English study series part 1: Advice for Taking English Exams
Hello, everyone. These are my thoughts on study strategies for English exams. Whether it is the Eiken exam, TOEIC, TOEFL, IELTS, CPE, CAE, GMAT, or whatever you are considering taking, my first advice is practice—take the exam! Learn the exam! Exams are not only a measure for proficiency but exams are designed to test one’s ability to take exams. Competency is learned through both study and practice.
My next advice is to have a goal. And, perhaps more importantly, remember that you have a goal. Be detailed and specific when setting goals. Have a time frame and amount of vocabulary or grammar points that you intend to master written out. For example: “learn 15 new words everyday for a month”. Remind yourself daily of your goals as you study.
Specific advice for exam preparation might vary according to the exam, but to be inclusive to the various English proficiency exams my general advice is to build your vocabulary. Grammar is in many ways learned intuitively with vocabulary study. I would stress making an effort to increase vocabulary for TOEIC and TOEFL as well as a strategy for the Eiken exam. A good way to focus your efforts on building vocabulary is to learn the various prefixes and suffixes of English. Prefixes are added to the beginning of a word and suffixes are added to the end to create new meaning to the root words. As an example, the prefix “re-” when added to a word means to “again” or 再 in Japanese. Therefore when “re-” is added to “confirm” (確認する) to create “reconfirm” (再確認する) it simple means to “confirm again”. The suffix “-tion” added to a verb changes a verb to a noun making the verb “reconfirm” (再確認する) a noun “reconfirmation” (再確認). With the study the prefix “re-” and the suffix “-tion” one can essentially learn four words: “confirm”, “reconfirm”, “confirmation”, and “reconfirmation”. There are many lists available online ranging in levels of difficulty. A sample basic list can be found here: http://teacher.scholastic.com/reading/bestpractices/vocabulary/pdf/prefixes_suffixes.pdf
Use all of your senses when studying English. Everyone learns and remembers things differently whether one is an auditory learner, visual learner, kinesthetic learner, or tactile learner it is important to involve all of your senses by speaking, reading and listening. Following my advice on building vocabulary, after you have a strong vocabulary base, you need to focus on reading by reading articles in English daily. Even if you do not fully understand the content, you need to practice reading until you gain confidence. When you read, you should use your voice by reading out loud. By doing this you are reinforcing your learning by using three different learning skills—kinesthetic by vocalizing the words, auditory by hearing your own words spoken, and visual learning through the visual recognition of the words being read. Learning style and language skills are matched as follows:
Listening (auditory learning)
Speaking (kinesthetic learning)
Reading (visual learning)
Writing (tactile learning)
Further advice is to use your time well. Carry a list of words you would like to master and continually quiz yourself on those words throughout the day. Likewise, use your technology resources well. Listen to English podcasts or study material found online via your Smartphone or mp3 player. There are many resources available online—especially on YouTube.
Expression is a skill that it extremely important when considering language interview exams. This can most readily be achieved through speaking practice. Do not be afraid of making mistakes. The fear of making mistakes merely robs one of confidence and becomes an obstacle for advancing one’s language skills. Many Japanese are perfectionists when it comes to language study. While debating whether to say “not only” or “but also” etc. many speakers opt to remain silent out of fear of making a mistake which defeats the purpose of having studied.
Language should not be the ultimate goal. English is simply a tool. It is what you do with English that is important. Your goal should extend beyond the language to have genuine purpose. Moreover, visualizing using the language makes studying more rewarding.
Final advice is to have fun! Learning English is a journey with its ups and downs, corners and straight sections. It is an adventure and a chance to learn about one’s own potential and competency opens the doors for opportunities. Enjoy the challenge!