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

TOEFL Tip #206: Back to Basics

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on May 31, 2013

Students preparing for the TOEFL exam frequently focus so much on learning sophisticated vocabulary that they forget to make sure that they have mastered the words for basic elements of daily life.

Here’s a sample list of questions that you should be able to answer quickly and accurately, without having to look up any of the information. How many of these do you know?

  1. What is the difference between CARDINAL and ORDINAL numbers? Can you spell the names of ORDINAL numbers correctly?
  2. Can you say fractions correctly? How do we say 1/2 or 1/16 in English?
  3. What are the names of signs of the zodiac?
  4. Can you spell the months of the year?
  5. Can you spell words using the correct names for the letters?
  6. What is the term to describe the difference between the letter “E” and the letter “e”?
  7. How do we say email addresses in English?
  8. What is the name of this symbol : ”#”?
  9. What are the names for “;” and “:”? What are the names for the punctuation mark “.”?
  10. What is the name for the holes in your nose that you breathe through?
  11. What are your finger joints called?
  12. What is the name for the thing that moves around your screen that you control with your mouse? (You know what a mouse is in this context, right?)
  13. When you lay in bed at night, what is the part of the room you’re looking at?

These are all basic words you’ll want to be able to use on the TOEFL exam. They are common and show up all the time. They’re not as the SUBJECT of the TOEFL content, but all of these ideas are worked into that content somehow.

To practice, ask your family and friends to make up lists of random questions about basic, everyday vocabulary like this. Practice answering them as quickly as possible – the goal is to not have to stop to think of the word for a common detail.

TOEFL Tip #204: Using Double Translation As A Study Tool

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on May 17, 2013

We’ve written before about the pitfalls of using translation software as your main study tool for the TOEFL exam. If you are depending on the translation program to help you figure out difficult passages in English, you will not be practicing the skills you need for the exam. When we first wrote this piece, we noted that translation software can be inaccurate, and if you don’t already have a sense of the English meaning for the words you want translated, you won’t know whether the translation is accurate. We’re happy to note that translation programs have gotten much better since that original post, although we stand by our advice against using them instead of practicing reading and comprehending in English.

However, translation software IS useful for checking your own translations, as part of building your skills in reading longer passages in English. Using the software can help to identify areas where your translation is not accurate.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to use this technique:

1. Read an English article from beeoasis.com.
2. Translate the article into your language. Do this yourself; do not use translation software for this step.
3. Leave your translation alone for one week. Do not look at it during this week. This will help you to forget the original article, so when you do the next step, you are actively translating, rather than remembering.
4. Translate the version of the article that you wrote in your language back into English. Again, do this part yourself.
5. Compare your translation back into English with the original on beeoasis.com

6. This is where the translation software comes is. Compare your double translation with one from Google Translate by doing the following:

A. Use translate.google.com to translate the English beeoasis.com article in your language
B. Copy and paste Google’s translation back into Google Translate and have it translate your language’s version of the beeoasis.com article back into English.
C. Compare Google’s translation with yours and also with the original.
D. Do you notice any weird English? Using a dictionary and other resources, figure out if the problem is with your translation, or with the version from Google Translate.

Practicing double translation in this way will not only strengthen your skills, but this method will also boost your confidence as your translations get better.

TOEFL Tip #203: More Ways to Immerse Yourself In English

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on May 11, 2013

One of the most effective things you can do to prepare for the TOEFL exam is to immerse yourself in English. As we’ve noted before (here, here, and here), seeing and hearing English as part of your daily life will improve your skill in the language. The more you have internalized the rhythms and vocabulary of English, the more you can focus on the specific content of the TOEFL rather than worrying about the basics.

Here are some more ways to increase the amount of English you encounter every day, especially if you are living in a country where most people speak a language other than English:

1. Change the language setting to English on all of your technology devices (laptop, smart phone, tablet). Use English for all of your applications, as well. That way, you’ll learn English computer words like SAVE, DELETE, TRASH, RESTART, DESKTOP, etc.

