5 Key Actions to Listen Better


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.











What Idioms to Focus on

Are you at your wits’ end feeling desperate over which idioms to study for TOEFL?

Learning specific idioms with “take” improves performance on TOEFL and IELTS since these standardized tests are formatted with certain common English expressions.

The challenge for the test-taker comes in understanding the meaning of an idiom in the context of a passage or lecture. Some expressions seem to mean something different than what you might think.

Beat the Test

Improve your skill set of common take idioms. Knowing these expressions helps you understand TOEFL written passages and audio clips where your comprehension skills are tested. You’ll raise your competency by comprehending more details, which in turn, sets you up as a better test performer.

Examples in Context

Get to know these “take” idioms by familiarizing yourself with the examples in context. Dedicate study time to practicing them since they appear on TOEFL again and again. You’ll be at an advantage to get higher scores.

Take on I’ll take it on if no one else can complete the task.
Take notice The boss began to take notice of the worker’s productivity.
Take great pains to do something The parents went through great pains to ensure their daughter had enough money for university.
Take one at one’s word The cashier took the customer at his word when he described why he returned the product.
Take one by surprise The rebels took the army by surprise.
Take one’s time Let’s take our time to get the project done right.
Take one’s turn Wait until everyone has taken their turn.
Take someone at one’s word She invited me to come stay at her place in Rome, so I took her at her word.
Take one’s word for it I took his word for it when he said he had had an accident.
Take someone or something for granted It’s easy to take parents for granted until they’re gone. / I took my health for granted until the day I got sick.
Take someone or something at face value I take everything she says at face value. / The committee took the report at face value and approved the changes.
Take someone or something into account They’ll take his years of service into account when he’s evaluated for a raise. / She’ll try to take into account all the important things.
Take someone or something seriously If you don’t take the work seriously, you’ll be fired.
Take something into consideration They will take your experience into consideration when they decide who gets the job.
Take something lightly I’ve learned to take my work lightly as there are more important things to worry about.
Take something with a grain of salt His advice should be taken with a grain of salt since he doesn’t have much experience in the matter.
Take a beating In 2008, the stock market took a beating.
Take a dive The market took a dive after England’s exit from the EU.
Take it easy Take it easy after a long day of work.
Take it easy on Take it easy on him for missing work as his mother just died.
Take one’s chances Take your chances on oil and gold in the market.
Take the floor He took the floor speaking about pollution.
Take the helm She took the helm as CEO of the company.
Take the initiative The broker took the initiative to buy the stocks early when the market opened.

Step Up Fluency

You can even get practice using these expressions in business communication.

Now that you’ve got 24 new idioms under your belt, you’re a step ahead in fluency. Be confident on your next TOEFL that you’ll understand idiomatic meanings in context when these idioms surface on the exam.

If you were able to use these take idioms in context, feel free to Like this post.

5 Steps to Learn Vocabulary

As you wade through your groups of lengthy vocabulary lists, do you feel overwhelmed, as if you forget your new words from your vocabulary list? Are there times when you are frustrated from seeing a word you know you have seen before, but you cannot for the life of you remember what the meaning is? Of course, you realize you have to learn select new vocabulary in English to expand your word base before you take the TOEFL iBT, but are you approaching the process so that you have a distinct advantage?

Perhaps you are now scratching your head and asking yourself what strategies are more useful to quickly acquire a more extensive language base so that you can use that vocabulary efficiently on the TOEFL exam. Or, maybe you know how to encounter new English words in your study sessions, and you have been made aware of those vocabulary by writing them in a journal list to refer to, but your memory fails to recall them when you are reviewing since you have not yet implemented a set strategy of how to recall them over time. Of course, certain ways of remembering work better than simply memorizing a word. Let’s examine five.

  1. Study your new word in context by learning in chunks. Don’t just study one new word alone.

If you write down a word by itself, you will not have the context of where the word may arise in the future, so it will be easily forgotten. In English, we never communicate using only one word. English is commonly communicated in phrases, groups of words or chunks. For instance, instead of memorizing the word “bail” on its own, write down and practice reviewing these phrases “bail her out of jail,” “bail my friend out of trouble,” “bail a company out of its problems” or “bail out a company from debt.” Instead of remembering the single verb “constrained,” recall the phrases “she constrained herself from talking much,” “the ropes constrained the goat” or “he felt constrained by rules.” Each word normally is in a common phrase, so when you remember the group of words that go with the new vocabulary you are trying to recall, you will ensure you will know how to use it accurately in context.


  1. Don’t just write them in a vocabulary notebook. Make those words more visible everywhere around you to interact with them.

Put the new words somewhere written down where you will see them as much as possible. For example, put them on poster paper a wall (in front of your desk,) write them in a notebook that you carry with you all the time, place them on your computer desktop screen (to see them repeatedly at a glance on the computer,) have them on your smartphone in a note-taking app to refer to them throughout the day during your downtime. In that way, you can review your new words much more often and recall them more easily than simply sitting down to memorize or review them at a study session.

