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.)
As with all tips for the TOEFL writing section, it’s important to keep in mind that while minor errors are acceptable, the frequency of minor errors, particularly combined with larger grammatical problems will undoubtedly detract from your overall score.
In particular, ESL students generally have problems with count and noncount nouns, primarily because such nouns vary from one language to the next. A primary way of getting this grammar down is memorizing most common noncount nouns. Here is a quick 101 on count and noncount nouns to refresh your memory for test day
Basically count nouns are nouns you can count, meaning they can be singular or plural. “A” or “an” can often come before count nouns. Count nouns can be multiplied by simply adding an “s.”
Noncount nouns are things you can’t count separately, meaning we usually do not use “a” or “an” before them. These nouns also have no plural form and the words “some” or “the” often precede them. Here are some common noncount nouns:
· advice, air, accounting, behavior, coffee, heat, salt, copper, civics, calcium, clothing, film, equipment, bread, helium, singing, peace, pollution, violence, gasoline, water, responsibility, time
Sometimes, to make a noncount non-countable we use a phrase that gives them a countable form. Here are some examples of such phrases:
· a piece of meat
· a game of tennis
· a cup of water
· a clap of thunder
Keep in mind: When we use “some” before a noncount noun, it often is referring to nouns that don’t have specific boundaries. (Example: I drank some orange juice.) Also, the word “people” often confuses ESL learners. Typically, “people” is plural and does not have s singular form. (Example: North American people value education.) However, sometimes the word “people” can mean a specific group of human beings, meaning it can have both a plural and singular form.
The Chinese are a people of Asia.
Various peoples have settled in Vancouver.
Remember: Knowing the proper usage of noncount nouns is not only valuable on the writing section, but also the speaking section, too. Keep a list handy of the most common noncount nouns by category so you won’t forget them.
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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