One of the most common misconceptions held by students studying for the TOEIC is that a TOEIC class and an English class are the same thing. This is not the case, at all. They are two very different things. You can speak very good English and still struggle on the TOEIC. Conversely, you can have a relatively limited langauge base and still do well – to a degree at least – on the TOEIC. The key to enjoying maximum success is knowing how to improve both your English and your specific TOEIC skills. If a student wishes to pass the TOEIC, the best course of action is to take a two-pronged approach:
- To improve the student’s overall language base
- To add TOEIC skills to a solid base of English language learning
It is important to note that the following advice is based on the idea that the student is not working to a tight deadline and that he/she has time to work both on specific English language skills and also on TOEIC skills. This blog is going to look at specifically which English language skills are the ones that a student should focus on to improve in preparation for the test. We are going to look at three separate areas:
- READING – this will relate specifically to performing well in section 7 of the test.
- GRAMMAR – this will be for sections 5 and 6.
- LISTENING – this will be for sections 1, 2, 3 and 4.
There are lots of things a student can do to improve their general reading skills. Finding articles in English is always a great idea. However, if we are thinking about applying those skills to the TOEIC exam, we need to be a little bit practical. Therefore, it is important to read a whole variety of things in English. Students should not just try to read one book. They should try to mix things up:
- Magazine articles of all lengths – try things like TIME and Newsweek for difficult stuff, but also the BBC’s English learning website for smaller items.
- Instructions – look for any real life examples such as for recipes, for computers, for electrical appliances.
- Schedules and Timetables – the student needs to see itineraries for buses, for planes, for trains, for TV programs or for holidays.
- Newpspaper Articles – this does not mean reading the NY Times from cover to cover, but it is a great idea to read the short snippets of news in English papers
Finding good listening practice is a little more difficult than finding reading practice. However, it is still very important. the first recommendation I have to is to try to watch short TV shows in English. This will helps students sharpen up their listening skills. Things such as Friends or How I Met Your Mother are good choices as they are short and not too difficult to follow. Movies are not such a gopd idea as they are perhaps too long and will be a little difficult to follow. I would also suggest finding podcasts online. Students can find these on either business (because the vocabulary will be useful for the exam) or a subject they find interesting.
The key thing in preparing for the listening section is for the students to try and get used to listening to native speakers using English at a good speed. If the student can becaome comfortable with understanding natural dialog, the examples on the TOEIC exam will be easy.
Students can find grammar practice everywhere on the internet. It is a great idea to practice the main tenses such as:
- Past Simple
- Present Perfect
- The Continuous Tenses
It is also very important to practice such areas as the Infinitive and Gerund, which comes up often on the test. If the students are clear with the fundamental tenses and major grammar points in English, section 5 will be much easier.
A student with poor listening or reading skills can improve their mark on the TOEIC by practicing for the exam. But, it is really importnat to also remember that TOEIC prep is not magic. A student who struggles to understand when native speakers have a basic conversation will not find the listening scetion of the test at all easy. To do well, the student needs to work on both their language base and their exam skills.