TOEFL topper interview: Santhosh Chelikavada shares his preparation strategy
Updated on Apr 29, 2016 - 11:30 a.m. IST by Bedasree Das

TOEFL topper interview
: While most students depend on practice materials, for Santhosh Chelikavada, an undergraduate engineering student at the New York University and a TOEFL high scorer, the best tool to practice for TOEFL turned out to be good old Google. “My preparation mostly consisted of looking at sample questions and I did that using the internet,” says the TOEFL scholarship holder who scored a massive 113 out of 120 in the test.

SanthoshIn this interview with Careers360, Santosh shares about the simple tricks he applied to crack the tough English proficiency test and the reason behind choosing USA as study destination.


Excerpts from the interview:

Q.  What is your TOEFL score? Can you give us the section-wise break up?

My TOEFL score was 113 on 120. I got a 26 on the Reading section, 30 on the Listening section, 28 on the Speaking section, and 29 on the Writing section.


Q.  In which month did you appear for the TOEFL test? Was it your first attempt?

I took the test in January, 2015. It was my first attempt.


Q.  US universities are known to be very competitive in terms of TOEFL score acceptance. What was the average acceptance score among the universities you applied to?

US universities generally tend to have a threshold that they expect their applicant to meet. In my case, the threshold I had to meet was a 100. The top universities generally tend to have their threshold scores around the same level (100).


Q.  What was your preparation strategy for the test? Did you apply the same strategy for all the sections or was it different?

My preparation strategy was to just get a gist of what each section contained before the exam. And yes, I applied the same strategy for all the sections. However, the strategy was slightly different for the speaking section, as it involved speaking to a computer. So I spoke to my computer in order to get accustomed to the idea of speaking to a non-living thing.


Q.  How does one prepare for the speaking test? Can you share some of the interesting ways in which you prepared for the speaking test?

The speaking test was slightly weird as I had to speak to a computer as opposed to a person. The night before the exam, I spoke to my computer in order to get accustomed to the idea of speaking to something that doesn’t really respond. I also used the internet to find out what kind of questions were generally asked on the speaking test and familiarised myself with the type of questions being asked.


Q.  Did you take any mock tests as part of your preparation? Did you require coaching?

No, I did not take any mock tests. Also, I did not go to any centers that provide TOEFL coaching. I felt that my school education was sufficient and helpful enough to tackle the test.


Q.  Which are some of the preparation materials that you referred to?

One word - Google. I googled the type of questions asked on each section of the test and familiarized myself with the same. My preparation mostly consisted of looking at sample questions and I did that using the internet!


Q.  What encouraged you to choose USA as your study destination?

The fact that there were opportunities in research and the fact that there were resources that would aid the entrepreneur and the hacker in me, were two of the many reasons that I chose the US.


Q.  Are you part of any scholarship programme?

Yes, I am. I’m a recipient of the ETS and the NYU scholarships.


Q.  Are you part of any club in the university?

Yes, I am part of close to 13 clubs. In fact, I’m on the executive board of an entrepreneurship club at NYU, and I’m also trying to start NYU’s first Cricket club!


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