1. Start with an outline.
2. Don’t be too creative.
3. For your thesis, copy from the question.
4. Give good examples.
5. Give your best reason first.
1. Why should you start with an outline?
a. You don’t want to waste time.
b. It’s required for the test.
c. A plan makes your essay stronger.
2. When is it OK to copy?
a. In your thesis statement
b. In the body
c. In your conclusion
3. Which reason should come first?
a. Your best
b. Your worst
c. The first you think of
By Jeremy Schaar
Are you looking to advance your career with an MBA or another degree? You’ll have to write an essay for a TOEFL test, GMAT, or GRE. Today, I’ll share with you the right strategy for writing these essays.
For the TOEFL, GMAT, and GRE they ask you to write essays. They’re a little different depending on the test, but basically the same. They give you a topic that anyone can write about. You say if you agree or disagree and why. You have 30 minutes to write the essay. An easy example would be:
Everyone should study a foreign language.
Rule #1: Start with an outline. Take five minutes to make a good outline. It will definitely make your essay stronger if you have a plan.
Rule #2: Don’t be too creative–just agree or disagree. Sometimes they ask good questions and you have complicated opinions. Forget that. Just agree or disagree and forget how you really feel. You don’t have enough time.
Rule #3: For your thesis statement, it’s OK to copy from the question. Going with our example, you can say I firmly agree that everyone should study a foreign language. Use the exact words.
Rule #4: Give good examples (not just reasons). An example is a specific person, place, or thing. With our example, you might say, people should study a foreign language to meet new people. That’s a reason. For example, I met my boyfriend because I studied Spanish.
Rule #5: Give your best reason first. Usually, you’ll give two or three reasons to support your opinion. Start with your best.
In the future I’ll give you more ideas about writing a great essay. If there’s a specific question you have, please let me know in the comments. And, by the way, if you’d like to take a test preparation course, I can help with that too. Go to stuartmillenglish.com to see all the courses I offer.
Website Review: toeflcafe.blogspot.com
In short: This blog isn’t active, but it has great stuff that will help you on the TOEFL. You’ll find videos on all the different sections of the TOEFL, articles on how to prepare for the test, and thoughts from students.
For students: The speaking practice application is great. You can practice taking the speaking test. Use software on your computer to record yourself.
Also check out http://toeflnow.com. They have products that will help students prepare, some free practice tests, and prep videos.
For teachers: Ask your students to each watch a different video and present it to the class. They’ll learn their section very well and the presentations will help with their speaking skills.
Beyond Practice Tests: Vocabulary Questions
Vocabulary questions give you a word and four definitions. You should choose the correct definition. Of course, if you know what the word means, then it’s easy. But, if you don’t know what it means, it’s still possible to guess. The test makers always include hints.
The normal strategy for getting better at vocabulary questions is to learn more words. Books that give lists of vocabulary words for a test are very popular. That’s OK, but you can do more. Here are some strategies for improving at vocabulary questions. Some will help you learn new words and some will just help you guess better.
Guess, guess, guess Read an article and underline all the new words. Without using a dictionary, try to write definitions of the words. Also, include any clues or hints you see. For example, you might write this for the word “hint” in the previous sentence.
Hint: Something that helps with guessing words???
Clues: “Clues” next to hints. You should include them with the definition. “Try to write definitions” means you can’t know for sure, so “hints” should help.
Write Definitions Practice writing definitions for new words you learn. By writing practice definitions you’ll get used to seeing the hints that come with new words.
Write Test Questions After you learn a new word, write a practice test question for it. Can you think of three other words that are related? How are they different?
Thesaurus Are you already really good with vocabulary? For students who want to take their score to the highest level, use a thesaurus to learn all of the words that are related to a new word you’ve learned. Then, learn how they’re different.
Hints When you learn a new word, instead of writing a translation, write three words that will help you guess it. For example, if you learn the word “Ocean”, you might use “Big, blue, waves” instead of a definition or a translation.
Beyond Practice Tests: Inference Questions
Inference questions are hard. You can’t read the answer. You can’t hear the answer. You just have to know it. But how is it possible? How can you know something that no one writes or says?
Well, it’s not so hard as all that. We do it every day. For example, imagine that you’re at a party and the time is 1:00a.m. Your friend says to you, “Wow, I’m so tired. I woke up at 6:00a.m. today and drinking makes me sleepy.” You can guess that your friend wants to go home. You infer that your friend wants to go home.
This is inference. Inference is when you guess something because of other things.
