repetition for Memorization and how to make efficiently flashcards. It was a life changing for me. I studied my flashcards with space repetition and I remembered them better. I also like that she gave me homework by laying out them step by step in order. For me, it helped me to stay focused and wouldn’t get overwhelmed. I followed what I had to do for homework and how I had to do it.

I’m trying my best to cover everything she has done for me but I couldn’t put them all because they were tons of things.

With her, I know that studying a difficult exam like TOEFL takes dedication not only from students but from teachers as well. They have to meet in the middle and put 50% and 50% to go through it together. Sierra devoted her time with the best knowledge and resources that I couldn’t ask for more. I really appreciate everything she gave to me. Finally, we ended this journey beautifully together! I’m so ready for the next chapter of my life.

Thank you Sierra!