Friday, December 27

TOEFL Video Series coming soon!

Hi Everyone....

I am producing a TOEFL video series for 

Benchprep is the #1 site for test prep material.

My TOEFL video course will be available in March 2014.

Click here to visit

The slides below are samples from my TOEFL video series.

Enjoy - Bruce

A happy TOEFL student from Argentina!

Thursday, December 19

Active vs Passive Vocabularies

On test day, use your active English vocabulary when writing your independent essay and get a higher score. Read the attachment below for more.

Saturday, November 30

TOEFL videos from ETS

Excellent series of free TOEFL videos from ETS. 

Click on the book to view the videos.

TOEFL score good for 2 years only. Why? Read...

The following ETS report explains why a TOEFL score is good for only two years.

The title of the report is 

Supporting an Expiration Policy for English Language Proficiency Test Scores

Click on the book to read the full report.

Monday, September 23

Another 5-Star Review!

5.0 out of 5 stars 
Wonderful for organizing your ideas, September 23, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT (Book & Audio CD) (Paperback)

This book has helped me to organize in better way my ideas. This book isn't for beginners. You must start your preparation with others books. Nevertheless, it is a good one to achieve the best TOEFL score.

Monday, September 9

KISS Rule for Independent Speaking Tasks

When developing responses for independent speaking tasks #1 and #2, many test-takers try and develop big topics, for example:

Prompt: What was the greatest invention of the twentieth century? Use examples and reasons to develop your argument.

Personally, I think the greatest invention of the twentieth century was penicillin. Why? Because penicillin is...It's good and...important...for life and medicine...and...

At this point, the test-taker blanks out. To blank out means to stop thinking because your brain is suddenly empty (blank). Why has this test-taker blanked out? Because she's trying to develop a topic that is too difficult. Why is it difficult? Because it's forcing her to use her passive vocabulary (see active v. passive vocab). The discovery of penicillin is a great topic. If you're a doctor, talk about it (it's part of your active vocabulary). A biologist? Talk about it. A nurse? A dentist? Talk about it. If not, do not touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Remember: The speaking raters don't care about your opinion or big topics. They simply want to know if you can develop and deliver a verbal argument in 45 seconds (with 15 seconds development time).

Look at the next response. Notice how I'm using my active vocabulary and talking about my own experience.

What is the greatest invention of the twentieth century? That's easy. Cutting-and-pasting. Why?

For example, I'm a TOEFL author. My new TOEFL book is 800-pages long. If I were using a typewriter - and I wanted to go back to page 10 and insert a graphic in the middle of the text - I'd have retype page 10 again. Then I'd have to glue the graphic between the text. What a pain! As a result, it'd take me forever finish my book. However, by using my computer's cut-and-paste function, all I have to do is cut the graphic from its page, then paste it wherever I wanted. Piece of cake.

As you can see, cutting-and-pasting is the greatest invention of the twentieth century. Have you ever wondered who invented cutting-and-pasting? I have. That person is a genius.

One of my TOEFL students said the greatest invention of the twentieth century was the hair dryer. It was a great response. Hilarious - and so true. But more importantly, she'd remembered the K.I.S.S. rule: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Remember: Keep it simple by talking subjectively (about your own experience) and using your active vocabulary. By doing so, you will make fewer mistakes. Fewer mistakes = higher scores.

Want to learn more speaking strategies? It's all in the book.


Monday, August 12

Best TOEFL Books Reviewed

Speaking and Writing Strategies is #3. Read the review. Click on the book for the link.

"This exciting book is very different from other study guides as it focuses on increasing your TOEFL score by targeting its speaking and writing sections.

First, the main strategic approach it follows in doing so is “argument mapping.” This multi-faceted innovative technique helps to effectively develop and deliver written and spoken arguments by using, for example, deductive and inductive approaches or by developing a number of sophisticated writing strategies.

Second, the guide contains instructions on crafting high-scoring responses for the test’s various speaking and writing tasks, explores rhetorical skills and opinion development, and discusses how to limit errors and improve scores by revising your responses.

In sum, this is a very clever, effective, and thought-provoking manual."

Wednesday, August 7

Pictures of ETS, creator of TOEFL and the GRE

This is where your money goes. Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.

ETS is located on 350+ acres of parkland.

Thursday, July 4

Wednesday, July 3

Monday, June 10

Another 5-Star Review

5.0 out of 5 stars If u preparing for the TOEFL that is what you need!
Feb 25 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT [With CDROM] (Paperback)
It was very helpful to get me reach the score I want at TOEFL. All the valuable things are there. Go for it!

Wednesday, May 15

2012 Average World Wide TOEFL Scores

Male Average ____ 80/120

Reading ____ 20.0/30
Listening _____ 19.4/30
Speaking _____ 19.7/30
Writing _____ 20.5/30

Female Average _____ 81/120

Reading  _____ 19.8/30
Listening _____ 19.6/30
Speaking _____ 20.6/30
Writing _____ 20.9/30

The top scoring countries are:

#1 Netherlands _____ 100/120
Austria _____ 99/120
Singapore _____ 98/100
Denmark _____ 98/120
Germany _____ 96/120
Finland _____ 96/120
Uruguay _____ 95/120
Israel _____ 94/120
Costa Rica____93/120
Luxemburg _____ 93/120
Czech Rep_____92/120

Other Scores




Viet Nam____77/120



Saudi Arabia____60/120

Data courtesy of ETS

Monday, May 13

Argument Mapping = TOEFL Success

My TOEFL text - Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT - represents a new approach to preparing for the TOEFL iBT. Why is my text different from all those other TOEFL texts? Because my text has one core strategy. That strategy I call argument mapping. Argument mapping means you use one map - an argument map - to develop and deliver responses for all six speaking tasks and both writing tasks. Why is my argument map so effective? Because it has been classroom-developed and test-proven for over five years - and because it is based on the theory that test-takers acquire speaking and writing strategies faster and more proficiently through visualization. Let me explain.

