TOEFL Skills Useful for Life

Have you ever wondered if the skills you are studying for TOEFL are skills you will use after the exam? Would you have need of those skills after the test preparation period? The English skills that TOEFL tests–reading, listening, speaking, and writing—are all needed for both college life in study abroad and for a post-university career. However, the TOEFL exam does not only test your English language skills. Academic skills and test skills are assessed as well. And, those skills also apply to real life.

Assessed Language Skills

The TOEFL exam is formatted is to test various language skills in order to see if you are prepared to encounter all types of campus situations. Reading on TOEFL checks your ability to read nonfiction educational passages at the level of a first-year university student. Listening assesses your ability to hear academic college lectures accurately. In addition, you’ll be tested on how well you listen to and understand campus conversations. The speaking and writing sections have integrated tasks to assess your reading and listening in lectures and/or conversations. Other tasks on these sections test your ability to present a brief speech and to write a short academic essay.

 

Furthermore, reading skills are tested not only in the reading section, but also throughout the other sections. Listening skills required of campus conversations and academic lectures are tested in the listening section, and listening is also incorporated in both the integrated speaking and integrated writing sections. In addition, the integrated tasks in the speaking and writing sections test your receptive skills of reading and listening. And, you’ll summarize academic readings, lectures, and campus conversation. Your summaries will be spoken in the speaking section and will be written in the writing section. To produce language, you’ll use active skills of speaking and writing. In both the speaking and writing sections, your productive skills will be tested. In the independent speaking tasks and writing task, you’ll express yourself through speaking and writing, which you’ll need to do in college.

English Skills for Real Life On Campus and Beyond

When you go abroad to study at a university, getting benefit from the international experience, you’ll use multiple language skills. Not only will you be reading textbooks, you’ll also be on campus looking over bulletins, newsletters, and potentially research announcements. Sitting in class and listening to professors won’t be the only lectures you hear. You’ll tune into conversations all over campus. For instance, to converse with other students in class and on campus, talk to staff at college, and interact with faculty, you’ll enhance speaking communication. Living in a real-life campus environment, you’ll talk and write about all the various topics you read and hear about at the university. To speak effectively in study situations, you’ll need to perfect your techniques, such as giving class speeches or responding in a debate or on a panel. Moreover, your writing skills will be used in writing essays, research proposals or thesis, by emailing letters to classmates, staff, and professors, or by simply sending messages.

At graduation time, when you get a job in an English-speaking environment, all these English language skills from TOEFL preparation will come in handy. Imagine your post-university career, if you need to present to a supervisor or to negotiate as part of a team, you’ll integrate your communication skills. Talking to colleagues or co-workers is similar to having a conversation at the university. If you need to give a presentation at work, it could be similar to a speaking response in TOEFL or a speech from college. At work, you’ll surely need to write reports, emails, project proposals and memorandums, all of which involve TOEFL writing skills.

Academic Skill

In addition to English skills, TOEFL tests academic skills. It’s true some of the above language skills qualify as academic ones too. For example, both a language part and an academic part exist in these tasks: reading passages, listening to lectures, listening and speaking, reading, listening and speaking, and reading, listening and summarizing, and writing essays.

Also, TOEFL evaluates academic skill not related to language. One type is note-taking. On the exam, you’ll have to take notes on lectures and conversations. You’ll be given a note paper to hand write your notes on. The key is to write down notes that are valuable for you to use. Developing effective note-taking skills with speed and accuracy are key to succeeding on three parts: the listening, integrated speaking tasks, and integrated writing task.

During life at school, note-taking is an essential skill in and out of the classroom. So many ways of listening come up–podcasts, audios, videos, webinars, classes, lectures, presentations, conferences, workshops, panels—that you’ll need to take notes on the flood of information.

Post-college, note-taking skills are essential in the workplace. For instance, when in attendance at meetings or conferences, your ability to take notes is valuable. Transforming those notes into reports, proposals, research, projects, or summaries will most likely be an everyday professional occurrence.

