Do you dread the TOEFL Independent Speaking question?
Let us guess:
- You think that the TOEFL Independent Speaking question is no different than any other TOEFL Speaking question, so you keep practising them all together, and yet, your Speaking section score is never as high as you need it to be;
- You have taken the Official TOEFL exam more times than you can remember, and you still don’t have the required Speaking score;
- You have seen all the templates and heard all the sample answers available online and offline;
- You have taken TOEFL preparation courses, or had a private tutor, but none of it helped;
- You’ve been practising Independent Speaking questions with peers, but their English is not much better than yours;
- You have managed to find a native English speaker, maybe even an ESL teacher to practise with, but s/he doesn’t specialize in test preparation, or has little experience in it;
- When you hear other people answer Independent Speaking questions, you think to yourself: ‘That seems so easy for them!”;
- But, when it’s your turn, you freeze, and can’t think of a single thing to say;
- You can answer familiar TOEFL Independent Speaking questions, but, you are stunned by the unexpected ones;
- On top of the problems with the content, the strict timing makes you even more anxious….
If any, or all of the above sounds familiar, it might be time to try something else – our
- We apply proven TOEFL Speaking practice methods, developed over more than a decade of teaching TOEFL preparation courses;
- We practice with 100+ realistic TOEFL Independent Speaking questions, which include the ones, recently introduced to the Official TOEFL exam;
- A lot of our questions are new to you – you wouldn’t have seen them before, even if you have already covered a lot of practice materials;
- The groups are limited to 6 participants per workshop; that way everyone gets exposed to a lot of questions;
- Every participant has the opportunity to answer a number of questions and offer peer feedback to other participants;
- In addition to hands-on, timed practice in answering the questions, participants also learn to analyze their own and their peers’ answers:
- Our experienced TOEFL preparation specialist is always there to provide professional feedback, correction, evaluation and advice;
- Most importantly, we nurture the atmosphere of mutual respect – we judge nobody and help everybody in the group.
If you would like to join one or more of our TOEFL Independent Speaking Workshops, follow the link below:
In my many years of designing and teaching TOEFL preparation courses, I found that there is one underlying skill that all my high-scoring students had in common – strong Academic Vocabulary. Every section of the TOEFL test depends on it, directly or indirectly.
Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL Reading
In the Reading section, you actually have to answer a number of questions directly related to vocabulary. You need to pick synonyms for particular words, in the given context. These questions make up more than 20% of all the questions in the Reading section.
Knowing the most common or most widely used meaning of the word is often not enough. You need to know more than that – other possible meanings, word forms and collocations. If you have done some TOEFL Reading practice , you’ve probably already discovered that the correct answer choice (for the vocabulary questions) is rarely the one that seems most obvious or most familiar.
Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL Listening
When it comes to the Listening section, the stronger your Academic Vocabulary, the easier time you’ll have following and understanding the lectures. These academic materials make up more than 1/2 half of the section; out of six listening materials scored for you, only two are campus related conversations; the remaining four are actual, grade 12 level, lectures. Consequently, it’s impossible to score more than ten out of thirty points without the knowledge of the key terms.
Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL Speaking
As for the Integrated Speaking, you will not only better understand the reading and listening prompts, but you’ll also be able to produce a higher scoring answer, if you can use the appropriate Academic Vocabulary in your speech.
Prior to August 2019, the Academic Speaking questions used to comprise one third of the Speaking Section. A good command of the Academic Vocabulary often meant the difference between scoring in low twenties , and getting more that 24 or 26 iBT points, which is a requirement for many Professionals in the Medical, Legal and some other fields.
Now that the Academic Speaking questions make up 1/2 of the Speaking Section, it is crucial to have advanced knowledge of the Academic Vocabulary.
Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL Writing
The same goes for the Integrated Writing. Remember that, although you do have access to the reading prompt the entire time you are writing your Integrated Essay, it’s not a good idea to copy directly. Instead, you are encouraged to paraphrase the key points from this prompt, whenever possible.
The listening prompt is likely to be an even bigger challenge – you will only hear it once, and unless you can follow and take notes efficiently, as well as show your understanding of the key concepts in a well written Integrated Essay, it will be near impossible to score high in the Writing Section (as this essay counts for 1/2 of the section score)
Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL – how to learn
First of all, it’s important to understand that no vocabulary can be learned over night. It takes time, repetition and application to acquire new vocabulary. Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen when you rely on memorizing word lists or study using resources that don’t provide in-depth understanding of the Academic vocabulary. In addition, it is of utmost importance to have a lot of practice in applying the newly acquired vocabulary to your speaking and writing.
