It’s my pleasure to welcome to the blog, Noreen Lam, a Canadian TEFL professional currently teaching in Spain. We’ve been corresponding for a few months since she started using Edulang’s Test Simulator app to prepare her TOEFL® students for the big show. Noreen was kind enough to share her and her students’s experience with our materials below, so, without further ado, I’ll hand the mic over to my honored guest!
Having now taught for a few years in Europe, I’ve been pretty much submerged into the world of Cambridge exams, and know all the acronyms and formats pretty well. So when I was asked to take on a TOEFL® class a few months ago, it caught me a bit off guard. Why would someone want to study for an exam that’s no good in Europe? The answer, as for almost everything these days, is the crisis. More and more people are looking for opportunities elsewhere, since they are few and far between here in the old world, so why rule out crossing the pond?
Since, there had been so little demand (non-existent actually) for TOEFL® at our school, the books and cassettes we had (not even CDs!) were completely out of date, and we needed to purchase a few. Whilst my DoS flipped through catalogues to choose a few from what was out there, I turned to Twitter to see if anyone could offer insights. I thought, some of my friends took the exam when we were going to university, but it was very doubtful that they still had materials to share. The power of social networking….in no time, I got a suggestion to check out Edulang’s TOEFL® Test Simulator.
Read up a bit about it and decided that it would be a great way for my students to practice at home, since they wanted to take advantage of class time to do general revision and lots of speaking practice. When we began the classes, I mentioned the tool to Alex and Veronica and they said they would look into it, but after a few weeks, they still hadn’t gotten around to it. I pushed them a bit for updates, trying to insist on lots of out-of-class practice (in all skills), and they said, “okay, okay, we promise to do it this weekend”.
Once they got into it, they didn’t look back. They were very happy with the resource, because they said it really simulated real test conditions. They could practice how to manage their time, which they found to be the most difficult part, and became familiar with the structure of the exam. They liked the flexibility of being able to study this way, because both are very busy with varying work schedules and a huge number of other commitments! They felt prepared going in because they knew what to expect, though they thought that maybe the actual test was a bit more difficult, especially in the reading section. They liked the feedback that comes with each section of the exam, but suggested that maybe it would be good to make the practice mode a bit more difficult.
Neither Veronica nor Alex are technophobes by any means, and as with all young people, they are open to the idea of studying like this, with applications rather than the traditional book format. Among other advantages they cited were that they felt confident in that the content was up-to-date and easily adaptable, more dynamic and reproduces the real exam much better. Veronica said that the pay-what-you want aspect was “perfect for students” and they both thought it was nice to contribute to charity while helping themselves. Alex was “proud of his contribution” and will continue to do so, as he is thinking of taking better advantage of the Test Simulator in order to get an even higher mark the next time around.
Both of them have been studying English for most of their lives, as with all Spanish students, starting off in elementary school and continuing all the way till now. They have both lived abroad in English-speaking countries and said that without a doubt, it was the thing that most helped them improve. They are applying for scholarships to study in the US, so for now, we’re all crossing our fingers and awaiting the decisions.
As for TOEFL® classes in Europe, well I have just started with another group this week, so the trend is on the rise….
Noreen Lam is from Vancouver, Canada and got into teaching English as a way to satisfy her travel bug. She is a lover of languages, so decided to start studying Spanish the intensive way, by living in the country and has been teaching in Santander, Spain since 2009. She continues to travel as often as time and finances permit, and when not feeding her wanderlust, likes to feed herself and others international cuisines.