Another academic skill evaluated on TOEFL is time management. How do you use your time on various tasks or on each section? Do you allot adequate time for reading? Do you use time well? Do you work well under pressure? How do you perform in a time crunch? Do you adjust your time frame to respond to all the questions? You’ll need to learn how to pace yourself during the exam. So, carefully knowing how to budget your time for tasks such as reading passages, responding to questions, and writing is crucial. A poorly timed situation may result in a lower reading score: if you waste too much time on the first reading passage and questions, you may run out of time on the final reading passage without having sufficient time to answer the questions properly.

In comparison, time management skills at college perfect your ability to get things done. As many activities are happening at the same times and dates, you’ll hone in on how to juggle slots of time to manage productivity in an academic setting, in campus activities or in extracurricular events. With these skills, you can organize time to relax too: to exercise before class or to watch sports after class.

In real life, personal or professional, having the skills to arrange time comes into play. Daily work hours need to be scheduled in, time for chores in your home life need to be planned, or hours to entertain with friends need to be arranged. These days, with the fast-pace of life, time management skills are a must, and you’ll have an edge as you’ll have mastered the art of time during your preparation for TOEFL.

Content development is an additional skill evaluated on the TOEFL exam. In both the speaking and writing sections, you’ll need to plan what content is included and develop ideas. You’ll need to use this skill in many subjects when you attend college. And, you’ll be building content development in your own language too, often for projects in the professional arena.

Organization is a further skill assessed on TOEFL. Again, on the speaking and writing sections, you’ll have to put your ideas in order (such as sequential or logical order) for brief speeches and short essays. If you’ve organized with a clear plan in mind, you can gain a top score. Moreover, organizational skills you learned for the test will enhance your student life at university. Your skills will be employed sorting important papers, not misplacing documents, and effectively using a daily planner. When you finish at school, your organization skills will be put to the test in real life and in the workplace where you’ll have to use checklists, prioritize, and schedule meetings. 

Test Skills

Aside from academic skills, TOEFL assesses test skills. Since it’s a standardized test, it evaluates your testing ability like strategy on how to answer questions and how to approach different tasks. To gain a top score, you’ll need to know the different types of questions in the reading and listening sections. In particular, knowing which multiple-choice questions will come up will give you a better chance of success. TOEFL tends to typically insert some wrong answers to trap you into responding incorrectly. So, you’ll need to become familiar with what the correct kind of responses look like in order to identify the right answers faster. For other strategy, it will help you to understand each type of task on the speaking and writing sections and how to approach each response for the highest rating. If you master the test format in advance of exam day, you’ll put yourself in a better place for scoring highest.

Test skills will also be useful once you are on campus living student life as standardized tests are part of the modern world. For instance, you may plan to apply to grad school. If you are going to attend school for a graduate degree or an MBA, you’ll take standardized tests like GMAT, GRE, job-training tests, work-licensing tests, or tests for certifications to advance your professional career. The multiple-choice sets and design of tasks in each section can be compared to other standardized tests, so building these skills will cross over to life situations. Even more so at university where you’ll need to make use of your strategy skills to approach different subjects on tests during your time in class.

Once you graduate, you’ll again make use of your mastery of test skills in your career. At work, you will need to put into practice different approaches to find an answer or think outside the box to problem-solve. Having learned from past mistakes, you’ll know which direction not to proceed in future endeavors.

Relevance to Real Life

The test-makers have created basic questions and tasks that simulate real life language situations because you’ll encounter those tasks after the test. Though you may not think so now during your extended study hours, rest assured the skills you are honing for TOEFL now–English language, academic, and test skills—are relevant to daily life beyond the exam. Those skills will be able to be put to use in your life after TOEFL, both at university and at work.

Know TOEFL Reading Question Types Inside Out

Have you ever run out of time on the TOEFL reading section?

If you know the question types inside out, you can master the technique of how to identify each question to answer quickly, and you’ll beat the test.

Time Management and Focus

You’ll need to manage a new approach to organize your minutes more effectively during this section of the exam. Better management of your time will give you the opportunity to answer more questions correctly, thus leading to a higher section score.

Reading skill is tested on three sections of the TOEFL, so if you improve your English reading speed and comprehension with daily practice such as reading timed online academic articles, skimming, scanning, note-taking and paraphrasing, you’ll improve your overall TOEFL score.