2. Chose English when using an ATM. Typically, most people don’t really read the ATM screen because we all use them so often that we just know what to push. So now that you know what buttons to use, slow down and read the screen. Then you’ll learn the words like WITHDRAWAL, or SAVINGS ACCOUNT, or ENTER or PRESS.

3. Ask for an English-language menu when you go to a restaurant. If you live in a big city that has a lot of tourism, they probably have an English menu. Use it to learn words like BROILED, or SNOW PEAS.

4. Turn off the subtitles in your language on your TV so you only hear English.

5. Find an English-only radio station, or download podcasts of English-language podcasts from National Public Radio.

What are your suggestions for incorporating more English into every day? Share them in the comments section!

TOEFL Tip #200: Use BeeOasis.com To Practice Paraphrasing

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on April 20, 2013

Accurately paraphrasing a passage in the TOEFL Reading section can help you with various types of questions, such as vocabulary, understanding the details of the passage, and inserting a sentence into the passage. Yet, for many students, paraphrasing is a challenging skill. You need to capture the essential information in the original material without repeating key vocabulary or sentence structure. In addition, you will usually use fewer words in a paraphrase than in the original passage.

But how can you practice paraphrasing and know that your work is accurate? Use a website like BeeOasis.com.

We at Strictly English love BeeOasis.com, for its broad range of topics, and for its use of easily accessible English. In fact, we think it’s such a valuable resource that we’ve been giving our clients one month of free access to BeeOasis.com for over a year now.

Here’s one suggestion for using BeeOasis.com to practice paraphrasing. Read the entry on the novel Black Beauty, and then read the Wikipedia entry for the same novel. Notice that you can understand much more of the Wikipedia entry’s vocabulary because you’re already familiar with the ideas from the BeeOasis.com version. Words like “disabled,” “composed,” and “forthrightly” in the Wikipedia version are easier to figure out when you have the context of “lame,” “written,” and “outwardly” from the BeeOasis.com version. You can also start with the Wikipedia version, paraphrase it yourself, and then compare your paraphrase with the BeeOasis.com version to test your accuracy.

Try it for yourself! Find a topic from BeeOasis.com that is also in Wikipedia, and see how much of the harder English you can understand after you’ve read the easy version on BeeOasis.com.

TOEFL Tip #197: New Feature on Strictly English’s Relaunched Website: Forums

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on March 29, 2013

We’re anticipating the beta launch of our new website next week. When it launches, everyone who is currently on both our Word of the Day and blog mailing lists will have an opportunity to purchase a membership at 50% off. Be sure to act quickly – the discount will be available for approximately one week!

One of the new features on the site will be Forums. These will be for members, by members – a chance for you to share your experiences studying for and taking the TOEFL exam, and to learn from others. Do you have a particular study technique that works for you? Tell others about it on the Forum. Are you wondering what it’s like to take the TOEFL for the first time? Read others’ stories of taking their TOEFL exams. Although Strictly English will lightly monitor the Forums to make sure that there’s no inappropriate content (like advertisements!), this space will be for those who are studying for the TOEFL to come together in a supportive community.

All levels of membership will be able to read the Forums. Basic Membership lets you post comments as well, and Premium Membership lets you create new topics for discussion. Deluxe Membership offers a 25% discount on Premium Membership access.

Check out the Forums, and share your perspective!

TOEFL Tip #196: Strictly English’s New Membership Plans

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on March 23, 2013

Strictly English’s new site is coming soon!

Early next week, we anticipate a beta launch for current recipients of both Word of the Day and the blog post emails. For the first week after the new site goes live, current recipients of both Word of the Day and the blog post emails will receive a 50% discount on membership. Approximately 10 days later, the new site will launch worldwide, at full price. Be sure to sign up as soon as the new site launches!

