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How to prepare yourself for the IELTS and TOEFL exams

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Most English-speaking foreign universities require foreign students to provide IELTS or TOEFL certificates, which confirm the knowledge of the language. Therefore, after choosing a university and collecting documents, a stressful period begins in the life of an applicant - passing one of these exams. If the result is at least one point lower than the requirements of the university, then admission will have to be postponed. Experts from educational startup Preply told how to prepare for exams on your own.

How much and how to prepare

Both tests have four sections: Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing. Despite the fact that there are only four sections, it is worth preparing for the IELTS or TOEFL in advance. If the knowledge of the language needs a serious "pumping", it is better to start preparation one year before passing the exam. If the knowledge is at a good level, then three months will be enough to repeat the main points. The necessary training can be obtained by attending courses or by taking one-to-one lessons with a tutor. And for those who decide to prepare on their own, there are many online tutorials and simulations.

For example, on the site itests.com after registration, you can pass the test tests and IELTS, and TOEFL, and canadavisa.com offers to practice writing and speaking skills on the IELTS exam.

На ресурсе elc.polyu.edu.hk/ielts you can find the necessary instructions and recommendations for passing all four parts of the IELTS exam. To prepare for TOEFL, you can use the Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test, a paid simulation program. It provides an opportunity to adapt to the format, as well as see examples of “ideal” answers.

Below are a few tips that should help with self-preparation for TOEFL and IELTS.

Reading - reading

Both tests, first of all, test practical skills in English, so it is worth developing the ability of intuitive reading and listening. For this you need to read as many books as possible, watch movies and listen to podcasts. While reading books, try to use the dictionary as rarely as possible, try to catch the meaning from the context. The intuitive reading skill is very useful in the exam, where you can get the text on a specialized topic with unfamiliar vocabulary. Then you have to rely on causal relationships to choose the correct answer from the four options.

When preparing for Reading, learn how to spend reading and answering questions for about 20 minutes, on the exam (both IELTS and TOEFL) 60 minutes are allocated for this part, three texts of 650-1000 characters, 40 questions. It makes sense to set the timer and perform tasks online platforms at a time.

Listening - listening

Listen to as many podcasts as possible, watch Youtube videos, TV shows and movies in the original language. For example, useful lifehacks can be found on Youtube-channels. Rachel's English (Rachel explains how to pronounce English words correctly) and Dailydictation (the trainer gives the original dictations and indicates errors). Useful exercises are collected on BBC learning english. A variety of video content in the original language is posted on the resource. ororo.tv, and for fans of documentaries - Top Documentary Films. Also on the resource Lyricstraining You can learn the language based on the lyrics.

You can also resort to the following technique, which pumps your listening skill: find an audio recording with transcribed text (such as are usually found on BBC Learning English), turn on the recording and listen. During the second listening, stop audio and record sentences. The third time is to check the spelling. The next step is to try to find grammatical errors on your own, and then open the transcript of the text and check if everything is spelled correctly. It is worth reading the text after the speaker of the audio recording, thereby pumping the pronunciation skill, which will come in handy during the delivery of the Speaking part.

On IELTS, there is time to look at the test before the audio tape is played. During listening, the most important thing is to concentrate and not miss a single word during the entire audio recording, trying to grasp the meaning. Attention! Audio sounds only once. If suddenly you could not answer some questions, then you can try to guess the answer. The test questions are usually logical, and, roughly understanding what the text was about, there is a chance to “pick up” a few questions you listened to at random.

Speaking - speaking skills

Speaking should pay special attention. It is at this level that the main differences between IELTS and TOEFL appear. If in IELTS you prepare a speech on a given topic and tell a living person, then a computer asks questions in TOEFL. This part of the TOEFL consists of six tasks.

First, the computer asks a question and gives 15 seconds to come up with an answer, and 45 seconds for the answer itself. There is only one attempt, moreover, a timer with a specific squeak counts down the time, after which all students begin to respond simultaneously. The main thing here is to learn how to concentrate and “cut off” extraneous noise.

In the second task, you need to read a passage of the text, listen to a short academic lecture or conversation and answer the questions, comparing the information obtained from the text and the audio recording. Each task has 30 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to answer.

The next task - you need to listen to the lecture and state in your own words possible solutions to the problem or question raised. The task is given 20 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to respond.

In the last assignment, you need to listen to a lecture again, which explains a term and gives examples. The task of the test-taker is to explain the relationship between the examples and the definition.

On IELTS, the duration of the Speaking part takes 11-15 minutes. First there is an acquaintance with the examiner and communication on abstract topics, then a card is issued with a specific topic and 1 a minute to prepare 1-2-minute speech. After the speech, the examiner asks questions on the topic of the card.

You can prepare for Speaking as follows: find any article on an English-language resource, read it, write out some unfamiliar words and expressions, think over your answer for a minute, and then record yourself on a dictaphone and listen, noting the mistakes made. The main thing is practice, for this you can take a tutor and talk to him as often as possible, or record yourself on a dictaphone and listen to your speech, find mistakes and correct them.

Writing - writing

In the Writing part between TOEFL and IELTS, writing essays in which 30 minutes are given is common.

The second task is somewhat different. In TOEFL, you need to read a passage of text, listen to the speaker’s speech on this topic, and then write how the material you hear confirms or denies the text you read. In IELTS, you need to describe a graphic drawing or make an official, semi-official or unofficial letter.

Make sure to leave some time on the exam to check what you have written. You can prepare for this part of the assignment using books and online courses. At the preparation stage, a tutor may come in handy who will check your letter and explain the errors. You can also rewrite English-language articles or examples of the best essays and parse each sentence: how it was built, what time was used, and so on. After - try to write your essay in a similar style and also parse it, noting mistakes.

It is easy to prepare for tests, it is more difficult to form a schedule and establish internal discipline. Preparing for English tests is a long and difficult job that requires a systematic approach, perseverance and clear motivation.

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