New TOEFL Changes

Have you heard that the TOEFL test structure is about to change in less than a month? You may be asking yourself “Is the academic content changing? Is the organization of the sections changing? Are the questions changing? Is the timing going to change? When is this happening?” To be specific, only the structure of the test will change—how many questions in each section and the timing. Changes will be on August 1st 2019.

Don’t worry. These test structure changes will be for the better. The test will be shorter with more detailed score reporting, to your benefit, and ETS has published answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs about the shorter TOEFL.)

If you plan to take the exam after August 1, 2019, you will see noticeable changes in the reading, listening and speaking sections that were announced on the Educational Testing Service (ETS) site.

If you have been taking the test since last year, you also may have noticed that the test has had content changes over the course of the past year (though subtle content changes have not been announced by ETS.) So, your best advantage is to know TOEFL changes in advance, so that when you take the exam you won’t be in shock on test day, and you’ll be able to perform at your best to see the results you desire.

Here is a summary of the TOEFL exam upcoming changes on the 1st of August, so take notes.

Time

3 hours with break and administration (no longer 3.5 hours)

Reading Section

Questions

Each passage only has 10 questions (no longer 12-14.) The same questions types will exist, and the number of and style of passages will be the same, with no question types taken out.

Time

52-74 minutes (no longer 60-80 minutes)

 

Speaking Section

Questions

Four questions (no longer 6.) One independent question and three integrated questions will be the same as before.

Question 1 (express a personal preference) and Question 5 (problem/solution; campus situation) will be removed, so you will no longer see those on the test.

Time

17 minutes (no longer 20 minutes)

 

Listening Section

Lectures

Only 3-4 lectures (no longer 4-6) — Number of conversations – no change

Questions – no change

Number of questions won’t change, and the question types will not change either

Time

41-57 minutes (no longer 60-90 minutes)

 

Writing Section – no change (according to ETS)

Though recent trends on the independent task have been noticeable: longer multiple choice questions, the new plagiarism warning, the note about selecting more than one option in multiple choice questions.

Scoring – no change

Still, the score will be out of 120 points, with each section having equal weight of 30.

MyBest Scores change

In August 2019, another good change is happening!

ETS will introduce a big change on your TOEFL report called MyBest Scores report, which will list your best score in each section, so you can take advantage of this feature by taking the test after August 1, 2109.

These structure changes are positive ones since the overall test time will be less. Consider that you’ll be less tired when it comes time to speak in the speaking section or write in the writing section! Take into account that the level of difficulty will be about the same as it has been this year since the content will not change, and it still evaluates your English language development. Keep studying from the same material content as ETS will not publish new materials until later on. While practicing familiar content, continue to hone your skills and test preparation strategies with your eyes on achieving a successful score. To score your desired results, you’ll need to be in sync with the test structure changes to master time management and pace yourself in practice and on test day.

If you have taken the simulation of the new version of the test, feel free to comment giving details on results. If you liked this post, follow to read about MyBest Scores report in an upcoming post.

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.

4 TOEFL and 27 GMAT Idioms

How might idioms surface on the TOEFL and GMAT? Let’s look.

On TOEFL, in the listening section, you may hear idioms. Or, you could use idiomatic expressions on the speaking and writing sections–only if you can use them naturally and correctly. Using no idiom is better than using the wrong idiom. Get to know four idioms that have come up.

  1. “I’m broke.”  Be broke = not having money (used when one can’t afford to pay)
  2. “I’m in the black.” In the black = profitable (financially break-even)
  3. “The school was in the red.” In the red = unprofitable; operating at a loss
  4. “She’s in over her head.” In over one’s head = is deeply involved (has issues)

On GMAT, you’ll be tested on idioms in a different manner.

GMAT places idioms in the verbal section in sentence correction questions. Those types of questions give a sentence that has an underlined part and makes you choose between replacements for the part that’s underlined.

On questions with idioms, usually there’s an idiom that’s used incorrectly in the sentence and a grammar rule that’s broken. Look for the correct answer that has proper grammar and correct idiom.

