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Skill Building for the TOEFL iBT

By | English Fluency, Speaking 26+, TOEFL iBT, TOEFL TIPS | No Comments

This week’s TOEFL Tip is about “Skill Building”.

I work with a lot of students who need high scores on the Speaking and Writing sections of the TOEFL iBT. The first question I ask them is what are your Reading and Listening scores?

Language is integrated!

Forget about your target scores for this exam. If you want to speak fluently, if you want to write well you need to have strong reading and listening skills. Yes, you need to expand your vocabulary. Yes, you need to understand the basics of English grammar, but what many students don’t realize is that one of the best ways to do this is by reading English texts and listening to native English speakers every day.

Careful! Just reading ANY text won’t help you on the TOEFL exam. Listening to the news or watching American sitcoms is not a good place to improve your vocabulary or speaking skills when you are preparing for an exam that tests your knowledge of campus situations and academic topics.

If you want to make the most of your time, dive into TOEFL material!

Use the Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT. Read TOEFL reading passages slowly to understand, don’t race against the clock to try to answer the questions. If you read a passage once and you don’t understand the majority of the text, go back and read it again! Learn how to analyze the texts paying attention to grammar, vocabulary and organization. when you listen to a campus conversation or lecture, don’t listen to find the answers, listen to understand! Listen to how the person is speaking! Use transcripts to improve your listening skills.

Once you have built these skills you will see a difference on the exam. Don’t stop building these skills because you have achieved your required score… keep going! Raising your Reading and Listening scores to 26+ will make the Speaking and Writing sections so much easier for you!

If you need help, get in touch!

I am trained TOEFL iBT Exam Preparation Specialist. I am a native English speaker with over 13 years experience teaching students from all over the world. I have helped many students reach their target scores of S26 and W24.

You can find me on Facebook at “Sierra Forest English Academy” or use the contact form below!

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Are you ready to improve your English today? Say goodbye to difficult exams like the TOEFL iBT. Learn what has been holding you back from a high score. Improve your pronunciation and communicate better with your colleagues, supervisors, classmates and friends.

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TED-Ed “The benefits of a bilingual brain”

By | English Fluency, Multilingualism, Speaking 26+ | No Comments

Did you know that “knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged”?

I’m a native English speaker from the United States and speak Spanish fluently after living in Madrid for six years. I learned conversational Mandarin when I lived in Beijing and I can still order food, and talk (briefly) about my experience as a university teacher there – something I am very proud of!

Now I’m learning my third language here in France! It’s exhausting sometimes but I’m making progress!

If you are bilingual, trilingual or multilingual you are making your brain “more healthy, complex and actively engaged”! Watch this TED-Ed talk by Mia Nacamulli to learn more!

TED-Ed “The benefits of a bilingual brain”

Don't miss out on news about my group classes and workshops!

Are you ready to improve your English today? Say goodbye to difficult exams like the TOEFL iBT. Learn what has been holding you back from a high score. Improve your pronunciation and communicate better with your colleagues, supervisors, classmates and friends.

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A pharmacist from India got an S27 and W27

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

My TOEFL experience is just like a roller coaster journey. I started this journey in 2013 after I passed my FPGEE exam. Naturally, my confidence was high and I lived in the UK for ten years and also I am from India, where English is almost a second language. First, I thought TOEFL is an easy exam and people just exaggerated it . So the first time when I took this exam I prepared only for a week and I scored 22 in speaking. I thought if I can get 22 at my first attempt I will easily get 26 in my second attempt but that was my biggest mistake. I tried multiple time and worked hard, which had improved my scores in other areas like reading and listening but my speaking and writing hadn’t changed at all. I kept trying for a long time and worked very hard even though my scores hadn’t changed, finally I became a victim of frustration and disappointment. I started losing my confidence and by 2015 my confidence level was at the bottom and I quit. I wanted to become a pharmacist but TOEFL had almost shattered my dream and at one point I tried to join odd jobs at McDonalds and bakery shops. Also I enrolled in the medical transcript and pharmacy technician license course at La Guardia college. However, I wasn’t happy inside because I had a dream to work as a pharmacist in the US. So in 2016 December again I tried TOEFL and this time I found Jaime’s English classes and I contacted her. As a result she recommended me a teacher, whose name was Sierra.

