Beyond Practice Tests: Vocabulary Questions
Vocabulary questions give you a word and four definitions. You should choose the correct definition. Of course, if you know what the word means, then it’s easy. But, if you don’t know what it means, it’s still possible to guess. The test makers always include hints.
The normal strategy for getting better at vocabulary questions is to learn more words. Books that give lists of vocabulary words for a test are very popular. That’s OK, but you can do more. Here are some strategies for improving at vocabulary questions. Some will help you learn new words and some will just help you guess better.
Guess, guess, guess Read an article and underline all the new words. Without using a dictionary, try to write definitions of the words. Also, include any clues or hints you see. For example, you might write this for the word “hint” in the previous sentence.
Hint: Something that helps with guessing words???
Clues: “Clues” next to hints. You should include them with the definition. “Try to write definitions” means you can’t know for sure, so “hints” should help.
Write Definitions Practice writing definitions for new words you learn. By writing practice definitions you’ll get used to seeing the hints that come with new words.
Write Test Questions After you learn a new word, write a practice test question for it. Can you think of three other words that are related? How are they different?
Thesaurus Are you already really good with vocabulary? For students who want to take their score to the highest level, use a thesaurus to learn all of the words that are related to a new word you’ve learned. Then, learn how they’re different.
Hints When you learn a new word, instead of writing a translation, write three words that will help you guess it. For example, if you learn the word “Ocean”, you might use “Big, blue, waves” instead of a definition or a translation.
Beyond Practice Tests: Inference Questions
Inference questions are hard. You can’t read the answer. You can’t hear the answer. You just have to know it. But how is it possible? How can you know something that no one writes or says?
Well, it’s not so hard as all that. We do it every day. For example, imagine that you’re at a party and the time is 1:00a.m. Your friend says to you, “Wow, I’m so tired. I woke up at 6:00a.m. today and drinking makes me sleepy.” You can guess that your friend wants to go home. You infer that your friend wants to go home.
This is inference. Inference is when you guess something because of other things.
Other things: Your friend is tired. Your friend woke up at 6:00a.m. It’s 1:00a.m. now. Your friend has been drinking.
Inference: Your friend wants to go home.
Let’s look at another example.
Milwaukee is a city in Wisconsin, USA. It’s not a very big city, but there are many activities. There are lots of concerts by the lake in the summer. In the winter, you can enjoy ice-skating downtown. At anytime of year, you’ll find friendly people who will welcome you into bars and restaurants, parks and museums with a friendly smile.
From this reading, we can infer that the author…
- a. thinks you would enjoy a visit to Milwaukee.
- has lived in Milwaukee for many years.
- often goes ice skating in the winter.
- think Milwaukee is the best city in America.
The answer is A because the author gives many reasons you might enjoy Milwaukee. It’s not B because the author might have learned these things from just visiting. We don’t know how often the author goes ice skating (C) and the author doesn’t compare Milwaukee to any other cities (D).
Here are seven strategies for studying inference questions:
20 Questions Do this one with a friend. Think of a person, place, or thing. Your friend should ask you questions in order to guess what you’re thinking of. They can ask at most 20 questions. For example:
Is it big or small? It’s medium sized.
Is it hard or soft? It’s hard.
What’s it made of? It can be made of wood or metal.
Is there one in the room now? Yes, there are many in this room.
Is it a chair? Yes, it’s a chair!
20 Hints Just like the 20 Questions, but a little easier. One person just says things until the other person can guess. For example:
It’s usually blue, but it can also be black, red, or gray. It’s really big, and it’s everywhere. The sky!
Pay attention During the day to try to spot things you infer. It’ll keep you practicing all day long. What can you infer from the guy who smiled at you? Your teacher asked you to come answer the question? What can you infer? Why did she ask you?
Lists of Inferences After you read something, make a list of ten inferences and the reasons for them.
Just the first paragraph Read just the first paragraph of something and make a list of inferences/guesses about the rest of the article. Then, finish reading the article and see if you were right.
Scavenger Hunt Think of different beliefs and try to find articles with someone who believes them. For example, try to find an article about someone who believes in aliens, someone who loves France, or someone who likes to swim. You might not find the exact support you want, but can you find good inference material?
Using Practice Test Answers Take a practice test and remember which questions were inference questions. Learn which answers are wrong and write sentences to make them right. What is missing in an article so that you could infer the wrong answers?
For the example above about Milwaukee. (B) would be right if you added “Since I was a young girl, I’ve loved my city.” (C) would be right if you added “Like many people in Milwaukee, I love ice-skating.” (D) would be right if you added “No place in America offers as many nice things as Milwaukee.”
Beyond Practice Tests: Negative Factual Information Questions
On a test like the TOEFL, Negative Factual Information questions ask you to find missing things. You’ll get four choices (A,B,C,D). Three things will be true. One will be false. You should choose the false thing. These are the opposite of Factual Information Questions where one thing is true and three are false. For example:
Steven can’t go to the party because of all the homework he has to do. Plus, he doesn’t even have money to get a bus. And Sarah will be there. He really doesn’t want to see her. So, he’ll stay at home again. Tonight he will do his homework. After that, he’ll watch a movie and go on the internet.
