Monday, 10 March 2014


One of the things that is most difficult when doing the TOEIC exam is budgeting your time. When I prepare students for the exam and when I administer the exam I constantly see students frantically trying to finish questions at the end as they have run out of time. I also get feedback from students who tell me that they were going well in the test and they didn't find it too difficult, but they just didn't have enough time to finish.

The last statement in the paragraph above does not really make too much sense. There are 200 hundred questions on the TOEIc exam and you cannot get a great mark unless you answer all of them. Answering 180 of them well will probably still leave you short of your desired mark. So, what do students need to do to have enough time? How can they use the two hours well?

To answer this question, we are going to look at the Reading section of the test. The reason for this is that the Listening section has to follow the pace of the CD. Students cannot really save much time in that situation. So, it is the Reading section that will make a difference.

As I mentioned in another of our TOEIC blog articles, Section 7 is the largest and most time-consuming section of the test. Students need to be aware of this before they begin the test. To use an American phrase, section 7 really is 'The Ball Game'. This means we need to examine how we can use our time to greatest effect in sections 5, 6 and 7. 

These sections are not large and are relatively easy to deal with. Therefore, our objective is simple: to get through them as quickly as possible to give ourselves time for section 7. However, of course, we do not wish to lose marks in these sections simply by rushing. So, what should we do. The key here is awareness and avoiding complacency. It is vital to understand that section 7 takes longer than sections 5 & 6. Many students waste time on Section 5 because they think that they should give it the same amount of minutes as section 7. This is not the case. Even though 516 are almost the same size as 7, we need to give 7 much more time. Students should know this befeore they go into the exam.

In the same way that we should not be complacent in sections 5 and 6, it is important not to be complacent in the early parts of section 7. This is because the early questions in section 7 are easier than the ones at the end. The first 20 questions of section 7 tend to be short written articles with two or three questions to answer. By the time we reach questions 90-100 students are reading a letter and a response and answering five questions. The later ones take time!

So, what can students do about this? How can they ensure they use their time well? The key here is practice. Students should take a run through of the test at home. They should buy a book with Model tests - Tactics for TOEIC or Barron's are good choices - and do these tests in real time. This way they can find out which part of the tests will take them the longest and how best they can budget thier time.

When I teach a five-week TOEIC course, I give students four weeks of homework to do the reading section of a model test each week. I insist that they take only 1h15 mins for the homework and that they note down how long they spend on each section. this gives them a good barometer for when they actually sit the tes.

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