Exam!” “Give me a power-packed TOEFL lesson!”
As students take my TOEFL iBT lessons, they invariably have questions.
“How do I improve my TOEFL reading score?” asked one of my frustrated online TOEFLers. “It always my lowest score on the test.”
After an exchange of some E-mails, I was able to figure out that the student did not have a regular routine of reading newspapers, novels, and magazines. Even though this TOEFLer had studied some TOEFL iBT reading strategies and had learned plenty of useful tips to help him navigate through TOEFL iBT reading passages, he still could not concentrate very well and had a slow reading speed. Consequently, he consistently scored lower on the reading section of the TOEFL iBT due to these deficiencies. What is he to do?
He was so desperate that he said he would pay me $100 if I could help him score higher than 90 on the TOEFL iBT. Already a paying subscriber to my TOEFL and Speak Clearly lessons, he was not charged for the following tip.
Before I explain to you what I told him, I should tell you that I often teach through metaphors and analogies, which means I use stories, examples, or comparisons to illustrate a point worth noting. Keeping this in mind, here is what I said:
In order to run a marathon, you must adequately prepare beforehand by running a series of long runs, each one slightly longer until you are comfortable running 35-40 kilometers at a time. Do you think you can adequately prepare to run a marathon if your longest run before your race is only 10 kilometers? Of course, the answer is no.
Similarly, the TOEFL iBT is a mental marathon in that you must train yourself to be able to concentrate and think in English for long periods of time. Did you know that when you take the TOEFL iBT, it can take you up to 5.5 hours before finishing the test? That is almost six hours of intensive English testing on reading, listening, speaking, and writing topics. So, what do you do to prepare to tackle the TOEFL iBT?
It is important for you and the TOEFLer I was coaching to read extensively 60 minutes a day. Reading extensively over serveral months will help you to think and concentrate better in English. It will help you to improve your vocabulary recognition and to read faster, all important skill sets for the TOEFL reading, speaking, and writing, all of which contain reading passages.
Which newspaper should you read? My suggestion is the Wall Street Journal, which is written more toward an educated business audience. I also told him to make it a goal to read one novel a week.
In all, his goal is to read about 300 pages in English a week, and, while he reads, he should practice taking notes on the main ideas and critical supporting points. Once he has main points of the newspaper article or chapter from the novel in note form, I told him to practice making a written or oral summary. Doing this helps him kill 3 birds with one stone: 1) He is practicing reading, 2) integrated writing, and 3) integrated speaking exercises for the TOEFL. But more importantly, he is learning how to actively engage himself with a written text, which will help him be a more critical thinker in English.
And isn’t that what our society needs in these gloomy economic times? Critical thinkers not just good test-takers.
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