Links

Links

I know that I haven’t put up a podcast in a while; I am working on something that I hope is really cool.

In the meantime, here is an interesting podcast for intermediate speakers and higher.

I particularly recommend it for TOEFL or IELTS students but anybody who likes philosophy or thoughts about life should find it interesting.

Philosophy Bites – website.

Be Aware of Homophones to Improve Listening Comprehension

Headphones

When you listen to people speaking it is easy to misunderstand if you are not aware of homophones (words that sound the same). This is especially true in standardised tests like TOEIC, TOEFL and IELTS but also in everyday situations as well.

Some common homophones and near homophones are:

ate eight
blew blue
check Czech
eye I
flea flee
gym Jim
him hymn
in inn
know no
plain plane
right write
sea see
two too
wooden wouldn’t
you ewe

Here’s a video that shows just how confusing homophones can be.

Real Academic Documents to Improve TOEFL / IELTS Reading

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Students studying academic reading, especially for standardised tests like TOEFL and IELTS frequently ask “How can I improve my academic reading?”

The answer is, “Do more academic reading.”

You need to look at real academic documents and analyse them for meaning. Try to insert your own subheadings and summarise the documents within 200-300 words. Underline key words and add new vocabulary to your word cards.

Where can you find academic documents? In your local college library, sometimes in your city library and on the internet.

If you are a college or university student, your institution’s library may give you access to JSTOR or other online document libraries.

If you are not a higher education student Google Scholar should be your first choice to search academic documents.

The World Bank also has an enormous amount of documents and data that you can access for free.

A Push When You Need It

motivation


This week one of my students who has been a little bit too relaxed about his TOEFL study has become extremely motivated and started undertaking listening practice of his own accord and systematically logging the vocabulary he is learning, emailing me to tell me his progress. What caused this? Me telling him I’d check up on him and give him more work if he didn’t do it.

Yesterday one of my teenage students promised me he’d actually try in class, instead of giving up before starting, after leaving his listening paper blank. He doesn’t cope with change well and has all new classmates and a new textbook for this year. For him, this is a significant promise and one that I told him I’d watch to make sure he’d keep to.

Sometimes you don’t need a teacher, you need someone to look over your shoulder, check you’re on task and give you a push when you need it.

If you’re one of my students, you get that nudge as part of the service. A lesson doesn’t last for just the lesson; it needs to last for as long as you need it. Without somebody to coach you (and sometimes that coach can be yourself) you can get lazy. Without a cheerleader (and that can be you, too), you can think that you’re doing badly and lose motivation.

If you need a push, ask me.

If you want to tell me how you’re going to study English, leave a comment.

Think ‘3’ When Writing Opinion-Based Test Essays

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When you write opinion-based essays for TOEFL or IELTS, you need to keep thinking about organising your thoughts in threes. This helps you to structure your writing more effectively. When you have three thoughts to organise each part of your writing it is much easier to stay with your plan.

Plan in Three Parts

    You need:

  1. an introduction;
  2. main points;
  3. a summary and/or conclusion.

And Keep Planning in Three Parts

    Your introduction should include:

  1. what the essay question means or background information;
  2. why this is important or significant;
  3. what your essay will cover.
    Your main points should include:

  • Your opinion, judgement or findings;
  • contrasting views;
  • evidence to back up your view and why the contrasting views may be wrong.
    Your conclusion should include:

  1. reinforcement of your views;
  2. limitations or special cases;
  3. restatement that limitations and/or special cases are minor.

By doing this, you should increase your score and also find it easier to complete the essay within the given time.

Focus Your Input for TOEIC, TOEFL and IELTS

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Sometimes you aren’t studying English. This is certainly true when you are studying for tests like TOEIC, TOEFL and IELTS you study specialised kinds of English. What you study depends on the test.

TOEIC tests English for business (as well as everyday English).
TOEFL and IELTS test academic English.

The best ways to study for these tests are to read materials similar to the tests’ reading materials and listen to podcasts about relevant topics. For TOEIC, listen to business and news podcasts. For TOEFL and IELTS listen to podcasts about arts, social sciences and science for TOEFL and IELTS.

Sites I recommend for TOEIC:

For TOEFL and IELTS:

Take Notes of Grammar and Vocabulary

Don’t forget to take notes of new grammar structures and make word cards for new vocabulary. Remember also to learn whole word families because these tests sometimes test your knowledge of word families. If you study these as you go, it should not be a problem.

Understand Passive Verb Forms

For all these tests you should learn to understand the passive verb form because it is used frequently in formal business English and in academic English.

Examples:

He improved his English test scores by reading serious news articles and listening to college lectures. Not passive.

His English test scores were improved by reading serious news articles and listening to college lectures. Passive.

The basic construction is:

THING + ‘BE’ verb + ACTION verb (done to the thing) + DETAIL/CONDITION (optional but more common).

For a long-term skill increase you should study different materials anyway. However, to get a higher score in standardised tests such as TOEIC, TOEFL or IELTS, you need to understand the style of their reading and listening materials.