Sierra was my 5th teacher, before her I tried four different teachers at Manhattan Elite prep class, Kaplan classes along with some private tutors. I had worked with different teachers even though the result was same and my speaking scores hadn’t gone beyond 23 or 24. So, when I met Sierra I thought she would do the same thing like my previous teachers did but I was wrong. Sierra was very strict about her homework policy and She never compromised with her homework. First I had a lot of problems and I made so many excuses to skip her homework but she was after me and made sure I do my homework within a time limit. She made a schedule for my daily study and homework and I started following that. The first few weeks were really terrible to follow the schedule but eventually I liked that and started following it. After some time my confidence level increased. Also I’ve noticed that Sierra has a unique quality sometimes she talks like a tough teacher, who doesn’t like a single mistake, sometimes she acts like a good friend, who knows your likes and dislikes and makes you happy and sometimes she acts like a mentor or a coach, who knows how to lift the confidence level in her students. She is the one who brought my confidence back and taught me to believe in myself. I wish I could have a teacher like Sierra for every test in my life.

Now that I finished the TOEFL I am going to India because my parents live there. I haven’t seen my parents for five years because I wanted to go back with success. When I came to the US I promised myself that I would become a pharmacist and get my certificate. Now I have passed this exam, I feel like a winner and I have fulfilled my promise. So I will go to my country and spend a couple of months with my family before I start my Pharmacy internship.

Don't miss out on news about my group classes and workshops!

Are you ready to improve your English today? Say goodbye to difficult exams like the TOEFL iBT. Learn what has been holding you back from a high score. Improve your pronunciation and communicate better with your colleagues, supervisors, classmates and friends.

Sign up for my mailing list to be the first to know about group classes, online courses and workshops.


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Anastasia, a teacher from Russia, got a 30 on the Speaking section of the TOEFL iBT!

By | Speaking 26+, TOEFL iBT | No Comments

Yes, a 30 in Speaking! Amazing!!!

Ana and I worked together on and off for about 7 months during 2017. I want to take a moment to point out that for some students, taking classes “on and off” is actually the key to their success. It is very common for serious students to contact me and purchase a package of private lessons, study intensively and then take a break. You can read more about studying “on and off” here.

We all have busy lives. Some of us are working parents, some of us are studying and working at the same time and it’s not always possible to set aside the time and dedication required to prepare for the TOEFL exam. The information, strategies and feedback I give to my students is extensive and detailed. Sometimes students just need to take some time to review everything they’ve just learned.

These students always come back to me. We stay in touch. They trust me. I guide them while they are taking these breaks and I am there for them, supporting them whenever they need me.

This is why it is so important to communicate what’s going on in your life with the person that is guiding you through this exam. It’s important to stop and reassess your situation every once and a while.

If you do decide that you need to take a break, it’s ok! Sometimes letting the soil settle in the stream is exactly what you need to keep you moving forward. I will be here to support you through that time and I will be here when you’re ready to come back online and study with me.

After 9 months of private lessons with me, she finally scored R22 L29 S30 W26!!! Read her story below…

“My name is Ana. I’m from Russia, but at present I live and work in China as an English teacher. When people hear that I’m an English teacher they expect that TOEFL must be a piece of cake for me…However, I’d like to mention that although I’m a teacher and I speak English every day, my students level is very elementary, so I can only use simple English to talk to them. So TOEFL was a difficult task for me like for most of students. Plus there were two big BUT setting me apart from the desire score.