Here’s a screenshot of a chart comparing membership levels:

 

 

 

The Free Membership offers a variety of materials, including free self-study exercises, access to a limited number of sample TOEFL essays, and a free practice essay which we’ll grade for you. Study Halls with a live tutor cost only $20 per class.

Basic Membership ($10/month), Premium Membership ($20/month), and Deluxe Membership ($30/2 months) each offer increasing levels of access to more materials.

Deluxe Membership lets you read over 2,500 sample essays and search the essay database, and grades 4 of your essays (2 integrated essays and 2 independent essays) every week. With a Deluxe Membership, you’ll also receive a 20% discount on the regular price for Study Hall classes, as well as Premium Membership access to TOEFL Word of the Day, TOEFL Self-Study Exercises, and TOEFL Forums for 25% off.

Check out the different options and sign up for the membership package that works best for your needs!

TOEFL Tips #195: New Site Launching On or Before March 31st!

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on March 17, 2013

In the next two weeks, Strictly English will launch its revamped website. Today’s post will give you a general preview of the changes, and in the coming weeks, we’ll drill down on the details of our new services and features.

 The first thing you’ll notice is that the Strictly English homepage has been reorganized. Whereas it used to look like this:

 

now you’ll see this when you first come to our page:

 

The new page showcases our four core services. Of course, we continue to offer our successful one-on-one Online Private Tutoring program. In addition, after a successful pilot program, we are now making group study a central feature of Strictly English’s offerings, with two new group study options: Study Halls worldwide online and Group Classes in the Boston area.

 With the launch of the new website, Strictly English will now be offering 4 levels of membership. Free membership is available to everyone, Basic Membership is $10/month, Premium Membership is $20/month, and Deluxe Membership is $30/2 months. In our next post, we’ll take a look at the details of each membership level, but for now, please note that everyone on our promotions list will get the chance to buy memberships for 50% off, during the first week of launch.

 In addition, the Strictly English blog has been renamed TOEFL Tips on the new website. Be sure to look for us in the dark blue bar across the top of the new homepage!

 

TOEFL Tip #187: Answers To Your Questions

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on January 18, 2013

We love getting comments on the Strictly English blog! We want to hear how your experience compares with a situation described in a post, or suggestions for future posts. Did you find a particular post especially helpful? Let us know!

Lately, readers have also asked a number of questions in the comment section. Because these are questions that we think a lot of people might have, we wanted to answer them in a post, rather than just respond directly to the original question.

Question #1: Scheduled exams and the new 21 day policy

ETS’s new policy requiring a 21 day wait between exams is causing some anxiety. One reader said that he has two TOEFL exams scheduled within 21 days of each other in January. He scheduled the exams in 2012, but is worried that he won’t be allowed to take the second exam because of the new policy. He asked whether these two test dates are a problem, and what he can do about it.

The new policy started as of January 1, 2013, regarding scheduling exams after that date. As far as we know, this does not affect close-together exams that were scheduled in 2012, but which now violate the new policy. If you are in this position and want to make sure that you can still take the second-scheduled exam, contact ETS and ask for clarification.

Question #2: How to answer the Speaking section questions

Another question asked what format to use when answering the prompts for the Speaking section. The reader wanted to know if Speaking Section answers were more like a response to a teacher’s question in a classroom, or more like a spoken essay with a thesis, support, and a conclusion.

The answer is – some of both (depending on what your classroom is like, of course!). There are 6 Speaking tasks. Some of them ask for your opinion on a topic, and those answers should have a main idea that answers the question, and supporting details for that main idea. Other sections will require you to read and/or listen to a passage, and answer a question based on information from the passage. That might be more like a classroom answer, where you are repeating key points from the passage rather than giving your own opinion. There are lots of resources for practicing the speaking section and getting a better feel for how to answer the prompts. For a quick example, see this page.

