21 ways to get more out of your TOEIC class

Summary: Here are 21 ideas on how you can make sure that you really learn a lot in your TOEIC class.

Here are 21 ideas on how you can make sure that you really learn a lot in your TOEIC class.

  1. Do it again carefully. Go through the paper one more time at home and make sure you know why each question you answered wrong is incorrect and why every one you just guessed and was okay is actually right. Then go through all the multiple choice answers that you didn't look carefully at and check you understand why all the other option are wrong. If you have any questions about why some of the questions are wrong, it should be okay to ask your teacher during class time, as other students will probably have the same question- or you can wait until after class or ask while all the students are working on something else.
  2. Go through the other options. Even for the questions you got right, looking at the other (incorrect) options at home can help you learn what tricks the examiners use and show you some useful vocabulary that you just skimmed past the first time you read or listened.
  3. Widen your vocabulary. If you learn a new word in your TOEIC class, by looking up the other parts of speech of the same word (friend, friendly, unfriendly, friendship etc.) in your dictionary when you get home you can not only make sure you learn the original word but also make sure you quickly understand it every time you read or hear it in the TOEIC exam. Make sure you learn the number of syllables and which syllable is stressed (pronounced more strongly) so you can understand when it is being used in the listening paper. Learning different parts of speech can also be useful for error correction in the older version of the TOEIC test.
  4. Divide your notebook into sections. Language is easier to remember if it is grouped together with other similar language. Dividing your notebook (or an extra notebook) into sections for vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, reading tips and tactics etc. and copying the new things you have learnt into those sections after class can really help you learn what you have been studying and make it easier to find something you have forgotten.
  5. Know yourself. Analyse your own weaknesses, difficulties and priorities and make sure the teacher knows what they are- but please be aware that the needs of other students in the class may be different to yours. It might also be useful to write your priorities in the front of your notebook to remind yourself what to focus on, e.g. "I am good at..."/ "I am not so good at ..."/ "My number one priority is to work on..."
  6. Be careful what you buy. Ask your teacher's opinion about any extra TOEIC materials before you buy them. It is probably best to take in a print out with some details from Amazon or a similar bookshop of the materials into class, so your teacher can read about the course before they tell you if they recommend it or not. If your teacher is happy to talk about it during class time, your classmates might also be happy to give their opinions or might want to ask your opinion once you have bought and used it.
  7. Write the pronunciation down. Try to write down the phonemic script of any vocabulary that you learnt in class, then check in your dictionary that you have used the right symbols.
  8. Learn the answers by heart. If you have done a difficult Listening Part One or Two question in class, it can help your exam preparation (and your ability to speak fluently too) if you learn the whole sentence of the correct answer. You can then test yourself by looking again at the picture from Part One or the question on the tapescript of Part Two and see if you can say exactly the same sentence as was used in the practice exam.
  9. Make a good vocab list. The basic rule of learning vocabulary is that the more time you spend on it, the easier it is to learn and the quicker you will be able to understand it when you read or hear a word in the test. Copying the words from your lesson notes or textbook onto a separate vocabulary list or notebook is a good start. In order to be able to understand the vocabulary quickly in the test without translation, try to write the meaning, pronunciation and grammatical information about the word in English rather than your own language, e.g. by writing a gapped sentence with the word you are learning taken out and trying to remember what word it is before you check your answers in the other column or other page in your notebook. It is then vital that you go through the list at least 3 times over the next few days to make sure you remember the new vocabulary.
  10. Read the tapescripts carefully at home and check that you know the meaning of and how to pronounce all the words and phrases in it. If your teacher doesn't usually give out tapescripts, ask them at the end of the class if you can have it next week.
  11. Take another class. In order to learn quickly and get an all round good level of English, you will need to study at least twice a week. If you can make those classes a mix of a one to one (private) class and a group class, and maybe a mix of General English, Business English and TOEIC exam preparation, that would be perfect.
  12. Plan your homework and revision. If you only have a class once a week, you will need to do some study in midweek to make sure you don't forget the language from the last lesson and are fully prepared for the next class. For example, if your class is on a Monday, do your homework on Thursday or Friday- and certainly not on Monday evening or Sunday evening!
  13. Do electronic dictionary revision. If you have an electronic dictionary, you should be able to look at a list of the most recent words you have looked up, e.g. ones you asked about in class. Decide which of these words are most useful to learn and copy them down into your vocabulary list or notebook.
  14. Speak. Some students are not happy about speaking in a TOEIC class because they don't need to speak during the test. While no more than 10 or 15 minutes of an hour TOEIC lesson should be speaking, there are lots of useful things you can do in that time. Practicing the pronunciation of new vocabulary and using it in conversations will make sure that you learn it properly and that you will understand it when you hear it in a listening text. Talking about tactics for taking the exam will help you decide your own best way of, for example, reading quickly. And a 5 minute speaking activity at the beginning of the class will wake you up and make your brain switch into English mode so that you will remember what you studied in class once the lesson has finished.
  15. Write a study plan. To make the most of your classroom time, you will need to study between two and 10 times as much outside the class as you spend in class, i.e. one hour of class time means two to ten hours of self study. In order to make sure that you really do spend that much time and that the time is used well, it is best to write down your weekly study timetable and then tick off each part when you have finished it.
  16. Bring one question to every class. For most people, their English teacher is the only person they can ask questions about the tactics and language for the exam, so any class where you just do exercises you could do at home and don't ask a question is probably wasted time. Keep a mental note that you should ask one question during the next lesson, and write down the most important question you have before you go into class. Try to decide if it is a question that everyone will be interested in hearing the answer to, in which case you should ask the teacher during class time. If not, please ask the teacher before or after class or when all the other students are busy doing something else. Even if there are some classes when your teacher doesn't have time to answer your question, you might find writing it down and thinking about it makes you find the answer yourself.
  17. Read out loud. At home, try to read the tapescripts of a listening test out loud with natural speed and rhythm. You can also try recording your voice.
  18. Re-do old homework or class work exercises. If possible, write the answers to all homework exercises on a separate piece of paper, or write them in pencil so you can erase the answers. You can then go back and do exactly the same homework exercise and see if your score has improved and if you remember the things you learnt at that time.
  19. Prioritize your vocabulary learning. If you are an Intermediate level student or below, you will probably find that there are more than 100 words in each TOEIC practice test that you don't know. However, many of these words are not important to learn. Apart from listening to your teacher when they tell you which words you should learn, the easiest way of deciding which words are important is to look in a good English-English dictionary that marks the most important 1000 words/ 5000 words etc. in English with special symbols. If you have already learnt these words, the test will also give you some hints on which words are important to learn and which can wait until later. You should not learn a word if it starts with a capital letter or if it is in a part of the text that is not important to answer the test questions, e.g. at the beginning or end of an e-mail. Do learn the word if it is in the exam question or the same word is used two or more times in tests you do.
  20. Write the tips and tactics down. If your teacher tells you a good tip on how to read a text quicker or guess an answer, when you get home write the tip down (in English if possible), so you can read it the day before the exam to remind yourself what to do.
  21. Come to class ready to study. To make the most of the time and money you are putting into studying in a TOEIC class, make sure that you are mentally and physically ready to really learn in the class. Make sure you have the right equipment (sharpened pencil, eraser, notebook, and dictionary), that you feel healthy and awake, and that your concentration won't be affected by needing to eat, drink, go to the toilet or remember something you have to do outside class.

Copyright © 2008

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com

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