Is the TOEFL the ultimate measure of your students’ language success?
No matter what your answer, what really matters is what your students think. They are the ones spending their money and time to learn the language, and they have plans for after they finish their studies. And while you and I might say there are better ways to measure linguistic fluency, we are here to help our students. That means giving them not only what we think they need but also what they want. When your student want higher TOEFL scores, there are some easy things you can do in class to help boost their scores without taking over your entire class. Here are some ways to give your students a boost while still giving them what they need.
7 Simple Tips to Help Students Increase TOEFL Scores
Teach Word Roots and Affixes
Even the most prepared students are liable to encounter vocabulary they don’t know when they take the TOEFL. Give your students a tool to tackle those tough questions by teaching them word roots and affixes. Roots and affixes are the building blocks of vocabulary. By teaching the meanings of prefixes, suffixes, and the roots they modify, students may be able to break down unfamiliar words to familiar parts. This will give them a better chance of answering tough vocabulary questions correctly when they take their standardized tests.
Help Your Students Know What the Test Will Entail
There is nothing worse than walking into a test blind. You can give your students an advantage on test day by reviewing with them the type and number of questions they will have to answer.
Teach Your Students Time Management
It’s great to know all the right answers, but if you can’t put them down in the time you are given for a standardized test. Teach your students time management strategies that work during standardized testing. Tell them to skip the questions they are not sure about, mark others to come back to at the end, and take a few minutes at the close of every section to check their answers. Even if you are not doing test specific prep, try timing exercises class, complete with a countdown on the board so your students don’t get nervous just from being timed.
Teach Word Families
Since much of the TOEFL tests vocabulary through use of synonyms, teaching word families will help your students recognize more synonyms and thus answer more questions correctly. Teaching word families is rather simple. Instead of teaching one word, you teach students a set of synonyms for that word. For example, rather than teaching the word walk, you would teach the following group of words: walk, amble, stroll, saunter, shuffle, pace, and march. When you teach these words, you should also help students understand the subtle differences between the words.
Another way standardized tests will try to trip up your students with vocabulary is by using homophones – words with different meanings but that sound the same. In addition, teach your students commonly confused words, words that sound or are spelled alike.
Limit the Use of or Eliminate Bilingual Dictionaries
There are, of course, times and opportunities when a bilingual dictionary is useful and necessary. But there are also times when it is best to disallow bilingual dictionaries. One of the essential skills to language learning is being able to infer a word’s meaning from context. This is a skill that native speakers develop naturally, but one that second language students often resist. Coming up with their own understanding and definition is less sure, it has more room for error. But when students cannot look up someone else’s definition for an unfamiliar word, they are developing their skill of determining meaning from context. Your students will have to face this challenge when they take standardized English tests, so get them ready before test day. This can be the teaching equivalent of tough love, but it is necessary and helpful for your students. IF your students instantly panic when you tell them to put the dictionaries away, start small – with one or two sentences and move on to large written passages.
Have Students Write Their Own Test Questions
Writing questions isn’t as easy as one might think, especially when the test is challenging and each question has four possible answers. Challenge your students to write their own test questions and to make them challenging. Then compile the questions and give them to your class, having each person answer everyone else’s question.
TOEFL, TOIC, and other standardized test scores are important to many if not most ESL students.
You can be there to give them a hand and a leg up when it comes to test day. Try these simple tips in class and give your students not only language knowledge but also test taking skills for the day they put it all out there for that perfect score.
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