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toefl practice

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.)

Posted on October 25, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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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

COUNT NOUNS:

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:

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.

Example:

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.

Examples:

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.

Examples:

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.

Examples:

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.

 

Posted on September 26, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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The adjective clause is an important aspect of grammar to keep in mind on the TOEFL writing portion.  Unlike the adverbial clause, which is mostly used on the integrated essay for compare/contrast, the adjective clause can be found in both the integrated and independent writing sections.  What do adjective clauses do and when is it important to use them?  (Please note: Adjective clauses can also be referred to as adjectival or relative clauses.)

An adjective clause will contain the following:

·       a subject and a verb

·       a relative pronoun: who, whom, whose, that or which OR

·       a relative adverb: when, where or why

·       also, the adjective clause will ultimately function as an adjective

Adjective clauses are divided into two main categories: identifying and nonidentifying.

Identifying Adjective Clauses give information that is essential to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: Men who are willing to work will undoubtedly find a job.

In this sentence, the adjective clause is who are willing to work.  In other words, if we extracted who are willing to work from the sentence it would alter its meaning entirely, making it identifying.

Nonidentifying Adjective Clauses give nonessential information – they serve the purpose of adding extra bits of information that aren’t crucial to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: The movie lasted about three and a half hours, which at times felt somewhat longer, so I made sure to have plenty of soda and popcorn.

The adjective clause which at times felt somewhat longer isn’t exactly necessary in terms of the overall meaning of the sentence.  The main ideas expressed in the sentence are in the beginning and the end, making the middle somewhat additional and nonidentifying.  (Also, with nonidentifying adjective clauses “that” is not used.)

Overall, adjective clauses will pepper your writing and allow your ideas to come across smoother and clearer.  Just make sure when you use them to acknowledge whether you are using identifying or nonidentfying so you have mastery of your own TOEFL writing.

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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The adjective clause is an important aspect of grammar to keep in mind on the TOEFL writing portion.  Unlike the adverbial clause, which is mostly used on the integrated essay for compare/contrast, the adjective clause can be found in both the integrated and independent writing sections.  What do adjective clauses do and when is it important to use them?  (Please note: Adjective clauses can also be referred to as adjectival or relative clauses.)

An adjective clause will contain the following:

·       a subject and a verb

·       a relative pronoun: who, whom, whose, that or which OR

·       a relative adverb: when, where or why

·       also, the adjective clause will ultimately function as an adjective

Adjective clauses are divided into two main categories: identifying and nonidentifying.

Identifying Adjective Clauses give information that is essential to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: Men who are willing to work will undoubtedly find a job.

In this sentence, the adjective clause is who are willing to work.  In other words, if we extracted who are willing to work from the sentence it would alter its meaning entirely, making it identifying.

Nonidentifying Adjective Clauses give nonessential information – they serve the purpose of adding extra bits of information that aren’t crucial to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: The movie lasted about three and a half hours, which at times felt somewhat longer, so I made sure to have plenty of soda and popcorn.

The adjective clause which at times felt somewhat longer isn’t exactly necessary in terms of the overall meaning of the sentence.  The main ideas expressed in the sentence are in the beginning and the end, making the middle somewhat additional and nonidentifying.  (Also, with nonidentifying adjective clauses “that” is not used.)

Overall, adjective clauses will pepper your writing and allow your ideas to come across smoother and clearer.  Just make sure when you use them to acknowledge whether you are using identifying or nonidentfying so you have mastery of your own TOEFL writing.

Posted on September 20, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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We all know the TOEFL writing section can create some widespread anxiety and trigger various questions: Will my writing be good enough?  What exactly are the raters looking for?  How much will grammar and punctuation count for my total score?

In general, grammar and punctuation are important on both the integrated and independent essays. However, minor errors are certainly forgivable, and if you only have a few they won’t be counted towards your total score.  Likewise, a significant knowledge of grammar is crucial for obtaining a high score.  This post will focus on adverbial clauses, which if used correctly might just help your score higher than you think.

