If in-person or online TOEFL tutoring through Manhattan Review is not a possibility for you, study guides for this exam are critical. Many students often are confused as to what medium to pursue in regards to a TOEFL study guide: textbook, audio CDs, Internet practice program or computer-based practice tests and quizzes.
It’s highly recommended that you get some practice with this exam on a computer, since most of you will be taking the iBt version, which is solely computer-based. After all, reading an academic article on a monitor is a very different experience from reading on regular paper. Often times, it’s easier to get lost in our reading when we read on the computer, in addition we tend to slower. Even if you are just reading encyclopedia articles online, it will be useful practice for you in the long run.
In regards to TOEFL study books, here are some options for you with comprehensive breakdowns to help you find your way in the bookstore!
Manhattan Review’s Integrated Study Guide: Turbocharge Your TOEFL
By Joern Meissner & Tracy C. Yun
This study book, published through Manhattan Review, not only breaks down TOEFL question types and the test itself, but also focuses on common American idioms, useful vocabulary, grammar review, accent reduction, in addition to special sections on the use of articles and prepositions.
Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test
By Deborah Phillips
This book is a unique two-for-one deal, as the 2nd edition (preferred) comes with a CD-Rom, so you are able to get your practice both on the page and on the screen. This book is broken down in our test sections (reading, listening, speaking & writing), first with a broad overview with general suggestions, and then complete breakdowns and subsequent exercises with skills. Also included are two complete, full-length TOEFL tests, in addition to three appendixes: Cohesion, Sentence Structure and Error Correction. In the very back of the book, in addition to a very clear answer key, is a final section about diagnosis, assessment and scoring. Please note, the audio CD for this textbook is sold separately, so keep that in mind when purchasing this book.
Delta’s Key to the Next Generation TOEFL Test: Six Practice Tests for the iBt
By Nancy Gallagher
While this is a practice test-only book, Delta publishes some great material about the TOEFL that is used all over the world. In particular, many students claim the Delta TOEFL exercises are somewhat harder than the actual TOEFL exam, so in many ways it sets the bar high prior to test day. (Please note, Delta publishes an “Advanced Skills” book, as well, for advanced students.) CDs for the listening, speaking and writing sections must be purchased separately, but are well worth it, as the lectures make great additions to your mp3 or i-pods to buff up your listening skills.
What’s the ultimate advice when it comes to practicing for the TOEFL at home? Practicing every day is certainly important, but keep in mind that you don’t want to burn yourself out. Students can sometimes grow overwhelmed very quickly with the academic listening and reading material this tests contains, so too much of this work all at once can have an adverse affect. Also, focus on a skill-by-skill basis, devoting so many hours a day to reading, writing, speaking or listening. (However, feel free to add some variety by warming up your study session with independent speaking questions or outlining independent essays.)
While the speaking section appears to cause a lot of worry in many students looking to take the TOEFL, it’s best understood when able to tackle the section on a question-by-question basis. This article is going to explore TOEFL Speaking Question #5. Here’s what we know about this question:
- it involves a conversation between a male and female
- it does not have a reading component
- you have 20 seconds to prepare; 60 seconds to respond
- your opinion is required at the end of the response
Here are some tips to help you get the high score of a 4 on Question #5, in particular.
Tip 1: Note-taking. Divide your page in two sections: MALE and FEMALE. In one column, write down whatever you are able to in regards to what the male speaker is saying. In the second column; write whatever you are able to that the female speaker is saying. This way, by dividing the speaker’s contributions you are clear what each is saying and are able to connect the thoughts right in front of you during the speaking section. Also, keep in mind you must take notes in the order the information is presented to you – disorganized notes can and will create chaos on the TOEFL!
Tip 2: Question #5 is an integrated speaking task; however, unlike Question #3 & #4, there is no 45-second reading passage that appears before the conversation. This means you do not need to acknowledge the reading in any sense because there isn’t any information to incorporate! (This is a good thing – trust me.)
Tip 3: Your preparation time is 20 seconds and your speaking time is 60 seconds. You are given 10 seconds less to prepare than on Question #3 & #4 because of the absence of a reading component, so you will need to prepare a bit faster than the previous two questions. During this 20-second preparation time, you should organize your notes in the manner you plan on presenting them. Sometimes numbering notes in the order you intend on delivering them is useful for students, while others prefer to spend time scanning over all the information as it’s written.
Tip 4: The opinion portion of Question #5 often throws students off, as they assume all giving of opinions is over after Question #1 & #2, the independent prompts. Most of the time, the opinion part of Question #5 will read: What do you think the male (or female) student should do, and why? This will involve you choosing an option offered in the conversation from one student to the other and stating your reasoning for choosing that option.