The time is 60-100 minutes in the entire reading section with 36-70 questions of three academic passages of 600-800 words each. You’ll need to manage time of 20 minutes per passage. All topics focus on college subjects, so in your daily study time, practice academic texts of equal word count length in a similar time-frame. All questions are one point, except the last question in each passage set worth more than one point. Do not spend too much time on any one question. Use equal time to identify the answer, since they are all the same amount of points; and if needed, use process of elimination to narrow down the correct choice.

Of the four academic sections tested on TOEFL—reading, listening, speaking, writing–reading is the first skill tested. Since it’s the initial section, it may still be noisy at the test center with incoming test takers. So, you’ll need to focus attentively to not be distracted by surrounding noise. If you find yourself getting distracted by surround sound, put those headphones on to help block out the test center environment so you can zoom in on the reading content.

Accuracy in Skimming for Gist and Speed in Scanning for Details

Skimming the passage is useful to find the main idea in the first paragraph and pinpoint the meaning and to look for the key points (in key words) in the first sentences of body paragraphs. Once you have skimmed for the gist of the passage, begin to tackle the questions. Another technique, scanning, is also helpful. By scanning the question (key words) and referring back to the exact location in the passage, you can note specific details in order of what will be questioned. Your plan of attack can be to answer question by question in order, as questions will refer to the same order as the location of answers in the passage.

 

The Importance of Recognizing Question Types

Have you ever felt stumped on a reading question and lost time? Do you know how to recognize and answer all different types of passage questions?

What’s more, knowing the types of questions you will encounter and identifying each type of question on the reading section will help you answer correctly and speed you through each passage in a timely manner.

Try to wrap your head around the different types of reading questions in your preparation study, thus inching you closer to the highest section score on exam day.

 

Reading Question Types:

Vocabulary

Sentence meaning

Sentence insertion

Stated or unstated details  – Factual and negative factual information

Inferences and rhetorical purpose

OrganizationProse summary and fill in a table

Pronoun reference

You’ll be asked what a highlighted word refers to. If it is a pronoun, you need to identify the word the pronoun is replacing i.e. know what each pronoun refers to in the passage. Most often, the words are subject or objective pronoun, demonstrative pronouns or possessive adjectives (it, they, them, these, those, this, that, its, their.)

Question Types Strength and Weakness:

How can you improve your speed and accuracy in answering questions?

Question types that are your strength, you’ll answer more quickly, and question types that are your weakness, you’ll take a longer time to respond to.

Thus, identify your strength in questions type above (which ones you answer correctly in past exams or practice) and your weakness (which ones are challenging that take longer to answer or that you got wrong on past practice or exams.)

Your Strength question types: _____________________________________________

Reflect on how you’ll identify these faster and answer faster:

_____________________________________________________________________________

Your Weakness question types: ____________________________________________

Consider how to improve on these with a new/different approach in practice and on the real test.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Tackle each weakness question type by addressing how to change your approach to answer correctly. For instance, do not use the same approach as you did before if you got those wrong. Consider what you could be doing better to improve speed and accuracy.  Once you figure out how to answer correctly, approach the weak question types by process of elimination, and take notes of those question numbers and your choice response(s), as you can go back to those later if you have a bit of time. If you use process of elimination, you’ll eliminate choices for a higher percentage rate. In study time, practice more of those types of questions to get ready with your new approach.

If you aim to answer 100% correct on your strength question types on practice questions, you’ll save time by going quickly through your strength question types with added confidence.

For more tips on how to approach answering each type of reading question type, stay tuned for strategy and details in upcoming posts. If you learned insight about reading question types in this post, give this post a thumbs up.

5 Key Actions to Listen Better

jackrabbit-listening

The jackrabbit pushes its ears forwards and listens, because sounds change. Their key action is presence. We can follow the cues of this animal when we listen.

How good are you at listening?

Give yourself a score on a scale of 1-10.

How effectively are you attuned to your clients, your team, your classmates, or your business colleagues? Are you asking the appropriate questions? How well do you comprehend lectures?

Effective listening will help you in business interactions, on exams, in classes, in supporting your team, in group discussions, and in interviews.

5 Key Actions

  1. Be present.

Take a breath. Focus on the speaker. Face the person. Hear the person speak. Maintain eye contact and lean forward if in person.

