Have you finally decided to take that English proficiency test you’ve long thought about? Congrats! We know it’s a big step toward professional achievement and that you’re a bit nervous about it, but trust us – you don’t have to.
Preparing for an English proficiency test such as TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) doesn’t have to be a burden, all the more so since there are so many ways to immerse yourself in the language and study like a pro. Such an important decision obviously comes with a lot of work, and this is understandable – an English proficiency test is the one thing on your application, essay, or letter of recommendation that would propel you directly to the university you’ve been dreaming of yourself in. But you can show your language abilities at their best on assessment day if you’re serious about studying and constantly practicing.
Find below a round-up of recommendations that can help you fine-tune those skills and take the test in an as low-stress method as possible:
Read books, magazines, and articles in English
English proficiency tests generally consist of four sections – listening, reading, writing, and speaking. So, you need to master all these in order to ace this test. A good reading comprehension practice, for example, is reading flocking through books, magazines, and online articles in English. Not only does this work out your reading skills, but it also exposes you to various topics that can expand your cultural knowledge. We recommend trying to find something you’re interested in; otherwise, looking up unknown words would seem a burden.
You can read a translated copy of your favorite book to familiarize yourself with the language. You don’t even have to spend money on these copies, as multiple versions of novels are available on both AppStore and Google Play. If you find it challenging to do the previously mentioned thing, you may find it easier to read books showing the text in your native language and English side by side. Such apps often provide audio versions of the books, which is great for your listening practice. Broadcasters like BBC also allow audiences to learn English through a broad array of audio and written materials.
Challenge your ears by listening to podcasts
Listening to podcasts is sort of a thing these days, and the great number of people immersing themselves in podcasts in recent years is good proof of this. But podcasts aren’t ideal only for entertaining but also for educating yourself on a particular topic. More than that, listening to a podcast in a language other than your native one is incredibly useful for honing your listening comprehension and preparing for the English proficiency test. Note that the actual examination is more likely to include audio that’s not accompanied by visuals, so this is definitely something to insist upon. Of almost a million free online podcasts out there, you can choose either something addressing a subject or hobby you’re mainly preoccupied with or a podcast specially made for English language learners.
Tune into your favorite film or TV series
If starting with a podcast is a bit too much for you, you can tune into your favorite movie or TV show before giving up on visuals. Watching films in English contributes to your listening comprehension and exposes you to a specific country’s culture. It’s also excellent to listen to language in context and see how words are pronounced in distinct dialects. Nonetheless, be sure you pick something that features the variety of English your proficiency test is going to be in, as mixing spellings and idioms will only give you trouble.
Engage a tutor
For a successful verification, you’ll ideally master speaking, as well. We know this section may be the most challenging one, particularly if you don’t have someone to practice your skills with. But there’s no time to get discouraged – you can hone your speaking talent by engaging a tutor and participating in online English classes. Online learning has gained ground recently, with the Covid-19 pandemic only paving the way for more students to enroll in online courses, so you’re likely to find the one thing suitable for your needs and preferences easier than imagined. Once you engage a native speaker or a teaching professional, you’ll be able to communicate clearly and effectively in English, as well as comprehend everyday slang and language nuances.
Practice does make perfect
Practice is practice, from scribbling down a new word daily to thoroughly taking practice tests. But if you want to be a master as soon as possible, we advise you to take the latter route. Start by buying a test-specific textbook or taking a free online practice test to familiarize yourself with the exam format and types of questions you’ll be assessed with. You could also take a look at past papers, along with the solutions and grading rubrics. Most English proficiency tests follow the same format, so each paper will only likely vary from the previous one. Thus, if you take enough tests, you should theoretically encounter no problems. One popular test for preparing for this exam is the TOEFL iBT test, but there are many more available on the Internet, as well as test-specific textbooks in case you prefer the no-Internet way.
Determine what’s required
Before registering for any proficiency test, it’s critical to work out the practical details. That means you have to be aware of what’s required, what’s not allowed, what score you need to demonstrate your English proficiency, and what directions you should take once you arrive at the assessment center. You don’t just get there and take the test – there are formalities that need to be followed in order for everything to run smoothly.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to prepare for an English proficiency test. Of course, work is not excluded from the equation, but it’s not all about non-stop studying. Reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching movies are also great manners to immerse in the language, so be sure you mix business and pleasure.