Today’s topic is a result of a letter I received last week. On last weeks show, a listener wrote in and asked me my advice. This person wants to know what they should do to improve their English speaking skills and TOEIC scores in order to prepare for a job. …but there’s a twist. Due to the cost of TOEIC institutes, the person is unable to attend. So, today I’m going to talk about a low cost way our listeners can both improve their English speaking skills and study for TOEIC.
A few years ago, I took the TOEIC test. I actually missed two questions. D'oh!
I noticed how varied it is. That to prepare for it properly takes a LOT of time and effort. So, the greatest way to prepare for the test is to give yourself a lot of time. You have more options available for studying. But, reality is that we don’t often have a lot of time. So today, for this corner, I’m going to assume you’ve only got a short time to prepare. Doing that helps me focus my message into a few simple tips.
The fact is, in preparing for this, I came up with an ocean full of ideas. But, given time….I’ll have to keep it simple.
First, you’ve got to realize that you are not the only person who’s ever had money difficulties. There have been tonnes of people like you. And, there have been tonnes who’ve not let that stand in their way.
You don’t have to let money issued stand in your way. You can still prepare well without spending as much as people spend on a hogwan. All you need is a dream, dedication, and persistence. Without the dream, (a concrete goal to strive for, it’s pretty hard to fight for what you want. Often without a dream, our motivation dies. So make your dream achieving a REASONABLE score on the exam. What’s reasonable? Find out what you need, and shoot for it. I’ve heard that between 450-750 depending on whether you want to work domestically or internationally.
Find yourself a team. Form a group of likeminded motivated individuals. Work together to tackle the exam. How do you form a team?
Go onto the free webboard of your university, post a want ad. Or, go onto a famous internet café website, and post a note there, or find a note of another person who’s looking for a group. I think you’ll find a lot. Be brave.
Once in the group, each buy the same test book. If you have enough time, you can work through more than one book, but to begin with, each buy the same book. If that’s too much money, then each of you should search mercilessly among the used bookstores of Korea for similar books. The chances of finding one are good.
Once you have it, break that test into pieces. There are two parts. Listening and reading. Listening has 4 sections. Reading has 3. Depending on the amount of people in the group, one person should take one section. That person goes home and studies to understand it, and the questions. (This technique is often what law school students do to manage the heavy load of studying.) Make sure you keep your commitment.
Then, come back to meet together. Start off with one section of the test. Each of you take it together. When you are finished, the expert can then instruct and explain why certain answers are wrong, and why certain answers are right. (In Korean). Once a section is understood, move to the next section.
Again, each group member takes the section test, and again, the new expert explains.
This is not a perfect method, but it is an effective method that I have on good authority has worked to help produce really high scores. (Without the help of a hogwan!)
For speaking, there are a lot of short term solutions.
The TOEIC test has a speaking section now. That involves looking at a picture and describing it. Well, that’s easy to work on. This can be broken up too. Each person selects a picture of something from a movie scene or a magazine. They study it and write about it, and look up various words for it. Then, they bring their picture to the group. The others practice describing it. The expert works hard to explain and add to the others’ knowledge. This is a great way to increase vocabulary knowledge—particularly verb knowledge. …this can be tricky, because of misuse of the words. Again, not perfect…but it can help.
Mainly for speaking, the most important thing is to JUST DO IT!!! Stop letting fear win! You are amazing and powerful! There is nothing to be afraid of. The only person you need to worry about comparing yourself to is YOURSELF! Everyone has different abilities and skills. Practice anyway. Talk to your teacher, talk to friends. Remember that your goal is to speak better and score well on TOEIC. …how important is it to you?
Go out and join one of the many free “language exchange clubs”. There’s one that meets at city hall every Sunday.
Get an English newspaper, or an expat magazine in itaewon and search the classifieds, find a language clubs, or similar interest (English member clubs) to get involved in.
Volunteer to teach some passionate foreigner English. …For Free! It’s a great way to be forced to utilize English to communicate the Korean language. It’s difficult, but it’s for free and no matter what, will be beneficial to the person you are helping. There are chances at churches, temples, universities. There are a lot of chances if you look in the classified. (more practice for reading comprehension).
The bottom line, is that if you want to learn, money is not a barrier. There are a lot of options available to you.
You have to commit yourself to the process, you have to dedicate yourself to the process, you have to go at it whole-heartedly. If you do that, nothing can stop you!
All for today, Job Warriors! Keep up the fight, and TAKE NO Prisoners!!!