You know what a map is, right? A map is a bunch of lines and arrows pointing you in the right direction so you will not get lost. In other words, a map is a visual solution to a problem. My argument map does the same thing: it solves an argument problem by pointing you in the right direction when developing and delivering spoken and written responses. By following my argument map, you will not get lost. You are in control from start to finish. Best of all, you will know exactly what to say and write when practicing and on test day. This eliminates guessing while developing confidence. This, in turn, will result in maximum scoring. Why maximum scoring? Because my map has been designed to give the speaking and writing raters what they are trained to look for: six coherent spoken arguments and two coherent written arguments. How do you play the TOEFL speaking and writing game and win? By giving the raters what they are trained to look for.

As I mentioned, argument mapping is based on the theory that test-takers acquire TOEFL strategies faster and more proficiently through visualization. Why is visualization more effective than using text to teach strategies, the method all the other TOEFL texts use? Let's use an example. You're visiting a big city and you're looking for the train station. You stop a stranger and ask for directions.

"Excuse me," you say. "Can you tell me how to get to the train station?"

"Sure," the stranger says. "It's easy. Piece of cake. Go straight for ten blocks. Then turn left at the first red. Then walk for three more blocks and turn right at the bank. You will then see a big blue sign. No green. Right, green. Next to that is an old church. Keep going for three more blocks and turn left, then right, then left. The train station will be straight ahead. Okay?"

Okay? Hel-lo! Right? Left? Church? What? Help! Now look at this example.

"Excuse me," you say. "Can you tell me how to get to the train station?"

"Sure," TOEFL Pro says. "Let me draw you a map."

Which solution is best? The map, obviously. Why? Because it provides a visual solution to your problem. Best of all, there is no guessing. You go from A to Z with no trouble at all. That is what argument mapping does. That is why my text Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEF iBT represents a new approach to teaching essential TOEFL speaking and writing strategies.

Want to learn more about argument mapping? It's all in the book.


- Visualize -

© Bruce Stirling 2010-11

Tuesday, May 7

Chinese translation of Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT

My best-selling TOEFL text Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT will be translated into Chinese and published in Chinese by the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, Beijing, China. FLTRP is the biggest ESL publisher in China. Publication date: May 2013.

Thursday, May 2

Warning to F-1 Visa Students

Two F-1 visa students from Kazakhstan have been arrested in Boston and are in jail. They have been charged with: 1) helping the Boston bombers escape; 2) destroying evidence, and; 3) lying to the FBI.

They could also be charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Why? Because they talked to the bombers by phone before the bombers killed a police officer. These are serious crimes. The penalty for first-degree murder is death.

An F-1 visa student is a foreign-born national who has been granted a student visa (the privilege) to study in the United States. For many foreign-born students, getting an F-1 to study in the U.S. is a dream come true. I’m sure the Kazakh students felt the same way. Yet they took advantage of the American system by trying to help two terrorists/friends escape justice. The students and the bombers didn’t get far. All three are in jail, and will be there for a very long time.

Why did the two Kazakh students help the bombers? At this point, the reason is moot. The fact is they are in jail, their lives and their families’ lives destroyed, all because they did something stupid: they thought nobody would catch them. Yet they failed to realize that after 9/11, F-1 visa students are closely watched by American security. Why? Because the 9/11 terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center were F-1 Saudi students. That is how they got into the U.S., on F-1 visas.

If are an F-1 student, don’t think because America is “an open society” you are free to do anything you want—and get away with it. On the contrary, big brother has you under a very big microscope. If you cross the line for whatever reason—the police, the FBI and the CIA will find you. They will. You can run, but you can’t hide. Just ask the bomber and his F-1 friends.

Click on the photo to read the charges.

TOEFL Test Center Stress and Low Scores

Taking the official TOEFL test for the first time can be intimidating and stressful. Why? Because cheating is a problem—a big problem. As a result, test-center security is very strict. Because security is strict, the atmosphere is tense. Test-takers, having prepared for months, are nervous and worried. And for good reason. First, you must arrive early and submit your passport; your passport is the only acceptable form of ID. No passport? No test.

Next, you must empty your pockets and put your personal possessions in a locker with a key. Next, you will stand under a security camera and turn around with your arms up. The camera will record your face for future ID, if necessary, and make sure you have nothing on you, such as a smart phone, a pen, or cheat sheets.

Remember: you can’t take anything into the test area, no phones, no dictionaries, no food, no pens, no pencils, no coffee, no paper—nothing. Pencils and note paper will be supplied.

Next, you will be scanned with a hand-held, metal detecting device. When you have passed security, you will be escorted to your seat, a cubicle with carpeted walls and a desktop computer. Above you, a security camera will record your every move and play it back live on a monitor in the test center control room.

Stressful? Yes. And distracting, especially if you are taking the TOEFL test for the first time. Because taking the TOEFL test for the first time is so stressful, many score low. As a result, many retake the TOEFL test and score higher. Why? Because they are familiar with the security process. As a result, there are no surprises and no distractions; instead, they were able to focus on the test and not on their nerves.

Remember: to get the highest possible TOEFL score, there can be no surprises; you must understand the task order, the question types, how to manage your time, and how to give the speaking and writing raters what they are trained to look for; in others words, no surprises. The same with test-center security. Being comfortable in such a stressful environment is a critical part of playing the TOEFL game. 

If you need to take the TOEFL test two or three times to become comfortable taking it, then do it. Your future depends on it.