Friday, 8 February 2013


There are many misconceptions that students hold about taking a TOEIC exam. However, there is one that we need to focus on most: that TOEIC is all about improving your English.  It is not. A TOEIC test focuses on Listening Skills and Reading Skills. Obvioulsy, these involve English, but the test is not focusing on 'Pure English'. Therefore, it is important to understand what you are doing when you begin the test. And, it is importnat to understand what you are not doing.

I had a student come to me a few days ago and ask me how he could improve his vocabulary for the TOEIC. i told him to focus on synonyms for certain areas of vocabulary such as:
  • Meetings: Conference, Congress
  • Transport: Arrival, Get-in, Departure, Leave
  • University: lecture, Presentation, Tutorial
The student took the advice and worked on these. But, a few days later he came back and asked me for more. he said, "I want to improve all my vocabulary"; I told him he was wrong. There is not so much use in improving your vocabulary to do with food or reading books because these are not likely to feature on the test. 

To prepare for the TOEIC, you are not improving your English. Improving your English is a great thing to do, but it will take a lot of work to improve your general English enough to make your TOEIC results better. It is all about improving for the areas the test will focus upon. here are a few action points:
  1. Focus on Listening and Reading - Not Speaking
  2. Find resources to practice the exam: Buy the book Tactics for TOEIC for example. 
  3. If you are looking for resources online look for TOEIC resources, not English learning resources. is good.

Prepare for the Exam

For many people, taking the TOEIC test is a difficult experience. It is often, though, not a problem with their English. Often it is a problem with the stress of the exam. They do not expect to feel so much pressure and when they get into the exam, they crack. They find themselves swimming. So, it is important to be ready for the stresses of the exam.

I also recently read an article in TIME Magazine that said many schools in the USA are starting to spend a lot of time not just teaching their students the information they need for their exams, but also teaching them to cope with the stress of doing the exams themselves.

The first thing to do here is to be clear on what it will be like in the exam room:

1.       It will be quiet. You are not allowed to speak in the exam. So be ready for the silence. Do not let it get to you.
2.       The examiner will be strict. The TOEIC examiners have to follow a strict script. They must read it that way. It sounds very harsh. It tells you all the things you cannot do and explains that you be thrown out of the test for breaking the rules.
3.       It will be long. The exam lasts two hours. You need to be prepared to invest two hours of your life to the test.

You cannot change any of these things, so you need to be ready to deal with them.

There are a few actions that you can take to help yourself feel better and to do well in the exam:

1.       Be Positive. If you know that the examiner is going to be very negative and give you lots of instructions. During this time, stay positive. Don’t worry about what he says. Focus on what you are going to do in the exam.
2.       Don’t let the start make you nervous. It takes over 30 minutes before you actually begin the test. You have to fill in your exam sheet and you have to answer questionnaire questions. Do not worry about this. None of it is hugely important. Do not let it distract you from your thoughts and from the exam.
3.       Go to the bathroom before. The test takes two hours and you will be in the room for two and a half hours. This is a long time. Go to the bathroom before! You cannot leave the test.
4.       Get a good night’s sleep. The test takes a long time, so you need to be alert. Do not stay up late studying. Go to bed early and be fully rested.