If you are listening to a video such as on the TOEFL exam or IELTS, this it he first step of intake. If you are in person, this is the start of a two-way relationship where you can take what you hear and proceed in the interaction.

  1. See the words.

Associate the lecturer’s words with a visual in your mind to trigger your memory. Visualization is a memory tool. If you picture what it being said, you’ll remember more information since the subconscious mind recalls visuals.

  1. Feel the emotion.

If you feel the lecturer’s emotions, you can notice how deep of concern the lecturer has for the issue. For instance, on integrated writing task in TOEFL, listening for emotion in the speaker’s voice may be a tactic to discern key points.

  1. Listen for pauses.

In a test-taking listening opportunity such as on the integrated speaking or writing tasks on TOEFL, pauses in a lecture may signal an important point to come, so take note of what follows.

In an interactive situation, on the other hand, don’t interrupt. Pay attention to whether the speaker is finished before speaking.

  1. Respond on target.

In an interview, after paying careful attention to the speaker’s question, you’ll be invited to respond on the topic.

On the contrary, in a pair, group, team, or audience situation where you’ve listened to a speaker, be clear before responding by first asking, “Can I give input/feedback?” “Could I make a suggestion?” so as to not offend.

Practice Actions

Begin by practicing action step one, being present to attune your ears.

Then, each day add another action step. You’ll be able to make progress in listening.

With experience in this method on the TOEFL exam, in classroom discussions, and in conducting business, you’ll gauge your enhanced listening skills.

Importance of Analytical Skills for TOEFL, GRE, MBA

Whether you are getting ready to take TOEFL or doing the legwork for GRE or finishing your business studies, you’ll use your analytical skills. First, you’ll have to communicate, either written or orally, and share your analysis with others. Then, you’ll draw on your creativity such as your flexibility to see a problem from different perspectives or your capability to identify key data.

Possessing the ability to problem solve reveals your analytical skills to others. An interviewer, for example, would notice how you answered a behavioral question. A team, on the other hand, would see your leadership. Finally, a rater on a test would notice the process, logical or not, through how you addressed a prompt. Moreover, in various daily circumstances, analysis is needed.

Analysis helps you assess both simple and complicated problems. It encompasses your being attentive to detail on TOEFL and GRE, your ability to think critically, your capability to make decisions on tests and in studies, and your research skills to find a solution in case studies.

Not only are your analytical skills tested on exams but also in interviews, such as when you are up for a career move or when you put in a university application. During each of these processes, you may be asked to discuss an example to illustrate your professional and/or personal experiences.

Hence, being mindful of everyday problems that you solve, particularly ones that you creatively address, and the process you use to resolve these issues will help you build an analytical response for tests, business, and college studies.

Reflect on these key aspects and how you can highlight your experiences in answering in test situations and/or on campus:

  1. Researching
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Decision making
  4. Being detail-oriented

Researching

One fundamental aspect which shows your ability to draw conclusions around issues is doing research. Skills such as defining, collecting, examining data and deciding on a plan are needed to conduct proper research.

 

 

 

 

Critical thinking

Using your independent mind to evaluate a problem on the GRE or a prompt on TOEFL requires you to break down the argument. Organize your ideas using steps in your process to evaluate the situation. Try to look for patterns, identify facts, and pick up details which permit you to outline your argument and form a solution to the issues presented on the tests.

You need to analyze on the Analytical Writing on the GRE.

As your ability to think critically is essential to college studies, the GRE tests this. You’ll have to evaluate evidence, understand its relevance to the argument, and/or assess the potential bias in the evidence presented in the prompt. You’ll also need to examine the structure of the argument in terms of the evidence given, such as what premise, steps, and/or conclusion are stated. Furthermore, you may be required to distinguish between true and false arguments and notice holes in reasoning.

Let’s contrast the skill in TOEFL.

In TOEFL writing section in the integrated task, the main analysis you’ll need to perform is taking notes as you listen to the speaker focusing on which are the important details that relate to the information in the reading. Then, you’ll use comparison skills to review your lecture notes with your notes from the passage so you can construct your essay with accuracy. Of course, on this integrated task, you will not analyze using your own opinion since you are only focusing on the key details of what you read and mostly presenting what you heard.

