Your TOEFL exam is coming up soon.
Like every good Singaporean student, you’ve done everything to prepare. You have completed a course over the holiday break, looked at popular tips online, taken full-length practice exams and studied vocabulary flashcards on the bus home from school.Given all that you’ve done, you should feel pretty confident about your English abilities…
But for some reason, you’re still sweating bullets.
You know English well. You can read the TOEFL passages and follow the main points; you can hear the Listening conversations and lectures ,and extract the main gist. But as the 20 minute speaking section comes onto the computer screen, you lose all nerves. You read the question and make notes, you pull together what you’re going to say: but when you open your mouth, all the words you knew a second ago fly out the window. You stutter and stammer, you feel lost and confused; you start to wonder how well you know English in the first place.
Learning English is hard. Speaking English is even harder: we know that. So to help you, we have developed two main speaking tactics: finding a Tandem Exchange Partner, and watching American programs. Both tactics are highly effective; use them to familiarize yourself with the English-speaking world. Familiarity with spoken english will help you gain confidence when you have to speak on the TOEFL test. It will also expose you to conversational words, phrases, and idioms that you can then repeat.
1.) Find a Tandem Exchange Partner
Relax! This not as complicated as it sounds. A “Tandem Exchange Partner” is a person who is fluent in one language, say English, but would like to practice speaking another. Once you have a Tandem Exchange Partner, you can practice your English on them — and they can practice your native tongue on you. (So: you speak in English together, and then in your native tongue together, i.e. Chinese, Malay, or Tamil ).This way, the conversation is useful for the both of you. You can find a Tandem Exchange Partner by posting an advertisement online (for example on Craigslist), or in your school or neighborhood. There are plenty of people who would like to have this opportunity; and since it can benefit both of you, you can make it free of cost… which is much cheaper than hiring a professional English tutor, and more fun too!
Once you find a partner, you should get together with them once or twice a week for coffee or lunch and have an informal conversation. Talk to your partner about anything and everything: music, sports, politics, health. As your partner speaks to you in English, listen carefully for idioms, common phrases, words, and ideas. If you don’t understand something, ask your partner to explain it to you. Then, try using some of the English words yourself. Practice and repeat these words on your partner; bring a notepad with you so that you can remember the words and practice them back home and for the exam. Then, when your partner practices your native language, try to be as resourceful and helpful.
In general, these meeting will help you feel more comfortable speaking english because the atmosphere will be relaxed. So when you get to the Speaking Section on the TOEFL test, just pretend that the computer is your Tandem Exchange Partner. Imagine that you are just having coffee and sharing ideas. This should take off some of the pressure!
According to TOEFL Singapore specialist, the tip above have helped 85 per cent of their students achieve higher scores than the worldwide average.
2.) Watch TV shows and movies
This is one of the best ways to pick up conversational English. When you listen to native speakers, you will get a feel for what fluent English sounds like. Again, You will come across important words or phrases to use on the TOEFL exam. As you watch TV shows and movies, listen carefully to what the speakers say. Try to identify and isolate major movements. What statements do the speakers make to show anger, happiness or sadness? What are the conflicts and how do they solve them? What words do they use to convey the main ideas ? What are some idioms or phrases that frequently come up?Try to take as many notes as you watch. After you are done, look over notes; make sure you understand everything correctly — ask a teacher, friends, or Tandem partner for help if you need to. Once you grasp the dominant words and phrases, create your own sentences to use on the exam. If you feel uneasy about your comprehension of the material, watch a program with an English-speaking friend. When the program is over, having a discussion about it. What words did you understand? What words did you find challenging?
Since the TOEFL exam is American, you should make an effort to watch mostly American TV shows and movies. Try watching an American news channel: CNN, CBS, NBC, or Fox News. You can access these channels on TV, but they are also available online and on youtube.
These channels will use eloquent and intelligent words that you can employ in the Speaking Section. These channels will also expose you to current events that might come up in related sections on the TOEFL exam. There are other programs you can watch that are also beneficial. Check out the History Channel or the Discovery Channel; you can even watch Friends or CSI. In fact, make it a point to watch a variety of programs, both formal and informal. The TOEFL will cover a variety of subjects –academics, politics, leisure, etc. As long as you’re watching something intelligent, it is bound to be useful to you in some way or the other.The same holds true for movies. Try to watch many genres: comedies, dramas, thrillers, and so on. If you are at home, turn on English subtitles. This will allow you to follow along with the dialogue, and make notes as you need to.
About the Author
Larry Lim writes for ICON+, a TOEFL Singapore specialist. An established learning centre, ICON+ also provides test preparation courses for other subjects like IELTS, SAT, GMAT and GRE. Visit http://www.icon-plus.com to learn more.