Mes: marzo 2010

TOEFL score and University of Chicago BBQ

After two weeks of tense waiting finally I got my score of the TOEFL exam I did on March 13th.

I scored 102. The breakdown is as follows:
– Reading: 27
– Listening: 27
– Speaking: 23
– Writing: 25

I’m going to ask for rescoring on Speaking and Writing sections, as I sincerely think I did better than that (at least on the writing one). In fact, most of the schools ask for a minimum of 104 or 105 in TOEFL, so it seems worth trying.

On the other hand, today I went to the annual University of Chicago BBQ in Hong Kong, organized also with Northwestern (Kellogg), MIT (Sloan) and UPenn (Wharton) universities. It was pretty cool and I met some interesting people.

GMAT in a nutshell

Once TOEFL is passed, my next obstacle in the marathon towards MBA admission is the dreaded GMAT.

GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test, and it’s a 4 hours “Computer-Adaptive standardized test (CAT) in mathematics and the English language for measuring aptitude to succeed academically in graduate business studies. The exam measures verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that the examinee has developed over a long period of time in his/her education and work.”

Basically, it is one of the most important selection criteria for admission into Business Schools MBA programs.

The sections of the exam are:

– Problem Solving (PS)
– Data Sufficiency (DS)

– Reading Comprehension (RC)
– Critical Reasoning (CR)
– Sentence Correction (SC)

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
– Essay 1: Analyze an argument.
– Essay 2: Analyze an issue.

The score ranges from 200 to 800 and it covers Quantitative and Verbal sections. AWA is evaluated separately and the score ranges from 0 to 6.

To give you an idea, the GMAT score average of the students accepted in the top Business School is always higher than 700. For non-native English students the task is much harder as the exam’s English is extremely complicated.

I’ve planned to take the exam at the beginning of June. In fact, I want to have some time to retake it in case I don’t get the desired score (700). In August I will be on vacations for almost the whole month and in September I plan to focus only in the essays, so on July 31st the GMAT and TOEFL scores will be definitive.

I have less than 3 months to prepare it, and it’s going to be a though task as I don’t have much time during weekdays, and I won’t be able to study all the weekends (I have some trips planned in April, friends are coming in May,  etc.).

I’ve just finished a 3-months preparation planning and I will be taking test exams starting this weekend. I will be posting my test exam’s results so I will track my progression. On the other hand, I’ve just got some 2009 GMAT books to help me to prepare the exam: GMAT Official Guide, Kaplan and three Manhattan GMAT guides. I will start reading them very soon.

TOEFL Speaking rubric to scaled score

In this post you will understand how ETS converts rubric scores to scaled scores in the Speaking section.

The Speaking section contains six questions, and each one is scored from 0 to 4 points without decimal values.

For example, you can obtain the following set of results [4,4,3,3,3,3]. Then, they calculate the average of the results (sum of the the six scores divided by number of elements):
(4+4+3+3+3+3) / 6 = 20 / 6 = 3.33
and the outcome (3.33) is converted to a 30 points scale. See the following table:

To learn which are the scoring standards for each question check this link: Speaking standards

TOEFL Writing rubric to scaled score

In this post you will understand how ETS converts rubric scores to scaled scores in the Writing section.

The Writing section contains two questions/essays, and each one is scored from 0.0 to 5.0 points with an interval of 0.5 points. That means that you can score 4.5 or a 4.0 in one of the questions, but you can’t get a 4.25.

For example, lets say you obtain the following set of results: [4.5,4]. Then, they calculate the average (sum of the the two scores divided by number of elements):
(4.5 + 4) /2 = 9.5 / 2 = 4.25
and the outcome (4.25) is converted to a 30 points scale. See the following table:

To learn which are the scoring standards for each question check this link: Writing standards

TOEFL predictions

You might be wondering what happened on the TOEFL exam.

I will receive the official score in about two or three weeks. Anyway, this is what I predict (with +-5 points error):

TOTAL: 101
– Reading: 24
– Listening: 24
– Speaking: 23
– Writing: 30

I’ve performed worse in the two sections I used to do very well and better in the two in which I was less confident.

Actually, the reading was far more complicated than the ones I practiced with. Complex texts along with tricky questions. I didn’t manage well the time and at least in two questions I had to guess the answer (and one of both was worth 3 points), and many others I wasn’t sure about the answer. In addition, the listening difficulty was quite similar to my previous test, but I wasn’t able to maintain the concentration all the time, because of the guys around me were speaking all the time.

The speaking was fine. I mean, not at all perfect, but I didn’t mess up any of the question altogether. I think I did very well two of the questions, other three I answered them regular (I didn’t have time to finish in time one), and one bad (I didn’t get stuck but I didn’t answer the whole question).

Regarding the writing section, I think I did really well. The first essay question was perfect for me: a short passage with a clear idea and reasons to support the idea, and a lecture in where the professor contradicted the whole idea by casting doubts on the reading support ideas. It was something like “there is a new method called Y to do something, and it is better than the old method X because of: 1) something, 2) something, 3) something. Then, in the lecture, the professor discussed the three points giving clear ideas that contradicted the three support points in the reading. Therefore, it was easy to make the relation between lecture and reading, and I was able to write a long essay. The second essay was little more complicated but I also made a good job. I sincerely expect the highest mark (30) in this section, but we’ll see…

I’ll keep you posted whenever I receive the official score.