In contrast, on the independent writing task, you’ll need to analyze the topic in order to write your opinion on the question, giving a supporting explanation with particular examples and details. You can be creative and make up an opinion if you are in a rush for time.

Moreover, in a professional environment or at the university, this skill comes in handy such as when you are listening to your team or classmates to assess a case.

 

Decision making

Coming to a decision about a specific course of action when different options are presented is essential to getting the best outcome. This skill draws on being careful in your assessment of the situation to be able to predict which choice leads to a successful result. Take the time to reflect on those special moments of key decisions at work or in other important life moments so that you can create vivid stories around those events for your MBA essays and interviews.

This skill comes in handy particularly on TOEFL or GRE. For example, when you respond to a prompt where you need to express your opinion, select an option and analyze making a list of pros or cons.

On multiple choice exams, use the strategy of narrowing down your decision making through a logical process of elimination. On the other hand, in the workplace or at university, take the time to research your selections rather than being too quick to judge.

Focusing on details

If you gain the ability to notice, keep track of and recall details, you’ll be a step ahead of your competitors. So, when you are taking a test, remember to follow directions, avoid written errors, and be careful about evaluating complex ideas. Especially in professional team situations, work needs to be completed in a precise fashion. Emphasizing the earlier example of the integrated writing task on TOEFL, focus on the lecture key points and lecture details related to the reading, which are essential to attaining a higher section score.

A practical detail-oriented work strategy is to be more attuned with your professional environment or with colleagues or classmates to not rush to any conclusions. Take the initiative to speak up to your team, ask detailed questions, and review work to demonstrate a quality approach to resolving any issue.

Whether you are preparing for test taking or the interviewing process, editing your C.V., working professionally, or continuing your studies, you must rely on these skills to enhance your productivity and results. Keep in mind putting these skills into practice each day when you are studying for TOEFL or GRE or getting ready for interviews, so you can land your dream choice.

CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS HELP ON TOEFL

You may be contemplating, “Why is critical thinking important on TOEFL? How are critical thinking skills evaluated in the scores? When do I need to employ logic on the test?”

On test day, TOEFL engages your critical thinking ability in different sections. It’s crucial because the way you use logic to analyze and reason in an answer will affect your results.

How?

Writing Section: Independent Task

On the independent task of the writing section of the test, some questions require you to apply skills such as effective analyzing and reasoning. In those cases, you’ll need to think critically to develop your argument. For example, with the agree/disagree questions, your argument or opinion needs to try to persuade the audience you believe in something. To show you’ve thought through a critical response, simply express your opinion with clarity in response to the prompt.

Placement of Thesis

Where does your key argument statement need to be written? In the thesis statement. In the last sentence in your introductory paragraph, you’ll give your reasons to support your view(s.) As you continue writing the independent task essay, all your topic sentences, which start the body paragraphs are reason statements in support of your argument. The ability to create a strong argument with reasonable support leading to a conclusion shows the audience/evaluators whether or not you have skill to develop an essay.

Test Strategy: Careful Evaluation

A key strategy on other sections of the exam is to approach responses by evaluating the best answer. Why? TOEFL avoids answers that are definitely 100% (or contain words that are absolutes) as those don’t require much reasoning. TOEFL wants test-takers to consider questions carefully.

How?

 

Approach

A good approach is to avoid selecting absolute answers. For instance, a typical absolute answer would be a response that has an answer with adverbs like always and never, which are absolutes of 100% definity.

Another fast tactic is to search answers for modal verbs to avoid selecting absolute answers like must. It will increase the possibility of selecting the right answer. Examples of modals are these types of helper verbs: can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, should, will, would. Modals have varying degrees of possibility to indicate how likely something is to happen. Modals go from one extreme to the other–with absolute requisites on one end like will, must, ought, should, shall and suggestions on the other end of the scale of likelihood with can, could, may, might, would. Avoid responses that include the absolute modal verb must. If you see responses with the strongly suggestive modal verbs should and ought, consider carefully if the issue in the question is of enough importance to select that answer. On the other hand, if you see answers with the modal verbs might and could, those are potentially better answer choices as those are not absolute 100%.

Zone in on Success

Now that you understand why critical thinking is essential on the exam and how it’s assessed in responses, use your critical thinking skills and these strategies accordingly on your next exam for a higher rate of success.