By Kim Min-woo
In Korea nowadays, the TOEFL test is becoming a mandatory test for everyone to take. Admission for university, job applications, and for study abroad programs, the TOEFL test is the one of the most important criteria. Due to the great emphasis on the TOEFL test, people are asking more about tips and study guides to receive a high score. I would like to share some of the know-hows and my personal experience on the TOEFL test.
The TOEFL test is the most efficient and effective test to improve one’s English skills and also to prove one’s English skills. As everyone knows, it is composed of four sections, reading, listening, speaking, and writing, and all these four sections cover up basically all the English skills one needs to know. So, while I was preparing for the TOEFL test, I could actually feel my English ability improving. I highly encourage students of my age and younger to take the TOEFL test because not only it is the most credible and precise test to prove your English skills but also it is the best way to learn English itself.
Now I would like to introduce some of the tips I learned along the way for higher scores.
First, try to read the whole passage and understand the flow, then go on to the questions. After reading the questions, go back to the passage at the right place. Some just rush into the questions and face problems after a few questions, because if one does not understand the whole passage’s intention, then one might misinterpret or get confused of the topic and choose incorrect answers.
Second, in the listening section, try to write down all the information as much as possible. It is important to know all the information from the dialog and the lecture. Sometimes information that seems trivial comes up as questions. In other words, dictation is the fundamental skill that one needs to have in order to have abundant and precise knowledge about the lectures.
Third, in the speaking section, write one’s speech only in key words. The best way is to dictate the dialog and the lecture, summarize the passage, and organize the whole information in speech form. In that way, one does not have to write a separate speech during the preparation time and save time to organize one’s thoughts.
Fourth, in the writing section, for the integrated essay, have a clear format of contrasting. Usually the listening and the passage have opposing views. In order to write clearly, one has to contrast between each point rather than contrasting the bundle of points as a whole. In other words, one has to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges. If one compares apples with oranges, the essay will be confusing and receive a low score due to clarity issues.
Last but not least, for the independent essay, try to write full and constructive four paragraphs rather than short and undeveloped five paragraphs. Some people feel the pressure of writing 3 body paragraphs, introduction and the conclusion. However, it is better to write 2 body paragraphs which are logical and fully elaborated with examples. It is quality not quantity. Moreover, use diverse choice of vocabulary to make the reader feel interested in the essay.
Tips to improve one’s English skills are quite obvious. Try to read books that interest oneself, rather than reading difficult, boring books. Watch English dramas not only that are funny but also educational and sophisticated. I personally recommend ``Boston Legal’’ which is about a law firm. Especially the closing speech of the trial is very useful for listening and speaking. Lastly, try to expose oneself to English and speak as much as possible. The best way to improve speaking is to practice. Speaking to one’s peers and English teachers would definitely help. Always keep in mind that practice makes perfect.
The writer, a freshman at the International Studies department, Korea University, is a 2010 ETS Scholarship winner.