Before sharing my experience with Sierra, I’d like to add that I took TOEFL once. In 2014 when I studied in Japan I decided to test my English skills by taking TOEFL. And it was a big mistake for me. It was my second year in Japan and frankly speaking there was very little English left in my head. Back then I had no idea what is the test structure, types of questions and even the time given for tasks. So I went to the exam without any understanding of what I have to do. The test was stressful and I left the auditory with a terrible headache. When I got my score R20, L21, S20, W15 I wasn’t just disappointed, I was destroyed. My confidence in English had disappeared. I even gave up writing my thesis in English and wrote in Japanese instead. It took me a couple years to recover and try to take the test one more time, but this time I decided to find a teacher.

Luckily I met Sierra! Unluckily, I met her too late… I arranged my second TOEFL try on the first week of March and I started my classes with Sierra in January. I was busy working, missing my classes and not doing my homework well, but even though I scored R23 L26 S23 W20. It wasn’t the score I wanted, but I realized I’d found a great teacher who can help me reach my goal if we spend enough time working on it. After the second time I decided to take a brake on TOEFL preparation, since I was busy preparing for other exams. We resumed our classes in July and I was going to take TOEFL the third time in October. However, as I mentioned before I had some issues…

The first big “but” was my time, or it’s better to say the lack of it. My working schedule looks crazy, since I have three jobs. At the time when I was supposed to prepare for TOEFL I even didn’t have any days off. So I really want to thank Sierra for being patient and having classes with me at loud places with a very poor Internet connection during my lunch brakes. I believe that there is nothing like “I don’t have time”, it’s all about your priorities and the right time management. And Sierra was the one who was keeping me on a working mode, motivating and reminding me what are my priorities. She helped me organize my time better, so I had gaps in between to study. She shared very useful apps and studying technics that helped me study more productive in shorter time. And that was exactly what I needed!

However, the biggest BUT for me was the fact that I’m a terrible procrastinator. And if you’re used to postpone every task till the last moment you know that it’s almost impossible to start doing something until “the deadline panic monster” will come. Thanks God I have found this “deadline monster” (P.S. sorry Sierra for calling you so ^^’). She was the one who was texting me one hour after the class and saying “- Ana, one hour has gone, where are your speaking recordings with transcripts?!?! – Ana, I haven’t got your essays yet, your deadline is coming!!” And I’m sure I would never get my score without this supervision. We all have our weaknesses and I was lucky to find a teacher who can understand exactly my needs and find a suitable way for me to study.

So when the exam day had come I can’t say I wasn’t as nerves as I felt the second time taking TOEFL. Sierra was with me on my test day making sure I got to the place on time, supporting and encouraging me. I remember I left the room with this feeling of satisfaction and confidence. Right after the test I texted Sierra that I’m going to get a good score. I just felt it, because I was ready, after a good preparation it didn’t seem to me difficult, I didn’t feel exhausted after the test. I was very exited. And this is how students have to go to exams. Take the test when you are ready for it.

I got my score three weeks later. I remember I just finished my training at the gym I checked my score. When I’d seen 30 I first thought I got 30 for listening, but when I read “speaking” I was like “Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?!!!” screaming, jumping, laughing. My teammates looked at me like what’s wrong this crazy foreigner. But I just couldn’t keep all those emotions. I couldn’t believe I got this score. It was the life changing moment. I suddenly realized how many doors had just opened for me. And of course I first sent a voice massage to Sierra. I was so insanely happy screaming that I even couldn’t string a sentence together. Later, however, I realized I got 22 on reading section and it was the only bitter moment. Never the less I’m happy with my score and I would never get it without my good friend Sierra. Thank you for being my teacher, my mental supporter and my good friend!”

 

Preparing for an Exam “On and Off”

By | TOEFL iBT | No Comments

Have you read Mary and Ana’s success stories? After reading them, you might notice that I mention that they studied with me, “on and off”. What does this mean exactly?