Other things: Your friend is tired. Your friend woke up at 6:00a.m. It’s 1:00a.m. now. Your friend has been drinking.
Inference: Your friend wants to go home.
Let’s look at another example.
Milwaukee is a city in Wisconsin, USA. It’s not a very big city, but there are many activities. There are lots of concerts by the lake in the summer. In the winter, you can enjoy ice-skating downtown. At anytime of year, you’ll find friendly people who will welcome you into bars and restaurants, parks and museums with a friendly smile.
From this reading, we can infer that the author…
The answer is A because the author gives many reasons you might enjoy Milwaukee. It’s not B because the author might have learned these things from just visiting. We don’t know how often the author goes ice skating (C) and the author doesn’t compare Milwaukee to any other cities (D).
Here are seven strategies for studying inference questions:
20 Questions Do this one with a friend. Think of a person, place, or thing. Your friend should ask you questions in order to guess what you’re thinking of. They can ask at most 20 questions. For example:
Is it big or small? It’s medium sized.
Is it hard or soft? It’s hard.
What’s it made of? It can be made of wood or metal.
Is there one in the room now? Yes, there are many in this room.
Is it a chair? Yes, it’s a chair!
20 Hints Just like the 20 Questions, but a little easier. One person just says things until the other person can guess. For example:
It’s usually blue, but it can also be black, red, or gray. It’s really big, and it’s everywhere. The sky!
Pay attention During the day to try to spot things you infer. It’ll keep you practicing all day long. What can you infer from the guy who smiled at you? Your teacher asked you to come answer the question? What can you infer? Why did she ask you?
Lists of Inferences After you read something, make a list of ten inferences and the reasons for them.
Just the first paragraph Read just the first paragraph of something and make a list of inferences/guesses about the rest of the article. Then, finish reading the article and see if you were right.
Scavenger Hunt Think of different beliefs and try to find articles with someone who believes them. For example, try to find an article about someone who believes in aliens, someone who loves France, or someone who likes to swim. You might not find the exact support you want, but can you find good inference material?
Using Practice Test Answers Take a practice test and remember which questions were inference questions. Learn which answers are wrong and write sentences to make them right. What is missing in an article so that you could infer the wrong answers?
For the example above about Milwaukee. (B) would be right if you added “Since I was a young girl, I’ve loved my city.” (C) would be right if you added “Like many people in Milwaukee, I love ice-skating.” (D) would be right if you added “No place in America offers as many nice things as Milwaukee.”
Beyond Practice Tests: Negative Factual Information Questions
On a test like the TOEFL, Negative Factual Information questions ask you to find missing things. You’ll get four choices (A,B,C,D). Three things will be true. One will be false. You should choose the false thing. These are the opposite of Factual Information Questions where one thing is true and three are false. For example:
Steven can’t go to the party because of all the homework he has to do. Plus, he doesn’t even have money to get a bus. And Sarah will be there. He really doesn’t want to see her. So, he’ll stay at home again. Tonight he will do his homework. After that, he’ll watch a movie and go on the internet.
Why can’t Steven go to the party?
What will he do tonight?
Negative Factual Information questions are pretty easy. The thing that you can’t find is the answer. You should find three things and make sure you can’t find one thing.
Here are five study strategies.
Answers First First, make a list of four things. Then write something that uses three of them. For example, if your list was “bread, butter, eggs, sugar”, you might write “I bought bread, eggs, and sugar.” Of course, your answer can be much longer, but you’ll get used to how to create the questions. This will make it easier for you to answer them.
Change Factual Information Questions Look at some “Factual Information” questions on a practice test. Change the factual information questions into negative factual info questions by changing the grammar of the question. For instance, if the question is “How many cars did he buy” and the answer is “two”. You could change the question to “How many cars didn’t he buy”?
Add to Groups You’ll be very good at these questions if you can see groups quickly. You’ll see groups more quickly if you find groups of things that have stuff in common. Then think of things that you could add to the lists. For example, if you found an article that talked about France, Germany, and Spain; you might write Holland, Italy, and Poland. (They’re all European countries.)
Create Groups After reading something, add sentences to it. Add sentences so that there are groups of three things. So, if the text talks about apples and oranges, you could write about bananas to create a group of three.
Three Truths and a Lie Think of people, places, objects and events. Write three true sentences and one false sentence about them. For example, think about New York City. You could write: It’s in the USA. The Statue of Liberty is there. It’s the biggest city in the world. The New York Yankees play there. Three are true. Which one is false?