How are you TOEFLing Today

Well, Natalie and I have had two days getting organized and starting some of the exercises that are intended to prepare her for the TOEFL exam. It has caused me to do research into TOEFL and better understand why it is needed. I also am getting a better appreciation of the difficulty of the exam and the skills that are required for a person to pass the exam.

There are two typed of exams. There is a Paper Based Exam and a Computer Based Exam. While both test the same areas of competency, they obviously are administered differently. The latter requires the individual to have some basic computer skills.

TOEFL has four areas that are tested. They are Listening, Structure, Reading and Writing. The main focus of TOEFL is to allow a college to determine if a student, whose primary language is not English, can take classes in that university and obtain a degree. The fee for taking the test is $150. Therefore you need to feel you are prepared before you go take the TOEFL test.

Natalie is preparing herself for a Master’s program which would be in a foreign country. That is the objective of our exercise. Monday we spent time having Natalie take one of the computerized tests to get an evaluation of what her needs are. I now have a better understanding of how to proceed.

Using the materials I have, as well as materials I am finding on the Internet combined with some items that I will create, I think we will have a pretty complete study package. One of the things I have found that is suggested is for the student to do as much reading as possible of all English materials. In this area, I am having Natalie read two books. Both are John Grisham books. I feel he is a good writer and the material should be interesting.

I am using two books for this reason. I have not read either book. Currently she is reading the first by herself and marking areas in which she has difficulty. This will allow her to read at her speed and get the enjoyment of the book with only the interruption of having to look up words that she may not be familiar with.

The second book is the new book by Grisham titled “The Innocent Man”. I am going to have her spend an hour a day reading that book to me out load. This will allow her to improve her pronunciation and me to have a lovely lady read one of my favorite author’s books to me. I guess you might say that is killing two birds with one book.

This afternoon, I am planning a field trip up to the Fronteria. If possible I will get some photos of that area. I intend to use the trip to have Natalie describe where we are and what she is seeing on the drive. Just having more English conversation will also help her.

I thought I would take this time while Natalie is reading by herself to organize for the field trip and to describe my thoughts on where we are and how the process is starting and how it will go forward. As things progress, if I think that there is anything of interest, I will make other entries.

10 thoughts on “How are you TOEFLing Today

  1. Don: You’re doing a great job with Natalie. I took the test many, many, many years ago and I recommend also that as additional reading material, she could read The Reader’s Digest in English. Also, I recommend that if she has cable TV that she should listen to news and other programs in English. If the program has spanish subtitles, that would be very helpful.

  2. Hi Lilia.

    Great suggestion about Readers Digest. I wonder if ARROCHA or Rivilla carry it. Do you know? It would be good because it contains short stories and I hadn’t thought of it. However, I do have books and you use what you have.

    She is using the TV. She had cut a piece of black paper to paste over the subtitles to force herself to listen more carefully. I will suggest she listen to CNN in English as it has not titles.

    I had also thought about renting a few DVDs and not turning the subtitles on or strictly turning on the English subtitles.

  3. Don/Nathalie,

    I’m not a native English speaker (Dutch) but I went to an English speaking school, long time ago, just for 2 years. In Holland all films, series etc. are in the original language with subs. Leave the subtitles on for more understanding.

    Grisham is fun to read, and easy !! But is it a book Nathalie would read in Spanish? Find what she likes and give it to Nathalie in English.

    Music? Pop music (and poetry) can be very helpfull. And just talking/singing in English is a must.

    A little cheat on computers, if you know your way in Windows it doesn’t matter what language you speak, just click on the same icon!

    Writing is another matter and you seem to have forgotton about it.
    So: Nathalie…Read every blogfile and comment on this site. Think about it and try to remember what it is about and… write it in in English, using your own words.

    Hope to be of service,


  4. Hi Rob. Thanks for the input.

    No all of the books I will be giving Natalie to read are in English. We will review all material she reads to verify her comprehension. I just reread you comment and understand where you are coming from. The answer to your concern is Yes. She has watched several of the Grisham movies and likes him as an author. I realize that she has to be reading something that is interesting to her and she and I have discussed that.

    Music, I had forgotten about. I will take some CD’s for the trip this afternoon. Good idea. The conversation portion we are working with continually, so I am not concerned about that one.

    Good idea about her commenting on this site. I have had her read some of the posts and the comments and have found them to be helpful. My writing as well as the comments typically bring in phrases that are local to the writers part of the words and that is good for her.

    I will see that she has an email address and ask her to start commenting. Great idea. I hadn’t forgotten about the written exercises and have coming up with some ideas, but yours about the comments is very good.

  5. Don Ray:

    Perhaps you can find her a pen pal on the computer. Alas, I suspect that most of your readers are not in her age group.

  6. Don/Nathalie: Both Arrocha and Revilla do carry Reader’s Digest in English and other magazinez in English, also.

  7. Hello Mr. Williams/Natalie:

    The Online Writing Laboratory at Purdue University ( has invaluable resources for teachers and students, including handouts, exercises, etc, etc. Natalie, I have experienced first hand how crucial it is for graduate students ( either native or non-native speakers of English) to improve the writing skills. Best wishes to both in this endeavor.



  8. Hilda – I have visited the Purdue site, but I am having a hard time finding the things you are talking about. Could you send me the URL for the area you described?

    Thanks in advance.

  9. Dear Mr. Williams:

    Sorry for this belated reply. My day was long. I´m quite behind technology, but this is the order I give Yahoo: purdue. edu + Online Writing Laboratory. (The spaces before and after the plus sign, count). Hope you and Natalie enjoy it.

    Best regards,


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