     3. Don’t overlook using new words daily.

Make an organized effort to use some of the new words in context every day, either in writing or speaking. If you have a short term goal of learning X amount of new words per week, be sure to have another goal of reviewing your words consistently. Take time to attack words on your vocabulary list by selecting a group of ones to use in context daily. The more you attempt to use the new words, the more you have the possibility to retain the meaning of how to use those in the future.

     4. Don’t just focus on similar words, but examine opposites too.

When you encounter a new word choice, not only take down a synonym, but make sure you look up the opposite meaning as well and take note. If you have the synonym and antonym of the new word, it will build your contextual learning base. Your brain will enact a reference point of both extremes, so you can remember more quickly.

      5. Keep “like” words grouped together.

The brain makes connections with “like” ideas, so when you come across a new word and know the meaning is similar to another word, group those words together in your word list so that you can expand your memory of those synonyms.


If you enjoyed sharing this advice, read Effective Note-taking for TOEFL Success to score higher test results.



Top Strategies for Excellent TOEFL Writing

Do you struggle with how to best tackle which way to go about improving your essays on the TOEFL writing section? To beat both the integrated and independent in the writing section, a few straightforward strategies go a long way to boost your section score.

Are you typing at least 40 words per minute? Of course, you can type faster improving your ability through typing sessions. First, make sure to practice typing your English writing on a QWERTY computer keyboard. Since you will need to type in your task responses, the faster and more accurate you type on the keyboard, the better you can focus on writing a quality essay. Touch typing without looking at the keyboard will give you an advantage since you will be able to think in English while not looking at the letters on the keyboard. Type daily for consistent practice with speed and no errors. Aim for 55 words per minute. Some websites for English typing test speed and practice are these:

The Principles of Touch Typing


Typing tutor


Typing Tests





Timing, of course, is critical in each writing task. When you first start practicing, you may feel slow and not be efficient in finishing your essay on time within 20-30 minutes, depending on the task. Every time you practice a simulated timed writing, you will get closer and closer to finish your essay in time, so that by the time the exam day rolls around, you are confident and comfortable to complete your tasks in the given time frame.

It’s important to also make a strategic plan to expand your vocabulary day by day. Maintain a vocabulary list in a notebook with new words and use review time daily to learn the words. Attempt to use those words in your essay practice when your writing is checked by a native speaker.

While you are practicing writing, look at your vocabulary list and use some of those words in context in your writing. Write in a style which has a variety of grammar structures. Using alternative word choices and various sentence structures, you can master how to write them effectively. The raters of the exam count a variety of word choice and sentence variety as higher level writing.

Next, formulate your essay structure so it’s well-organized with an introduction, body and conclusion, and be sure to use that structure in practice and on the actual test day. Each of the three parts of an essay has structural aspects to follow so that each paragraph in the essay is ordered logically and flows smoothly.

After you learn the structure, familiarize yourself with how to organize the content in the essay. There is a planning stage, a writing stage, and a revision stage. During the planning time of 3-5 minutes, you create a mapping of ideas or an outline before beginning to write the essay. A solid planning such as idea mapping saves time during the writing period because all your ideas will already be organized. The planning stage has key words from the question, a list of mapped out phrases of reasons, examples, and supporting details of ideas for the body paragraphs (2-3.) Do not write sentences, only write words or phrases to create an order of ideas so that you can refer to your planning to develop a clear, logical, and well-organized essay.

Know how to successfully write with connecting ideas, in particular, use transitions or phrases to introduce a reason or point, to give an example, to contrast an idea, to switch from one idea to another, to give more supporting information such as details, or to conclude. Some transition words are the following: first, second, next, in addition, moreover, for example, for instance, in contrast, on the other hand, to conclude, and to sum up. A list of transition words and phrases to be familiar with is at Study Guides and Strategies link.

How far have you come? Reflect on your writing advancement. Have a native English teacher or editor give you feedback on your writing according to the writing scores for TOEFL. Use the accurate input to get better on your writing techniques. Implement strategies to help you advance even further so that your writing progress is faster to get your goal.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll like Advance English Vocabulary with Flashcard Technology Tools.

Superior Essays Contain Examples

note pen pencil

Examples are vital to creating a superior essay on the second task, the independent essay, in the TOEFL writing section. To create strong writing, you need to insert quality content with solid reasons on the topic and clear examples. Each example may be different since the topics are varied. Use a particular example from one of these below depending on which question you encounter on the exam day. Here are some samples of what types of examples you may integrate into your body paragraphs to give stronger support to your argument.

