Why can preparing for TOEFL or IELTS take longer than it seems?
19.09.18
Why can preparing for TOEFL or IELTS take longer than it seems?
toefl ielts case

Why can preparing for TOEFL / IELTS take longer than it seems?

If you plan to graduate 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 selection committee of each university, where teaching is conducted in English, sets a minimum score. To assess the prospects for obtaining the required TOEFL or IELTS scores, you need to know what the main difficulty of these exams is. Let's look at a typical case.

You decided to enter a good foreign university. This university requires the provision of TOEFL ibt results not lower than 100 points, and the deadline for submission after 2 months. At the same time, your current Intermediate level, but you are aimed at entering this year and want to pass the exam. Will you be able to pass the exam for 100 + points in 2 months? Let's figure it out.

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

It is such skills as the ability to reason, to understand the structure of what has been read and to 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 cognition and thinking (it is also called cognitive). It involves the development and application of cognitive skills, but not in the native, but in English. These skills include critical analysis and logical reasoning, which must be used not only in reading and listening, but also in written and spoken language. Highly cognitive skills (analysis, evaluation, critical thinking, generating new ideas) require a high level of English proficiency.

The basis of the TOEFL and IELTS tests is precisely academic vocabulary, complex syntactic and grammatical structures, without mastering which it will not be possible to fully understand the essence of what has been read or heard. In this case, questions and tasks involving synthesis, analysis and evaluation of ideas are difficult and incomprehensible for us. Therefore, when you start preparing for TOEFL or IELTS with an average level of general English in a short time, you should not try to sharply increase the level of knowledge of the language, but you need to study academic vocabulary, which will help to catch the point and answer basic questions of a factual nature. After 2 months of preparation, you can count on 50-75 points for TOEFL and 4.5-6.0 for IELTS. Nevertheless, if you need higher scores, the situation is not hopeless: first you need to put more time into preparation, and in the process of preparation remember the existence of individual characteristics of the development of cognitive skills.


Author: Evgenia Efremova, Ed.M. in Mind, Brain & Education (Harvard University),
Global Ambassador Academic Director and Prep Developer TOEFL и IELTS

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