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Student Blog Post: Tips on the College Application Process Part I

Owen

Hi! How’s everybody doing? This is Xiaoou. Long time no “blog.” I was quite busy preparing for my SAT I & II and college applications. I finally survived all of these complicated things. So, today I will spend some time talking about what is necessary for your application process, or rather to say how to build your personal portfolio. I will divide this post in to several sections and publish them periodically.

First, let’s talk about tests. It is quite ironic that most of us “escape” from a country bombarding us with tests to another country which also has a ton of tests. There are a lot of funny names that we invented for making fun of the American standardized tests, many aren’t appropriate to post in this blog post. Even the ETS (not CollegeBoard) who actually makes the test cannot get away without being “praised” as “Evil Testing Serpent.” Though as it is, your test grades are an indispensable factor that accounts your possibility of being accepted by a good college, so for the prospective seniors, who have come or will come to the United States mostly as sophomore and junior, you have to use your time wisely.

In this blog post, I’ll talk about what sophomore students need to do, since I came to the U.S. as a sophomore. The first and foremost thing you need to do is to pick up a TOEFL vocabulary book, and try your best to practice for the TOEFL and get a satisfactory score before junior year. If you do not get a score required for a certain college, try anything possible to reach that expected score as close as possible before the end of the first semester of your junior year. During your preparation for TOEFL, you also need to start memorizing SAT vocabulary after completing the TOEFL vocabulary. I recommend that you complete TOEFL vocabulary in duration of one and a half semesters. Otherwise, the time will be very tight for you to finish your SAT words. If you plan accordingly, you will have another one and a half semesters, plus a summer, to finish the SAT vocabulary. Then you will find that you have sufficient time to practice for the SAT test. For juniors, the process is similar, but you have to devote much more time to study more intensively to catch up. Of course vocabulary is not the only thing that matters, there is much more you need to learn. Please check out my previous posts about how to improve your general English skills.

Of course your test score is not the only factor accounted in your personal portfolio, you need to find or even create opportunities for yourself to become comprehensive as well.

The very first step of getting started is to ask somebody at your school or at New Oasis whenever you have questions. Usually each school has its own unique student body, and its student body forms its own unique system and organizations, whose rules sometimes are very confusing, such as clubs, drama groups, and Model UN. You need to step out of your comfort zone to ask what they are and how to participate. Gradually you will find you begin to know a lot about them and when you understand the whole student system, you will be able to handle different tasks and even become leaders in the student body. So be brave and ask questions, a lot of unexpected things will happen and will add a beautiful stroke in your personal portfolio.

In the next post I will tell you guys more about how to find volunteers opportunities and how to do something special and build it into your personal portfolio.

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Student Blog Post: How to Prepare for Standardized Tests Part 3

owen

Hi guys, this is Xiaoou Chen! It’s already summer. I hope you have all had a great time so far.

Previously, I have talked about the two sections—reading and listening—of the TOEFL test. Here are the two links that can direct you to the previous posts How to Prepare for Standardized Tests Part 1 and How to Prepare for Standardized Tests Part 2.

I am going to talk about the speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL test in this post.

As I mentioned before, speaking and writing, in some degrees, are higher levels of English language learning than reading and listening are. Reading and listening are two types of input. However, speaking and writing are two ways of output, in which you need to use what you have gained from your input.

But do not worry. The speaking and writing of TOEFL are much easier than the impression I just gave to you.

Be specific about speaking, the first thing you need to do is to get familiar with its forms. So go and find a book, like TOEFL Official Guide, and complete this first task. Then you need to find templates (which you can easily find online) that helps you construct your language when you speak. After this you need to search all the real speaking questions from previous test or TPO and follow the templates and practice and practice. When you are confident enough and have memorized enough different templates, you can weave different parts from them together and form your own templates. This process takes time, but compared to reading, is a much easier task to cope with. Here is a post from a forum which I found especially useful for preparing speaking. Please take a moment and look at it. Here is the link: http://bbs.gter.net/thread-1596093-1-1.html

Finally as to writing, it is the easiest part of the entire TOEFL test and the score of which you can boost up most quickly. There are two sections in the writing part. One is dependent task, the other is independent task. In the dependent task, you need to read a short passage and then listen to a short lecture and, according to the reading and listening, write a short essay summarizing the opposing opinions and their reasons. To be good at this, you need to find a template, too, and practice. Try to memorize some universal sentence structures. You will find it very useful when you are nervous during the test and can hardly think anything good. In the essay, as long as you cover all the reasons and their main details, you can easily get a high score. The second writing task, I think, is easier to get a higher score than the previous one because in this independent task you can wield your English more freely and creatively. In this task you will be given a question and you need to choose one side and defend it. As a beginner you still need to follow some templates first and get used to the way that can “flatter” the teachers who score the TOEFL essay. This independent task doesn’t need you to show how profound a thinker you are, but want to see how logic a person you are and how well you can use your logic to defend your opinion.

