1st Week Down

Productive day. And week.

Yesterday I finally managed to go to bed before midnight – I did sleep only 2 hours before the exam after all… So I woke up before 10 am. Worked out, cooked, ate, and have mostly been working on my Master’s application since. I processed a huge load of documents, wrote an essay etc.

And with that, the very 1st week of 2018 is officially over!!! =)) I am amazed at how well I have been doing so far. I set some pretty challenging goals for myself, and have been pretty consistent and disciplined this week. The feeling is indescribable!!!

Tomorrow, however, I am starting my new job. Am pretty excited and curious. I hope that it will only enhance my overall game, and make me even more productive and efficient ;))

 

D.O.N.E. with TOEFL. Point Blank Period.

My day (counting from midnight) started as badly as it could. At around half past 1 I found the official information on designating TOEFL score card recipients. A few days ago I read somewhere that they are to be chosen after the exam, so I wasn’t sweating it, but the total lack of communication from ETS kept bugging me, so I signed into my account, and that’s when I noticed, that my options are completely closed off.

First of all, besides the receipt order, which was a not very professional-looking (I’d go as far as calling it suspicious-looking) text-formatted e-mail, I didn’t get any additional communication or information from TOEFL. This one didn’t even contain the address of the test location, only the zip code of it – that’s how ridiculously uninformative it was! Now, I understand that I didn’t sign up for a newsletter, but for $220 the least I can expect is some quality information distribution. They have such advanced technology for the exam and its evaluation, yet, are incapable of setting up a simple automatic mailing system?! At least the GMAT was very good at this.

Secondly, people need to sign up for these exams months in advance to ensure their spots, after which they will much rather focus on the prep rather than reading about bureaucratic nuisances, which differ from test to test like crazy. On the GMAT, I had to choose the schools right at the beginning of the test. Not the ideal option if you ask me, but at least no arbitrary deadline was given. I don’t understand, why don’t these tests just accept our choices whenever we make them, especially that they may depend on our scores. Why are we even supposed to choose before we learn what our scores are?? I mean, surely, with a GMAT score of 500 no one would choose Harvard Business School, also, if someone sees that their TOEFL score isn’t adequate, they might not choose any recipients at all. In this case, the TOEFL would even save money by not sending cards in vain. The whole system seems to be set up for gaining as high of a profit as possible. I’m, obviously, not expecting them to be an entirely non-profit endeavor but honestly, must everything in the world be pure business? They are making so much money out of this already! The fees, prep courses, books, materials, additional charges… One TOEFL score card will cost me $20. I literally started crying in the middle of the night. The test fee included 4 score reports + my copy, so 5 in total. So I’ve scr*wed myself out of $80, and all this because I read foul information online, and was late by 3,5 hours finding the right one.

I calmed myself down but still wasn’t able to fall asleep. I think it was almost 5 am when I finally did, and I woke up at 7 in order to make it to my 9 am – 8:30 in accordance with the policy – appointment.

 ❤️ Adrenaline is my best friend on days like this ❤️

And now, about the most awful exam of my life. So of course, there were some documents to sign, I had my picture taken, and then they checked me with one of those security batons from the airports. Finally, I got my scratch paper, and PEN… – wait for it… – …CILS!!! Yes, not pens, not even a sh*tty marker à la GMAT, but PENCILS!!! I haven’t written with pencils for at least over 20 years! I hate pencils with a passion!!! I just can’t take that typical sensation of them touching the paper. I can’t read whatever I write using them as they get so obtuse so quickly. Needless to say, it was a torture… I kept my note-taking at a bare minimum in order to save my nerves and to exit the room with my mental health intact.

