Due to grammar and vocabulary limitations, Lana begins her online TOEFL course.

After getting her score report back from ETS, Lana decided to begin an online TOEFL course. The ETS competency descriptors said she had grammar and vocabulary limitations in her speaking and writing tasks that prevented her from fully expressing her ideas.

From a grammar perspective, Lana, when completing her speaking and writing tasks was relying on basic sentence structures to communicate her ideas. It is kind of like a repair technician who uses a hammer to fix all broken equipment.  For example, can a worker use a hammer to drive a nail into a 2 x 4 board? Yes. Can a worker use a hammer to fix a television? Probably not.  Like the worker, Lana was trying to use a simple sentence (with one subject and one verb) to express ALL her ideas during the speaking and writing tasks. However, if Lana is trying to synthesize a lecture with a reading passage, will a simple sentence do the trick?  Nope.  Therefore, Lana was studying grammar lessons from “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT” so that she could have better control over the advanced structures that are so important in helping her to summarize, paraphrase, and synthesize information in the integrated speaking and writing tasks.

Like her grammar, Lana was limited to only basic vocabulary which made it doubly difficult to support her general ideas in the speaking and writing tasks.  Even worse, her vocabulary limitations were also making it difficult for her to listen to and read academic passages. Heck, how could she understand college-level reading passages and lectures when she did not even have a thorough knowledge of basic vocabulary? Is it surprising, based on her current level of vocabulary fluency or lack thereof, that she scored 67/120?  But now Lana had a plan and had begun studying 1,700 vocabulary words by completing matching, sentence completion, reading passage, and listening comprehension exercises, all of which were designed to help improve her knowledge of basic and advanced vocabulary.  It was hard work for her, but she persevered, studying the words regularly by writing them down onto note cards and listening to the audio files of the new words on her iPOD. Surprisingly, she began using some of the newly acquired words as she completed the speaking and writing practice tests.  More than just studying the words, she was now “owning” many of them in the sense they were becoming part of her language.

Ultimately, Lana is on track to overcoming her grammar and vocabulary problems, and she is now hopeful that soon she will score at least 100/120 on the TOEFL iBT. Go girl!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This article was written by Michael Buckhoff–co-founder and materials writer for Better TOEFL Scores and The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT, Composition and Linguistics Professor, TOEFL Specialist, ESL Master Instructor, and Placement and Testing Coordinator for California State University, San Bernardino.Follow more posts and videos from Michael at Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.


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