These are all my tips and suggestions for you to prepare for the TOEFL test. I have to say a third time: there is no short path, be persistent and hard-working can help you cope with anything.

Thank you all for spending time reading my posts. I will try to bring something new in the next one.

Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions. I will try to respond in my earliest convenience.

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New Oasis Student Blogger: How to Prepare for Standardized Tests Part 2

Xiaoou Chen

Xiaoou Chen

Hi guys, this is Xiaoou Chen! It’s already been about a month from my last post. Sorry for the delay. I was quite busy recently. In this post, my 4th post, I will pick up what I left last time and continue to talk about how to prepare for the standardized tests. For the first part please click: How to Prepare for Standardized Tests Part 1. I have also written about How American High School Works and How to Get along with Host Family and be Who You Are. Please feel free to read them.

To conquer TOEFL, and even the SAT, the most important part is to be adept at reading. Vocabulary, which I introduced previously, is only the very elementary step. If you truly want to have the ability to master any reading passages in both TOEFL and SAT, the essential thing is to GET STARTED TO READ. After you have the mastery of those beginner’s words, it’s a good time for you to contemplate on what to read. You have to be discriminating. If you choose the right book, spend time fighting with it and eventually finish it, you will find that your English ability jumps to a whole new level.

So how do you choose the right books? If you want to really make a leap, tough books—such as Great Expectation, A Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice and the like—should be your first choice (Remember here I am talking about what you should read after you get over the elementary step of vocabulary). Those books are all in the category of classic and composed of tough vocabulary and complex language structures, aka complex grammar. But how to read them? There are two things that I think are very important. The first is to analyze each sentence as you read and the second is to figure each word you don’t know. Be more specific, analyze each sentence to distinguish different parts of the sentences. You need to know which is the subject, which is the verb that matches the subject, and which part is to modify which (if you do not know these stuff yet, go to find a grammar book and “beat” it). This method is not like the passive way we use grammar to figure out questions in China. But we have to get used to it. On the first day, you may not be able to analyze even half page within on hour. However, DONT GIVE UP. IT IS A DAILY WORK. It takes time. Gradually you will find you can analyze sentence the same pace as you read. To this degree, not only will you have mastered most of the grammar, but also you have gained a good sense of English language, which will be very very very helpful when you start to practice the improving sentence questions in the SAT. As to the words you don’t know, you don’t have to learn all the meaning of one word at one time. What you need to do is to just use your phone or e-dictionary (definitely not a book one, because that takes to much time) quickly look up the meaning that makes the sentence understandable. DO NOT WRITE DOWN ALL THE WORDS YOU HAVE LOOKED UP. JUST GET ITS MEANING AND KEEP READING; otherwise you would need to spend your whole life completing one book. (But if you find some phrases that are really fascinating, you of course can write them down). The reason for doing this is that most of the words you don’t know will appear many times again in the same book. Do not be lazy. Look up the words you don’t remember but may have looked up already. If you do not remember the meaning, look it up again. Every time you look it up; a deeper impression will be built up in your brain. This is especially beneficial when later you decide to pick up a tough vocabulary book. You will find you already know a lot of the words there. Even the slightest impression will make it easier for you to command a word. Read as more as possible in the time you have. The more you read, the better you are.

The next part in the TOEFL test is listening. It consists of two sections (sometimes three if you have the TRIAL), and each section has one short conversion and two long lectures. Since you are in a complete English environment, it won’t be too difficult. (Remember your listening ability will also improve as you are enhancing your reading ability). But the listening part of TOEFL test does require plenty of practice. At the beginning I suggest you only listen, but do not take notes during the listening, and do the questions. If you cannot score over 21 in the listening sections, that means you cannot really get all the details, perhaps only a vague big picture. If this is your case, you have to listen more. Not just listen to the TOEFL, buy also try to listen to news everyday, watch movies without subtitles, and even listen to English songs. However, most significantly, you do need to pay attention and try your best to understand when you are listening. After you can score over 21, you can consider to take notes while listening. As it is, take notes, unlike many people say, is not really for noting down all the information. Instead, it is to help you concentrate while listening, because it very easy to be absent-minded during those conversation and especially those “tedious” lectures. There are also some KEY WORDS you need to know, because usually these words signify where the questions are made from. Here is a document summarizing all of those KEY WORDS and some tricks that may help you score higher in listening (click “document” to download). Go over these KEY WORDS and tricks every time before you practice. You will find one day, you suddenly can score 28 or even higher on your listening section in TOEFL.

Please always work hard. That’s actually the really KEY!

I will continue to introduce the speaking and writing sections in the next one or two posts. Please feel free to leave comments and ask me questions. I will try to reply you my earliest convince.

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