Why can preparing for TOEFL or IELTS take longer than it looks?
Why can preparing for TOEFL or IELTS take longer than it looks?
 toefl ielts case

Why does TOEFL/IELTS preparation take longer than it looks? 


If you plan to study abroad in English, you will need to pass one of the international language proficiency tests. The most common are IELTS Academic and TOEFL ibt. The admissions committee of each university where teaching is conducted in English sets a minimum score. To assess the prospects for obtaining the required scores in TOEFL or IELTS, you need to know what the main difficulty of these exams is. Let's understand on the basis of a typical case.

You have decided to enter a good foreign university. This university requires to provide TOEFL ibt scores of at least 100 points, and the submission deadline is in 2 months. At the same time, your current level is Intermediate, but you are aiming for admission this year and want to pass the exam. Will you be able to pass the exam with 100+ points in 2 months? Let's figure it out.

You probably studied English at school. Perhaps they studied at the language center. In any case, you studied general English, the purpose of which (especially at the initial levels of study) is the formation of vocabulary, the study of basic grammatical and syntactic structures, as well as the development of basic listening and speaking skills - that is, everything that will allow you to communicate in a daily environment and solve domestic issues. With knowledge of general English at the Intermediate level, you feel confident communicating while traveling, maintaining everyday conversations with native speakers, and even traveling on the Work & Travel program. But this level is not enough when you need to express your opinion, think about something or argue your point of view - there is discomfort associated with a lack of vocabulary and the inability to clearly formulate your thoughts.

It is skills such as the ability to reason, understand the structure of what is read and build arguments in the context of academic topics that are the skills that are mainly tested by the IELTS Academic and TOEFL ibt exams, that is, they assess academic English proficiency. Academic English is a language for learning and thinking (it is also called cognitive). It involves the development and application of cognitive skills, but not in the native language, but in English. These skills include critical analysis and logical reasoning, which must be used not only in reading and listening, but also in writing and speaking. Skills of a highly cognitive order (analysis, evaluation, critical thinking, generation of new ideas) require a high level of English proficiency.

The TOEFL and IELTS tests are based on academic vocabulary, complex syntactic and grammatical structures, without mastering which it will not be possible to fully understand the essence of what is read or heard. In this case, questions and tasks involving the synthesis, analysis and evaluation of ideas turn out to be difficult and incomprehensible for us. Therefore, when you start preparing for TOEFL or IELTS with an intermediate level of general English in a short time, you should not try to sharply increase your level of knowledge of the language, but you need to study academic vocabulary that will help you grasp the meaning and answer basic questions of a factual nature. After 2 months of preparation, you can count on 50-75 points in TOEFL and 4.5-6.0 in IELTS. However, if you need higher scores, the situation is not hopeless: to begin with, you need to allocate more time for preparation, and in the process of preparing, remember that there are individual differences in the development of cognitive skills. 


Author: Evgenia Efremova, Ed.M. in Mind, Brain & Education (Harvard University), 
academic director Global Ambassador and developer of training programs for TOEFL и IELTS 


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