Your own experience

The majority of independent essay arguments can come from your own experience since your viewpoint is something you can grasp readily when you are in a time crunch. For example, you may consider referring to your family, friend, neighbor, classmate, boss, peer, or elder. If you have an independent (task #2) question that asks about family, community, children, school, education, work, career, or life, you can easily draw from your own experience to respond to the question and stay on topic. It saves time in planning your argument, and it makes your development more personalized with your experience. For structure in your example, keep the same main subject throughout a body paragraph for consistency.

Sample preference question

  • Some people prefer to live in places that have the same weather or climate all year long. Others like to live in areas where the weather changes several times a year. Which do you prefer?

Subject knowledge

Of course, you will not need any previous expertise on the subject to answer an independent question on the TOEFL. However, if you know something about the topic that is listed in the question, they you can use your subject knowledge to help you develop your argument. If you have a question related to social issues or politics, for example, it is useful to use subject knowledge for those types of questions.

Sample agree/disagree question

  • Agree or disagree? Technology has made the world a better place to live.

Someone famous or a global situation

Aside from using your personal experience or knowledge, you can use a global example. For instance, consider what renowned person you could write about as an example. Some questions may be a topic about time, about history, or about a country.

Sample independent questions:

  • If you could go back to some time and place in the past, when and where would you go? Why?
  • If you were asked to send one thing representing your country to an international exhibition, what would you choose? Why?

When giving evidence in the body to substantiate your claim, it is quick and helpful to illustrate an example from your own experience or knowledge, or from a well-known person or situation. Using those types of examples is effective in the body paragraphs, depending on which topic the question asks you.

If you liked this post, try reading the article: The TOEFL Independent Task Five-Paragraph Essay Structure.

Presenting a Story as an Example Stimulates


  • A Story as an Example in Writing

In the independent task essay of the TOEFL writing section, each reason to support the argument needs a strong example in each body paragraph. One way is to use a story as an example in the body paragraph(s) as a tool of persuasion in the argument and as a technique to develop a reason.

A story example is a connected set of events with a beginning, middle, and end. The story you tell is a journey that moves the reader (rater of your essay.) When the reader is reading your story, the reader feels differently than reading facts; consequently, the result is the reader feels persuaded by your story to understand your viewpoint.

When writing a story as an example in your body paragraph, remember that a story is not facts, figures, or lists. Yet, if you are able to integrate facts or figures as supporting details into your story example, these can stimulate the rater’s intellect and emotions to feel persuaded to your opinion, and ultimately it may lead to the rater give a certain score. Your story (the example and supporting details) can be short—140 characters (no spaces) such as in four short sentences–or if you write longer sentences about 140 words to develop the entire body paragraph.

Here are a few characteristics of an effective story as a solid example in the independent essay, task #2 of the TOEFL writing section.

  1. Objective: Why are you telling that story?

To support the reason

  1. Grab Attention: To catch the reader, the story must clearly exemplify support of the

                                            Reason in your topic sentence and main argument (your thesis)

  1. Engage: Why might the rater care about your story example?

For a high score, that example must develop the reason given in the first sentence of the                               body paragraph, and it needs to supply specific details

Keep these in mind when creating a story as an example in the body of your essay.

How to Learn English Effectively


So, you need to acquire proficient English Level 7 and become more fluent to attend a university program in the United States or Europe. You’ve been studying intensively for a year or two, but you do not seem to improve in great strides. How do you get from your present English level to the level where you need to be to excel in all academic skills? Your desire is to make leaps and bounds in the language more quickly, so you can reach your next goals. What are you doing that is not as effective as it could be in your study?

Language Learning Strategy

  • Yes, practice does make perfect, but having patience is also useful in learning English or any language.
  • If you wish to learn and recall better, you need to set and outline the challenges and strengths that match where you are at, highlight the level of where you want to get to, and adjust the way you are learning and acquiring language through your approach to tasks to meet your goal.

Consider creating your own language learning strategies in order to target which technique will help you develop each academic task (a task-based strategy) you need to improve on. After you have a strategy set for each skill, then you need a way to practice those strategies in every day practice. Once you implement the daily pattern of practicing English with your set techniques, you will take note of efficient improvement. Then, use internet technology, create a proper study environment (such as an ideal location, atmosphere, group versus individual study, and minimal distractions,) and make your study tasks interesting so that you will remember most of what you acquire in your sessions. If, on the other hand, you study each day doing some exercises, but you do not have a set technique to approach each academic skill, your study of the language will be a mess, and it is likely that you will remain at the same level without increasing your advancement at the speed you would like. Studying daily with strategies in mind will develop your skills in English because the repetitive habit will become faster and shape the manner in which you learn.

To specifically prepare for skills which are tested on standardized tests such as TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, GMAT, and GRE to target your abilities to improve test-taking, reading, listening, speaking, writing, note taking, analyzing, critical thinking, integrating, synthesizing, grammar, and vocabulary.

When you make the web your classroom, you have a broad base to develop your own unique approach which you are comfortable with to learn English successfully.