Why can’t Steven go to the party?
- a. He doesn’t know where the party is.
- b. He has a lot of homework.
- c. He doesn’t have money for a bus.
- d. Sarah will be there and he doesn’t want to see her.
What will he do tonight?
- a. He will play video games.
- b. He will do his homework.
- c. He’ll watch a movie.
- d. He’ll go on the internet.
Negative Factual Information questions are pretty easy. The thing that you can’t find is the answer. You should find three things and make sure you can’t find one thing.
Here are five study strategies.
Answers First First, make a list of four things. Then write something that uses three of them. For example, if your list was “bread, butter, eggs, sugar”, you might write “I bought bread, eggs, and sugar.” Of course, your answer can be much longer, but you’ll get used to how to create the questions. This will make it easier for you to answer them.
Change Factual Information Questions Look at some “Factual Information” questions on a practice test. Change the factual information questions into negative factual info questions by changing the grammar of the question. For instance, if the question is “How many cars did he buy” and the answer is “two”. You could change the question to “How many cars didn’t he buy”?
Add to Groups You’ll be very good at these questions if you can see groups quickly. You’ll see groups more quickly if you find groups of things that have stuff in common. Then think of things that you could add to the lists. For example, if you found an article that talked about France, Germany, and Spain; you might write Holland, Italy, and Poland. (They’re all European countries.)
Create Groups After reading something, add sentences to it. Add sentences so that there are groups of three things. So, if the text talks about apples and oranges, you could write about bananas to create a group of three.
Three Truths and a Lie Think of people, places, objects and events. Write three true sentences and one false sentence about them. For example, think about New York City. You could write: It’s in the USA. The Statue of Liberty is there. It’s the biggest city in the world. The New York Yankees play there. Three are true. Which one is false?
Beyond Practice Tests: Factual Information Questions
Five ways to study Factual Information questions.
On a test like the TOEFL, Factual Information questions ask you to find an answer that the reading specifically answers. In other words, if you understand the vocabulary and grammar, you should get these questions correct all of the time. Here is a short reading and two simple Factual Information questions:
John went to the store and bought apples. After that, he went to the bank before stopping at the post office to mail some letters. Back home, he just watched some TV and took a nap.
What did John buy?
- a. Apples
- b. Oranges
- c. Bananas
- d. Carrots
Why did John go to the post office?
- a. to mail some letters
- b. to buy stamps
- c. to talk to his friend
- d. to get a package
Of course, these are easy examples, but if you study well, real factual information questions will be easy too. How can you study well? Of course, practice tests are very useful. But, what if you don’t have any more practice tests?
Here are five study strategies.
Reading and Writing Read a magazine article. When you’re finished, write down ten things you learned.
How did you know that? After you’ve written ten things you learned from an article, write down the ten sentences from the article that taught you those things.
Make Practice Questions Write practice questions for an article. Include the real answer and three wrong answers. When you choose the wrong answers, try to pick things that you might guess.
Try to know everything Look at sentences. Write down every fact that is in the sentence. For some sentences there might be ten new things that you can learn. Try to find as many as you can.
Be Random Randomly choose ten words, expressions, or sentences from an article. Then, read the article. Finally, create questions that use the things you chose as the answers.
After you take a practice TOEFL®
Would you make a dinner, but not eat it? Would you go to the beach and not go swimming? Would you write an essay, but not have someone look at it? Maybe, maybe, maybe; but if you did, you’d be missing the best part.
After you take a practice TOEFL test, you still have some important work to do. Just taking the test and checking your score is not enough. It definitely helps you, but if you do a little more, you’ll be helped a lot more. Here are some strategies.
Reading and Listening
For each question, ask yourself: What was the right answer? How do I know that was the right answer? What were the wrong answers? How do I know they were wrong?
Sometimes, this will go quickly—especially for “fact-based” questions where the answer is stated exactly in the test. But, for some questions, you will need a lot of time to figure out exactly why what’s right was right, and what’s wrong was wrong. Take your time. You’ll be glad you did when you take the real test.
Speaking and Writing
Listen to or read your answers and make outlines of what you said or wrote. For example:
Question: Do you prefer to live in the city or the countryside?
- I prefer to live in the city.
- More exciting (movies, concerts)
- More people (friends, Koreans)
- That’s why I prefer to live in the city
Now, ask yourself these questions: Are you happy with your speech/essay? Did you give good examples to support your opinion? Would you change anything? If the question asked you to repeat information, did you do that? Did you miss anything?
In general you want to review the tests so that you can really understand your mistakes and your success. If you got it wrong, figure out why. If you got it right, make sure you didn’t get lucky. You’ll be able to use the information to improve your future scores.
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.
* * *
Sleep right + Eat right + Study right + Don’t get lost = Better TOEFL score.
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