Monday, 11 June 2012

Be Careful ... Don't Rush

In my last article, I talked about being like the police officers from the TV show ‘Les Experts’. I explained that it was very important to look for evidence and reasons when you are answering questions on the TOEIC. Answering questions is great, but if you can explain the logic behind your answers it means that you will be able to answer more questions in the same way.

Looking for evidence is great advice. I recommend it to all my TOEIC students. However, there is another aspect to it that is also really important: Reading the questions carefully and listening to the CD carefully. This might sound like really obvious advice, but it is also very important. When you look for advice, you need to look at or listen to the tenses involved and the vocabulary involved (this is true of the whole test from section 1 all the way through to section 7). If you do not read and listen carefully, you will not understand correctly.

This all sounds extremely obvious. Why, you might ask, am I writing about something that everybody knows? The answer is simple. When many people take the TOEIC, they are worried about running out of time, so they try to ready quickly and try to answer quickly. They will look and listen for key words and just use those.  This is crazy! The test is designed to ensure you cannot do this. Students who look just for key words will save time, but they will also make many mistakes.

Below are a few tips to help you read and listen carefully:

  • ·         In reading sections 5 and 6, read the whole sentence and all four options. Section 5 is only a list of short sentences. You cannot save much time here.
  • ·         In reading section 7, read all of the texts and all of the questions. There is a lot of information here and it takes time, but it is designed so that if you read the test well, the questions will be easier. If you read it quickly, it will be more difficult.
  • ·         In listening section 2, listen to the questions carefully. Listen for (a) the question words like What Where and Why, (b) Listen for the verb in the sentence, and (c) Listen for any important nouns in the sentence.
  • ·         In listening sections 3 and 4, read the questions carefully before you listen. Identify the question words, key verbs and key nouns. Then, listen to the audio very carefully.

This all sounds very obvious, but there are many students who do not do this. These are the students who get low scores!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Be an 'Expert' - Use Evidence

One of my favourite TV programs is the US show CSI. I like this show because I am interested in the crime stories and because it is very exciting. However, I also like it because it gives great lessons for the TOEIC exam. This might sound strange, but it is true. In Les Experts, the investigators are always looking for evidence, which is exactly what students doing the TOEIC need to be doing.

The investigators in Las Vegas, New York or Miami are looking for evidence to tell them who committed the murder. TOEIC students are looking for evidence that tells them how to answer a question. So, exactly what do you need to do to be an 'Expert'? It is actually quite simple, when you answer a question on the TOEIC, you need to ask yourself “why?”.

I find this tactic particularly useful in the reading section (although it applies to the Listening section as well). If you read a question in section 5 (where you need to complete the sentence), it is important to look at the grammar and vocabulary in the sentence. Let's look at an example:

Yesterday I ______ to the movies
  • go
  • went
  • have gone
  • will go

If you look at this question, the key word is “yesterday”. Yesterday is in the past. Therefore, we know that the answer for this question has to be in the past. It must be “go”. This is a very easy example, but, if you can apply this type of logic to other more difficult questions, you will get more and more correct. It doesn't just work with grammar based questions. It also helps with questions that test your vocabulary. For example:

Did you ________ the meeting
  • attend
  • attack
  • deliver
  • complete

The key word in this sentence is “meeting”. We need to choose the verb that goes best with the word meeting. That verb is “attend”.

I tell all my students to follow a simple rule in the TOEIC test. When they answer a question, they must think about why. When they do this, it allows them to be logical. They can apply this logic not just to one question, but to all of them, which gives a greater chance of getting a higher mark.