English / Test-taking / TOEFL / Vocabulary

Build Vocabulary in English Effectively for TOEFL

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Keep a reading journal and a vocabulary notebook to advance your progress in English

Have you ever gotten stuck on words on part of a TOEFL section because you fail to understand those vocabulary words?

In the integrated sections of the speaking and writing sections, are you sometimes at a loss over difficult word choice?

If you do not understand some words, you most likely may be unable to successfully speak or write responses in the integrated tasks of these TOEFL sections.

The key to success is to understand the essential information in the source even if you may not comprehend a challenging word.

In the case of the integrated task, how would you filter through unknown words to answer the integrated task prompt?

The wise approach to learn how to tackle the various integrated tasks is first to understand the task, then accomplish the task as required by the prompt. Think about if you were able to read the information and take organized notes focusing on the information requested by the prompt. Let’s say you read the passage and took notes on the main idea and three key points. However, whether or not a word that appeared is difficult is not critical since you can imagine what that word may mean in context. Don’t let coming across a hard word in the passage cause you to lose focus on the main purpose and important points. Of course, the TOEFL will have words that you might not recognize. Those words are present to confuse you. The test also puts those advanced words in a text to stall you, so that you waste time. Yet, don’t let those words distract you from the overall goal of getting the main idea and answering your response more quickly and effectively.

Remember that if you can read, take notes, paraphrase, summarize, report, and synthesize the crucial information precisely, you will see a difference of a higher test score. Start by reading the prompt very carefully. Then, begin by identifying the organization of the passage. When you read, read with a particular purpose in mind: to answer the prompt. In the summary, you will analyze and describe the reading and lecture (citing the sources) in the integrated writing task number one. Be sure to identify and refer to accurate points as well as draw precise conclusions from the information provided in the source. Produce academic writing that summarizes the sources, leaving time to revise so that the end result leaves an impression of an advanced level of English proficiency. For timing your writing, refer to your written notes and practice writing from actual prompts under the same time constraints as on the exam day for simulation. What will be a valuable practice is to summary and paraphrase the content of short academic lectures such as TedX and readings online like on NatGeo.

Not only will reading, listening, and writing skill advancement help to prepare you for future academic life in English, but you will advance quickly in the language through the practice routine of collecting reliable and valid sources of information, particularly when you need to support a thesis in your integrated writing. You can also related readings to other related passages to analyze the content or relate a reading and a lecture that have a similar topic. During your integrated writing process, write a unified, well-developed, cohesive, and coherent essay being sure to include a clear thesis in your introduction, body, and conclusion while using accurate grammar. Whenever you see words that you do not know in a reading or hear words you are unfamiliar with in a lecture, take notes on those word chunks in a vocabulary notebook with definitions, examples in real context, and synonyms. If you review them daily or each study session, you will see your retention rate soar and your proficiency go up.

To aid your learning of vocabulary, read extensively daily. Read for at least 30 minutes 5x/week and keep a reading notebook with the date, amount of time spent, length of passage/article (word count) or pages read, a short written summary of what was read, and a vocabulary journal with a few new word choice to actively learn. Online, you can look up at dictionary.com for those words. Take note on word form, definition/meaning, and an example in a sentence to write in your vocabulary notebook. The goal of the reading notebook is track if you are reading more quickly, while the objective of the vocabulary journal is for increasing your knowledge of English words. With these tools, you are sure to transform into a self-learner and master reader.

When you come across a hard vocabulary word in a reading passage, you can use it in your integrated writing. Remember to spell it correctly by looking at the right spelling in the source and to use the word in correct context. Use the chunking strategy wherever possible to decode challenge words. With more exposure to words in reading, you will expand your vocabulary in the language. Develop a game plan—a plan of attack for overcoming vocabulary barriers and progressing your level of English:

  • Note taking on readings and lectures
  • Keep a vocabulary study notebook
  • Use internet tools for accessing more vocabulary
  • Understand a reading for the main purpose and key support rather than get lost in an unknown word choice
  • Use vocabulary in context in writing

Use these techniques to learn more successfully.

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