> Following TOEFL iBT experience was shared by Kartik.
My TOEFL was scheduled first on Sept 18, 2011, and it was postponed the evening before, when I got a call from an ETS-woman, who said there were “technical difficulties” and “we don’t know when the test will be rescheduled to, but be prepared for something as late as Nov/Dec”.
Note, for all practical purposes, English is my native language, so I was disgruntled at having to write the test in the first place, and now they postponed it indefinitely, when I was planning to send in my university applications in the first week of October. Hence, my frustration. (Bordered on rage at times, but I have issues)
Finally, on Sept 23 at 1:30 pm, I got a call saying my test was the next day (24th) at 10am.
Again, thanks for the speedy notification and for assuming that I’m jobless on a Saturday. To show my disgust (not that it did me much good) I didn’t have a shower, wore all-black and landed there.
TOEFL ibT Experience – Test center
Did the usual stuff, verifying my identity etc and sat down at some computer.
During the mic testing, there was a pretty girl beside me testing her headset in a thick Indian accent. (nothing wrong with that, I have a fairly thick one too (pun not intended), but I’ll get to why I mentioned her later).
There was one idiot, who was shouting, “It is a warm and bright morning on the 24th of September and I am here to write my TOEFL test”, loud enough for his anxious parents waiting outside the building to shut their ears. (Well that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.)
Now for the individual sections, how I prepared for it, and my useless commentary.
TOEFL – Reading Section
Well, this should be a cinch for people who read anything in general.
For me, I had been reading editorials from The Hindu for just over a year.
Not all the editorials, just the interesting ones. And yes, interesting in the sense that I would be reading it even if I didn’t have to write the stupid exam.
Trust me, it makes a helluva difference in terms of your vocabulary pickup and comprehension when you’re reading something you love.
For me – Taliban/Af-Pak, Spoilt greeks and spaniards refusing to get their shit straight and reform etc etc.
Anyway, it just needs perseverance, as it can get pretty boring. So don’t keep repeating in your mind like a mantra, ‘this is pointless, this is pointless’, and you’ll be fine.
The pretty girl I mentioned before became pretty ugly when she started her speaking at the same time.
But this time, it was a whole hearted attempt at a born-and-bred American accent.
You don’t have to do a 180 just to be understood by other people, it really does sound nauseating when you try to be someone you’re not. (Although it’s pretty cool if you walk around with a stick in your hand, claiming to be Lord Voldemort.)
I debated waving my hands in front of her face, but then I remembered the videocams.
This is one of the sections I practiced seriously, as I have an unproven hearing problem, which has in the past supplied me with a whole bunch of unfriendly sobriquets. Four or five listening exercises from Barron’s.
Headphones, noisy environment with no rewinding is a perfect simulation of the real deal.
Then came the 10 minute break, which was, unfortunately, mandatory.
Now, the speaking. The loud guy from before was making full use of the vocal chords God gave him, and I was sincerely thankful that I was done with listening. The pretty/ugly girl beside me however, wasn’t so lucky.
I practiced this a decent amount too, as I can speak inane crap with my friends non-stop, but I clam up when it comes to formal settings.
Couple of Barron’s exercises for this too, with wall-clock recording.
Now, I hate biology and drawing stuff. As my luck would have it, my listening was dominated with biology-related passages and so was my speaking.
The third topic that I had to talk about for 1 minute had a lot of jargon that I couldn’t note down in time.
I ran out of material to talk about and had even concluded awkwardly, within 30-33 seconds.
I was pretty upset, and accidentally swore “F***ing biology” into the mic. No, I’m not exaggerating this time. No more comments on that.
Always knew cursing like a sailor for every small thing would bite me back in the ass someday.
Somehow managed to push that event out of RAM into the hard disk and proceeded with my writing.
Here again, my main passage was something about the extinction of sea cows and possible environmental causative factors.
Lucky me. I had somehow managed to complete the whole essay writing “sea turtles” for some reason instead of “sea cows”.
Saw this with 30 odd seconds left, after cooling my heels for 5 minutes, admiring myself for exceeding the word limit by a 100 within 15 minutes.
And yeah, just like bomb defusing in the movies, I really managed to finish editing the last “sea turtle” just as the clock hit zero.
Didn’t practice this at all.
If you read a lot, there is a trickle-down effect, unlike with the rich getting richer, and it shows in your writing too.
I had probably written a 100K odd words of a couple of Harry Potter stories on fanfiction websites before, which could’ve helped ; can’t say for sure.
Went home, had that shower that I really needed, and then did god-knows-what. Was fine with the whole thing, although a little apprehensive about the guy somewhere in New Jersey or whatever, who would be grading my colorful language.
So I got 118, and yes, the 2 I lost was in speaking.
Anyway, that’s it. If it helped anyone, great.
If it didn’t, well that’s 10 minutes of your life you ain’t getting back.