International Students Abroad

Chinese International Students

In my quest to find out why so many international students want to study abroad, I started by asking some of my most recent students. These are young Chinese women wishing to pass the TOEFL or IELTS exam and become an international student. These are their own words.

“I want to study abroad and the universities ask us to have the certificate of IELTS or TOEFL. The certificate is like a ticket for Chinese students to study abroad.” (Queeny, Foshan)

“Although I haven’t gotten a perfect score and it sometimes makes me frustrated, I am still amazed at how much I have got in each part of this year. A year ago, I found it difficult to read the English articles and websites, but now I am able to handle them almost without any help. It also gave me the confidence to speak with others rather than being afraid to make mistakes.” (JingJing – Jessica, Guangzhou)

“First, I think compared with the tests for English in China, IELTS or TOEFL is more reliable when it comes to evaluating a student’s English level. When I was still in high school my teacher suggested to me to take the exam annually to monitor my improvement in English.

IELTS focuses on a student’s output of a language, stressing the importance of using a word in an appropriate context. Tests in China highlight the volume of a student’s vocabulary, pushing students to memorize as many words as they can. Teachers here use the old teaching strategies and students have no idea of the right way of learning. Even students who are now preparing for the test after years of being out of school, still use these old-fashioned strategies.” (Edith, Guangzhou)

Turkish International Student

Another student I worked with last year was a Turkish student wishing to study abroad. As an international student he would be able to learn more of the culture and language to assist his father in running their international clothing business. He came to the United States to take his last year of high school in Rhode Island, and to prepare for the TOEFL exam. He took the test twice before he began studying with me. He failed with a very low score both times before working with me because he was just not ready. His language skills were not high enough to understand the details of the exam. Even after working with me, he failed another two times because his family was pushing him to pass the exam before he graduated from high school.

A teacher can most definitely help you get a better score on the TOEFL exam, but you must have the basic skills to enable you to succeed on the exam. Please make sure your English skills are at least a B2 level before attempting to pass this test. It will definitely save you time, frustration, and money for testing fees.

Improve Your Career Options

All of these students may not wish to remain living in an English-speaking country, but the skills and experiences they gain while living as an international student will help improve their lives. A TOEFL or IELTS certificate can help these students in their current careers and open doors to more important positions withing their own company. They are putting in the required time and effort to improve their English with the hopes of acquiring an international college education. I wish the best of luck to all of my students, past, present, and future!

Improve Your Listening Skills

What are you listening for?

Black headphones on a bright yellow background
Practice your Listening Skills –Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash

Listening for basic comprehension is the first kind of listening we learn as a child. This means we are just listening to understand the definition of the word or phrase and how to use it in a sentence. 

When listening to prepare for the TOEFL exam, we do it to:

1. increase vocabulary

You need to start this step first. Take the time to increase your vocabulary daily.
2. focus on content and flow, and not the speaker’s way of talking

Listen for the flow of the sentences, or for the rising and falling sounds in the sentence.

3. anticipate what a person is going to say next

Play a game to see if you can guess what they might say next. This will prove that you are comprehending the conversation and following the general tone of the conversation.
4. ask yourself, “What is this person trying to say?”

Why are they speaking to the other person? What do they want to tell them? Or are they just talking together to share what they did yesterday?

5. create headings called “main idea”, “major points”, and “important details” and then take notes during the lecture and place the information under the correct heading

This will definitely help you when listening to lectures on the TOEFL exam. Learning to determine what is important to remember, and what is not, makes it more clear when you must answer the integrated exercises.

6. create an outline of the talk or lecture while listening and then write a brief summary

Learning how to summarize properly is a skill important to the TOEFL. This question is asked during all parts of the exam; reading, listening, speaking, and writing. 

Plan for your study and you will plan for your success. Many of these tips will also help on the other parts of the exam.

Improve Your TOEFL Listening Skills Part 1

Tips for the TOEFL Exam

Beats headphones on a bright blue background with a white pencil.
Always be ready to listen.

Listening is one of the four parts of the TOEFL exam and is considered an integrated skill. This means that after you listen to a passage on the exam, you must then read and answer questions, write an answer, or speak an answer or opinion out loud. The skill to improving your listening abilities is to practice often and to use the integrated actions.

The listening section tests your understanding of spoken English in an academic setting, which includes university lectures and conversations. The TOEFL Guide Book states that listening is done for basic comprehension, for practical understanding, and for connecting and synthesizing information. That means you listen to see how all the information is related and understanding the meaning.

The test provides academic lectures and longer conversations in which the speech is at a natural speed. The exam usually offers 4-6 lectures, each about 3-5 minutes long, and 2-3 short conversations. The academic lectures usually include a professor speaking, a lecture and then a professor and student speaking, and then conversations between people in a college setting. These conversations deal with a typical student issue, such as course requirements, grades, registering for a class, or dealing with campus life. Notes can be taken during the lectures or conversations, but they are collected at the end of the exam and destroyed.

Four Question Formats

There are four question types in the Listening section.
1. multiple choice (there is only 1 correct answer)
2. multiple choice with more than one answer (1 and 2, or 1, 2, and 4)
3. place events or steps in order
4. matching objects or text with categories in a chart

The multiple choice questions require you to listen for tone of voice and other cues to try and determine how the speaker feels about the specific topic. Some questions replay a portion of the discussion, and then you answer the question after hearing it repeated.

Listening to English frequently, especially academic materials, is the best way to improve your listening skills for the TOEFL exam. Remember, the speech is at a normal speed. 

Some ways to improve your listening ability is to:
–watch movies or television, both with and then without subtitles
–listen to the radio or other English music you have downloaded
–download a podcast on your phone to listen while commuting 
–just listen to English conversations around you
These simple tips will all help you get better at this important skill of listening for comprehension.

Visit a bookstore or your library to find CDs and other audio of lectures and college level presentations. You can also search the internet for listening materials. Some good resources are:
4. (from the TOEFL creators)

More information and tips coming in a future post. Stay tuned!