Adverbial clauses are basically used to combine two ideas into one sentence.  They ultimately provide variety for the sentence and better transitions, particularly between paragraphs.  Here are some following adverbials, which will be very useful in a compare/contrast essay, which as you know, is the basis for the TOEFL integrated writing.

Contrast Advervials:

·       though/although/even though

Examples:

Though the test was tomorrow, the children failed to study.

Although the weather was cloudy, we continued to enjoy the outdoors.

Janice went to the theatre even though she heard the performances were lousy.

·       while

Example:

While the food wasn’t up to par, the dancing and live music were enormously entertaining.

·       despite the fact that

Example:

We thought the jazz band did a wonderful job despite the fact that the venue was too small.

Comparison Adverbials:

·       in the same way that

Example:

In the same way that Communism effected the global order, so has Capitalism on the modern family.

·       just as

Example: Just as 50 million Americans don’t have health care, 20 million Asians don’t have access to hospitals.

In general, adverbial clauses can help you immensely on the TOEFL writing section and will leave the mark of an advanced writer if used correctly.  Remember – adverbial clauses can come in the beginning or in the middle of a sentence.

Posted on September 13, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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ETS has thankfully released some very valuable tips for the writing section on the TOEFL exam.  It seems to be that most of the tips are for the integrated writing section, so for these purposes we will save independent writing suggestions for another time.

In terms of writing practice for the integrated writing section, ETS recommends you practice combining information you have read or watched into a written summary.  This is comparable to the TOEFL in that for the integrated writing section, you are asked to write a 150-225-word essay, combining information from both a reading and a listening passage.  How do you go about practicing?  Here are the following tips from the makers of the TOEFL:

-                   Read an article in the news and then listen to an article online or on TV on the same topic. Perhaps you are able to find an article written about the recent summit concerning global warming.  Take that article, make any necessary notes in relation to all its important information and then listen to a radio or TV show on the same topic.  Listen carefully to the similarities and differences in how both articles were presented.  Were there different supporting details?  Was there a different opinion reflected in the articles?  Listen carefully with an ear for comparison and contrasting.

-                   Watch a speech on TV or listen to it online. A lot of times, important speeches, particularly political, are often aired again and again on TV.  Try your best to only listen to the speech once and take notes on all the important points.  Then, write a summary of what you heard, listing all of the major points.  (Feel free to then check yourself by listening to the speech one more time with your notes in front of you.) A lot of times, famous political speeches are available as podcasts, so check online to see what might be available.  While there aren’t “political” speeches, per say, on the TOEFL, there are certainly lectures that deal with socio-political issues, so the vocabulary and syntax is bound to come in handy.

-            Read a newspaper article on a controversial topic. Make any necessary notes about the topic and the newspaper article as you see fit.  Then, interview your friends and ask them about this controversial topic.  More than likely, you will see a difference of opinion throughout your various interviews.  Make note of these in your notes and later on, sit down at your computer and type up a summary of all the different views accumulated.  Make sure to note who said what, making it clear when there is either a similarity or a difference of opinion.

Want more TOEFL test tips from ETS?  Go to www.ets.org.

Posted on August 17, 2010 by Manhattan Review

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In terms of the independent essay, we are not so much citing sources as we are trying to link our ideas together.  While it’s true you are giving specific examples and, of course, example phrases and words will prove to be useful, your independent essay is significantly longer than your integrated essay and involves not only a strong opinion/thesis statement, but also often times personal examples.

1)    When linking ideas, try your best to use different “connecting words.” You don’t always want to use “and” throughout the course of your essay, so here are some other suggestions, with many more options out there, when trying to link ideas in your writing.

“because…”

“furthermore…”

“while…”

“consequently”

2)    Since your independent essay is a persuasive one with the sole purpose of expressing an opinion with supporting arguments, keep in mind using strong words to emphasize your point is crucial in writing an effective essay. Here are some suggestions of words to emphasize your point.

“clearly…”

“obviously…”

“certainly…”

“indeed…”

In the end, strong writing on the TOEFL independent essay section requires you to display unity, coherence and an advanced understanding of both question prompts.  Adding variety to your word choice will also help along the way!

Posted on June 22, 2010 by Manhattan Review

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