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, DON’T 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.
Hi! This is Xiaoou Chen. So happy to talk to you guys again. Previously, I have made a brief introduction to the big picture about how American high school works and a reminder to student about how to get along with host family and protect who you are. This time I want to talk about part of my experience as a test taker and how to get yourself prepared and ready to confront the barrage of tests.
Generally speaking, TOEFL and SAT are the two most important standardized tests that we must take in order to get into a good college. They are interconnected, but each of them has its own unique features.
Since I can say goodbye to TOEFL at the moment, (I will probably pursue a higher score in TOEFL later) and I am currently preparing for the SAT exam, I have more confidence in talking about my experience with the TOEFL test.
It’s true that TOEFL, with a duration of roughly four hours, is definitely a time consuming “activity.” It is divided into four parts—reading, listening, speaking and writing. For each of the sections, there are certain ways to succeed. But if you are a prospective American high school student, the most important skill, I think, you need to be proficient in, is reading. As it is, reading is the ability to collect and gather information; it is to convert what you see into what you can conceive and understand. If you have a hard time with gaining proficiency in reading, no doubt you will have difficultywith the other three sections. For listening, there are hard words in each very long and “tedious” parts. It requires you to have a good amount of vocabulary and you must be able to comprehend the general picture and acquire detailed information from either conversations or lectures. If you cannot read, there is no possibility you will be adept at listening. As for speaking and writing, if you cannot read, that must be because you have not read enough. If you have not read enough, there is no way, i.e., you have no source in your mind, for you to speak and write. I am not saying that the other three sections are less important than reading, but actually in some degree they are at a higher level of comprehension for an English leaner, and all those are dependent on good reading skills.
“Reading” is not just a simple word. It embodies complexity. To be able to read, the first thing you need to do is have the ability to command a decent amount of vocabulary. As you find and read an article written in English (absolutely not from your Chinese English Textbook, they are way too easy, compared to TOEFL.), if you find you can hardly read without looking up words in a dictionary and even after knowing all the meanings of each word, you still have no idea what the passage is talking about, now it is time for you to sit down and grab a vocabulary book and study it everyday! It is not very important what kind of book you can use (usually most of the vocabulary books on the market are good enough), but it is important for you to have the persistence in memorizing words everyday. I am saying everyday! If you do not review your vocabulary book every day, you will find that you forget what you remembered two days ago. After a long period of time, even if you reach the end of the book, without reviewing daily, you will remember virtually nothing. All the effort you paid, in some degree, would be wasted and in vain. This condition absolutely highlights the KING PRINCIPLE in vocabulary studying. It is periodically reviewing. The words you memorized today, have to be reviewed on the next day. But that’s not it. You have to review them again and again after every two days or three days. There are many methods where you can find online for memorizing words. But the key of all of them is to review persistently.
For memorizing words, I think there are generally two ways which are efficient. The first is to memorize a large amount of them in a short period of time with reviewing in high intensity. For example, if you decide to memorize three thousand words in a month, you at least have to memorize one hundred of them per day. Virtually you also have to review all of the previous words everyday in order to retain them in your mind. The other is to memorize certain amounts of word in a long period of time, such as memorizing three thousand words in half of a year, along with reading. You don’t have to memorize a lot of them everyday, but still have to review them periodically. However, the time left is very good for you to gain proficiency in reading. After memorizing, let’s say, thirty words everyday, you need to find something to read—essays, papers, novels, whatever you like (but at least you find it not very easy to read). Don’t worry if you cannot understand it. Just read, but still you need to try your best. It is to foster your aptitude in comprehension. I guarantee that you will improve your English skills if you do this.
Please remember persistence is always the soul of studying. I think that’s it for this post. I will complete the introduction for how to prepare for other standardized tests in the next several posts. As always please feel free to leave comments, I will try to respond to you at my earliest convenience.