Well it means that they got in touch with me, started private lessons, and then something happened. For one reason or another, they took a break. During this break they stayed in touch with me and when they were ready, or when I decided they were ready, we started classes again.

For some students, taking classes “on and off” is the key to their success.

It is very common for serious students to contact me and purchase a package of private lessons, study intensively and then take a break. For some students this break may last a week or two while their children are on vacation or they have family visiting, for others it may be a longer, guided break where they do self-study or attend to other professional or academic projects in their life.

These students always come back to me. We stay in touch. They trust me. I guide them while they are taking these breaks and I am there for them, supporting them whenever they need me.

We all have busy lives. Some of us are working parents, some of us are studying and working at the same time and it’s not always possible to set aside the time and dedication required to prepare for the TOEFL exam. Many of us live far from our families and homes. We need to connect, we need to visit with family and friends and invite them to our new home in our new country.

Preparing for TOEFL is part of life, but while we are preparing, life goes on!  

The information, strategies and feedback I give to my students is extensive and detailed. Sometimes students just need to take some time to review everything they’ve just learned. Classes with me are intense! There have also been cases where I asked students to take a break. I told them they needed to rest, or focus on an aspect of the exam that I was confident they could do on their own.

This is why it is so important to communicate what’s going on in your life with the person that is guiding you through this exam. It’s important to stop and reassess your situation every once and a while. If you do decide that you need to take a break, your teacher should support you! Sometimes letting the soil settle in the stream is exactly what you need to keep you moving forward. If you need a break I will be here to support you through that time and I will be here when you’re ready to come back online and study with me.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your exam!

You know what I love about teaching online?

By | TOEFL iBT | No Comments

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Teaching online has allowed people around the world to open their homes to me.

Every day I get to connect with people from different countries and cultures. They share their hopes and dreams and trust me with their future. What a privilege! As you can imagine, I take this very seriously.

Last fall when I gave my Writing Workshop I had students from California, Chicago, China, Turkey and the Philippines all sign-on together as I hosted our lessons live from France!

Most of you know that I’m an American from New York with over 16 years experience as a teacher. I started teaching in the New York City public school system, then I moved to Spain and became a professional ESL teacher. I taught in China for 3 years and now I’m in France teaching English and preparing students for the TOEFL iBT online from my tiny office in the countryside. Isn’t technology amazing?

Even during my first year as a teacher in New York City I realized that this new profession meant I suddenly became a mentor, friend, mother, sister, confidant, support system, role-model and source of inspiration and positive energy.

I give 110% to my students and they in turn give me their trust and allow me to guide them. I take this relationship very seriously. If it works and we both give an equal amount of energy then they are successful.

My private lessons aren’t for everyone. I know that. My schedule is often very full and I have to limit my hours online so that I can spend time with my family and take care of myself.

Setting limits is very important to me and I often have to teach my students how to set limits for themselves. I help them get organized, I guide them and organize their time so they know when to study different parts of the exam and how to stay on track. I remind them to ask for help and to spend time with their family, friends and themselves.

This month I’m leading some group classes so that I can reach out and help more students with the Writing Section of the TOEFL iBT.

These classes are designed to give you the tools you need to create a high scoring essay. It is not an easy fix that will teach you a secret trick to beating TOEFL. After I teach you the strategies you need to practice! Preparing for TOEFL takes time, effort and energy. I put these classes together to be able to reach more people at once.

If this post speaks to you and you would like to join, just choose your day and click the link below.

    

➡️ Wednesday classes will be held at 11:00AM CET.

➡️ Saturday classes are for women only and will be held at 16:00PM CET.

If you are a man and you are interested in a Saturday class please send me an email with your location and time preference so I can offer something for you in the spring.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to guiding you through your TOEFL journey!

To find out more about the Integrated Writing Workshop, click HERE



🍃✨Classes are starting this week! ✨🌿