Ace your English tests
INTERNATIONALLY accredited English tests are often required by international universities. Unless you are taking a course that incorporates an English component that meets the requirements of your target university, you may be required to take an English test and achieve a certain score before being accepted into a particular institution.
Two of the most common international English tests to take are the International English Language Testing System ( IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language ( TOEFL).
English tests are used to evaluate how well you use and combine your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills in performing either academic tasks or daily tasks.
However, taking IELTS or TOEFL is not as simple as walking into an examination hall armed with just pen and paper. They should be treated as academic English papers, which students are expected to study and prepare for.
Here are some tips for acing your English examination.
It is important to know the structure of your English test and its assessments. You can get more information about tests on websites or through the respective examination centre. For example, information on IELTS can be found on www. ielts. org and information on TOEFL can be found on www. ets. org/ toefl.
The test is usually segregated into different sections – listening, reading, writing and speaking. Each section contains its own set of assessment criteria, which you should be familiar with to ensure that you meet the requirements that examiners are looking for.
Knowing the structure and criteria of each section will also allow you to prepare for your test better, which is important if you want to maximise your chances of scoring well and working within the allocated time comfortably.
There are a number of ways to prepare for an English examination. You can buy relevant exercise books for the English test or download sample test questions from the official websites.
Some books guide you towards achieving a specific score, so ensure that you are getting the ones that suit your requirements.
Get started on sample questions and refer to the answers provided to ensure that you are right on track. A tip is to practise answering your sample questions within the time limit so that you can gauge how fast you need to pace yourself in the actual examination.
Knowing what to expect will take away any unnecessary pressure felt during the actual examination that may cloud your judgement, or worse, cause you to not finish your tasks on time.
Alternatively, you can join a centre that specialises in preparing students for English tests, either through classes or workshops.
Working with a teacher may help improve your prospects of scoring a higher grade in the examination, so it may be worthwhile to consider the option if it suits your needs.
We often do not see our own mistakes. If you have a mentor, teacher or parent with a good command of English, it would be wise to seek advice from them for your test. For example, they can spot grammar mistakes that you have missed or offer suggestions on how to improve your sentences.
It is particularly useful to practise your speaking component with someone else, as a simulated performance may change completely with the presence of another individual.
This comes in handy in instances where you are required to answer prompt questions for oral examinations.
Sample questions are usually listed in any practice speaking examination, enabling you to get someone to help you practise.
In subjective papers such as writing, having someone else mark your paper may be useful as they can provide feedback on mistakes that you may not realise you have made.
This is particularly useful if you are trying to achieve a level of English higher than your current level.
Although the topics in each section may differ from test to test, the overall test structure will not. Therefore, it would be wise to strategise your approach to answering each section.
For example, the IELTS’ writing task is split into two sections. Be strategic and know which task you wish to complete first as well as your approach to the task.
Some may choose to start writing immediately, while others may take a few minutes to plan their essay.
The strategy will depend on the individual’s skills and aim in the test.
Being prepared and systematic also means that you can control any anxiety or pressure you may feel during your English test.
Instead of burning the midnight oil, aim to get at least seven hours of sleep before your English test. This will keep you from feeling anxious or nervous on the day of your examination as well as allow your brain to register all that you have prepared for.
Try to arrive early before the test to settle down and sort out any administration that needs to be done. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water and maintain a calm mind to avoid making mistakes.
Ultimately, it is your performance on the day that counts. With good preparation and a healthy mind, you will stand a higher chance of scoring your target grade in your English test.
By practising together, your friends can help provide feedback on subjective papers such as writing.