Individuals needing to show mastery of the English language take proficiency tests. For example, the IELTS and TOEFL iBT exams are often necessary for educational or career pursuits. While it is normal to feel some test anxiety, these English language exams can feel even more daunting. This is because much rests on you passing the exam. Therefore, it is imperative to prepare ahead of time to pass the exam. To help you find success on test day, here are ten tips:
1. Study a little every day
Whenever you practice listening or speaking English, this is a form of studying. In other words, you need to practice English every day. Many students try to learn English online only, but you may find it is more beneficial to study English in Washington DC where you will get a true immersion experience. At the Washington language school, inlingua, students “study” every day by speaking English most of the time in the classroom and by communicating as they travel the city.
In addition, you can “study” for your English exams by having fun. For instance, listening to English music, watching English television and films, or visiting English museums are great opportunities to practice English. Remember, every moment you spend speaking, listening to, writing, or speaking your native language is a lost opportunity to learn English. Again, language schools in DC offer students these opportunities and more.
2. Attend test prep courses
Of course, you should enjoy learning English, but you should also prepare for the rigorous exam. On top of studying by practicing English daily, you should also attend test prep courses. Test prep courses are excellent ways to learn how to pass the exam. Inlingua’s English test center is an official testing site for both the TOEFL iBT and IELTS exams. It is actually the largest IELTS test center in the US. Not only is this DC language school a testing center, they also offer several test preparation courses taught by trained teachers to help you get ready for the exam. If you don’t have time for group classes or you only a need a small amount of last-minute help, they also have private tutoring available.
3. Know how the test works
The TOEFL iBT and IELTS exams are different language exams. Both have different sections. The TOEFL iBT test is traditionally taken by ESL students who want to study in the USA but prefer a computer-based exam, whereas the IELTS is generally taken by those who want to study in English-speaking universities or immigrate to English-speaking countries but prefer a live speaking interview. Once you decide which exam you will take, you will need to understand how the test works.
Both the TOEFL iBT and the IELTS are divided into four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. However, the duration of each section and the types of exam questions vary by test. You will need to familiarize yourself with the different sections and the time lengths. Likewise, typing versus handwriting or using a headset versus participating in a live interview all make a difference in your testing experience, so you should be prepared.
4. Take practice tests
If you do attend a test prep course at an English language institute, you will have opportunities to take practice tests. However, even if you choose not to attend these classes, you still need to take practice tests. It is a wise decision to purchase official test preparation materials. These materials will contain practice questions. Since time is a major component of the test, you should practice the test under the standard time constraints. For instance, set a timer for each test section.
5. Read and write in English
The English language exams all consist of a reading and writing section. Therefore, it is important to read and write in English regularly. The more you read and write in English prior to the exam, the more comfortable you will be on test day. Try to have fun with it. For example, choose books that you want to read, such as comic books or children’s books. Keep an English only journal where you write about your day. Practice reading slightly longer or slightly harder passages each day and practice summarizing the main point or listing the important details.
6. Learn techniques for the different exam sections
In test prep courses, the instructors take time to provide techniques that are helpful for each section of the exam. For example, before you put pen to paper in the writing section, you should try to plan what you will write first and double check that you have fully prepared to answer all parts of the question. You should also try to leave enough time to review your work after. A great technique is to focus on the more critical writing errors first and then move on to minor errors as you have time.
7. Practice time management
Since the various sections of the exams have different time allotments, you need to practice time management. For instance, take practice exams using timers. Many students also find it helpful to practice time management with the clock on exam day. This means paying attention to the number of questions and the amount of time you have left. This is helpful when you find yourself staying on a question for too long. If you are aware of the clock and what number you are on, you will know when it is best to skip the question that is holding you back.
8. Get a good night’s rest
The night before the exam should not be an evening spent cramming. Instead, do the exact opposite. Try to have a relaxing evening and get a good night’s rest. On the day of your test, get up early, eat a healthy meal, and give yourself plenty of time to make it to the English test center on time.
9. Follow directions
During the exam, make sure you read all the directions clearly. Pay attention to what each section requires and how to answer each question. This is another time when the test prep courses are helpful. Test prep courses teach students about each section and the types of questions on the exam. However, even if you have taken test preparation courses, you should not begin answering questions before you have fully read the instructions.
10. Read the questions first
Given the time constraints and the nature of language learning and comprehension, you may find it helpful to read the questions prior to reading (or listening) to the English text you are being asked about in the section. Try to quickly skim the questions and then read the text looking for the answers in the text. This will save you time overall.