Question #3: Retaking the TOEFL to get the score you need

A reader has the total score that he or she needs, but the score in one section does not meet the minimum required by the program to which he or she is applying. The question is, does the reader need to retake the TOEFL to boost his or her score in the section that is too low, knowing that he or she would miss the application deadline by taking the exam again?

We don’t know – this depends on the policy at each school or program to which you are applying. We have found that policies vary quite a lot, so it is not wise to assume anything about a program’s requirements. Call the program, ask to speak to an admissions counselor (or other staff person who knows the school’s policies well), and explain your situation. Do this as soon as possible in order to have the greatest number of options for addressing your issue.

Got a question? Leave it in the comments!

TOEFL Tip #183: Mac Users Get Closer To New TOEFL CDs From Cambridge (And Barrons?)

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on December 21, 2012

When Apple launched its Lion operating system in July 2011, Mac users were instantly crippled in their TOEFL study. This is because the CDs that came with two of the best study guides for TOEFL no longer worked in this new operating system. Unfortunately, this problem persists with Apple’s newest operating system, Mountain Lion.

If you put your Cambridge CD or your Barrons CD into an Apple computer, it just wouldn’t work.

So Strictly English called up Cambridge and Barrons to ask them when they would release CDs that would work for Mac users. We got an update from Cambridge, but have not heard from Barrons.

Cambridge says it will have a Mac-friendly CD by early 2013. Of course, we’re very glad to hear this, but we have to admit that this is a bit slow. Lion came out a year and a half ago, which means that all new Mac owners have not been able to use the Cambridge CD for all of that time.

Publishers of educational material need to remember that Apple computers are far more popular in educational institutions than PCs are. Perhaps this is too much of a generalization, but the basic trend is that PCs are found in businesses and Macs are found in schools.

Therefore, educational companies can’t afford to put their Mac users on the back burner for so long, especially since Apple products continue to take a larger share of the computer market.

THANK YOU, CAMBRIDGE for getting a CD ready for release. But please BE QUICKER next time so all of us Mac users can enjoy your fantastic products without interruption.

TOEFL Tip #175: Enter Our Editing Contest!

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on October 26, 2012

Win 2 FREE HOURS of tutoring! Correct all 7 mistakes in this blog article (they could be spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors), and you will be entered in a drawing for 2 FREE HOURS of TOEFL Tutoring! The winner will be announced in our blog post next week, on November 2nd.

To enter the contest, please email us your corrections highlighted in RED at info@strictlyenglishusa.com before 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 31st. Then write a comment on this blog article that says “I think I corrected all the mistakes!” Be sure to do *both* steps for your entry to count. Good luck!

 

HERE IS THE DOCUMENT TO BE EDITED

Misspellings and grammar errors are often the trickiest part of the Writing Section to correct. Perhaps you’re used to working with programs like Microsoft Word which identify speling errors with red squiggly lines under misspelled words, and green squiggly lines under ungrammatical phrases. Perhaps your software even autocorrects typos, so you never even realize you’ve made them. Perhaps you’re working on the basics of English grammar, so you’re not thinking about whether or not to use the Oxford comma (that’s the comma that comes before the “and” in a list of items; such as the one after “green” in this example: red, green, and blue). Whatever your particular circumstances, students often has “blind spots” that make it hard for them to recognize and fix grammar errors.

What can you do?

Use your software to help learn what kinds of mistakes you make most often. Rather than simply letting hte software correct mistakes, turn off autocorrect. Write down every word identified by red squiggles and every phrase identified by green ones, and fix them yourself in the document. Use sites like the Purdue Online Writing Lab to learn about the particular grammar mistakes you keep making and practicing correcting them. You could even ask a native speaker of English to take a paragraph from the newspaper, purposely change it to include mistakes, and give it to you as a quiz. The more you practice spotting these sorts of mistakes in other people’s writing, the easier it will be to identify them in your own writing.

Numerous spelling and grammar errors can make a significant difference to your TEOFL score. Its worth taking the time to improve this skill.

« Older Posts