Wednesday, November 15, 2006

15 Minutes a Day

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you will spend fifteen minutes a day studying TOEFL, you will improve your score. It doesn't matter so much what you use to study. You might have a TOEFL book or go online. Maybe you go to the LMC and use their Regent's TOEFL book and tapes (ask at the desk) or Randall's ESL Lab on the computers. Or you Google TOEFL and use what you find on the Internet. Or you just stay home and review TOEFL practices you've done in class.

It doesn't matter so much what you use; just study. The test will be here in a few weeks. You have extra time during Thanksgiving break, and when you come back to class after break, you need to make time.

Fifteen minutes a day isn't that much. You can find it in your schedule. It will make a difference!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hello from St. Louis

This is a picture of me at the St. Louis Botanical Garden last May. It was beautiful there. I really think that nature is always beautiful--but it is a little better when it's not cold or rainy, and most beautiful when flowers are blooming!


Last week, one of my favorite teachers died. His name was Al Montesi. I took an American Literature class from him at St. Louis University. He was a popular teacher who had a passion for his subject. (Sometimes he used to throw the chalk to make a point--or maybe he was angry at our stupid answers!)

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he was a character with a lovely Southern accent. Although he loved the Southern writers, what I remember studying in his class was an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, "Bernice Bobs Her Hair." Once I spent time with him in a bar with a group of students. He told me I was "perspicacious." After I looked it up in the dictionary, I loved that word. I never forgot it, and I never forgot him.

After parents, teachers are some of the most important people in our lives. Do you agree? I have several other teachers I could write about, who made a strong impression on me, who influenced my life. Do you?

Beat the TOEFL!

My suggestion to students who want to improve their TOEFL scores is a simple one: Make a plan and stick to it! Get organized. Set goals. Decide how much time you can spend each day, or twice a week, or whatever it is, on the TOEFL. Then do it.

Choose your materials--a TOEFL book, a practice test from your class or from the CESL office--and then think about how to use them.

Analyze your mistakes. Focus on your weak points. Label things you don't understand, and ask the teacher about them. Try to see the patterns in your errors and work on correcting those. If, for example, you have several errors regarding subject-verb agreement, review thoroughly the sections in your grammar book that teach this.

Or you might decide that you need to focus on vocabulary. If you just learned one new word a day, that would be 56 words at the end of an eight-week term. If you learned the word in its various forms (noun, verb, adjective, adverb), you'd do yourself a favor grammatically; if you learned each word in the context of a sentence from a book, you'd be even farther ahead of the game.

You could spend 15 minutes a day doing practice exercises in a book. Or you could spend that time reviewing what you did in TOEFL class.

Or read a newspaper every day, watch a TV show or a movie, read children's books.

But do something! Don't just worry about how you should be studying. Do something!

And organization helps. Know the sections of the test like the back of your hand, and be prepared with strategies for each one. Take timed practices. Plan to finish every section in time. (If you happen to run out of time at the end, fill in circles quickly; just go down one row; any answer is better than no answer.)

Keep studying, no matter what. If something happens and you get off schedule, get back on track.

You can do it!

What is your plan for TOEFL study this term? Add a Comment below and tell me.