Three principal errors:

  1. An incorrect preposition with an idiom
  2. Improper comparison
  3. Correlative conjunctions (Correlatives are a pair of short words or phrases though separated in a sentence such as either/or, neither/nor, both/and, not only/but also, rather/or.)

1. Idioms with prepositions:

Many of the idioms on GMAT have the wrong preposition (i.e. of, from, to, at, for, with) in the phrase. Pay close attention to both the use of the idiom and the grammar for errors.

Process of choosing the correct answer:

First, use process of elimination to catch grammar errors; after that, narrow down the multiple choices in the answers and look at the idiom errors to choose what makes sense.

2. Incorrect comparison:

Review comparison rules (more) how to compare things to each other, and be sure to look out for superlatives (the most) when 3+ items are compared. Often, incorrect phrases are listed in the comparison. Look for clues in a response such as a word like “more” to identify the error or proper usage.

The most common patterns that you’ll notice are the following:

  • compared to X, Y, (Compared to the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty is bigger.)
  • X more than Y (You study more intensively than she does) or a comparative adverb phrase (You study more productively than her,) Joe follows (verb + direct object) basketball +more closely than Matt does.
  • X is different from Y, (X/Y most often are replaced with nouns)
  • in contrast to X, Y (In contrast to Obama, Trump is a Tweeter.)

3. Analyze Correlatives:

  • Either x or y {join two nouns, verbs, adjectives, phrases, or clauses}
  • Neither x nor y {join two nouns, verbs, adjectives, phrases, or clauses}

 

  • Both x and y               (yes x/yes y)       {for GMAT, often in parallel verb phrases, infinitives (both to come and to go), participial phrase, gerund (both coming and going)}             [not for linking independent clauses]
  • Not x but y (no x/yes y)
  • Not only x but also y (yes x expected/yes y additional) [Mozart was not only a renowned pianist, but also a phenomenal composer.]
  • Not just x but also y (yes x expected/yes y additional)
  • Not so much x as y (yes x less so/y yes more in degree of comparison)      {for GMAT, used for nouns, infinitives, gerunds, prepositional phrases}   [format: subject + do not so much + prepositional phrase x as prepositional phrase y]     [Obama is remembered not so much for his campaign, “Change,” as for his terms as President.]                   idiom: be remembered for

  • Between x and y {x and y are nouns or gerunds [-ing] on GMAT}               [The names Great Britain and the United Kingdom are often used interchangeably, however, there is a difference between GB and the UK.]              GMAT idioms: difference between, distinction between or distinguish between x and y.  [Atheists do not distinguish between being skeptical about God and disbelieving.

 

  • Just as x, so y {to connect two independent clauses}    [Just as Shakespeare was the greatest British poet, so Edgar Allan Poe was the best American poet.]

 

  • For every x, y (nouns) {idiom used in economic, math, political contexts}            [For every $100. spent locally on business, $60 will stay in the community. For every vote Newsom wins in Northern California, he’ll lose two votes in Southern California.]

27 Common GMAT Idioms

Study these not only for the meaning of the examples but also for the correct usage in context.

1. A debate over A debate over the ingredients in the dish went on and on.
2. Account for The grocer accounted for 270 items on the shelves.
3. Accuse of The assailant was accused of murder.
4. Acquaint with (someone or something) He is acquainted with Robert Frost and poetry.
5. A means to (something i.e. an end) The money-saving App is only a means to an end, financial freedom.
6. A responsibility to (someone) The new mother has a responsibility to nurse the baby every few hours.
7. A result of (something) The champion’s win is a result of his dedication to practice.
8. Ability to The quadriplegic has no ability to walk.
9. Act as The headmaster hired a substitute to act as teacher when the instructor was out with a virus.
10. Act like Teens act like there’s no tomorrow.
11. Afflicted with (something) He was afflicted with a pinched nerve in his spine.
12. Agree on (something) Let’s agree on resolving the issue.
13. Agree to (something) We agreed to the fund-raising campaign.
14. Agree with (someone) The mother agreed with her son on politics.
15. Aid in Athletic coaches aid in being a role model for sportsmanship.
16. Aim at something Be sure to aim at the bullseye to reach your target.
17. Aim to do something Aim to reach your objective before the end of the year.
18. Allow for The bus can’t allow for restroom breaks.
19. Amount to Elon Musk amounted to becoming a significant leader.
20. Appear to The star appeared to be too skinny in the movie role.
21. Are in danger of The glaciers are in danger of melting.
22. Argue with The police argued with the pedestrian over jaywalking.
23. As/as I am as productive as she is.
24. Ask for The team leader asked for support on the legwork.
25. Associate with We associate cranberries with Thanksgiving.
26. Attend to (someone) The grandson attended to his grandmother in the hospital.
27. Attribute x to y We can attribute heart disease in part to obesity.

