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TOEFL Tip #92: Understand Campus Life

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on March 29, 2011

Because most people take the TOEFL as part of their application to college, some material on the exam draws on this area of knowledge. Knowing about campus life in the United States is important for all TOEFL test-takers, even if you are taking it for other reasons, such as for professional certification. Both the Listening and the Speaking sections of the TOEFL have passages and questions about college life. Even if you have not been educated in the United States, you can do well on these questions by knowing a few general points about how college campuses work.

On the TOEFL, conversations between professors and students, or between two students, will be supportive, helpful, and friendly in tone. In an ideal world, professors and other university employees (such as financial aid counselors or librarians) would never say mean things to students or be annoyed at them. Likewise, students appreciate advice given by another student. College life on the TOEFL reflects this ideal world. Professors are always available to talk with students, librarians can find many resources on any topic, and students have helpful suggestions on how to figure out a difficult situation.

When deciding on an answer about the Listening or Speaking conversation, avoid choices that seem unlikely in an ideal academic setting, no matter how reasonable they may be in a non-academic setting. Be careful – an answer might seem “right” because it has many of the content words of the Listening or Speaking passage. The key is whether the answer is negative or positive. For example, if one choice insults the student (“I can’t believe you can’t figure this out”) or seems unconcerned with the student’s problem (“I don’t have time to answer that question”), that’s negative, and the wrong answer. Choices that answer the student’s question (“Let me show you how to solve that equation”) or help to solve his or her problem (“You need to fill out these forms and bring them to the Registrar’s office”) are positive, and are more likely to be the correct answer.

Another aspect of campus culture that will help you on the TOEFL is being familiar with typical names for aspects of student life. You may know that students sleep in “dormitories,” but do you also know that “dorm” is a nickname for the same building? Perhaps the purpose of the Student Center is obvious, but do you know what the Student Union is? (It’s another name for “Student Center”). Registrar, Bursar, Dean, quad, fraternity/sorority, meal plan, work-study – these are a few of the typical departments, places, organizations, or programs at American colleges. Knowing the names campus features such as these will help you to understand the Reading or Listening passage, and can help you to choose the correct answer.

To learn about campus culture, visit the websites of several colleges or talk with current college students. You will quickly get a sense of what college life is like!


Categories: Listening,Reading

2 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tests Effective Communication

    wrote on April 15, 2011 at 5:11 am

    [...] content that will help you to do well on the exam because they will save you time on test day. Our post from March 29th, for example, pointed out that students should be familiar with terms about [...]

  2. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tip #135: The Year In Review

    wrote on February 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

    [...] TOEFL. Because the TOEFL is primarily for students who are entering college, we suggested that a familiarity with college life would be helpful on the exam. We also had a series of posts related to studying and practicing for [...]

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