An example of a high-scoring response to Question #5 reads, as follows:
“The conversation is in regards to the changing of the library hours at a university campus. The female student is distressed about the change in library hours because she often likes to study at night. She goes on to say some days during the week, the only time she actually has to go to the library is late due to her part-time job. The male student offers several suggestions to her in regards to her problem. He recommends she speak with the library staff about the reasoning behind the change in hours, and if that doesn’t work, he thinks she should talk to the college dean about this change. I think the woman should go directly to the college dean because the dean will be able to attend to the issue in a direct way, which will ultimately and hopefully get the results the woman needs.”
In the above response, I have italicized the opinion portion, making it clear that the opinion can also serve as your conclusion.
Remember: Question #5 will always be a conversation about a university-related problem, so keep in mind university lingo (library, dean, dorm room, etc.) will be inevitable.
Transitional words are crucial for a high score on the TOEFL writing section because raters are looking for smooth transitions from idea to idea and from paragraph to paragraph. Not only do transitional words help papers read more smoothly, they also provide organization and understandability, not to mention improve the connections and transitions between thoughts on the speaking section!
Think of transitional words as divided into categories. Here are several categories that will help you with both the integrated writing and independent writing.
Addition: also, again, as well as, besides, furthermore, in addition, moreover
Consequence: accordingly, as a result, consequently, for this purpose, hence, otherwise, so then, this, thereupon
Generalizing: as a rule, as usual, for the most part, generally, ordinarily, usually
Exemplifying: chiefly, especially, for instance, in particular, markedly, namely, specifically, such as
Illustration: for example, for instance, for one thing, as an illustration, in this case
Emphasis: above all, particularly, singularly
Similarity: comparatively, coupled with, identically, likewise, together with
Exception: aside from, barring, besides, excluding, outside of, save
Restatement: in essence, namely, that is to say, in short, to put it differently
Contrast: conversely, instead, on the other hand, on the contrary, rather, yet
Sequence: at first, to begin with, in the first place, for the time being, the next step, later on, in turn, with this in mind
Summarizing: after all, all in all, all things considered, by and large, in any case, in brief, in conclusion
In regards to grammar with transition words, if the transition begins the sentence then a comma must follow it. If the transition word comes in the middle of a sentence, it’s proceeded by a comma or a semi colon and followed by a comma. When written at the end of a sentence, a transition word is preceded by just a comma.
Therefore, I decided not to join the hockey team.
The tryouts took longer than anticipated; therefore, I decided not to join the hockey team.
I couldn’t come near to respecting him, however.
Transition words can also come in handy for the speaking section and can add coherence to your ideas. Memorize several that stick out at you by their category and keep them in mind when it comes down to test day.
Remember: Transition words become ineffective when used repetitively: Use a variety of them when speaking and writing in order to effectively transition one idea to the next.
Similar to count and noncount nouns, definite and indefinite articles can be a trouble spot for ESL learners. Rules vary from one language to another in regards to the usage of the definite versus indefinite, so some earnest practice with its rules in English would be of great advantage for the TOEFL exam.
In general, when speakers and writers do not have a specific person, place or thing in mind, the corresponding nouns are known as non-specific and are often preceded with the indefinite article: “a” or “an” in the singular. Often times, too, a noun is definite when a speaker mentions it the first time and then definite (“the”) from there on out.
What a fascinating story you just told!
Yes, the story was very exciting.
In regards to definite articles, we often use “the” when the speaker, listener or writer knows the specific person, place or thing that’s being discussed. “The” is used both for noncount nouns and singular and plural nouns that fall under the “definite” category.
The chowder we had at noon was fantastic.
The artwork is 100% authentic to the African region.
Definite articles are also used to describe something special, or unique. Examples of unique nouns would be: the moon, the sun, the Empire State Building, the Big Dipper, etc…
Definite articles have further usages as seen in the following ways:
- public places: the library, the movies
- specific names of geographical places: the Great Lakes, the Nile River, the Amazon
- countries: the U.S., the United Kingdom
Overall, the definite and indefinite articles take some time to get used to in the English language. My advice would be to memorize well-known definite articles first (countries, places, etc…) and to pay close attention to how indefinite articles and definite articles are used in conversation in both TV and film.
Remember: If you are not a native English speaker, keep in mind that these rules are probably different than in your native language. Keep these rules close to you so that come test day you are using a, an, some and the correctly on both the speaking and writing section.
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