They put in hours of studying.
They take practice tests. They ask questions and diligently memorize English grammar. Your students do all these things for one reason: to get a good score on their standardized English exams. Whether they are taking the TOEFL, the TOEIC, or the IELTS, your students want to get a good score. It can mean the difference between their dream school and a less than ideal education, the job they have given up everything for and nothing more than a paycheck. And while test day is completely up to your students, you can give them some help along the road of preparation. Here are things you can do in class to help your students score big on exam day.
4 No-fail Tips for Increasing TOEIC Scores
Help Them Know What the Test Will Entail
A big part of preparation that has nothing to do with English skills is knowing exactly how the test will be broken down. How many sections will there be? What time length will they have for each section? Will they be taking the exam on a computer or on paper? Will there be any bathroom breaks during the test? Much of this information can be found in test preparation books or on each test’s webiste, and it’s worth talking about it for a few minutes in class the week before students take a standardized test. If possible, take a few minutes out of your normal schedule to take a practice test or test section during class so students get the feel for what they are in for. And give students who have taken the exams some time to share about their experiences. All of these strategies will decrease stress on test day since your students will know exactly what they will encounter once they get there.
Teach Them to Use Good Time Management
Do you give timed assignments in your class? You should if you want to help your students score better on their standardized exams. Good time management while test taking includes several strategies. Help students learn to answer the questions they know first. If they encounter a question that is difficult or that they do not know the answer to, teach them to skip it and move on quickly. This will prevent them from getting stuck on tough questions and then running out of time, causing them to not answer questions toward the end of the section. It also entails taking a few minutes at the end of the test section to review answers and go back to any skipped questions.
Teach Vocabulary Families As Well As Homophones
I love to teach vocabulary families. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s basically teaching several synonyms at the same time. When you teach groups of words in this manner, your students naturally learn synonyms, and their vocabulary increases much faster than it would if you just taught them one word at a time. Not to mention, students get a feel for the nuances of English that can be difficult to grasp otherwise. For example, if you were teaching adjectives to describe a person, you could just teach the word shy. But if you teach word families, you could also teach the words reserved, timid, reclusive, and antisocial. If you did, your students would learn five words rather than one. And since they are similar in meaning, learning these five words isn’t as difficult as learning five unrelated words. If you do teach word families, have your students look up each word in an English only dictionary. This will give them a better feel for the nuances of each word than a bilingual dictionary would. If you haven’t tried teaching word families, just grab a thesaurus and look up a few words in your next vocabulary unit. Try teaching these word families and see what a difference it makes in your students’ increasing vocabularies.
Once you have gotten in the habit of teaching word families (and your students have gotten in the habit of learning them) take time to teach homophones and similar sounding words. Often in standardized tests, questions will ask your students to choose between synonyms and similar sounding words. If you are in the habit of teaching homophones as you teach new vocabulary, your students will have a better chance of choosing the right word on their tests.
Give Them the Tools to Decipher Unfamiliar Words
You can use two techniques to help your students decipher unfamiliar words that they are likely to encounter as they take their tests. First, teach word roots. English has plenty of prefixes and suffixes with meaning attached to them, and your students probably know a lot of them: un, anti, re, etc. Knowledge of these affixes will only help your students in as much as they know the meaning of the root word. But if you teach word roots as well, your students will have a better chance of deciphering a completely new word. Word roots in English include the following: bene (good), mal (bad), anthro (human), uni (one), culp (blame), luc (light), etc. If you teach roots as you encounter them in your regular vocabulary instruction, you will give your students double benefits from your instruction.
Another way to help your students guess a word’s meaning from context is to give them practice with a word you know they haven’t seen before. How do you do this? Make a word up. Start with a reading passage that uses one word multiple times. It can be a word your students already know or one they don’t. Put your passage into a word document and select the find/replace function. Then replace every instance of the target word in your text with the letter X or a made up word such as bisk. Give your students a copy of the reading passage and ask them to guess the meaning of the word based on its context in the passage. Once they have come to a reasonable, working definition of the word, give them the real word that you replaced. While this may not teach your students new words per se, it will teach them the skills they need to learn new words from context.
Test day is up to your students, but you can help get them ready beforehand.
Try these strategies in class and see the scores go up on the official exams.