Willing to turn TOEFL’s page

Sincerely, I haven’t had much time this week to study TOEFL, and I’m also quite tired of doing it. I feel like I need a break…. I want to do the exam as soon as possible, turn the page and forget about it (at least for some time).

During the week, I have been doing some Speaking tests as well as Integrated Tasks of the Writing part (the first essay). 

The exam is held in Kowloon, and it begins at 9 AM. Since I live in Wanchai (Hong Kong island) it’s almost one hour to get in there. In fact, I don’t want to have any unexpected surprise, so two weeks ago we did (my wife and I) the journey to the exam location. Thank goodness we did so, because the place wasn’t so easy to find and we got lost twice.

We took the MTR (HK’s subway) to go there, but we might take a taxi this Saturday. I’m not sure if it is worthy as we need first to get out of the island in MTR and then take the taxi. In addition, lot of people work on Saturdays here in HK, so there is always the traffic risk. 

By the way, my wife is also taking the exam so I won’t be alone :), she is considering applying to an MBA too!

Wish us luck!

TOEFL, one week to go

Yeah! I’m only a week away from my first official step towards my MBA!

I’m pretty excited, even if I’m not convinced I will perform as well as needed. Realistically, I think my score will be ranging from 100 to 105, but it could be worse or better depending if the Gods are with or against me.

Today I did a full mock test and I scored 29/30 in Reading and 28/30 in Listening. The Speaking wasn’t too bad (I score myself 21) and Writing was fairly good (let’s put a 26). My final score would be around 104.

I think everything will be decided whether I do well on the Speaking or not. I can perform well some times, and really bad others. Basically, it will depend on my ability to find out good ideas during preparation time, and also if I don’t say any stupidity or get stuck while talking.

I use to perform better under pressure, but on the other hand I’m easily distracted, what can be a decisive thing during the Speaking section, as I will have plenty of people around me speaking aloud.

Anyway, during last weeks of preparation I’ve realized that I can improve much more from now until MBA application date, so I won’t be too sad if I don’t get my desired score. In fact, I don’t mind too much having to retake the exam again before or after summer, but always after GMAT, my next target.

I consider essential to have very strong English at MBA entry time, so I will continue studying it no matters what happen next Saturday.

The Sun, a rarity in HK

Today sunlight rays are entering through my window! Believe it or not it’s been a long time since I haven’t seen the sun here in Hong Kong (about a month and a half).

As a Spaniard, I’m used to live with blue sky and plenty of sunlight, and the Hong Kong’s permanently covered sky bothers me a lot. In addition, according to local people the worst has not arrived yet. In fact, during the summer apart from a cloudy sky, we will “enjoy” typhoons, 95% humidity and 35ºC. Anyone willing to swap apartments this summer?

During winter it hardly ever rains, but that does not prevent the clouds and fog from covering the city continuously. Sometimes you wonder if the clouds stem from evaporated water or on the contrary from the chimneys of Shenzhen’s factories. Better not to know.

Check the following pictures. The first one shows how is Hong Kong a few days per year. The second, how is Hong Kong the rest.

Trip to Vietnam

Recently, I did a quick trip to Vietnam in a cruise ship for 4 days with my wife and my in-lows, who were visiting us during two weeks in February.

It has been my first visit there although I think it won’t be the last, since it is really accessible from Hong Kong and I liked a lot what I’ve seen.

I had never been there before, though I knew about it pretty well, since we used to hang out with a Vietnamese couple when we were in France. In fact, Vietnam was a French colony for a long time and there are still remaining bonds between both countries, so you find many Vietnamese students throughout France and many people in Vietnam speak French.

First, we visited Ha Long Bay, a Unesco World Heritage site. In a few words, it’s a bay formed by thousands of limestone islands in various sizes and spectacular shapes. We took a boat that gave us a tour around some islands. However, it wasn’t our lucky day because a dense fog prevented us from completely enjoy the views. Anyway, only for visiting this site the whole trip was worthy, and we may come back.

In addition, the guide took us to a floating fishing town (see picture) and to a famous cave, called Thien Cung grotto (see picture). The cave was beautiful and well prepared with colorful lights around the walls.

The next port of call was Danang, a city well known by the Americans because it was home of a major air base of US troops, and the last battles of the Vietnam war in 1972 happened there. Although it is not a beautiful city in a standard point of view, the beauty of this kind of cities resides in the contrast between them and the cities we are used to know. Personally, I love walking the streets among the local people, seeing how they live. The city was vibrant, with many people on the streets and hundreds of scooters all over the place, many with more than two and even more than three people riding them (see picture for yourself). Believe me, crossing a street was a real challenge.

Finally, we spend almost a day visiting a town called Hoi An. In contrast with Danang, this town seems to be a touristic place with plenty of western people, tourist shops, and so on. Anyway, the town is beautiful with several interesting places to visit.

About the country, it surprised me the enormous number of Vietnamese and communist flags, and also the signs of Communism everywhere. Although the country is evolving to a new ways of Communism it still seem to be one step back of China communism. For example, according to our guide, they still don’t have the right to own land, as Chinese do.

Photo set of Vietman trip here in my Flickr page.