In the era of mass media and constant communication via the Internet, younger generations find it relatively easy to interact or research in English. In most parts of the world, English is spoken as a foreign language and is an obligatory course in primary and secondary education. However, even after all the English courses are successfully finished, plenty of students may face difficulties with applying their language knowledge in practice.
In India, the situation with learning English is different, due to the fact that it is in some parts spoken not as a foreign but as a second or official language. Still, this doesn’t necessarily make it much easier for Indian students to prepare for studying abroad.
The point is that despite being able to use English in some everyday situations or for Facebook chats, students that want to take a TOEFL exam actually need to prepare for passing a specific form of test, rather than using the language. The very fact that Indian students grew up using English to communicate in school or with their friends outside the classroom by no means makes them prepared for TOEFL or IELTS exam. Just like with all the other languages – as a rule, most native speakers use their languages intuitively, without really paying much attention to rules or standards.
Therefore, if you’re preparing to study in the USA, you need to make sure your language skills are appropriate for the exam you’re about to take and for the US academic community.
TOEFL : Written Test
Despite the fact that you have been using written English for your whole life, you might need assistance for passing the certified test. You’re aware of the fact that writing posts on Facebook is not the same thing as writing an academic paper. These two imply two completely different writing styles, sentence structures, tone, vocabulary etc.
While most of your written exam is intended to test your grammar skills, one part requires you to demonstrate your ability to write an academic essay in a precisely defined form. This is what you need to focus at when preparing for your exam. Whereas it is very beneficial for you to do some exercises for expanding your vocabulary, it is equally important to practice writing argumentative essays on different topics. Here you need to be able to clearly present your attitude, understand some complex issues and, of course, use correct style and grammar.
TOEFL : Interview
Most people that plan to study abroad already know that TOEFL includes an interview and this is usually the part most students are afraid of. An important thing about the TOEFL interview is that here you don’t only demonstrate your language skills, but also your personality. This is why everybody needs lots of practice to prepare for it properly. If you tend to block or are prone to panicking, you might have an additional problem with leaving a good impression on the officers in charge. What’s more, chances are they’ll instantly eliminate you as inappropriate, even though the written part of your test was really good.
Therefore, you must ask yourself whether you may be overestimating your language skills, especially when it comes to speaking. Whatever your level of proficiency in English may be, make sure you pay close attention to practicing your spoken skills. This refers to your ability to say the right things about yourself and use correct grammar, formal style, rich vocabulary and proper English pronunciation.
This will make you appear confident, reliable and motivated and you will definitively leave the committee with a good impression of you.
Therefore, even if you’re truly confident about you English language skills, there are probably some things you need to brush up a bit. Don’t be stubborn. Practice as much as you can and this will eventually open the door to your new life abroad.
Jennifer Collins is an ESL teacher and a copywriter interested in educational technology and social media. She currently works as a curriculum development assistant for the new American English pronunciation software – Saundz.