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TOEFL Tip #139: Eliminate Unnecessary Distractions

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on January 20, 2012

When Strictly English tutors call people on Skype, we are always surprised by the number of distractions we hear in the background:

TVs
Crying children
Cars honking in the street
Phones ringing
Dogs barking

Similarly, when people screen share with their tutor, we are often surprised to see 5 to 10 other programs open. This not only clutters your screen, but it also makes your computer run slower, which could weaken your Skype connection.

Although we advocate for studying with distractions, that is a strategy that should be done only LATE in your study process, toward the end, when you have already mastered our techniques for taking the TOEFL exam. At that point, you will be taking the TOEFL within a short time, and you need to prepare for the possible distractions at the TOEFL test site.

However, while still learning the techniques, you should be as free from distractions as possible. We know that it may not be possible to have your computer in a room where you can close the door, or you can’t close your windows to keep street noise out of your room during class because you don’t have air conditioning.

But it is important to do everything possible to create a quiet environment for you to study in. So, eliminate the distractions that you can eliminate. Turn off your phone, close other instant messaging programs, and close your mail program. Whenever possible, arrange a time of day when a family member can be with your child, or better yet, take them out for ice-cream while you’re having class. If you have a fenced in back yard, let your dog outside for the length of your class. Or if you live on a noisy street, get a window fan. The fan will keep air flowing in your room but also drown out most street noise. The constant white noise of the fan will be better than the erratic noise of screaming voices and car horns.

Finally, as stated above, close all of the programs that you are not using for class. It’s confusing enough to learn a language. A cluttered desktop adds to that confusion. If you’re already frustrated trying to learn the passive voice, for example, think about how much more frustrating that is when you have 8 windows open on your desktop and you’re trying to find the ONE window that you need for class.

The more serene you make your study environment, the more you will accomplish in, and retain from, each class!