To improve your grasp of TOEFL and GMAT idioms, look up more examples of the idioms in this post. For TOEFL, find ten idioms you can use well and memorize them. You could work one naturally into one of your speaking tasks (or independent writing task.)

Keep reading every day since the best way to learn idioms either for TOEFL or GMAT is to understand them in context.

Why Am I Not Improving English?

Woman Writing in Daily Planner

Avoid translating

  1. You are translating from your native language into English. That’s a big “no-no.” Avoid translating from your first language into English. You can speed up your progress in English if you simply focus on listening to English and catch the words you understand. Use the context to guess understanding. For instance, if someone says, “There will be a big shin dig this Friday night.” Imagine you don’t know the word shin dig. Don’t translate it. Just imagine what those words could mean in terms of happening on Friday night: a feast, a reception, a get together, a dance, or a dinner party.

 

  1. You are not practicing enough English speaking with a native. Dedicate enough study time to make advancements. Don’t expect to study English only a half hour per week and improve rapidly. Intensive language learning of a few set hours every weekday can expand your progress. When you do have a set study session in-person with a native speaker, don’t forget to speak. Sometimes, when you are conversing with someone in another language, it’s easy to just listen, but you won’t learn English faster if you don’t practice participating more in the conversation. So, the more you converse, the more you will learn to communicate better in English. If you spoke English just one time today, next time or tomorrow, try to speak two times. Of course, the more often you practice speaking, you can improve your confidence and your fluency in the language.

 

  1. You lack confidence in your English abilities. How can you improve in the language if you do not believe in yourself? Be confident that you are learning, and you will acquire more language skills day by day. Avoid saying, “Sorry,” if you don’t feel confident using English fluently yet with a native speaker. If you come across a new word/phrase/express, you can always ask a native speaker, “What does (~phrase) mean?” Just because you may not be familiar with idiomatic expressions or advanced vocabulary, you don’t need to apologize if you are not at the highest level. Remember that you are trying. Give yourself a break because you are learning a language. Keep trying your best, be confident that you will learn more and more. No doubt, you will learn more vocabulary as you progress to a higher level.

 

  1. You are not listening to a sufficient amount of English daily. Perhaps you do not understand enough of what you listen to. Let’s say that you comprehend only about 65%. This is particularly a concern if you live in a foreign country (a non-English speaking place) and do not have access to listening to speakers of English face-to-face. Solution: get a native trainer online or in-person, or listen to English on the web. Practice listening to English every day to train your ears to focus on words you already know in English and listen for word chunks, phrases, which you may be familiar with to comprehend the context. Avoid listening just for grammar. You won’t be able to attain fluency by picking apart a conversation through grammar points. Stop trying to catch single words. Neither will you be capable of advanced fluency if you are concentrating only on individual words in a dialogue. You need to listen for how phrases are grouped together in a pattern. You can listen to music, television, or movies to gain more fluency and understanding. Tell your ears they must listen to English phrases, understand English in context, and capture the bigger picture, the overall meaning.

 

  1. You forgot what you already studied in previous lessons. If you are not remembering your intake, then taking notes on what you learned during your study sessions will help you review and keep the knowledge fresh. For example, keep an English notebook for acquiring more information. In your journal (digital or paper,) you can take note of phrases that are new that you can learn. Then, try to use these new groups of words if you think of it in context. If you write down only the vocabulary word, you may not understand in the future how to use it in context, so try to catch an entire phrase. Later, when you review your notebook, the whole phrase will serve as a reminder of the meaning in context. Consequently, it will be much easier to recall. Furthermore, it will be a base for you to move up to the next level.

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