This is a list of questions you can look for in the information about a school or ask someone in the school before you decide which school to go to or whether to use a school or not.
Here is a detailed description of why and how you should ask each question:
- What are the nationalities of the teachers? / What kind of English do the teachers speak? If you are not used to American accents, you will need lots of practice of this as most of the voices in the test have American or Canadian accents, and a teacher who speaks that kind of English would be better for you. As there are now some British and Australian accents in the test, if you have much more problem with these accents than with American English you might get a slight advantage from having a British or Australian teacher instead.
- Is the school a TOEIC test centre? / Can you take the TOEIC test actually inside the school? As well as saving you travel time and maybe giving you confidence in the test because you feel comfortable in familiar surroundings, the school being a test centre might suggest that the school is serious about teaching TOEIC.
- How many TOEIC students does the school have every year, and what are the total student numbers? As well as a large number of TOEIC students, a large percentage of the students of a smaller school might also be a good sign that the school specialises in TOEIC.
- Does the school have self-study TOEIC materials you can borrow to help you prepare for the test? If the answer is no, a school that has any self-study materials available and/ or one that can get you a discount on buying your own self-study materials would be an advantage.
- Do the website, pamphlets and signs outside the school mention TOEIC? This suggests that the school is serious about teaching TOEIC and is a good sign.
- Is there a TOEIC class running now, or are they just going to put you on a waiting list? Being put on a waiting list for a class that hasn't opened yet is both inconvenient and a sign that the school doesn't teach much TOEIC.
- Have the teachers written any TOEIC books? This is obviously very rare, but would be a very good thing if you could find it.
- How many years experience do the teachers having teaching TOEIC? A year's experience is probably enough for a teacher to understand the exam well, but the longer the better.
- If the teachers don't have TOEIC experience, have they taught any similar classes such as TOEFL or BULATS? wrgb
- How long has the school had TOEIC classes? If this is the first year of TOEIC classes, the school and teachers might not understand the exam well yet.
- Do they only use English in class? As you need as much listening practice as possible before you take the exam, an English-only classroom is usually best. However, for students of a low Elementary level and lower some exam tips written or explained in their own language can be useful.
- Do you have to pass an entrance test to enter the TOEIC class? If not, there might be students of very different levels in the same class, making it difficult for the teacher to give the language and tips that each student needs. If all students can enter TOEIC classes, check if the students are split into different level TOEIC classes. If neither of these things is true, it is probably best not to take TOEIC classes at that school.
- How long is the TOEIC course, and are all the students on the course for the same length of time? If you need a course that helps you raise your English level in order to get a much improved TOEIC score in a year's time, if the course is only a month long or has students who are taking the exam in a month, you might find that the course is all exam training and therefore doesn't give you language you need to be boosted up to the next level. Conversely,
- Does the course include both language development and exam training and tips, and how much of each? If you are taking the exam very soon, almost all tips and training might be good, but as you study longer the actual language you learn becomes more and more important.
- If the class has a textbook, how many hours of study does it take to complete the book? It sometimes happens that students studying one month short courses for an exam can only do about ten or twenty percent of the material in a course book, which is a bit of a waste of money. If this is your position, a school that offers all the material as photocopies and includes that in the cost of the course might be better.
- How often are the TOEIC classes? Studying one hour twice a week is better than studying a two hour once a week, as you are less likely to forget the language you are studying before the next class.
- Can you get a discount if you study a Business or General English class as well as your TOEIC class? Especially if your TOEIC classes are only once a week, studying other classes can really help. If you are Intermediate level or below, studying General English can be as useful or more useful than studying Business English. Higher level students who have never studied Business English before should probably choose a Business English class, but any class would be useful.
- Are the other students in the class really motivated to take the exam? It doesn't happen much with TOEIC classes, but in some countries, schools and school systems students are pushed into exam classes when they reach a certain level even if they aren't interested in taking the exam. Such classes tend to be chattier and less focused than classes full of people who want to take the exam soon.
- If you don't improve your TOEIC score by a certain amount, do the school offer a free course or a refund of your fees? Not many schools offer this as the amount of self-study you do is probably more important than what happens in class, but if you can find a school that offers this it shows that they are serious about TOEIC and confident in the ability of their teachers, and could also save you money. It could also mean the teacher will push you to study hard, which is a good thing!
- Do the school offer online TOEIC practice? This can save you money on buying extra self-study materials, make practice tests more interesting, and mean that you can practice anywhere with a computer even if you don't have your textbook with you. If they don't offer their own online TOEIC materials, you could ask the school or teacher if they can recommend any other free TOEIC websites.
It might be that in your town there are no specific TOEIC classes for you to join. Joining a Business English or General English class is still better than just studying on your own, especially if you have a long term aim to improve your level, but you will need to ask a few questions to find the most suitable course.
- If you ask the teacher some questions about the exam after class, for example what books are best for self-study exam preparation, are they likely to know enough about TOEIC to be able to answer?
- If it is a Business English class, is the textbook they use written with TOEIC in mind? This is quite rare, but would be useful if you could find it.