In a world where we have access to so much amazing technology, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the simple things that can really help us with our language skills. Here are three ways a simple kitchen timer can help you improve your English.
Make your study time more efficient. Your brain can only concentrate for a certain time before you start to think about things other than the task you should be working on. People often say the maximum amount of time you can concentrate properly for is about 20 minutes. To make your study time more efficient, set your timer for 20 minutes and try to get as much studying as you can done in that time. Then, when the alarm goes off, take a five minute break and come back to study for another 20 minutes. Studying in bursts like this will also help you organise what you are doing more effectively.
Practise reading for gist. We’ve already talked about (the different types of reading and how important they are – link to previous article on this topic) on this blog, and one of the most useful is reading for gist. When you practise reading for gist, set an alarm for a short period of time – about a minute per page – and skim-read as much of the text as you can in that time. See if you can summarise the general meaning of the text then go back and read it in more detail to check whether you were correct. Having a time limit forces you to practise your skim reading and not get distracted with the details.
Exam practice. This is a more obvious one. When you are practising exam questions, work out how much time you should spend on them in an exam by looking at how many marks you can get for the answers. Then set your timer and do not spend more time than you are supposed to on that question. Being disciplined about your exam practice will make it easier for you to stick to your plan and get a great mark in your real exam.
What about if you don’t have a kitchen timer? They are cheap to buy – only a few dollars, or you can use a countdown timer on your watch, smartphone or PC. An old-fashioned timer is best because you won’t be distracted with notifications from messages and emails but work with what you feel lost comfortable with to see how timers can help improve your English.