But that’s not all. Of course, I knew that everyone would talk etc. But I arrived almost last, and while I was doing trying to do the listening section, people were already talking. I could barely hear the audio, let alone my own thoughts. I also misunderstood the rules and thought I had 10 minutes to answer all the listening questions. (I did wonder how do people do this so quickly, with all the background noise on top.) I even got kind of nervous when the timer started blinking at the 5-minute mark. I only had 1, maybe 2 questions left from the first half of the section, but I calculated that if I don’t finish it quickly, I won’t have enough time for the second part, so I’m pretty sure I made some mistakes due to the unnecessary hurry – because, sure enough, the clock started the countdown from the top (10 min) as soon as I finished the first set.

Furthermore, one guy in the room was actually shouting instead of speaking. He might have been confused, thinking that we had to yell out our replies to the US for the evaluator to hear it in real time, and I was lucky enough to be accompanied by him during my speaking section. And I’m not exaggerating, even the test administrators confirmed that he was extremely loud, when I brought it up while during my check-out. I can’t believe how can someone be so inconsiderate. I understand that excitement might impact people’s voices, but it really was extreme. What I don’t get is that during the exam there were two volume checks through the microphone. We were instructed to talk about a topic after a beep until the next beep so that the microphone’s settings could be configured to the levels of our voices. Yes, that’s how advanced they are. But they have no capacity left to instruct test-takers above a certain decibel to take it down a notch?! It would be so simple, a clear no-brainer!!!

Yeah, and the door. Oh, that door! Such creaking has escaped my ears for… hmm maybe my entire life actually. I can’t comprehend why don’t they do something about it. I was sitting next to it and with the administrators bringing papers, pencils (brrr!!!), people coming-going during their breaks, it was just the dead rat on top of an already disgusting cake.

I honestly regret not choosing IELTS. I’m not saying that my TOEFL results will s*ck because I genuinely hope they won’t. But they surely will not reflect my English skills precisely.

The speaking module of the IELTS is much more humane. Even if there are parts that need to be hand-written (I think…) which I’m very bad at, there is no chance that test is as chaotic as this thing was today due to the lack of background talk by which so many sections of my tests were spoiled! I thought arriving last will benefit me, as I won’t have to start doing the test while all the others arrive. But now I see that the opposite would have been the best. Arriving first I would have started with the reading section anyway. For that, I used a pair of noise-canceling headphones and earplugs (which I had to throw out at the end, according to the policy… what’s up with that?!) – both provided by the center -, so people’s steps and even the creaking door would not have been as noticeable and disturbing. And that is the easiest part (for me) anyway. Okay, the listening isn’t hard either – but listening, with other people talking simultaneously, definitely wasn’t simple. Which leads me to my next point. I could have done the listening while no one else was talking. And even though I’d expect some people still being on their speaking tasks while getting to the writing portion – which begins with the integrated essay, containing an audio lecture -, it would only have disturbed me for the duration of the listening component, after which I could have used the noise-cancelling headphones – earplugs combo once again.

Well, you live and you learn, I guess. I’d just prefer to learn on the cheaper side.

Hi-Lo

Today my energy levels have been super low. It is always very interesting to observe how suddenly this happens whenever I go back to “normal” after a higher carb period. One day I’m feeling perfectly fine; strong, upbeat, full of energy. The next day is a complete opposite – and today is that day.

I admit that sometimes I still find it hard not to “medicate” myself with food. I have to let myself experience these lows from time to time to appreciate the highs. My body needs to adapt to working out with depleted glycogen storages and to feeling like a rag doll. It will get better – always does. It’s just a bit challenging mentally.

I also let myself browse on Facebook, and, of course, it was full of all these – seemingly – perfectly happy and successful people – whose existence makes you question your own. I cut this short though, didn’t let myself wallow for too long – yaaay me! :))

So now I’m back to organizing my thoughts for tomorrow’s exam. Yep. Living the dream 😀

Toeftoeftoefff…

I found some other TOEFL material online, and I was up to my eyeballs in it today. I hope that I won’t get too confused and anxious during the exam… I was never one to follow prescribed structured guidelines for giving answers on exams, but due to the strict time limit, I think it would be a good idea to give it a try here instead of my usual improvisations.

