Teacher spotlight: TOEFL® success via @Noreen_Lam


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 were completely out of date, and we needed to purchase a few.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.


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  • http://twitter.com/epicenterone Aaron Nelson

    Thanks for this note – it’s always good to see how other people are using your services, and that students are seeing/feeling the value in them. Makes prospects feel more confident in purchasing! ;)

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Haha ;-)  Glad to hear that this kind of a post increases your confidence, Aaron.

    I think it’s important to let the readers of this blog know how other teachers are using our products, both in asynchronous, and synchronous approaches.

    Cheers, Brad

  • http://www.linkinenglish.com/ David

    This is a coincidence, I’m meeting someone today who wants to take TOEFL. In the past if someone asked, I referred them to an American teacher, but I looked at some test materials and thought I could give it a go.
    If you have any tips re: books, pls let me know and I’ll check out your page.

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  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Sorry for the late reply here, David.  Missed the comment.  How did the meeting with the prospective student go?  Were you able to check out the test simulator demo?

    Cheers, Brad

  • http://www.ihsantander.com/santander-blog/?p=565 Inglés en Santander » Blog Archive » Participación de los profes de IH Santander en el 50. aniversario de IH Teacher Training

    [...] Noreen Lam aparte del proyecto últimamente se dedica a las clases privadas, preparar materiales, llevar un IH blog para estudiantes (ihsantander.blogspot.hu) y a preparar a alumnos interesados en los E.E.U.U. al examen TOEFL® (lee más en blog de Brad Patterson http://www.edulang.com/blog/toefl-success/). [...]

  • http://twitter.com/GetIntoEnglish David Sweetnam

    I just saw your reply Brad.

    This time, as I didn’t have any TOEFL materials, and the student was
    only looking for a week or so of last minute sessions, I passed them on
    to someone who was more familiar with the exam. We’ll see how it goes
    another time ;)

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Sounds good, David. Enjoy the week!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alejandro.palacioalonso Alejandro Palacio Alonso

    HI all! This is Alex, one of the students in Noreen Lam’s article about EDULANG. I would like to thank EDULANG creator’s for the efficiency of this tool, as Noreen describes. It has been very helpful for me in order to take the TOEFL test with the best preparation. Unfortunately, since I didn’t get the mark necessary to apply for the grant, I am considering repeating the test. However, I would like to know if EDULANG contents and exams will be renovated in the future, in order not to repeat the same tests.

    Again, thanks and congratulations for EDULANG.


  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Hi Alex. Great to have you stop by the blog and share such kind words. We’re really glad that you enjoyed using test simulator (and thanks again to Noreem for spreading the good word!)

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t get the score this time and it’s good to hear that you’re not giving up! Actually we don’t have any current plans to add new tests, but if that changes you’ll be the first person to know ;-)

    Thanks again Alex! Cheers, Brad

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004091319958 Jennifer John

    Nice post about TOEFL Preparation. it will be helpful for students

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