My troubled TOEFL story


I just got my TOEFL results last week.  The path was not as simple as I had foreseen, mostly because of some not so good decisions. So I want to share my story to illustrate what you should not DO while preparing for and taking this exam.

Over confidence

So, I knew I was good at English, I read a lot in that language and watch TV series and movies, so I have no problem understanding it. I had some problems in speaking with some minor pronunciations mistakes and in writing with spelling, as I depend too much on Word Spellchecker, but overall I was hoping for a 110 or higher. I prepared for it 4 days before the test with the simulations, but obviously it does not give you a score on speaking and writing. Final mark: 105, pretty good, but not enough for HBS, which I am targeting. Later, I learned that I had to consider the structure of the answers. Big mistake on mine, not doing some research at least in the MBA forums or with people I knew who had taken the test.


After my TOEFL failure, I decided to take classes with a real teacher. My worst scores were in speaking and writing: 22 and 25 and only one class was enough to understand why I had those scores. I learned all about structure for the speaking and writing sections. I knew there were some information I had failed to mention and other phrases I should not have said or written at all. Therefore, make sure to check some TOEFL guides, which help you learn the structures.



My teacher said I sounded as unclear speaking as Ariana Grande singing. I talk fast, like really fast. In Spanish I have no problem getting people to understand me, but it turns out that when I did the same in English I was pretty unintelligible in some moments. My teacher said it was because I lacked practice speaking, which is true since I have no one to talk in English to. Therefore, I started doing monologues when I was alone and recording myself and at the same time, tried to talk a little bit more slowly. This practice in addition to my constant reading and writing in English helped me get immersed in the language.


Be early

This is where my story gets tragic or maybe I am quite dramatic. I had already scheduled a date for my second try on July 15th. It was a Friday at 9:00 am, so I decided to call a taxi at 7:00 am as I live around an hour away from the test location. But, the taxi would not come, maybe it was the rush hour or bad luck. At 7:20 I knew I could not wait more, so I left home and went to grab a taxi from outside. I finally got in a taxi around 7:30, and although the time was tight I was sure I was going to make it before 9. However, after a mile away from my house, the traffic was dreadful! I make this same route every day when I go to work and it was never as horrible as it was that day. Half an hour later I had not even made a fifth of the path. At 8:30, I knew it was hopeless, so I told the taxi driver to take me back home: I was still an hour away from the test center according to Waze.  Murphy Law was all over me! Once at home, I scheduled a new test day. Needless to say that in said day I arrived an hour and a half before the given time. Lesson learned.


Make it up


Who was your favorite teacher and why? Which is your favorite vegetable and why? Which one do you like better rock or pop music and why? Really? I have no favorite teacher (I hated them all – just kidding). And do people have favorite vegetables? And about music, I like both rock and pop music but I can’t think of a reason why I liked them, I just do. This is why I hated speaking tasks 1 and 2, it is just the randomness of the topic. That was until I decided to make it up, and I actually had fun coming up with creative but fake answers.


Finally, after all this months, I got the score I was looking for: I got my 110. Now, I can apply to HBS!



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