The good news is – a place where you can learn Academic Vocabulary efficiently, actually does exist. It’s our offline ACADEMIC VOCABULARY MASTERCLASS. (follow the link to find out more)
TOEFL preparation – where to start
If you are reading this, you most likely already know that YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE OFFICIAL TOEFL EXAM. You might also know what your required score is. However, you are probably not sure where to start. So, like most modern people, you turn to the internet for advice. As soon as you start searching for ‘TOEFL’ or ‘TOEFL preparation’ you get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of related ‘suggestions’ (aka advertising).
Granted, the introduction of Social Media to the world of test preparation has made the access to TOEFL preparation resources easier than ever. Anyone with a PC or a mobile device can now download hundreds of documents, applications and other practice tools. However, that can be the proverbial ‘double edged sword’ – how do you know which resource is credible?
TOEFL preparation – the best place to start
When in doubt, it’s always best to start at the source – in this case, the official ETS website. You can trust this site to give you all the necessary information about the TOEFL exam, as well as point you to some credible resources.
The first time you visit the official site, you need to create a free account. This is going to be the place for all your future communication with ETS. Once you have an account in place, you will get access to the basic information about the official exam, including the test dates, times and locations. You will also be able to register and pay for your future test . It’s worth mentioning that you can register for the official test months in advance; so, don’t hesitate to create your account early on, even if you are not planning to take the test for another year. Having an account, right from the start, will save you a lot of headache, because you won’t have to wonder whether the resources they recommend are credible or not. THEY ARE.
Having the ETS account will also help later on, in the final stage of you TOEFL preparation. After you have done a lot of practice, you might discover that you need some professional help. At this point, you will be so familiar with the right strategies and the typical TOEFL content, that you’ll immediately see the difference between the true TOEFL preparation professionals, and the self-proclaimed ‘TOEFL experts’.
TOEFL preparation for mature test takers
If you are an Internationally Trained Professional, or an adult TOEFL taker in general, you know that TIME is your most precious commodity. You are probably already juggling your family responsibilities, at least one job, your other studies, and more. You are barely finding time to sleep, let alone figure out what resources to use for practice, which study groups to join, whose advice to trust…. Since you cannot physically be at work and at a language school at the same time, you are most likely to opt for self study with an online/offline TOEFL preparation resource, or a private language tutor. However, that might just cause even more confusion.
TOEFL preparation – self-study
There is nothing wrong with self-study, at least in the beginning. You can learn the general test format and the basic strategies, from many traditional resources (yes, the good, old-fashioned books!). You can also find a lot of the same content online, in countless documents, courses and applications The advantage of self-study, of course, is that you decide when and how much to study. Given enough time and the right resources, you might even get your target score, with little or no help from others.
TOEFL preparation – when you need help
With most TOEFL takers, there comes a time when they need professional help. This is where it gets confusing and overwhelming, again. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of self-proclaimed ‘TOEFL experts’ out there. A lot of people, especially those active in the Social Media, think that “passing” the official test makes them an expert in TOEFL preparation. The truth is, what works for some, does NOT work for everyone; what might have helped them get their target score, may not help you get yours. So, when these individuals offer their advice for free, rest assured that is exactly how much that advice is worth – nothing. The wrong advice can actually cause more damage, than help.
On the other hand, even a qualified English teacher/tutor can do some damage, if he/she doesn’t specialize in TOEFL preparation. Although your tutor might be a native English speaker, that DOES NOT guarantee that she/he knows the test requirements and expectations. It’s like asking your Physician to perform brain surgery – they might understand the basic concepts and the theory, but if they have never performed a complex surgery before, you probably wouldn’t choose to be their first case.
Finding the qualified instructor
The only way to find out if a teacher/tutor is credible or not, is to spend time combing through background information yourself.
One of the best signs that someone IS a TOEFL PREPARATION PROFESSIONAL, is his/her WEBSITE. An up-to-date TOEFL teacher/tutor cannot function without a website, these days. Visiting an experienced professional’s website might also be very useful for you, since you are likely to find great FREE ADVICE in her/his BLOG posts.
Another option is to look through a LinkedIn profile, if there is one; this is probably the most reliable source of information on a person’s professional background . A person’s LinkedIn profile is basically their online resume. It often includes endorsements and recommendations from their coworkers, students/clients, which is what makes the information credible .
There are also other Social Media that you should check, when looking for a professional TOEFL teacher/tutor. Most TOEFL professionals now have a Facebook Page and/or a Facebook Group . The Facebook Page usually has reviews and testimonials posted by past clients/students. The Facebook Group is sometimes a great place to connect with the teacher and other TOEFL takers, in a less formal manner.
Making sure you “click” on a personal level
Last, but definitely not least, make sure that you can openly communicate with the tutor/teacher of your choice. If you are a mature test taker, you probably won’t appreciate being treated like a high school student. Instead, you should choose someone who has extensive experience working with adult, mature clients and professionals.