I even created a nice little summary spreadsheet for the whole speaking part that contains all the critical information, including the suggested note outlines, as well as templated reply options. Never have I thought that I’d get so uptight about this prep (too…)

TOEFL – Free Last-Minute Resources

As I mentioned yesterday, my TOEFL prep became very last-minute, so I started digging around for some short and sweet solutions. There are just way too many rants and endless articles on the web, but here are some resources that I’m finding super helpful so far:

TOEFL iBT® FAQ

Of course, official sources are always the most reliable. You probably read some of these before applying for the exam, but I found it useful to go over them again.

TOEFL® Test Day Tips (PDF)

A one-pager where you’ll learn that you should comb your hair (photo opportunity) and avoid drinking (120-190 minutes non-stop until the only 10-minute break) before the exam.

TOEFL iBT® Interactive Sampler

A good place to start since this sampler gives a pretty clear idea about the exam’s format and content. I suppose this is the interface of the real test, you can’t even pause it. Just make sure to check your answer right after you answered the question, as there is neither a checking function at the end nor an answer sheet online.

TOEFL iBT® Quick Prep

4 more official examples (2 with audio, 2 with transcripts).

Magoosh TOEFL YouTube Channel

On-point videos with useful tips and examples, so you can focus on your weaknesses. Not all of them are organized into the playlists though, so feel free to browse around. I found their pace pretty slow (good for less advanced speakers), but you can speed them up a bit to save time if you’re in a crunch like me.

Magoosh Speaking Templates

Magoosh Writing Templates

If your command of English is at an advanced level, you will probably have no problem with the reading and the listening sections. However, the unique format of the speaking module along with the serious time constraints on both the speaking and the writing components might prove to be difficult to deal with. These templates are exactly what I’ve been looking for to help me with these – for me – more challenging aspects of the exam.

This is not a sponsored post, all of the above resources are completely free – thanks, Magoosh!!! I couldn’t be happier that I don’t have to spend extra on my prep, and I hope you’ll find these links just as helpful as I did.

Please, let me know in the comments if there are any other/better free goodies out there for a quick and efficient last-minute TOEFL preparation! Good luck to us all :))

TOEFL in 4 Days

I am taking the TOEFL iBT Test on Saturday, and haven’t even started prepping yet. My plan was to start studying right after passing the GMAT in December, but then Christmas came, and I had a plethora of excuses NOT to do it…

Yesterday evening I finally read the FAQ and today I watched some YouTube vids about the format of the exam and some tips to succeed. Multiple people assured me that I’ll have no problem with it, but I have my doubts, especially because of the computerized nature of the speaking part.

So, to quote a true classic from Britney Spears:

“You better work, b*tch!”

 

2018 – A Cheesy Start

Well well well, happy 2018!!! =))

I, as the champion of procrastination, although not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions have set out to write one blog post every single day this month. I don’t care about what, I don’t care how long (okay, let’s go with a minimum of one sentence that makes at least some sense…), I don’t care if I’ll have a photo to go with it, I don’t care about choosing appropriate tags. I just need to do it to get the momentum going and to overcome my OCD (overanalyzing my texts, getting hung up on my grammar and spelling mistakes etc.), as I really don’t want to be held back by my own self anymore.

Btw, NYE is my favorite holiday as we are celebrating both the Russian (GMT+3) and the Hungarian (GMT+1) one, so I get to have my favorite dish ever; селёдка под шубой (Selyodka Pod Shuboy), which is basically a layered herring salad with beetroots. It is way better than it sounds lol Every single year the question arises, why, oh why do we only make it once a year?!? Okay, it is pretty time-consuming to prepare, but it’s so worth it! I’ll try to share our family recipe in a blog post so my incentive to make it again during the year will be double-fold 🙂

I also started listening to an audiobook today during cardio; The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (NOT The Art of War by Sun Tzu!). So far, the only question I have is – where have you been all my life?!