Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

Don’t Waste Your Hard Work

Don’t waste your hard work (TOEFL Prep)

Some things to do in addition to studying

You need to do many things to get a good score on the TOEFL. Of course you should study hard. You need to learn more words. You need to read faster and understand more. You should be able to listen and talk about lectures and conversations on lots of different topics. And, of course, you have to be able to write quickly and clearly.

But, there’s more. Make sure you do these things too. Then, you’ll really get your best score.

Sleep right: How can you do your best work if you’re yawning? How can you focus for four hours if you need a nap? You can’t. So, make sure you’re rested. You need to make sure that you wake up at least three hours before you start taking your exam. Your body needs about one week to get used to a sleep pattern. So, you need to make sure that you’re awake three hours before your exam time for a whole week. For example, let’s say your exam is at 9:00am on March 7th. On March 1st, you should start waking up at 6:00am. That way, on March 7th, you definitely won’t be tired.

Eat right: The TOEFL is like a marathon. Basically, you need to concentrate for more than four hours without a break. That’s a lot. It’s important to eat food that will continue to give you energy during the exam. For example, if you eat a candy bar or something with a lot of sugar before the test, you’ll only have energy at the beginning of the test. By the time you start writing your essays, you won’t be able to do a good job. Your mind will be tired, and you won’t have any energy. However, if you eat bread or pasta the night before the exam, then you’ll keep getting energy throughout the test.

Also, get into a good eating pattern. Eat at the same times for one week before the test. Don’t eat during or right after the time that you’ll be taking the test. You don’t want to be hungry while you’re taking the test.

Study right: As much as you can, study during the times that you’ll be taking the test. And study for four hours with only a ten minute break after two hours. It can be difficult to concentrate for the entire test, so you need to train yourself. Lock yourself in your room and don’t leave for four hours. Take practice tests during this time.

Also, when you’re studying for the Speaking portion of the test, make sure you turn on the radio or television. Other people are going to be speaking while you are answering the speaking questions. You need to be used to ignoring other sounds.

Visit the Test Site: You absolutely don’t want to get lost on the day of the test, so make sure you know exactly where the test is. This means you should go to the building, walk inside, and, if possible, visit the room where you’ll take the test. This is important for two reasons. First, you shouldn’t worry about anything but the test on your test day. Second, people do better on tests in familiar environments. Don’t waste brain energy learning about a new environment.

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Sleep right + Eat right + Study right + Don’t get lost = Better TOEFL score.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | Studying Strategies, Test Prep | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post Writing Exercises

Post Writing Exercises

OK, so you’ve corrected the essays, now what? In many ways the hard part is over. You and your student have something to work with—a personalized tool to help the student improve. The goal now is to reinforce those corrections. Here are some ways you might do that.

Rewrite For the next class, ask the student to rewrite their essay.

Rewrite (No Looking) For the class after that, ask the student to rewrite their essay without looking at the first one.

Sharing is Good Rather than peer editing, how about peer bragging? Partner up the students and tell them to choose a couple sentences from their essays that were difficult for them to write, explain how they wrote them, and why they’re correct.

Peer Editing But let’s not forget this tried and true method. Give the students a rubric and that will help them correct each other’s essays.

Use Those Mistakes Choose three key mistakes in the essay. Now, give a new topic and have them include sentences that practice the structures they had trouble with. Did they write “I have eaten there yesterday”? Tell them to include present perfect sentences in the next essay.

Use Those Corrections Again, target three key mistakes. Have students copy the corrected versions of those sentences. Then, give them a new topic, but tell them they need to use those same three sentences in the new essay. For instance, if they wrote “I have eaten there yesterday” and you corrected it to “I ate there yesterday”, their next essay should include the sentence “I ate there yesterday.”

Grammar Games Sites like,, and seemingly have practice exercises for everything. Do a bit of a web search and you’ll be able to direct your students to some sites where they can practice the stuff that troubled them in their essay.

Pair Students Up If a student makes an error with, say, the passive voice. Look for a student who wrote good passive voice sentences. Match them up and have them write an essay together. Students are often better at explaining things to each other than you are.

Straight Memorization Students rarely memorize full sentences, but they should. Full sentences are just as important to memorize as vocabulary. Highlight some of the corrected sentences from their essays and make them memorize them. Then, give them a quiz later.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , | 1 Comment