To get: free TOEFL Tips Emails, then Become a Free Member

TOEFL Tip #180: Consider Taking An Extra Year To Prepare

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on November 30, 2012

A “gap year” is a break between phases in a person’s life, particularly a break from education. High school students are increasingly taking a gap year before starting college to better prepare themselves for college-level expectations and workloads. Mark Greenstein of IvyBound.net has a recent newsletter article addressing the ways in which students with widely varying levels of college readiness can benefit from taking what he calls a “planned gap year.” A planned gap year is an intentional break before college, with specific goals for how to use the time away from school.

A yearlong break between high school and college can also benefit students preparing to take the TOEFL exam. You might need more time to study for the TOEFL without the competing demands of your high school classes. Maybe you started the college application process late, and now you don’t have much time to make sure you get the TOEFL score you need for admission to your first choice schools. Perhaps you have not been exposed to much English in your daily life, and you’re nervous about suddenly switching to an all-English college campus. Whatever the reason, a gap year can help you be more prepared for the TOEFL exam, and for college.

What should you do if you take a break between high school and college?

Immerse yourself in as much English as possible, every day. Read newspaper and magazine articles in English. Change your internet browser settings to English. Choose English-language entertainment – movies, television and radio programs, music. The more English that is around you on a daily basis, the more vocabulary, syntax, and inflection you will learn.

While you are absorbing English from these sources, you also need to be producing English. Seek out friends – perhaps online – with whom you can practice communicating in English. If you are able to do so, take a job where you will be required to use English frequently. Similarly, join a club or a group that is related to one of your interests and whose members speak English. Because you would be familiar with the club’s main activity, you can focus on improving your English. The more you communicate in English, the better your skills will be.

Taking a year before college to focus on improving your English can significantly improve your TOEFL scores and your college applications. Consider taking a year so you can take concrete steps to develop your skills.