Last week, I wrote about what I experienced, when I gave my IELTS exam. The post led to a lot of discussions, both within my team and with people outside of LearnEd. What I realised was, we often treat a good score at an English Proficiency test like a privilege; something that can only be achieved if you were born into an English speaking family, with a crystal spoon in your mouth feeding you muesli and cheese.
The reason these tests are so important when trying to move to another country, be it for academics or work, is that they prove to your host country that you will be able to communicate easily with the people around you, thus doing justice to your academics or your work profile as a proof of language competency. An English proficiency test, therefore, seems like an uncrossable hurdle to many, becoming a roadblock in their way. However, as we have often said, if you have a basic education in English, then no dream is too far away. With regular practice, these tests can be aced easily. Along with a plan to systematically put into daily life the essence of the exams, here are a few more tips that you can follow, so that the IELTS, PTE, TOEFL, GRE and more are not just confusing letters to you, but friendly words from a vocabulary that you are already comfortable with:
- Go Back to the Stories:
All those stories that you are really fond of? Tell them. Find people around you, and tell them stories in English. Even if they stories from your mother tongue. Initially, you’ll have to translate them into English, but soon your brain will start forming those sentences in English itself. Unlike practising conversations directly, stories are sometimes easier because you don’t have to think of what to say next, you’ll know what comes next already. You can focus entirely on your language and clarity. While we are at stories, try and read some more, if you can? Short stories on your phone work too, if not full-fledged books. Also, as a small step, turn off the subtitles when you fulfil your Netflix and TV addictions. This will help you get used to listening clearly, especially when you have to face different accents in your exams’ listening sections.
- New Words are New:
I used to do this as a child a lot, and it helped me tremendously. Keep a dictionary on your desk, or a good dictionary app with a shuffle option equivalent on your phone. In a diary, write down five new words every day- words that either you’ve never heard of, or words that you know of but don’t know the meanings to. Write these five words and their meanings down, and your vocabulary, as well as your ability to use words in sentences, will grow quickly.
- Write, Write, Write:
For a lot of us, the last time we wrote with focus was in school, during essay assignments. As frustrating as it may sound, writing freely will help you prepare for all your tests. Writing a diary, or daily notes on your phone will help you be more at ease with focused writing tasks that you will face in the exams. As a next step, when you feel comfortable, get someone experienced to read your writing daily and help you where needed. This step helps you vent your frustrations and prepare for exams in one go!
- Fight those Fears:
One of LearnEd’s prime policies is to know that you already know English. It is a variety of fears that hold us back from actually speaking it. This may sound silly, but every single time that you speak in English, if you can’t think of what a specific word in English is called and have the tendency to switch to your native language because it is so much easier, stop yourself. Take a second to jog your brain, and I promise, it will come through for you. Your flight instincts can hamper your test prep, especially in one-on-one situations of speaking with other people. Try and fight that instinct as much as you can. Surround yourself with people whom you can speak to in English, and who will help you fix your mistakes without making you feel bad about them.
Practising to speak English every day is great, but general English tips are not a substitute for actual test preparation. Familiarise yourself with the format of your particular exam, take as many practice tests as you need to feel confident, time yourself, read tips and advice for each section. Do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Ask questions, seek answers. If the test can do it, so can you!