Ten Top Study Tips for Passing Your English Exams
There are three stages to learning a new skill, such as studying TOEFL or TOEIC to improve your English in college or the workplace. At each stage study tips can make your work easier and more successful. Firstly, you need to acquire the words, grammar and structures of the language. As you go along, you need to use the language (which is one of the best ways of learning it as well). Finally, as with many things we study, there is likely to be some form of examination to pass. That is what is used to confirm our level of competence with our new language. Often, this is where TOEFL or TOEIC becomes your assessment process.
Passing an exam can be very different from speaking a language. While learning to pass a test is not as important as possessing the knowledge and skills it being tested, nevertheless it is an important step on your road to success. Using the study tips listed below will help your acquisition of English.
Here are our ten top study tips to help you when you study English online, whether it is for TOEFL or TOEIC or indeed any other form of English course.
1. Write a Timetable
A timetable is a really useful tool to helping you to pass your exam. It provides a framework to the revision you need to do; it helps you to plan your time carefully; it is of great use in making you identify those areas on which you need to work.
The best way to prepare a timetable is take a diary, or an excel worksheet, or even a hand drawn grid. Start from the day of your exam and list the days backwards from there. Next, on a separate sheet make a list of everything on which you might be tested. For those areas in which you are really confident, you need to do nothing as you can pass these areas already; everything else should be divided up between the time you have. Try to work for two to three short (say 40 minute) sessions per day. But remember to build in times for breaks. As you tick off the days on your timetable, a sense of achievement comes about which really helps your confidence.
Of course, while a timetable is an excellent tool to use for preparation of exams, it is also a good way to organise your everyday study, to help you spread your workload.
2. Do your Homework
Of course, everything you do in preparation for your exams is homework, but certain types of questions and tasks come up more often than others. Your lecturers will often give you a collection of past questions, or you can find them online. It is a great study tip to practice getting perfect answers to these questions. You can even learn them off by heart. Just remember to adapt your answers to the question that is actually set in the real exam.
3. Learn How to Pronounce Words
The oral part of any English study is very important. English is a language with many odd pronunciations and the more of these you can learn, the better. For example, ‘Towcester’ is a small town in Northamptonshire. A ‘toaster’ is a cooking implement for toasting bread. The two words are written very differently, but pronounced the same. While you cannot learn every odd pronunciation, you can learn the most common ways to say sounds. Collections such as ‘cious’ and ‘sious’ words (pronounced ‘shus’ as in ‘conscious’) can easily be learned and will help your performance in the exams.
4. Learn Spelling Patterns
A good speller is often a good English speaker. Spelling patterns in English can be obscure (see ‘Towcester’ and ‘Toaster’ above) but there are some rules that can be learned. These include such things as a short vowel is followed by a double consonant, and the ‘I before e except after c’ guide that applies to many words.
5. Learn the Meaning of Questions
It doesn’t matter how good your answer is if you misunderstood the question. Examiners, such as for TOEFL or TOEIC love to ask similar types of question, it is a way that they can keep standards in line. Learn the questions and learn the answers together, and ask your tutors if there is something that you do not understand.
6. Learn your Stock Phrases
Exams are about impressing the marker. Study is about becoming as competent as you can be. Little impresses more than the accurate use of a good phrase. There are certain phrases that you may need to ask in an exam, so learn them to enable you to use them easily without causing any stress. Phrases such as ‘Can you repeat that, please?’ and ‘Could you give me a moment to think?’ are good for oral tests, while linking phrases such as ‘On the other hand’ and ‘Under certain circumstances’ are the kind of phrases that might come up in your written tests.
7. Make a List of Vocabulary
And learn it. A wide vocabulary is one of the most important aspects to acquiring your language. Not only does it help you to understand the questions you are asked, but it also makes for impressive answers. Once again, by looking through old work exercises and exams you can get to know the types of vocabulary examiners choose to use, and the words that look impressive in your answers. It is a strong study tip to find out the sort of vocabulary English assessment systems such as TOEFL or TOEIC use, and then make sure that you are familiar with them.
8. Immerse Yourself in the Language
The second best way to improve your English is to immerse yourself in the language. By that, we mean read widely – newspapers, online articles, books, magazines. We also mean doing things like watching TV, listening to English language music and so on. These are fun and easy ways to prepare your study programme as they are enjoyable to do.
If immersing yourself in the language is the second best way to study English, then speaking it with friends and family is the best way. That is because this is an active process. Your brain is constantly thinking, actively choosing the best words and phrases. Words become firmly placed in your head… And talking is an easy thing to do.
10. It Is Not Just About English
We said at the very beginning that passing an English test is not just about being strong in the language. It is about being able to do well under the pressure of an exam. There are some tips that can help. A brief read through of your notes on the morning of the exam can help you to feel good about yourself. Some breakfast or lunch gives you energy. Discussing your answers after the exam is not a good idea. Although we all know there are many ways to be right, it is human nature to worry if our answers are different to other people’s responses. Arriving in plenty of time with plenty of equipment can reduce anxiety.
Everybody prepares for their English exam in a different way, but by following the ten study tips listed above, students can feel more confident about their upcoming tests, whether in TOEFL or TOEIC, or indeed under any other testing system.
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